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If I Voted for Manager of the Year

As a member of the Baseball Bloggers Alliance, I am putting in votes for season awards. You’ve already seen my vote for AL Cy Young Award (Zack Greinke), but for me the end votes are sometimes not as important to me as people’s reasons for voting, or not voting, for various candidates.

When it comes to manager of the year, there are several potential candidates in my book:

  • Honorable mention: Joe Girardi, NY Yankees
  • Third Don Wakatmatsu, Seattle
  • Second: Ron Washington, Texas
  • First: Ron Gardenhire, Minnesota

I’m discounting Mike Scioscia and Terry Francona, who are both just plain terrific. Props to Scioscia for leading his team through the Nick Adenhart tragedy (and overcoming their inability to beat the Sox when it counts… but this award is only for what happens in the regular season). And Francona has become a master at handling the rabid Boston media, weathering Big Papi’s woes and drug test upset, but it is old hat at this point.

When it comes to Joe Girardi, I give him credit for drawing together a club that could have been in rough waters all season, beginning with the February steroid news about A-Rod, the always tricky integration into the clubhouse of the “new guys”–both big money guys in Teixeira/Sabathia/Burnett and the fill-in guys like Nick Swisher. Girardi changed the feel of the club, allowing Swisher to crank up the boom box in the clubhouse (Joe Torre had mandated headphones), standing up to the veterans (allowing Molina to be Burnett’s personal catcher), and taking the whole team out for some fun in the spring with a pool tournament outing that set the tone for a year of energetic fun. This is a huge step and a great thing for the team and their fans, but ultimately hasn’t made him Manager of the Year for me, though I gave him serious consideration. If Alex had been hurt for longer, or if the loss of Wang had hurt them more, but they had still won, perhaps. I still wish there hadn’t been so much mystery around Joba Chamberlain, too.

The next two, Ron Washington and Don Wakamatsu, get major points for having done so much with so little. Wakamatsu’s team wasn’t expected to do anything, and they managed to put up a nice showing. And Washington’s Rangers hung in there for a long time, despite injuries and scandals and the usual problems that it’s so difficult to pitch in Arlington, TX.

But the award has to go to Ron Gardenhire of the Twins. He managed to lead his club to the postseason despite losing half the major power in his lineup when Justin Morneau was shut down for the season with a stress fracture in his back. His starting rotation was gutted by injury as well, but he turned Brian Duensing into a decent starter, and kept all his many fill-in parts clicking as they overtook the Tigers in the final month of the season. Gardenhire definitely squeezed every ounce out of every player to get them to October. Regardless what happens in the postseason, win or lose, Gardenhire gets my vote for AL Manager of the Year.

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