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Wedge, Melvin named AL, NL managers of year

NEW YORK -- Bob Melvin and Eric Wedge barely made a ripple
as players. Backup catchers, they both batted a pedestrian .233 in
the big leagues.

All that time spent pondering on the bench paid off. Far more
successful in the dugout than on the field, they were honored
Wednesday as managers of the year.

Wedge became the first Cleveland manager to win the AL award,
chosen by a wide margin after the Indians and Boston tied for the
best record in baseball. Melvin was the first Arizona manager to
get the NL prize, picked after leading his young team to the top
mark in the league.

Wedge and Melvin are among nearly a dozen former catchers who
manage in the majors.

"There's been quite the trend," Wedge said on a conference
call. "The catcher has to be aware and knowledgeable of every
aspect."

"It's a leadership position. That position demands a great
amount of passion for your teammates and the game of baseball," he
said.

Wedge said he knew Melvin mostly from across the diamond. Their
paths crossed years ago -- a month after Colorado took Wedge from
Boston in the November 1992 expansion draft, the Red Sox wanted a
second-string catcher and signed Melvin as a free agent.

Wedge received 19 of the 28 first-place votes and got 116 points
in balloting by the Baseball Writers' Association of America. He
finished ahead of a pair of former catchers, the Angels' Mike
Scioscia (62 points) and ex-Yankees manager Joe Torre (61). Terry
Francona of the World Series champion Red Sox got 13.

"There's always challenges and unexpected challenges you go
through over the course of six months. I think we were the extreme
of that," Wedge said.

Wedge, a no-nonsense guy with a John Wayne calendar in his
office, guided the Indians to a 96-66 record. Cleveland made its
first playoff appearance since 2001, then lost to the Red Sox in
Game 7 of the AL Championship Series.

Melvin was chosen on 19 of the 30 first-place ballots and got
119 points. Philadelphia's Charlie Manuel (76), Colorado's Clint
Hurdle (58) and the Cubs' Lou Piniella (25) followed.

Melvin was honored for his steady hand in leading a team that
sometimes started six rookies to a 90-72 mark. Back in the playoffs
for the first time since 2002, Arizona swept Chicago in the first
round before getting swept by Colorado in the NLCS.

"At the beginning, we were cautiously optimistic. We liked the
young group," Melvin said on a conference call.

The 39-year-old Wedge played 39 games for Boston and Colorado in
the early 1990s. He's done a lot better with the Indians since
starting out 68-94 in 2003.

One promise Wedge made to himself after becoming a major league
manager: "I would never forget how hard it is to play this game,"
he said.

The Indians took over first place for good on Aug. 15 and went a
major league-best 31-13 to finish the season.

C.C. Sabathia, picked as the AL Cy Young Award winner Tuesday,
and Fausto Carmona each won 19 games to lead Cleveland. The Indians
were in good hands and the team rewarded Wedge with a three-year
contract extension in July.

"I look at this as an organizational award," Wedge said.

The 46-year-old Melvin played 10 years in the majors with seven
teams. He managed Seattle from 2003-04, got fired and then took
over the Diamondbacks in 2005.

A year after Arizona went 76-86 and tied Colorado for last place
in the NL West, the Diamondbacks surged. They did it despite
getting outscored by 20 runs, becoming the first team in the majors
since the 1906 Chicago White Sox to have a league's best record
despite the worst batting average.

Melvin's evenhanded approach meshed well with his young team,
which lost stars Randy Johnson and Orlando Hudson to season-ending
injuries. Arizona went 43-29 after the All-Star break.

Eric Byrnes and rookie Chris Young led the offense, and Melvin
could always count on ace Brandon Webb and closer Jose Valverde.
Melvin also benefited from the experience of bench coach Kirk
Gibson.

Seven managers got votes on the NL ballot. Manuel received seven
first-place votes after Philadelphia won the NL East, Hurdle got
four first-place votes with the NL champion Rockies and Piniella
got two first-place tallies after winning the Central in his first
season with Chicago.

"Originally, I thought it was Friday. You try to put it out of
your mind, to an extent," Melvin said. "I wasn't thinking too
much about it."

Scioscia got four first-place votes after leading Los Angeles to
the AL West title. Torre, since hired by the Los Angeles Dodgers,
got the other five first-place votes.

The BBWAA first presented the manager awards in 1983.

The NL Cy Young Award will be announced Thursday. San Diego's
Jake Peavy, who led the league with 19 wins and topped the majors
in ERA and strikeouts, is the heavy favorite.