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2006 SBN Awards: Manager of the Year

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Introduction

Recently, we here at all of the SportsBlogs Nation baseball blogs voted for the very first time in the network end-of-season awards for baseball. The idea was brought up in August or September to have an awards series where each team's blog would be given two ballots, and the bloggers would, on these ballots, cast their choices for the awards that the BBWAA gives out at the end of every year, MVP, Cy Young, ROY, and MOY. We didn't do the Gold Gloves or Silver Sluggers, because that would have been too complicated, but the four core award categories were voted upon in late September and early October by the network bloggers, before the start of baseball's playoffs. Each voter was given three choices for ROY, MOY, and Cy Young, and ten for the MVP, and based on how they ranked their choices for those categories, the player or manager would receive a the number of points exactly opposite how they were ranked on that scale. For example, if you put Derek Jeter number one on the ballot, that would count as ten points for him. Just the same, a 10th place vote would count as one point.

Jacob and I represented DRaysBay in these highly successful first awards, casting our ballots for the AL choices. The overlying rule was that AL Bloggers cast ballots for AL choices, NL bloggers did so for NL choices. Once the votes were tabulated, the results were released internally, at which point the individual sites could decide when to publish the results. I chose later than most, because I wanted to compare my choices and Jacob's, as well as the network's, to the actual award winners. And starting now allows me to get the actual choices in the same piece. This piece will run as part of a series (famous last words from me, I know), that will include all four SBN awards categories and their results. The last part of the series, which runs through Sunday, will be devoted to our own awards here at the Bay, the DRaysBay Awards. I hope you enjoy the work of SBN's collective braintrust, and special thanks must go out to Martin Gandy of Talking Chop, who organized the whole thing, kept on us about getting our votes in, and tabulated the results. He really was excellent through the whole process.

Series
Today-Manager of the Year
Tonight Tomorrow-Rookie of the Year
Tomorrow-Cy Young Award
Saturday-MVP Award
Sunday-DRB Awards

Manager of the Year

In a choice that will shock no one, two former Marlins managers captured the inaugural 'SBN Manager of the Year award'; Jim Leyland of Detroit in the American League and Joe Girardi, formerly of Florida in the National League. The results really were not close, with Girardi especially blowing away the competition in the National League before being promptly fired. Willie Randolph of the Mets and Bruce Bochy, formerly of the Padres, took home the second and third place finishes, respectively, in the National League. In the American League, it was Ron Gardenhire with a substantial second place vote and former Oakland manager Ken Macha in third place. What is interesting about this is that three of the six managers that earned distinction in these awards are now gone. Bochy left on his own accord to go to San Francisco, while Girardi and Macha were both fired.

Jacob and I both agreed with the AL choice, as Leyland was on our ballot in first place. I had Gardenhire at second on my ballot, followed by Yankees manager Joe Torre in 3rd place. Similarly, the BBWAA agreed with all of us, selecting Girardi and Leyland as their choices in balloting released yesterday.

Award Winners
Jacob (AL)-Jim Leyland, DET
Patrick (AL)-Jim Leyland, DET
SBN AL-Jim Leyland, DET
SBN NL-Joe Girardi, FLA
BBWAA AL-Jim Leyland, DET
BBWAA NL-Joe Girardi, FLA

For more on the MVP choices, the SBN voting, and expanded comments on the winners from Jacob and myself, please follow the jump.

Update [2006-11-16 22:23:31 by Patrick Kennedy]:: Due to a school project that took up a larger part of my evening than planned, the second part of the SBN awards featuring the Rookies of the Year has been postponed until tomorrow afternoon. The Cy Young Awards will be unveiled as scheduled later that night. Thank you for your patience.

AL Manager of the Year

After leading the Detroit Tigers to a 95-67 record and the AL pennant in his first season as manager, Jim Leyland was selected by SBN bloggers as the AL Manager of the Year. Both the BBWAA and the two DRaysBay voters agreed.

Leyland, in his first year managing since 1999 with the Rockies, came out of retirement to try and give direction to a franchise that has been irrelevant, at best, for the better part of the last two decades. He took over a team that had finished 71-91 in 2005 under previous manager Alan Trammel, and took them to their first World Series in 22 years. Detroit was just three years removed from their disastrous 2003 season, in which they lost 119 games. Leyland's direction helped a young pitching staff mature very quickly so as to carry Detroit through the regular season, almost resulting in an AL Central championship. Even though the Tigers lost that on the final day of the season to Minnesota, they skated through the playoffs, taking down the heavily-favored Yankees 3-1 in the Division Series, while sweeping the Oakland Athletics 4 games to none in the ALCS before losing in the World Series. Leyland's old school philosophies and ability to work with veterans and younger players helped mend the seams dividing this team, and allowed them to put together one complete product that was in command of the AL for most of the regular season. Those doubting the former Pirates and Marlins manager's ability to adapt to the present-day game were quickly silenced with a fast start the Tigers never looked back from. Although Detroit did not achieve the ultimate trophy that he set out for before the season, he helped accelerate the timetable for Detroit's future success under their young stable of pitching prospects. For Tigers fans, who had been promised the future for over 15 long years, the wait was over, thanks in part to Jim Leyland. How long he stays in Detroit to lead the Tigers is anyone's guess. But the Pittsburgh resident is still going strong after sixty, and thanks to him, the Tigers can finally say after all these years that they are going strong.

Leyland received 73 points for MOY, including 11 out of 18 possible first place votes, and was mentioned on 17 of 18 ballots. Ron Gardenhire of the Twins came in second place with 50 points, former A's manager Ken Macha came in third with 28, while Joe Torre, Terry Francona, Buddy Bell and Mike Scioscia each received (a) token vote(s).

Jacob Says-Leyland's no-nonsense, "no more crappy tigers teams" attitude led them all the way to the World Series. Poor fielding, not bad decisions by him, lost Detroit the World Series.

Patrick Says-Leyland was not the reason that Detroit magically improved their win total by 24, the players were. But his influence on players, young and old, helped to mold together a team that dominated the AL for most of the regular season, and upset two heavily favored teams in the playoffs. The fact that they got to the World Series is a credit to Leyland's managing acumen.

SBN Manager of the Year Voting-AL
Manager 1st Place Votes # Of Ballots On Total Points
Jim Leyland, DET 11 17 73
Ron Gardenhire, MIN 5 16 50
Ken Macha, OAK 2 14 28
Joe Torre, NYY 0 4 8
Terry Francona, BOS 0 1 1
Buddy Bell, KC 0 1 1
Mike Scioscia, ANA 0 1 1
18 Total Ballots Cast

NL Manager of the Year

Before the season, the Florida Marlins were widely panned by baseball pundits, nearly universally expected to finish dead last. After the second firesale in franchise history that resulted in most of the talent Jack McKeon used to win the World Series being jettisoned, the Marlins started from scratch in the offseason. They brought together a team with a payroll of only $15 million, composed mostly of rookies or unwanted token veteran players, Dontrelle Willis, and Miguel Cabrera. They also brought in a new manager, Joe Girardi.

Girardi had been highly sought after last offseason as the bench coach to Joe Torre in the Bronx. A former catcher with the Cubs and Yankees, among other teams, he was brought on to help relate to the extraordinarily young roster and use his no-nonsense style of managing to develop the talent on the major league level. What Girardi ended up doing was molding that talent into a playoff contender, well into the month of September.

The Marlins started out horribly, having the worst record in the National League in late May after being swept by the Devil Rays at Tropicana Field. It was then that things started to turn around. Florida put together a nice couple of stretches against their NL opponents, and soon climbed within the vicinity of .500 and playoff contention thanks to several hot streaks. The team utilized the contributions of players like Cabrera and Willis, but also from unexpected sources like Ricky Nolaso and Josh Johnson. Thanks to a very weak National League, they were very well in contention for the wild card spot, if not the division with New York running away with the title. Although Florida would fade in the final six weeks of the regular season and fall out of contention around mid-September, the fact that Girardi was even able to get the team this far in his first year was astounding, and a credit to his skills as manager. Weak NL or not, Girardi did an excellent job as skipper, and that was recognized, not only by SBN but also by the BBWAA as having done a great job. He absolutely ran away with both awards, and that was no surprise.

Despite his performance, Girardi ran into an ego battle with Marlins owner Jeff Loria in mid-August, and tension with Loria and the front office resulted in Girardi being fired amid rampant speculation towards the end of the season. He recently declined a job offer from the Washington Nationals, and will spend 2007 as an announcer for the New York Yankees' YES Network. However it can be guaranteed that once Girardi makes his eventual return to managing, he will be highly sought after.

In the SBN voting, Girardi ran away with the balloting. He was mentioned on 27 of 28 ballots, received 18 first place votes, and his 113 total points were more than double that of the second-highest vote-getter, Mets Manager Willie Randolph, who had 43 points. Former Padres skipper Bruce Bochy, now with San Francisco, got 35 points and finished in third place, while votes also went to Grady Little (LA), Jerry Narron (CIN), Charlie Manuel (PHI), Phil Garner (HOU), Tony LaRussa (STL), Bobby Cox (ATL), Clint Hurdle (COL), and Bob Melvin (AZ).

SBN Manager of the Year Voting-NL
Manager 1st Place Votes # of Ballots On Total Points
Joe Girardi, FLA 18 27 113
Willie Randolph, NYM 2 17 43
Bruce Bochy, SD 4 13 35
Grady Little, LA 3 5 17
Jerry Narron, CIN 1 5 13
Charlie Manuel, PHI 0 7 13
Phil Garner, HOU 0 5 11
Tony LaRussa, STL 0 1 3
Bobby Cox, ATL 0 2 2
Clint Hurdle, COL 0 1 1
Bob Melvin, AZ 0 1 1
28 Total Ballots Cast