The time has come to start handing out awards to those players and managers who stood head and shoulders above the rest in 2011. Each of our team sites submitted a ballot and the awards will be announced at our general baseball site “Call to the Pen.” First up is the award for Manager of the Year. Click here to see how the voting turned out.
Those of us that cover National League teams were allowed to vote for the N.L. awards. The Manager of the Year in the N.L. this year seemed like a total no-brainer to me. That is, as far as the winner was concerned. Arizona Diamondbacks Skipper Kirk Gibson got my vote after about a second of deliberation. Gibson took a last place team all the way to a division title. The so-called experts like to talk about managers and front office personnel who “change the culture” of a team. I think that term is overused but actually applies in the case of Gibson. He put together a coaching staff full of high profile ex-players that commanded respect from a mostly young group of players. Gibson took a no-nonsense approach that stressed maintaining focus and self-respect. Gibson doesn’t allow cell phones in the clubhouse and has the players wear semi-formal attire while traveling or representing the team off the field. He has done some interviews, but shuns the spotlight, always putting the team first. Star players don’t always make star managers. For that reason, I must admit I was skeptical when hearing Gibson had landed the job. But he has proven beyond the shadow of a doubt that he has a real knack for managing.
The rest of my ballot pretty much looks like I had no brain. In my defense, I turned in my ballot with a couple of days left in the regular season. It looked like the Braves were well on their way to making the playoffs even though they had lost several players to lengthy D.L. stints along the way. For that reason I chose Freddi Gonzalez as my distant runner-up. Oops! If I had a do over I would vote for Tony LaRussa. The Cardinals mastermind took his team to the promised land without getting a single inning from his number two starter, not to mention a bullpen that never really found it’s identity all season. I voted for Charlie Manuel as my second runner-up. Even though a lot was expected from the Phils, Manuel saw to it that they delivered.