Girardi, Leyland Win Top Manager Honors
Thursday, November 16th 2006, 6:24 am
By: News On 6
NEW YORK (AP) _ Joe Girardi is the NL Manager of the Year. Oh, by the way _ he's available. Six weeks after he was fired by Florida, Girardi won the award Wednesday for keeping the rookie-laden Marlins in contention nearly all season. Jim Leyland took home AL honors after a quick turnaround with the Detroit Tigers.
A rookie skipper himself, Girardi beat out Willie Randolph of the New York Mets by a comfortable margin to become the first Manager of the Year with a losing record.
``I got my opportunity and I made the most of it,'' Girardi said. ``I don't know if vindication is a good word, just because as a manager, you want to manage.''
He received 18 of 32 first-place votes and totaled 111 points in balloting by the Baseball Writers' Association of America. Randolph got eight first-place votes and 81 points.
``It's nice that people who watch the game every day understood what we accomplished,'' Girardi said, adding he wasn't particularly surprised to win the award. ``We had a lot of good things happen.''
Leyland turned around the long-moribund Tigers in his first year with the team, leading them to the World Series and their first winning season since 1993. He received 19 of 28 first-place votes and 118 points to top Minnesota's Ron Gardenhire, who was listed first on nine ballots and totaled 93 points.
``I knew that we had something here. I thought it would take longer than it did. This team started believing,'' Leyland said. ``We had good players going into spring training, but we didn't have a very good team. We made ourselves a good team and that's something I'm very proud of.''
Playing 22 rookies, Girardi guided the Marlins to a 78-84 finish and had them in the playoff race until a late-September fade _ a surprisingly competitive performance for a team that was expected to lose at least 100 games.
Florida had a $15 million opening day payroll, the lowest in the major leagues by more than $20 million.
``They superseded everyone's expectations _ not mine,'' Girardi said. ``I told them when we went to spring training that I expected them to win, and they won.''
Still, he was fired two days after the season ended following a rift with owner Jeffrey Loria. Girardi has since agreed to return to the New York Yankees' broadcast booth, rather than seek another managing job.
``I don't believe in this case perception is reality,'' he said. ``I wanted it to work out but it never got worked out, for whatever reason.
``I didn't want to leave Florida,'' he added. ``We move on to bigger and better things.''
After the announcement, the Marlins were ready with a statement.
``We are pleased for Joe and we wish him well,'' the team said.
Girardi, who succeeded Randolph as Joe Torre's bench coach with the Yankees in 2005, is the first Manager of the Year to be fired that year. Baltimore's Davey Johnson, the AL winner in 1997, resigned hours before he won the award that year.
Girardi was interested in the opening with his hometown Chicago Cubs, but they hired Lou Piniella this offseason. The former catcher also interviewed with the Washington Nationals, but pulled out of the running before they chose Manny Acta.
``There's no secret to what I'm looking for. I really want to manage again because I love it,'' Girardi said. ``It has to be right not only for me, but for my family. ... I believe my opportunity will come again.''
The 61-year-old Leyland appears firmly entrenched in Motown after winning his third Manager of the Year award _ and first in the AL. He also won with Barry Bonds and the Pittsburgh Pirates in 1990 and '92.
``It's obviously a big thrill for me,'' Leyland said. ``I really share this award with the entire organization because that's what it really stands for.''
Leyland returned to the dugout last season following a six-year hiatus, taking over a foundering Tigers team that went 71-91 in 2005. Two seasons before that, Detroit lost an embarrassing 119 games _ an AL record.
But with a deft touch and demanding approach, the cigarette-puffing Leyland led the surprising Tigers to a terrific start. They struggled mightily down the stretch and squandered the AL Central title, losing out to Gardenhire's Twins on the final day of the regular season.
Still, Detroit captured the wild card for its first postseason berth in 19 years, then upset the Yankees in the first round of the playoffs before sweeping Oakland in the AL championship series.
Finally, the run ended. Playing in the World Series for the first time since 1984, the Tigers lost to St. Louis in five games.
``I could go on and on and on with praise about him,'' Detroit outfielder Craig Monroe said. ``His fun spirit, passion for the game and a straight-shooting style made you want to go the extra mile for him.''
Though the Tigers finished behind Minnesota, that didn't prevent Leyland from beating out Gardenhire, a runner-up for this honor three of the past four years.
``He did a great job of stepping right in and giving our club the leadership it needed,'' Tigers president and general manager Dave Dombrowski said. ``He communicated very well with our players and made good decisions.''
Leyland is the third manager to win the award in both leagues, joining four-time winners Bobby Cox and Tony La Russa.
``Anytime you're mentioned in that company you've got to feel awful good about it,'' Leyland said.
La Russa became the first manager to win a World Series and not receive a vote. Leyland got just one third-place vote when he led Florida to the 1997 title.
Voting is completed before the postseason and tabulated on a 5-3-1 basis.