In a major move for what my main passion is in the sports writing game, I was accepted recently to the Baseball Bloggers Alliance. This means my articles will be featured with many of the most prominent baseball writers on the internet in a network of many, many sites around the country (Clap For ME!!!). A pretty decent move for a guy that started a blog as a way to drift away from a job I loathed, and have watched it grow into a network of sites that I write out my thoughts for now. The mission to end up with that Hall of Fame vote before I get out of here continues.
As for now, it’s about getting the info across, and recapping what we’ve seen from the all-inclusive baseball season. It’s time for awards season, and this year, with my inclusion in the BBA, my awards articles will serve as my ballots towards the whole Alliance’s year end awards.
Up first, is the best war general of the year from both sides of the game, which is honored with the Connie Mack Manager of the Year. We’ll start with the National League, where the best of the year all are guys just getting their cleats wet in new surroundings this year, but pulled off some impressive statements all around, with a couple of them building for the future at the same time.
In the end however, a guy that is very familiar with memorable and dramatic moments, adds yet another impressive hurdle to his record.
2011 National League Manager of the Year: Kirk Gibson – Arizona Diamondbacks
A year ago, the only thing the Diamondbacks led baseball in was swings and misses, and they whiffed their way into last place in a division that eventually produced the World Series champions in the San Francisco Giants. What a difference a year can make. While new General Manager Kevin Towers got much of the winter press for what he shipped out and brought back in, it took Kirk Gibson to push this club from the outhouse to the penthouse in the NL West, and bring the first division title to Arizona since 2007 in first year as a big league head honcho.
The young D’Backs made their first major impact in May, winning 18 of 22 games from May 14 to June 4th, and sat only 3 games back of the Giants at the All-Star Break. Then they really shifted into gear on all cylinders. Justin Upton smacked 30 home runs in route to becoming a legit MVP candidate. Ian Kennedy led the NL in wins and the club eventually distanced itself out to 8 game margin of victory in the West. They did this displaying the toughness and fire that their manager played a full career with. Nobody was checking for the D’Backs in April (least of all here in CSP’s preview for the West). But they won out a division with the defending World Series champions in San Francisco, a Dodgers team with a Triple Crown candidate at the plate, and a Triple Crown winner on the mound, as well as scrappy and tough Rockies & Padres teams.
For rising up one of the biggest afterthoughts and rebuilding projects in the game from last to first in just one season, Gibson deserves to be the class of managers in the NL this year.
Left on Deck
For the rest of the contenders, Ron Roenicke also took to the bench for his first MLB year as a manager, and pushed an aggressive Brewers club to their first division title in 29 years, behind dual MVP candidates in Ryan Braun and Prince Fielder, and one of the best overall rotations in the game. They were nearly invincible at home, with their 57-24 record being the best in the game. Not only did they separate from a close race throughout most of the first half, they ran away and hid and have a legit shot at the team’s first championship still.
In D.C., Davey Johnson took an injured Nationals squad that was missing it’s best hitter (Ryan Zimmerman), best pitcher (Steven Strasberg) and a big name signing that was largely M.I.A. (Jayson Werth), and pulled it to its best finish since its first year moving to the states. This was a team that was supposed to be terrible even at full strength, and somehow ended up being better than it had been in sometime. That’s coaching at it’s finest.
For balloting purposes: 1) Gibson, 2) Roenicke, 3) Johnson
Up next on the Award Tour: American League Connie Mack Award Winner…
Follow me on Twitter for more on everything around one of the most exciting finishes to baseball in recent memory at @CheapSeatFan.