Maddon, Gibson named 2011's top skippers
Rays staged historic run to playoffs; D-backs went worst to first
Both men were responsible for remarkable turnarounds in 2011 -- one on the drop of a dime in a one-month span, the other in stark contrast to the team's finish from a year previous.
Tampa Bay's Joe Maddon and Arizona's Kirk Gibson on Wednesday were named the American League and National League Manager of the Year, respectively, by the Baseball Writers' Association of America.
Maddon received 26 of a possible 28 first-place votes from two BBWAA writers in each AL city, for a total of 133 points. Detroit's Jim Leyland and Texas' Ron Washington each received one first-place vote and finished second and third, respectively.
Gibson received 28 of a possible 32 votes for 152 points. Milwaukee's Ron Roenicke received three first-place votes and garnered 92 points. St. Louis' Tony La Russa was third with 24 points.
AL Manager of the Year voting
Maddon's Rays stormed out of seemingly nowhere in September to make the playoffs after trailing for the AL Wild Card spot by nine games as late as Sept. 4. No team had previously overcome a September deficit that large.
"My first thought is always about the group of people who helped get you into this position," Maddon said during a conference call from his hometown of Hazleton, Pa. "I like to think of it as a validation of the Rays' way of doing things, and that the program we've put together and the culture we've created works. ... First of all, I think it's an organizational award. Personally, I'm very humbled by it."
Gibson, meanwhile, led the D-backs to 94 wins in the regular season in just his first full year as a big-league manager. That was a 29-game improvement from 2010, when Arizona finished in last place, 27 games out, with the second-worst record in the NL. Gibson will always be remembered for his postseason heroics with the Tigers and Dodgers, but he's now etching out a new legacy as skipper.
The D-backs won the NL West before falling to the Brewers in the first round of the playoffs. Gibson is the second D-backs skipper to be honored. Bob Melvin, current manager of the A's, was NL Manager of the Year in 2007.
"I could not be prouder of Kirk and his staff, nor happier for our organization that he so well represents," D-backs president and CEO Derrick Hall said. "He has brought a sense of culture, calm and strategy, and he richly deserves the recognition."
NL Manager of the Year voting
|Tony La Russa||Cardinals||1||2||13||24|
When he was asked to be interim manager in July 2010, Gibson said his main priority was to change the culture in the clubhouse. In addition to veteran players being brought in, Gibson instituted new rules such as a ban on cellphone use in the clubhouse and more focus on preparation.
"They bought into it," Gibson said of the players. "They bought into it, they stayed with us and they never wavered, and as it developed they just really enjoyed it. They played the game the right way, had a good time, treated everyone the way they should be treated."
The Manager of the Year Award was introduced in 1983. Voting is conducted by the BBWAA before the postseason.
The Rays, too, were knocked out in the Division Series, but what a ride they took to get there. They won their last five games, capped by a 12-inning, 8-7, victory over the Yankees in a game in which they trailed 7-0 in the eighth inning, to overcome the Red Sox for the Wild Card berth in dramatic fashion.
Maddon's $42 million team overcame offseason losses of four-time All-Star left fielder Carl Crawford and most of its bullpen. He also won the award in 2008, when he took the Rays to an AL East title and their first postseason appearance after a 96-loss season the year before. The Rays reached the World Series that year but lost to the Phillies in five games.
Maddon is the seventh multiple winner of the AL award for managers. The others are La Russa (three times), Sparky Anderson, Joe Torre, Lou Piniella, Buck Showalter and Mike Scioscia.
"I can see the boys sitting in front of me at Port Charlotte on that very first day [of Spring Training] when you talk to the team," said Maddon. "And that was the message. It wasn't, 'Well, we're rebuilding,' or 'We're hoping to do something good this year.' We talked about doing it in another way."
It was the Brewers and their first-year manager, Roenicke, who brought Arizona's run to an end in the Division Series -- after winning the NL Central by six games over the Cardinals, their first division title since 1982. A long-time disciple of Angels manager Mike Scioscia, Roenicke steered Milwaukee to 96 wins, the second-highest total in the NL behind the Phillies.
La Russa retired three days after the World Series, ending a 33-season managerial career following a dramatic seven-game World Series in which the Cardinals took their second title in six years. Much like the Rays, St. Louis overcame daunting September odds to make the playoffs, sitting 8 1/2 games out of a postseason spot on Sept. 1. La Russa remains tied with Bobby Cox for most Manager of the Year Awards with four. He previously won the award with the White Sox in 1983, the A's in 1988 and 1992, and the Cardinals in 2002.
Leyland took the Tigers to a 95-win season and the AL Central title, their first division flag since 1987. Leyland has won the award three times previously, with the Pirates in 1990 and '92 and the Tigers in 2006.
Washington firmly established the Rangers as a power in not only the AL West, but in the Major Leagues as a whole. Texas tallied 96 wins in the regular season to win its division for a second successive season. Ultimately, the Rangers fell one win short of a title in their second successive World Series appearance.