Joe Maddon of the Tampa Bay Rays and Kirk Gibson of the Arizona Diamondbacks were named AL and NL Managers of the Year, respectively.
This is the second time Maddon has won AL Manager of the Year. He was previously given the honor in 2008 when he took the Rays from worst to first en route to the AL pennant and first World Series appearance. But this season’s AL Wild Card berth was arguably more improbable than their rise in 2008. With the loss of Carl Crawford, Matt Garza, Jason Bartlett, Carlos Pena, Rafael Soriano and the entire Rays bullpen I thought the Rays were a shell of their former selves. I picked them to finish at the bottom of the ladder in the AL East. It looked my prediction might come to fruition when they began the season 1-8.
But then Rays promptly went 8-1 to get back to the .500 mark. And they kept clawing all season. Their clawing paid off on the last day of the regular season when they came back from a 7-0 deficit against the New York Yankees in the 7th inning and won the game 8-7 in extra innings on a homerun by Evan Longoria. The win earned them an AL Wild Card spot. A month earlier they were 9½ games back of the Red Sox.
For his part, Maddon did unconventional things to motivate the team such as grow out his hair and have theme road trips which included a pajama party, grunge night and letterman sweaters. This is the second time Maddon has won AL Manager of the Year. He was previously given the honor in 2008 when he took the Rays from worst to first en route to the AL pennant and first World Series appearance in franchise history.
I think the likelihood of the Arizona Diamondbacks wearing sweaters, pajamas, flannel on road trips is slim to none. Kirk Gibson is a no nonsense baseball man who led the team to a near 30 win improvement over last season to a NL West title and their first post-season appearance since 2007. I thought the D’Backs would be better in 2011 but I didn’t think they were playoff bound. Gibby actually took over from A.J. Hinch just before the All-Star Break in 2010. It took him awhile to evaluate what he had but once he did the D’Backs quickly started winning. A strong second half propelled them over the 2010 World Series champion San Francisco Giants. It would come as no surprise to me to see Gibson triumph in the World Series as a manager as he did as player both with the Detroit Tigers and the Los Angeles Dodgers.