Ex-Marlin Girardi, Tigers' Leyland are top managers
NEW YORK -- Sometime soon, Joe Girardi will go looking for another job in a major league dugout. And when he does, he'll have a Manager of the Year award at the top of his résumé.
Joe Girardi is the third skipper to be named Manager of the Year and not return to his team the following season -- but just the second to be fired. Davey Johnson, who was fired by the Orioles in 1997, won the AL award. Bobby Cox, who won the AL award in 1985, left the Blue Jays that year to become the Braves' general manager.
Other interesting facts:
Six weeks after he was fired by Florida, Girardi won the NL honor Wednesday for keeping the rookie-laden Marlins in contention nearly all season. Jim Leyland took the AL award 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 don't know if vindication is a good word, just because as a manager, you want to manage," Girardi said.
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. "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."
|Joe Girardi, Marlins||18||6||3||111|
|Willie Randolph, Mets||8||11||8||81|
|Bruce Bochy, Padres||5||6||7||50|
|Grady Little, Dodgers||1||5||10||30|
|Charlie Manuel, Phillies||--||3||--||9|
|Jerry Narron, Reds||--||1||3||6|
|Phil Garner, Astros||--||--||1||1|
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 by many 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.
Still, he was fired two days after the season ended following a rift with owner Jeffrey Loria. Girardi has since agreed to rejoin 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. ... 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 second Manager of the Year to be fired that year. The other was Baltimore's Davey Johnson, the AL winner in 1997.
"To rehash that, I don't think that does anyone any good," Girardi said. "Obviously, I'm not there, and I don't know how they feel about it. A manager wants to manage. I didn't want to leave Florida."
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.
|Jim Leyland, Tigers||19||7||2||118|
|Ron Gardenhire, Twins||9||15||3||93|
|Ken Macha, A's||--||5||11||26|
|Joe Torre, Yankees||--||1||12||15|
"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."
"It's obviously a big thrill for me. These are individual honors but it's a combination of a lot of things," 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 the St. Louis Cardinals 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.
"It's well-deserved because 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, showing again that he's one of the best managers in the game, if not the best."
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.
Oakland's Ken Macha came in third and Torre finished fourth.
In the NL, San Diego's Bruce Bochy, now manager of the San Francisco Giants, finished third with five first-place tallies. Los Angeles' Grady Little also got a first-place vote and was fourth.
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.
Copyright 2006 by The Associated Press
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