Monday, October 7, 2013

Francona, Hurdle were top skippers in '13

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 course of the next week, 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) released today
  • 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. Terry Francona, Cleveland Indians (92-70, Wild Card)
Few outsiders looked at the Cleveland Indians job and saw it as a good opportunity. The team had just lost 94 games and there didn't seem to be a face to the franchise. Enter Francona and his tireless energy after spending a year as a broadcaster. He was able to put the Indians on a path back to the postseason while melding the new personalities of Nick Swisher and Michael Bourn. The Indians finished the regular season one game behind the Tigers for the top spot in the AL Central and a lot of their success can be contributed to the man running the helm in Cleveland.  

2. John Farrell, Boston Red Sox (97-65, AL East Champions)
It will be a close race for the top manager in the AL and there are plenty of good things to say about Farrell. He came into a toxic atmosphere in Boston and he was able to forge their talent into the best team in the American League. Their run differential was 197 and this came in a division where more than one team was supposed to be fighting for the top spot. Farrell calmed the storm and brought winning baseball back to Boston.

3. Bob Melvin, Oakland Athletics (96-66, AL West Champions)
Last season Melvin was my pick for this award and he worked his magic in Oakland for the second year in a row. The Rangers and the Angels were supposed to make things tough at the top but the A's surprised everyone and ended up winning the west fairly easily. Melvin has to work with a smaller pay roll but he has led Oakland into October over the past two years.

National League
1. Clint Hurdle, Pittsburgh Pirates (94-68, Wild Card) 
It had been a long time since the Pirates had tasted anything close to October baseball and Hurdle helped to guide this Pirate ship along the way. It took an MVP caliber year from Andrew McCutchen, a slump busting year from Francisco Liriano, along with plenty of other positive performances. This team had endured back-to-back second half collapses to miss the postseason but Hurdle made sure this wouldn't happen again. His club made the right moves and he was the captain of this ship in a city that has been dying for some postseason baseball for over two decades. 

2. Don Mattingly, Los Angeles Dodgers (92-70, NL West Champions)
To show how fickle these awards can be, Mattingly was close to losing his job at one point this season. Instead, the Dodgers made a huge run and dominated the NL West. Clayton Kershaw looked like the best pitcher in baseball and Yasiel Puig added some excitement to the air in LA. This team has all the right parts to make some postseason noise but it wouldn't have happened without a turnaround in the middle portion of the season to get back on track. 

3. Fredi Gonzalez, Atlanta Braves (96-66, NL East Champions)
The Braves weren't supposed to win the NL East. They were supposed to lie down and let the Washington Nationals dominate their way to the postseason. Someone forgot to tell Mr. Gonzalez and his crew this at the beginning of the year. They stayed near the top of the division for most of 2013 and Gonzalez looks like a perennial contender for the manager of the year award. 

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