Skippers Hurdle, Tito honored for turnarounds
Award-winning managers for NL, AL led respective clubs back to postseason
Leading his team to the postseason is the goal of every Major League manager, and two skippers who did that in historic ways for their ballclubs in 2013 have been rewarded with Manager of the Year honors.
Pittsburgh's Clint Hurdle led the Pirates into October for the first time since 1992 to win the National League award, and Terry Francona pushed the Indians into the postseason with a franchise-best turnaround in the standings to take the American League award in voting results announced Tuesday by the Baseball Writers' Association of America.
It's the first Manager of the Year honor for both men, and they earned the accolades in similar ways -- namely, by getting the most out of a team on the cusp and guiding it to the postseason party.
2013 MANAGERS OF THE YEAR
Hurdle won his NL award by a wide margin with 25 first-place votes out of a possible 30, while Francona had a tighter ballot in the AL, gaining 16 first-place votes after never receiving one in previous elections, narrowly outpolling Boston's John Farrell for what truly is an award that reflects on a team as a whole.
"This is an organizational award," Francona said. "I'm honored to have my name on it, and I take it as an honor, but it is such a huge organizational award. That's what makes me so happy."
Said Hurdle: "I'm humbled to get to represent this organization. There were so many people involved. I'm just the guy in the dugout."
In his third season in Pittsburgh, Hurdle, 55, continued to set the tone for a Pirates team that finished 94-68, good for second place in the NL Central and the top Wild Card slot. That made the 2013 Pirates the first Pittsburgh club to finish above .500 since '92, and it brought to an end the franchise's postseason drought that was just as long.
Hurdle, who finished third in NL voting in 2007 after leading the Rockies to a Wild Card berth, becomes the second Bucs manager to win the award, following Jim Leyland (1990, '92).
Hurdle had 25 first-place votes and five second-place votes for 140 voting points in a 5-3-1 system. The Dodgers' Don Mattingly finished second with two first-place votes and 68 points, followed by the Braves' Fredi Gonzalez, who had three first-place votes and 43 points.
After leading the Pirates deep into contention the previous two seasons before the club fell short of the postseason, Hurdle helped Pittsburgh take the next big step in 2013. The Bucs manager delivered a passionate, positive presence for his club, which had a mix of veteran talent and up-and-coming youngsters.
Said Pirates general manager Neal Huntington: "[Hurdle excelled] not only on the Xs and Os, but as a leader, a communicator, a connector and a developer of players. His connection with city … he came in with the idea to re-bond this city and ballclub. He's helped us take huge strides to do that."
What Hurdle did certainly worked. The Pirates had a 15-game improvement over the previous season and battled the Cardinals and Reds to the very end of the season in an NL Central race that was a thrill ride all season long. Hurdle had a rotation that included the NL Comeback Player of the Year Francisco Liriano and a lineup led by NL Most Valuable Player finalist Andrew McCutchen, and he molded a winning approach that clicked with the team and a city starving for baseball success that brought Blackout conditions to PNC Park.
"Nobody was looking for credit, only the collective result," Hurdle said.
Francona, meanwhile, won two World Series titles with the Red Sox but hadn't finished higher than fourth in Manager of the Year voting before this year. He takes the trophy in his first year in charge in Cleveland, becoming the second Indians manager to be named tops in the AL, following Eric Wedge (2007).
The AL voting was extremely tight, with just 16 voting points separating Francona from Farrell in second place, placing two men who had worked together in Boston -- and in Cleveland years before that -- at the pinnacle of the profession. Farrell was pitching coach for the Red Sox from 2007-10, during Francona's eight-year tenure there, and the two played for Cleveland in 1988 -- along with current Rangers manager Ron Washington and Padres manager Bud Black, along with former Phillies skipper Charlie Manuel, the hitting coach on the '88 Tribe.
The tally was close: Francona had 112 points with his 16 votes for first, 10 for second and two for third, while Farrell earned 96 points with 12 votes for first, 10 for second and six for third. Bob Melvin of the A's, who won the award by only eight voting points over the Orioles' Buck Showalter last year, was third in 2013 balloting, receiving two first-place votes and 36 points overall.
In his 13th year overall as a Major League manager at age 54, Francona returned to the dugout after a year away from the managerial game and did some of his best work, taking a team that lost 94 games the year before and leading it to 92 victories. He took a team with a base of young talent and an influx of free agents such as Nick Swisher and Michael Bourn, and he turned it into a winner that was among the hottest teams in baseball down the stretch, the Indians winning 15 of their last 17.
"The dynamic he creates in the clubhouse, his work ethic, his preparation -- how he leads his staff, the way they prepare for the game and the environment they create in the clubhouse -- it was a big part of the success," Indians GM Chris Antonetti said.
Farrell, who led the Red Sox to the AL East title en route to a World Series title in his first year at the helm in Boston, was another favorite for the award, but Francona got the nod after leading the Indians to a 24-game turnaround -- best in franchise history -- and into the postseason for the first time since 2007.
The Manager of the Year Awards mark the second of the four major awards to be announced this week, followed by Cy Young Award presentations on Wednesday and Most Valuable Player Awards on Thursday. The awards will be announced each day on MLB Network at 6 p.m. ET.