TBA: Wednesday, Nov. 18:
Scioscia: Known for his aggressive style with baserunners, his focus on player matchups and leadership, Scioscia put up what might be the best campaign of his career in 2009. In addition to dealing with the normal ups and downs of a regular season, he managed his players through the emotional roller-coaster ride that followed the death of Adenhart.
Ron Gardenhire, Twins: As did Scioscia, Gardenhire arguably had the best year of his managerial career in 2009. It was definitely one of the most eventful.
The club was without All-Star catcher Joe Mauer for the entire month of April, and by the middle of August, the Twins had lost three of the starters who began the year in their rotation. Third baseman Joe Crede was limited to just 90 games before season-ending back surgery, and with three weeks remaining in the season, Gardenhire lost slugger Justin Morneau with a stress fracture in his lower back.
Rookies were a mainstay in the rotation down the stretch, yet Gardenhire’s Twins rallied with a fantastic September and October to move past the Tigers in the race for the AL Central crown to qualify for the playoffs.
Ron Washington, Rangers: The fact that Washington is Scioscia’s pick for this award means something. The Rangers were not expected to contend this season, but improved pitching and Washington’s leadership kept them in the race for a postseason spot until the final week of the season.
Washington’s no-nonsense approach, combined with his ability to let his players police themselves, served the Rangers well in 2009. The former third-base coach has come into his own as a manager, earning the respect of his clubhouse and peers across the league.
Making Elvis Andrus his everyday shortstop and Frank Francisco his closer, along with placing his faith in Scott Feldman as a starter, were among the many moves that kept the Rangers near the top of the standings all season. But late-season injuries to Michael Young and Josh Hamilton, combined with inconsistent pitching, proved to be his team’s downfall.
THE DARK HORSES
Don Wakamatsu, Mariners: In his first year in Seattle, Wakamatsu brought a winning attitude and changed the culture in the clubhouse following the Mariners’ 101-loss season in 2008. The Mariners made waves in the first half of the season but struggled in the second half and finished in third in the AL West.
Joe Girardi, Yankees: If the award was given to the skipper of the World Series champion, Girardi would have another piece of hardware to add to his mantel. But it’s not. The skipper of the best team with the highest payroll is not often a favorite for the award, but Girardi should be given credit for molding his star-studded roster into a team and keeping his club focused despite the early-season distractions surrounding Alex Rodriguez. In the postseason, Girardi’s strategies led to another World Series title, the 27th in franchise history.
When Tracy took Colorado’s bench-coach job last winter, he did so with the blessing of then-manager Hurdle. The Tracy-led Rockies roared through the final month of the season, earning a playoff spot before being eliminated by the Phillies in the NL Division Series.
Tracy’s players said he was easy to play for, and the results back up their claim. The Rockies finished 22 games over .500.
La Russa, Cardinals: The additions of Matt Holliday, Julio Lugo, Mark DeRosa and John Smoltz bolstered an already loaded club, and La Russa managed the lineup superbly. His use of Colby Rasmus, and Skip Schumaker’s shift from the outfield to second base are among the many moves that worked out in the club’s favor.
La Russa’s resume speaks for itself. Including this season, the Cardinals have made the postseason eight times in 14 years under La Russa. The Cardinals were swept in the first round of the playoffs by the Dodgers.
Cox, Braves: Cox, who ranks fourth on the all-time wins list, plans on retiring after the 2010 season but has shown no signs of slowing down. His Braves made a charge for the Wild Card in the final month of the season but came up short.
Consistency has been his team’s trademark, and like their manager, the Braves didn’t quit until after the final game was played.
THE DARK HORSES
Torre, Dodgers: The Dodgers were without Manny Ramirez for 50 games and plagued with inconsistent starting pitching in the second half of the season, but they took control of the NL West and never let go. Torre’s team struggled to clinch the division title at the end of the season but made it two rounds into the playoffs before being eliminated by the Phillies in the NLCS.
Manuel, Phillies: With three NL East titles in a row, Manuel has a track record of success. Under his leadership, the Phillies were able to overcome offensive struggles by Jimmy Rollins and Raul Ibanez along with average performances from pitchers Brad Lidge and Cole Hamels. In short, he refused to let his team “play down” to its competition and expected nothing short of excellence from his team. The results were almost ideal. Manuel’s team made it to the World Series for the second consecutive year but was defeated by the Yankees in six games.
Gonzalez, Marlins: The payroll (small) and the division (NL East) led some to believe that the Marlins would not even come close to a playoff berth in 2009. They proved the doubters wrong by staying in the hunt for the NL Wild Card until the final weeks of the season, and Gonzalez deserves credit for getting them there.