Wednesday, November 18, 2009
Tracy, Scioscia named top managers
NEW YORK -- The Los Angeles Angels could have crumbled when pitcher Nick Adenhart was killed in a car accident in April, overcome by waves of grief and sadness.
Mike Scioscia kept them moving forward.
"There wasn't one defining moment," he said. "I think as the season started to evolve guys found that sense of purpose to play baseball again and they played it at a very, very high level."
For his deft touch during a trying season, Scioscia won the AL Manager of the Year award on Wednesday for the second time. Jim Tracy of Colorado was selected for the NL honor.
Tracy became the second manager to win the award after taking over during the season, joining Jack McKeon for Florida in 2003. Less than an hour after the award was announced, the Rockies said Tracy had been rewarded with a three-year contract.
"What we're talking about this afternoon, it's probably as flattering an experience as I've come to realize during the course of my professional career in athletics," Tracy said. "And obviously a new contract is extremely exciting. But what is more intriguing for me is what is still out there for our ballclub."
Tracy received 29 first-place votes and two seconds for 151 points in balloting by the Baseball Writers' Association of America. Scioscia got 15 first-place votes, 10 seconds and one third for 106 points.
The Rockies promoted Tracy from bench coach after Clint Hurdle was fired in late May and won the wild-card race. Scioscia and the Angels paid tribute to Adenhart with their fifth AL West title in six years.
"Some things, you're never prepared for," Scioscia said. "But those things really weren't about us. They were about the Adenhart family and I think as we supported them we found some peace."
Ron Gardenhire finished second in the AL voting for the second straight year and fifth time during his eight seasons as Minnesota manager. He also placed third in 2002, when Scioscia was honored for the first time, but has never won the award. Tony La Russa of the Cardinals, a four-time winner, was a distant second in the NL with 55 points.
Lou Piniella of the Cubs and Joe Maddon of the Rays were honored last year.
Colorado was 18-28 and 14½ games behind NL West-leading Los Angeles when general manager Dan O'Dowd dismissed Hurdle on May 29 and offered the job to Tracy.
"I didn't immediately say yes," Tracy recalled. "I asked for 60 minutes to think about it and he told me you can have 60 but you can't have 61 because he needed somebody down in the dugout to manage that night."
Tracy was sold when O'Dowd told him he just wanted to see the team play better. He thought he could take care of that -- and the Rockies responded to his steady hand. They went 74-42 the rest of the way, extending the division race to the final weekend before settling for the wild card.
There was no Rocktober this year -- Colorado lost to Philadelphia in the division series -- but it was still quite the turnaround for the club and Tracy, who was fired after leading the Pittsburgh Pirates to a 68-94 record in 2007.
The 53-year-old Tracy was out of baseball before becoming the Rockies' bench coach in November 2008.
"With as young as we are and with as much as we grew in such a short period of time, I can't even begin to tell you how much I'm looking forward to the future," he said.
Scioscia managed the Angels to their third consecutive division title during one of his most difficult seasons in the dugout. Los Angeles has earned six postseason berths in the last eight years under Scioscia, who was a catcher for the Dodgers for 13 seasons and retired in 1994.
The Angels used 14 starting pitchers and played without sluggers Torii Hunter and Vladimir Guerrero for long stretches due to injuries. The team's biggest challenge was moving past the sorrow it felt after Adenhart's death.
"For a long time, it wasn't easy for our club," Scioscia said.
Scioscia, who turns 51 on Nov. 27, was credited for giving his players time to grieve while gently insisting on accountability as an early slump lingered. Los Angeles responded by surging to another division title and making it to the AL Championship Series, eliminating postseason nemesis Boston along the way.
The baseball honors continue Thursday with the NL Cy Young Award.