Lou, Maddon top MLB managers
Posted: Thursday, November 13, 2008 4:58 pm
By: By MIKE FITZPATRICK, AP Baseball Writer
NEW YORK (AP) — Joe Maddon took Tampa Bay from last place to first, a few years after Lou Piniella tried to turn that trick himself.
But it didn’t take Piniella long to find success elsewhere, and both managers were big winners Wednesday.
Maddon easily won the American League Manager of the Year award for guiding the Rays from baseball’s basement to the World Series. Piniella took the NL honor after leading his Chicago Cubs to the league’s best record.
“Truly a remarkable season in so many different ways,” the newly married Maddon said on a conference call about two hours after arriving in Rome.
He had a good reason for interrupting his honeymoon.
Maddon, who succeeded Piniella as Tampa Bay manager in 2006, was a runaway winner in balloting by the Baseball Writers’ Association of America. He received all but one of the 28 first-place votes — the other went to Minnesota’s Ron Gardenhire.
It was a nice wedding gift for Maddon and his wife, Jaye, who got married last weekend. But it meant that one of the first things he did in Italy was get on the phone with reporters.
“Jaye is very understanding of the whole situation. We knew this was a possibility,” Maddon said. “It’s quite an honor.”
Next stop: the Vatican on Thursday. Then the Sistine Chapel, followed by trips to Florence, Prague and London.
“I really don’t think they care about the World Series over here,” Maddon said. “It’s kind of fun being a tour guide.”
Piniella beat out Charlie Manuel of the World Series champion Philadelphia Phillies to earn his third Manager of the Year award and first in the NL. The fiery skipper also won in 1995 and 2001 with Seattle.
This time, he got 15 of 32 first-place votes and totaled 103 points to 67 for Manuel, listed first on eight ballots. Florida’s Fredi Gonzalez finished third with five first-place votes and 48 points.
“I’m thrilled and I’m honored. I know there were a lot of managers in the National League who had good seasons,” Piniella said from his home in Tampa, Fla.
The 65-year-old Piniella earned a $100,000 bonus for winning, which he plans to donate to the team’s charity partner, McCormick Foundation’s Cubs Care.
Tampa Bay, which started play in 1998, had never won more than 70 games in a season before Maddon engineered an incredible turnaround.
With his motivational quotes and phrases, the 54-year-old skipper led a young team that finished in last place a season ago (66-96) to a 97-65 record and the AL East title.
“Who expected the year that Tampa Bay put together?” Piniella said. “They had a great year. I followed them a lot this summer.”
Maddon used his versatile bench brilliantly and juggled a much-improved bullpen that lost veteran closer Troy Percival to injury. The stunning success continued in October, when the Rays beat the Chicago White Sox and defending champion Boston Red Sox to capture the AL pennant.
“It was all there for us. It was just a matter of time,” Maddon said. “It happened a little sooner than I thought.”
Tampa Bay’s postseason run ended with a five-game loss to Philadelphia in the World Series, but that hardly spoiled it for Maddon.
“He’s got a great mind, he’s a great communicator and he’s been remarkably consistent since the first day of spring training in 2006,” Rays executive vice president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman said. “That’s extremely difficult to do in an environment so full of emotion. He has maintained that through our low points and also our high points.”
While Manuel guided the Phillies to their second championship, Piniella and his Cubs (97-64) were swept in the first round of the playoffs for the second consecutive year. Their three-game loss to the Dodgers was a major disappointment for a franchise still seeking its first World Series title since 1908.
Voting for BBWAA awards is conducted before the postseason.
“Time heals a broken heart, I guess,” Piniella said. “Looking back, these kids I think tried a little too hard.”
There has never been a unanimous winner for Manager of the Year.
Tony La Russa and Bobby Cox have each won the award four times, the only managers with more than Piniella. Dusty Baker and Jim Leyland also have three.
The BBWAA began presenting Manager of the Year awards in 1983.
Piniella became the fourth manager to win in both leagues, joining Cox, La Russa and Leyland. Previous winners from the Cubs were Jim Frey (1984) and Don Zimmer (1989).
Gardenhire was runner-up for the fourth time.
AP Sports Writers Rick Gano in Chicago and Fred Goodall in Tampa, Fla., contributed to this report.