Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Maddon, Gibson were top managers in '11

At the conclusion of every season, the members of the Baseball Bloggers Alliance (BBA) are asked to submit their ballots for the top awards across baseball. Each of these awards is named in honor of a player that epitomized the role in Major League Baseball. Over the next couple of weeks, I will release my ballots for each award and I will post the official announcements from the BBA with the combined votes of all member blogs.

Here is the list of awards that will be announced in the coming days:
  • Connie Mack Award (Top Manager)
  • Willie Mays Award (Top Rookie)
  • Goose Gossage Award (Top Reliever)
  • Walter Johnson Award (Top Pitcher)
  • Stan Musial Award (Top Player)
Connie Mack Award for Top Manager
American League
1. Joe Maddon- Tampa Bay Rays (91-71, Wild Card Winners)

Even before the heroics of the final day of the season, Maddon had placed himself near the top of the list for best managers in the game. The magical run the Rays completed in Game 162 was only part of the story for the managerial job that was completed by Maddon in '11. The Rays entered this season after losing some of their key players from their division winning squad in 2010. This meant that Maddon had to piece together new parts across his ball club. The mighty Yankees and Red Sox were picked to finish ahead of the Rays in the AL East and for the first five months of the season those predictions held true. In September, the Rays finished by winning their last five games and they went 17-10 in the month. Maddon is considered by some as the best manager in the game and he stood out among his American League counterparts in 2011.

2. Jim Leyland- Detroit Tigers (95-67, Central Division Champions)

It was a down year for the American League Central but the Tigers made sure that the competition took notice of them. For the better part of the first half, it looked like the winner of the Central would finish near the .500 mark and be dropped in the first round of the playoffs by a team from the AL East. Leyland rallied his troops to make a second half run and he spurred them to a very respectable 95 win season. It also helps to have Justin Verlander pitching for your team every fifth day.

3. Ron Washington- Texas Rangers (96-66, West Division Champions)

After finishing runner-up in the World Series last year, the Rangers could have followed that season with a let down in 2011. The team lost out on the Cliff Lee sweepstakes in the offseason and that could have been another set back for the team. The Rangers were left hungry and Washington has been the guiding force as the team heads back to postseason play.

National League
1. Kirk Gibson- Arizona Diamondbacks (94-68, West Division Champions)

At the onset of the 2011 season, the Diamondbacks were a young team that was trying to find their identity. There were no huge names on the roster and there was not much expected from the team in the desert. The D-Backs scuffled out of the gate to an 11-15 record in the first month of the season. The team turned the corner and the month of April would be the only month in which the team finished with a losing record. Gibson lead his youthful squad to their first division title since 2007 and the third most wins in franchise history. He helped to bring some respectability back to a team that lost over 90 games in each of the last two seasons. The Diamondbacks were irrelevant at the start of the season and Gibson made them into a potent threat in the National League.

2. Ron Roenicke- Milwaukee Brewers (96-66, Central Division Champions)

Entering the 2011 campaign, the Brewers knew there was going to be a lot of pressure put on them to get to the postseason for only the second time since the early 1980's. The looming free agency of Prince Fielder hung over the team and the team went all-in to trade for Zack Greinke from the Kansas City Royals. To top it all off, the team had to hire a new manager at the start of the year. What was Roenicke able to accomplish in his first year at the helm? Only the Brewers franchise record for wins. Not a bad way to start your managerial career.

3. Charlie Manuel- Philadelphia Phillies (102-60, East Division Champions)

When your team is assembled the way the Phillies were this year, it is very easy to be expected to win. But in those situations, there needs to be a strong leader like Manuel at the helm to push all of the right buttons. The Phillies were able to accomplish tremendous things over the course of the season and even set their franchise record for wins. When the team has been around for 129 years, that is definitely  something to be recognized for.

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