BEN WALKER,AP Baseball Writer
NEW YORK (AP) — Moments after his team lost a day-night doubleheader at Yankee Stadium in late September, Joe Maddon wandered into the Tampa Bay clubhouse.
The twin defeats left the Rays in a precarious position with only a week remaining in the regular season. Rather than raise his voice, Maddon delivered a simple message.
“You guys are great,” Maddon recalled telling them, “and I know you can still do this.”
Eternally optimistic, Maddon won the AL Manager of the Year award Wednesday. He certainly clinched the honor in the last month, when Tampa Bay overcame a nine-game deficit and trumped Boston for the wild-card spot.
Kirk Gibson, meanwhile, took a more stern approach starting in spring training. He even brought three Navy SEALs to camp.
The SEALs wrote D, W and I on a board. The letters stood for a sense of purpose, not a traffic offense: “Deal With It.”
“They bought into it,” said Gibson, voted the NL Manager of the Year after the guiding the Arizona Diamondbacks to a worst-to-first finish.
Gibson was a clear choice for guiding the Diamondbacks to a runaway NL West title. A former MVP as a rough-and-tumble outfielder, he was honored in his first full season as a big league manager.
“I certainly had a vision,” Gibson said during a conference call while on vacation in northern Michigan, adding, “It’s certainly not all because of me.”
Maddon was an easy pick in winning the AL award for the second time. The Rays made the biggest September rally in baseball history for a team that claimed a playoff berth, sealing it on the final day of the regular season.
“I like to think of it as a validation of the Rays’ way of doing things,” Maddon said of the award during a conference call while visiting family and friends in Hazleton, Pa.
Maddon led Tampa Bay to the playoffs for the third time in four years. After that, his name popped up in speculation about managerial openings with Boston, the Chicago Cubs and St. Louis. The Cardinals have already hired Mike Matheny.
“I don’t want to have to go anywhere else,” Maddon said.
The awards were announced by the Baseball Writers’ Association of America. The NL Cy Young winner will be revealed Thursday, with Clayton Kershaw of the Los Angeles Dodgers the leading candidate.
Gibson and the Diamondbacks went 94-68, a year after he took over in midseason as Arizona went 65-97. Stressing fundamentals and details from the first day of camp, the 54-year-old Gibson pushed his team into the playoffs, where it lost to Milwaukee in the 10th inning of the deciding Game 5 in the opening round.
Gibson drew 28 of the 32 first-place votes and got 152 points. He was the only manager in either league to be listed on every ballot.
Ron Roenicke of the NL Central champion Brewers was second with three first-place votes and 92 points. Tony La Russa of the World Series champion Cardinals was third with the other first-place vote and 24 points. Voting was completed before the start of the playoffs.
Maddon added to the AL honor he won in 2008. The 57-year-old manager who likes to speak on a vast array of subjects — he mentioned Mozart, his iPad and a puppy on his conference call — never panicked during a trying year.
The Rays cut $30 million in payroll during the winter, losing the likes of Carl Crawford, Matt Garza and Carlos Pena. The Rays’ big addition, slugger Manny Ramirez, retired during the first week instead of facing a 100-game suspension for a second positive test for a performance-enhancing substance.
The Rays overcame an 0-6 start and injuries to star Evan Longoria and others, relying on a pitching staff anchored by All-Stars James Shields and David Price and recently picked AL Rookie of the Year Jeremy Hellickson.
Tampa Bay won its final five games, rallying from a 7-0 deficit against the Yankees on the last day to finish 91-71 and earn a playoff spot. The Rays lost to Texas in the first round.
“My goal has been to make the Rays into the next century’s Yankees, Red Sox, Cardinals,” he said.
Maddon drew 26 of 28 first-place votes and had 133 points. Jim Leyland of the AL Central champion Detroit Tigers got the other pair of first-place votes and 54 points and Ron Washington of the AL champion Rangers was third with 31.
Gibson was a two-time World Series champion, winning with Detroit and the Dodgers. He was the fourth former MVP to win the manager award, joining Joe Torre, Frank Robinson and Don Baylor.
Gibson hit two especially memorable home runs during his 17-year career. He connected for the shot that clinched the 1984 crown for the Tigers in Game 5 against San Diego, and launched a bottom-of-the-ninth, pinch-hit homer off Dennis Eckersley to lift the Dodgers over Oakland in the 1988 opener, hobbling around the bases and pumping his arm.
As a player, Gibson acknowledged he sometimes was “a little emotional … a little stupid.”
“As a manager, you can’t lose your composure,” he said.
Gibson and Bob Melvin (2007) have won the manager award with Arizona. Gibson received a three-year contract extension after the season, with options for two more years.
“I still want to win a World Series as a manager,” he said.
Copyright 2011 The Associated Press.
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