Each October, the members of the Baseball Bloggers Alliance get together and vote for a set of post-season awards. As a member of the St. Louis Cardinals chapter, I have the honor of casting my vote for the Connie Mack Award, named after the legendary manager and owner of the Philadelphia Athletics.
First place: Kirk Gibson, Arizona Diamondbacks
In his first full year as a manager, Gibson’s Diamondbacks stunned the baseball world with a 94 win season. The season started out as expected, with the Colorado Rockies and San Francisco Giants setting the pace. The Diamondbacks never stumbled – their longest losing streak (6) was in August, and it was followed immediately by their longest winning streak (9). At the two key season milestones, the All Star Game and the non-waiver trade deadline, they were still not talked about as division winners. But a very impressive run in August and September was the difference as they distanced themselves from the Giants. Congratulations to Gibson on a tremendous season.
Second place: Charlie Manuel, Philadelphia Phillies
Sure, ol’ Charlie had a pitching rotation that rivaled the 70’s Orioles, late 60’s Cardinals and those Koufax era Dodgers. They still had to win games, and win they did, to a tune of a franchise record of 102. The did this while sustaining some key injuries, which is a tribute to their farm system, front office, and why Charlie gets the number two spot, the manager. It is one thing to have a talented roster, it is another to turn that into a winning team.
Third place: Tony La Russa, St. Louis Cardinals
For most of the season, La Russa does not make this list, and that is a shame. We have to forget about all of those crazy pitching changes, the absolutely maddening late double switches, and above all his tendency to play veteran players over young and unproven talent. He engineered one of the greatest comebacks in baseball history, and that one is totally on Tony. The front office gave him the much needed players at the trade deadline, but La Russa was the one that got them fired up at just the right time, and now has them playing in the NLCS for a possible World Series. Bravo Tony, we take back most of the bad things we’ve said this year.
Fourth Place: Ron Roenicke, Milwaukee Brewers
He might not have engineered the greatest comeback, but he did pull off a brilliant August when his team was simply unbeatable. He also had the pressure of Prince Fielder’s upcoming free agency, which makes this something of a now or never season. The Brewers had an amazing home record, but in August they showed that they can win anywhere. It is not the first time the Brewers have done that (thinking of 2008), but Roenicke keep his team focused and prevented a September collapse, and won the NL Central easily.
Fifth Place: Don Mattingly, Los Angeles Dodgers
If ever there was a team that had an excuse to implode, it was the 2011 Dodgers. The scandal surrounding the ownership and fighting with the league office – it was a total mess. While they did not win their division, they became a formidable team down the stretch, and that proved the Dodgers organization right when they selected Mattingly to helm the club. With less drama in 2012, the expectations for this team will be very high, and Mattingly may sit atop some ballots next year.
Those are my NL Manager of the Year selections. Agree or disagree, let me know in the comments.