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Tuesday, November 15, 2011
Maddon, Gibson should win top managers

By David Schoenfield

Quick, who won last year's Manager of the Year awards?

Exactly. Not the most interesting of the postseason awards. But here's a quick preview of the award that usually goes to the manager whose team surprised the most.

American League

Joe Maddon, Rays: The odds-on favorite to win his second award, following Tampa Bay's miracle playoff run in September. Positives: Kept team positive after 0-6 start, Evan Longoria's April injury and Manny Ramirez's drug test/retirement; overcame two shortstops who hit under .200; mixed and matched guys like Ben Zobrist, Matt Joyce and Sean Rodriguez for maximum producitivity; rebuilt bullpen thrived; sent up Dan Johnson to pinch-hit in the ninth inning of game No. 162. Negatives: Was that a mullet?

Ron Washington, Rangers: Remember, postseason performance doesn't come into play. Positives: Moved Alexi Ogando to the rotation; got a big year out of Michael Young by moving him around the DH role and the infield; let Mike Napoli eventually take over as the regular catcher. Negatives: Remember, postseason performance doesn't come into play.

Jim Leyland, Tigers: A two-time winner with the Pirates and once with the Tigers, Leyland could be the first manager to win the award four times (the award began in 1983). Positives: Gave the ball to Justin Verlander and stayed out of the way. Negatives: Poor lineup construction.

Manny Acta, Indians: The Indians ended up at 80-82, but it was a positive season as they remained in the playoff race much of the season. Positives: Hung in there despite injuries to Grady Sizemore and Shin-Soo Choo; worked in young players like Jason Kipnis and Lonnie Chisenhall; adeptly handled no-name bullpen to a nice season. Negatives: Couldn't straighten out Fausto Carmona; stuck with Orlando Cabrera way too long in No. 2 hole.

SweetSpot network voting
Joe Maddon: 114 points (21 first-place votes)
Jim Leyland: 32 points
Ron Washington: 28 points (1)
Manny Acta: 20 points (1)
Joe Girardi: 20 points (1)
Terry Francona: 1 point
Mike Scioscia: 1 point

My ballot
1. Joe Maddon
2. Manny Acta
3. Ron Washington

National League

Kirk Gibson, Diamondbacks: Arizona improved from 65 to 94 wins, making Gibson the front-runner. Positives: Made regulars out of Ryan Roberts and Gerardo Parra; installed a new energy and attitude into the team; got nice work out of rookie starter Josh Collmenter; dramatically improved the bullpen from a year ago; constantly forced to change lineup. Negatives: Let's not talk about that Division Series.

Ron Roenicke, Brewers: In his first season, the Brewers set a club record with 96 wins (one more than 1982's Harvey's Wallbangers). Positives: Inspired move to eventually hit Corey Hart leadoff; got good results from mercurial center fielder Nyjer Morgan; once Zack Greinke returned, had top four guys who didn't miss a start all season; didn't overreact because team didn't have a good lefty in the pen. Negatives: Stuck with Casey McGehee too long; stuck with Craig Counsell as utility guy.

Tony La Russa, Cardinals: The future Hall of Famer went out in style, although the award is voted on before the postseason. Positives: Overcame season-long injury to Adam Wainwright, plus DL stints from Albert Pujols, David Freese and Matt Holliday; coaxed good work out of bullpen after closer Ryan Franklin self-destructed in April; went with Jason Motte as closer down the stretch; believed in Jon Jay's ability to play center, allowed trade of Colby Rasmus. Negatives: Inability to enunciate during calls to the bullpen.

SweetSpot network voting
Kirk Gibson: 99 points (16 first-place votes)
Ron Roenicke: 51 points (3)
Tony La Russa: 49 points (5)
Charlie Manuel: 8 points
Don Mattingly: 4 points
Clint Hurdle: 4 points
Fredi Gonzalez: 1 point

My ballot
1. Kirk Gibson
2. Tony La Russa
3. Ron Roenicke