There have been many great men to guide other men to find their own greatness, but perhaps none is still above Cornelius McGillicutty. The long-time manager of the great Philadelphia Athletics, the man better known as Connie Mack won over 3,700 games and five World Series, while making the names of Lefty Grove, Jimmie Foxx, Al Simmons, Home Run Baker and Mickey Cochrane all reach Cooperstown while under his guise.
Fast forward to 2013, when the times of managers wearing the three-piece suits that Mack made famous are long gone, and find two men that pulled off two of the more impressive resurrection jobs in all of the game. In the National League, the longest drought in the history of pro sports finally came to a close, while in the American, a season that started with a trade for his services, saw him pull a revival act unlike any one could have forecasted just a year ago.
And with that, it is time to honor the “Macks” of the year, the top managers in all of baseball this last time around.
2013 National League Connie Mack Manager of the Year: Clint Hurdle, Pittsburgh Pirates
Coming into 2013, the ice was beginning to thin underneath the footing of Clint Hurdle. Despite pulling the Pirates to two of its most encouraging finishes within the last two decades over the past two seasons, late summer collapse began to make it seem as if there was only so much that he could do in regards to finally getting the team over the hump. Armed with a talented young roster with emerging stars such as Andrew McCutchen, Starling Marte, Neil Walker and Pedro Alvarez, the talent was there, but the timing just had not met yet.
The ingredient that was missing was experience, which cannot be rush and cannot be taught; sometimes, you just have to walk through the fire. Ownership made the right decision to stick with Hurdle again, as everything finally clicked in his third year on the bench and he was able to guide Pittsburgh to its first winning record in 21 years. The team finished with 94 wins and return to the playoffs for the first time since the early 90’s. Yet, a winning record was far from the goal, it was nearly the byproduct of the Pirate emergence. They nearly won the NL Central title, and exorcised any and all of the ghosts that could have potentially haunted the club after it tanked to a second half record that finished 15 games under .500.
The mark of an effective manager is being able to carry a team through the unknown, and being able to put the right player in the situation that is best for him. While the Pirates as a club made the right additions and continued maturing as individuals, it was the decision to stick with man that brought them to the brink of success that was truly the move of the year. Sometimes less is actually more.
2. Mike Matheny, St. Louis Cardinals
3. Kirk Gibson, Arizona Diamondbacks
2013 Connie Mack American League Manager of the Year: John Farrell, Boston Red Sox
To say the Red Sox were in ruins when John Farrell returned to Boston last October. It was on the heels of a last place finish, and clubhouse fallout that caused a second managerial change in as many years and a turnover of nearly 50% of the roster from the season before. Farrell was acquired from the Toronto Blue Jays to put an end to this, but to also bring a familiar face to the Boston culture to rebuild the chemistry that seemed irreplaceably damaged. The team’s former pitching coach from 2007 through 2010 was just the man for the job.
The Sox went into an understated, yet aggressive rebuilding phase and brought in team that was low on ego, but high on potential. But more than anything else, it was a team with plenty to prove, both as individuals and as a franchise. Farrell put this mix to work, and it led to a 24 game, last to first turnaround in Beantown. And amid what continues to be the toughest division in all of baseball, that is quite a feat. The Red Sox went on to finish tied for the best record in baseball at 96-66, and took the East by 5.5 games, a year after finishing 26 games in the back of it.
The resurrection of the Red Sox behind standard bearers David Ortiz and Dustin Pedroia, combined with the life injected by Shane Victorino, Koji Uehara and Mike Napoli, was undeniable. It was a team that was buoyed by being the source of inspiration, distraction and, eventually, pride for the city of Boston. It was the perfect storm of events coming to pass, and Farrell’s return to the town was the glue job that made it all possible.
Terry Francona, Cleveland Indians
Joe Maddon, Tampa Bay Rays
Alright, so today was to be the day that the National League Stan Musial winner was announced as well, but the Mack Award deserves its own day and the Musial will have its own shine too. The final day of the MLB Award Tour for 2013 is upon us in the CHEAP SEATS, before the march to 2014 gets under way with the updated, offseason countdown of the Top 70 Free Agents in play.
But before we get there, here’s a recap both what has been and what’s to come:
November 6: NL/AL Goose Gossage Relief Pitcher of the Year—Koji Uehara and Craig Kimbrel
November 7: NL/AL Willie Mays Rookie of the Year—Jose Fernandez and Wil Myers
November 8: AL Walter Johnson Pitcher of the Year—Max Scherzer
November 11: NL Walter Johnson Pitcher of the Year—Clayton Kershaw
November 12: AL Stan Musial Most Valuable Player—Miguel Cabrera
November 13: NL/AL Connie Mack Managers of the Year—Clint Hurdle and John Farrell
November 14: NL Stan Musial Most Valuable Player