NEW YORK (AP) – Bud Black hung on to win this race. Ron Gardenhire became a first-time Manager of the Year, too, after so many near misses.
A month after his San Diego Padres were knocked out of the playoff chase on the final day, Black nudged Cincinnati’s Dusty Baker by one point for the NL award Wednesday.
“I guess this vote was sort of like our season, it came down to the wire,” Black said on a conference call.
Gardenhire was the clear choice in the American League, earning the honor after five times as the runner-up. He led Minnesota to its sixth AL Central title in nine seasons.
“Congrats to the best manager in bestball!” Twins center fielder Denard Span tweeted. “Way overdue!” Span tweeted an apology moments later for misspelling baseball.
Said Gardenhire: “It’s pretty neat to have your name mentioned up there.”
Black was selected after guiding San Diego to a 15-game turnaround despite the second-lowest payroll in the majors. The Padres finished 90-72 and led the NL West until a late, 10-game slump and then a loss to San Francisco on the last day eliminated them.
Black drew 16 first-place votes in balloting by the Baseball Writers’ Association of America and got 104 points. Baker had 13 first-place votes and 103 points.
Bruce Bochy of the World Series champion San Francisco Giants, Atlanta’s retiring Bobby Cox and Philadelphia’s Charlie Manuel got the other first-place votes.
“This was a great year in the NL,” said Black, who was on a golf course near San Diego when he got the word. “I guess this vote could’ve gone either way. I feel fortunate that I won. All these guys are so deserving.”
Baker, a three-time Manager of the Year, led the NL Central champion Reds to their first playoff spot since 1995. He was listed on 27 of the 32 ballots while Black was picked on 26.
“I’m not terribly disappointed because I didn’t expect it,” Baker told The Associated Press. “Buddy did a great job.”
Baker was in the mountains of California when he heard the vote totals. The announcement came on the one-year anniversary of his father’s death.
“When I woke up today, I was thinking about my dad, not the award,” Baker said. “He’d be proud of me.”
This marked the third time that the NL Manager of the Year was decided by a single point. There was a tie for the AL honor in 1996 between Joe Torre and Johnny Oates.
Two BBWAA voters from every league city send in three top choices when the regular season ends. Votes were counted on a 5-3-1 basis.
Gardenhire drew 16 first-place votes and 108 points, and was the only AL manager listed on all 28 ballots.
Ron Washington, who started the year with a cocaine admission and ended it with Texas’ first trip to the World Series, was next in the AL with 10 first-place votes and 81 points. Tampa Bay’s Joe Maddon and Toronto’s retiring Cito Gaston drew the other first-place votes.
“It’s pretty cool,” Gardenhire said on a conference call from Florida.
The last time a manager won the award without making the playoffs was 2006, when Joe Girardi got it with Florida.
The pitching-rich Padres were a surprise all season, and led the division by 6 1/2 games on Aug. 25. But San Diego’s inability to hit proved to be its downfall.
Needing a win to keep playing, San Diego lost 3-0 at San Francisco on the last day and tarnished the year — “162 defines your season,” Black summed up.
“It still stings,” he said.
Black moved the Padres within one win of a playoff berth for the second time in his four seasons. His first season as manager, in 2007, the Padres lost an epic 13-inning wild-card tiebreaker game at Colorado.
A former pitcher who once played under Baker, Black was hired by the Padres after Bochy was forced out following the 2006 season.
Black and Bochy are the lone Padres winners for the manager award, first presented in 1983. That first year, Tom Lasorda of the Dodgers beat Houston’s Bob Lillis by one point. In 1985, St. Louis’ Whitey Herzog topped Cincinnati’s Pete Rose by a point.
Gardenhire became the first manager in baseball history to win six division titles in his first nine seasons. Despite another loss to the Yankees in the first round of the playoffs, there are many in the Minnesota organization who feel that he had his best year as a manager.
“A lot of good things came out this season,” he said.
Always focusing on fundamentals, he won his 800th career game in September and another division title despite playing the entire year without closer Joe Nathan and most of it minus former MVP Justin Morneau. Gardenhire shuffled his lineups and batting order constantly.
Minnesota finished 94-68 in its first season at Target Field. The Twins were swept by New York in the opening round, the fourth time in eight seasons they’ve been eliminated by the Yankees.
“It’s getting old, getting knocked out,” Gardenhire said. “Not finishing second” in the voting, “that’s good. Now if we go whack the Yankees in the playoffs next year, we’ll get that done.”
Gardenhire joined Tom Kelly as the only managers in Twins history to win the award. Gardenhire finished second the last two years, along with 2006, ’04 and ’03.
The next BBWAA award will be the AL Cy Young, to be announced Thursday.
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