Thursday, October 6, 2011

The Connie Mack Award

As a member in good standing of the Baseball Bloggers Alliance (BBA), one of my responsibilities/privileges is to submit votes for end of year awards. The BBA will release the winners' names over the course of the next couple of weeks, and as they do so I'll be posting my personal choices and the reasons behind them. Feel free to disagree violently.

The manager of the year will receive the Connie Mack Award. My picks in the National League are as follows:

1. Kirk Gibson, Arizona Diamondbacks

I'm amazed at what Gibby's been able to do with the D-backs since he took over as skipper last season. They only won 31 games in the first half and they finished dead last in the National League West. This year, they finished first and more than earned their spot in the play-offs. They don't have the raw talent of the Rockies or Giants, but they have played so well. They're enthusiastic and driven and, despite their youth, they do the little things that win ball games. The Rockies complete squandering of their talent this season is even more heartwrenching when you consider how easy it would have been for them to blow this division race wide open. When they didn't, the D-backs stepped into the gap, and Gibby shepherded them to 94 wins. Not a Randy Johnson or Curt Schilling in sight. That's a good manager.

2. Clint Hurdle, Pittsburgh Pirates

In truth, I don't know that Hurdle deserves this recognition based on the Pirates' second half, but what a first half they had. At the break, they were 4 games over .500. They haven't been over .500 at the break since like 1783. That Hurdle was able to pull together a perpetually terrible team and get such an incredible first half was a major accomplishment. He has a talent for taking young, unfocused clubs and squeezing greatness out of them (see: Rockies, 2007). There was a time while they were in first place when I actually started to think they could make the play-offs. Of course, they struggled quite a bit in the second half and ultimately finished fourth. If they can make a couple of quality off-season acquisitions, they have a real chance next year, despite being in a tough division. Credit Hurdle for that.

3. Terry Collins, New York Mets

All right, picking guys for this award was hard because I didn't think anyone other than Gibby was really deserving. So maybe I'm stretching a little bit here. But living in New York, I can tell you that Collins was like the second coming when he took over the Mets. Yes, they were still pretty awful this season, but they are on the upturn. This was not reflected in their record so much as in how they worked with what they had. They lost Carlos Beltran and Francisco Rodriguez, David Wright was injured, Jason Bay is always injured, and their starting rotation was just okay. Props to Collins for managing one of the unluckiest teams in baseball and more or less holding it together.

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