(Reuters) - Joe Maddon of the Tampa Bay Rays was named American League manager of the year for the second time and Kirk Gibson of the Arizona Diamondbacks took home National League honors in landslide victories announced on Wednesday.
Gibson, who steered Arizona to a worst-to-first season as winners of the National League West title, placed first on 28 ballots and second on the other four cast by members of the Baseball Writers’ Association of America.
The former power-hitting outfielder, who was in his first full season as a Major League Baseball (MLB) manager, saluted his players.
“They stayed with it, they were dedicated, never wavered,” Gibson told reporters in a conference call. “They played the game the right way and had a good time.”
Ron Roenicke, who led the Milwaukee Brewers to the NL Central crown, was second while Tony La Russa, who piloted the St. Louis Cardinals to the wild card berth and eventual victory in the World Series before retiring, finished third.
Voting was done prior to MLB’s postseason play.
Maddon, who also won the award in 2008, was listed first on 26 of the 28 ballots after guiding Tampa Bay from a nine-game deficit in the wild-card race on September 3 to the team’s third playoff berth in four seasons.
The nine-game gap in the wild-card race against the Boston Red Sox was the largest in September overcome by a team to qualify for the postseason.
Maddon also was admired for juggling a revised lineup for the small-market Rays following the losses of several prominent players during the offseason to free agency.
“It’s very gratifying,” Maddon said on a conference call. “It speaks to the organization as a whole, it speaks to the culture we created and the system that is in place. And the players.”
Detroit Tigers manager Jim Leyland, who led his club to the AL Central title, was second in voting, while Ron Washington, who guided the AL West winning Texas Rangers to the World Series for the second consecutive season, finished third.
“Of course we overcame a lot of adversity in a baseball sense this year to get to this particular moment,” said Maddon. “It was a validation of the Rays way of doing things.”
The Rays relied on pitching and defense after losing some of their biggest contributors on offense.
“It starts with starting pitching, we never feel we’re at disadvantage on the mound, and then the defense, which is outstanding,” said Maddon, whose team overcame a 7-0 deficit against the New York Yankees in the last game of the regular season to win the wild card.
“It makes you believe every night you can win.”
Gibson saluted his former manager, the late Sparky Anderson, who steered their Detroit Tigers team to a World Series title in 1984.
“Sparky had a huge impact on me as a player, as a human being, as an ambassador of the game. It’s unfortunate he passed this year,” said Gibson, who spent 12 seasons with the Tigers during his 17-season MLB playing career.
“I said earlier this year that I would speak his language every day. It was helpful and always will be.”
Reporting by Larry Fine in New Jersey; Editing by Frank Pingue