THE AWARD TOUR – CSP’s 2011 American League Skipper of the Year

Posted: October 8, 2011 by The Cheap Seat Fan in MLB
Tags: , , , , ,

Welcome back to CSP’s MLB year-end Awards nod series. Here’s a quick review of where we are so far in my Baseball Bloggers Alliance year-end awards ballot so far:

NL Manager of the Year:  Kirk Gibson

The American League was a roller coaster of a League this year, with pennant races coming and going across the board. For most of the year, at the very least, two clubs could have taken the title in each division. In the end, a dark horse, perennial underrated club may have scored the biggest coup of the entire season, and despite having a nearly constantly uncertain situation around his club all year, Tampa Bay’s master strategist once again made overcoming the odds (and walls of money) in front of his club and reached the promised land of October baseball again.

 

2011 American League Manager of the Year: Joe Madden – Tampa Bay Rays

Mad Men: In a career that has been defined by being the underdog that made it, Maddon may have done more with less than ever in '11.

The nod for the AL edition of the Connie Mack Award goes to guy that is virtually the opposite of his award namesake. While Mack pushed some of the highest paid teams of his day with many of the brightest stars of the day, Madden’s Rays were the ultimate David’s in the double Goliath AL East. After an offseason where he had no choice but to watch many of his best players from his previous two postseason clubs either walk away (Carl Crawford, Carlos Pena, Rafeal Soriano) or be dealt (Matt Garza, Jason Bartlett). Overall, he was charged with rebuilding a team within the game’s most competitive division. Not an easy charge.

Early on it looked to be a loss cause too. Manny Ramirez was intended to be a stop-gap bat to add some experience to the young Rays. Instead he was suspended for the second time for performance enhancing drugs for 100 games, and retired. At the same time the team started 0-6, and had to battle through an injury to its best player in Evan Longoria at the same time. But by the end of the month, they pulled over .500 and that was the just the opening act of a season defined by perseverance.

The Rays entered September down nine games, but put the pressure on a collapsing Red Sox team and put themselves in position to make their year-long foe’s failure complete, nearly immediately. Longoria hit a walk off home run to cap Madden’s most remarkable managing job to date. In a season where he had to take the wheel of a nearly completely rebuilt team, pull off an almost immediate salvage job out the gates and still pulled them into the playoffs with the 29th ranked payroll in the game, Maddon is the class of the game for good reason.

LEFT ON DECK

This year the name of the Detroit Tigers has been synonymous to Justin Verlander, and for good reason. But there was a lot more to the AL Central champs than just him. Jim Leyland formed them into a team that was characterized by a steady, non-relenting approach, followed up by a killer instinct in the end. Leyland did a masterful job of not only tracking down the Cleveland Indians, who controlled the Central for much of the first half of the year, but also guiding the team into complete shutdown mode during a 14 game winning streak that sealed the deal for the team winning its first ever AL Central title.

The Texas Rangers followed up their run to the World Series with a tough start to the 2011 year. Injuries of all sorts plagued the team’s most critical members, and they were locked in an up and down fight with the Los Angeles Angels for control in the West. However, Ron Washington rallied his troops in the month’s final season to a 19-6 record, including picking up a crucial sweep in LA and the Rangers won their second straight West title.

 

For balloting purposes: 1) Joe Maddon, 2) Jim Leyland, 3) Ron Washington

 

For more on CSP’s award picks and constant descent into MLB Playoff madness, follow me on Twitter at @CheapSeatFan.

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