Thursday, November 16, 2006

I Love You, You're Great, You're Fired!

Managers of the Year have been announced, with the manager of the American League Champions, the Tigers' Jim Leyland, and former Florida Marlins manager Joe Girardi winning it in the National League. A few notes on the awards:

  • Even though Leyland was the prohibitive favorite to win the award, his margin of victory over second place finisher Jim Gardenhire was less than Girardi's was in the National League. Some voters must have been swayed by Leyland's team's collapse down the stretch, which saw Gardenhire's Twins pass Detroit for the division lead on the final day of the season. Some folks complain about the shifting standards ("Sure he was the best player, but was he the most valuable to his team?") for the MVP award, but the Manager of the year is just as nebulous. Leyland was favored both because his Tigers team was excellent this year, and because the team wasn't expected to be anywhere near this good. But to some, it didn't make sense to give the award to Leyland over the man who passed him on the last day of the season--despite the fact that the Twins were considered a much better bet to win the Central last season, and indeed were one of the most disappointing teams in the game prior to their resurgence in the second half.
  • In the National League, the guy that Girardi whomped was also someone who finished ahead of him in his own division--far ahead of him. There have always been whispers that Willie Randolph is, as a manager, an angry, bitter guy. Whenever the cameras showed Randolph during the playoffs, La Chiquita always remarked about how upset he looked, regardless of the score. This perception, if true, is a big contrast to how I remember Willie as a player--I seem to recall him as one of the smilingest guys around. If he was bitter before, I'm sure that losing the Manager of the Year to a guy whose team finished three games under .500, and 19 games behind his, will certainly give him something to be bitter about. Willie did an excellent job this season, and fell victim to the hyperbole about how bad the Marlins were supposed to be this season (some commentators had them pegged to be the worst team ever before the season).
  • Getting to Girardi, the interesting thing here is that the reigning NL Manager of the Year will start the season as a studio personality for the YES Network. He won the award despite a very low-class anti-marketing campaign against him by his former boss, Jeff Loria. When Girardi and Loria had their falling-out at midseason, Loria had people leaking to the press moves that Girardi had wanted to make but was overruled by the front office--every time in situations where the player Girardi would have benched or sent to the minors was successful, or the player Girardi favored was not. They tried to get the idea out there that the Marlins won in spite of Girardi, rather than because of him--and that message seems to have been recognized for what it was, sour grapes from a twit intent on firing his manager as soon as possible.
  • I can't recall a manager of the year, or even any top finisher, getting canned before he received his award. In a year in which no manager was fired in-season, not only is Girardi Manager of the Year without a team, but the guy who finished in third place in the AL was fired after the season (Ken Macha, formerly of the A's) the fourth place finisher was apparently this close to getting fired (our own Joe Torre) and the third place finisher in the NL left his team to go manage a division rival (Bruce Bochy, formerly of the Padres and now of the San Francisco Giants). That's a lot of upheaval for one year.

No comments: