Rays’ Maddon, Cubs’ Piniella named top managers in baseball

Published 1:22 am Thursday, November 13, 2008

Joe Maddon easily won the American League Manager of the Year award Wednesday after guiding the Tampa Bay Rays from baseball’s basement to the World Series. Lou Piniella of the Chicago Cubs took the NL honor.

Maddon, who succeeded Piniella as Tampa Bay manager in 2006, was a runaway winner in balloting by the Baseball Writers’ Association of America. He received all but one of the 28 first-place votes — the other went to Minnesota’s Ron Gardenhire.

There has never been a unanimous winner for Manager of the Year.

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Piniella led the NL Central champion Cubs to the league’s best record and beat out Charlie Manuel of the World Series champion Philadelphia Phillies to earn his third Manager of the Year award and first in the NL.

The fiery Piniella also won in 1995 and 2001 with Seattle.

This time, he got 15 of 32 first-place votes and totaled 103 points to 67 for Manuel, listed first on eight ballots. Florida’s Fredi Gonzalez finished third with five first-place votes and 48 points.

Two other managers garnered first-place votes: Joe Torre of the Los Angeles Dodgers (three) and Tony La Russa of the St. Louis Cardinals (one).

Dale Sveum got a third-place vote after managing only 12 games. He took over the Brewers on an interim basis when Ned Yost was fired in September and went 7-5 down the stretch to help Milwaukee secure its first playoff berth since 1982.

After the season, the Brewers hired Ken Macha to be their new manager. Sveum will return as hitting coach.

Tampa Bay, which started play in 1998, had never won more than 70 games in a season before Maddon engineered an incredible turnaround. With his motivational quotes and phrases, the 54-year-old skipper led a young team that finished in last place a year ago to a 97-65 record and the AL East title.

The stunning success continued in October, when the Rays beat the Chicago White Sox and defending champion Boston Red Sox in the playoffs to capture the AL pennant.

The run ended with a five-game loss to Philadelphia in the World Series last month.

While Manuel guided the Phillies to their second championship, the 65-year-old Piniella and his Cubs were swept in the first round of the playoffs for the second consecutive year. Their three-game loss to the Dodgers was a major disappointment for a franchise still seeking its first World Series title since 1908.