Wedge, Melvin named MLB’s top managers
Published 12:11 pm Thursday, November 15, 2007
By BEN WALKER, AP Baseball Writer
NEW YORK — Bob Melvin and Eric Wedge barely made a ripple as players. Backup catchers, they both batted a pedestrian .233 in the big leagues.
All that time spent pondering on the bench paid off. Far more successful in the dugout than on the field, they were honored Wednesday as managers of the year.
Wedge became the first Cleveland manager to win the AL award, chosen by a wide margin after the Indians and Boston tied for the best record in baseball. Melvin was the first Arizona manager to get the NL prize, picked after leading his young team to the top mark in the league.
Wedge and Melvin are among nearly a dozen former catchers who manage in the majors.
Wedge said he knew Melvin mostly from across the diamond. Their paths crossed years ago — a month after Colorado took Wedge from Boston in the November 1992 expansion draft, the Red Sox wanted a second-string catcher and signed Melvin as a free agent.
Wedge received 19 of the 28 first-place votes and got 116 points in balloting by the Baseball Writers’ Association of America. He finished ahead of a pair of former catchers, the Angels’ Mike Scioscia (62 points) and ex-Yankees manager Joe Torre (61). Terry Francona of the World Series champion Red Sox got 13.
Wedge, a no-nonsense guy with a John Wayne calendar in his office, guided the Indians to a 96-66 record. Cleveland made its first playoff appearance since 2001, then lost to the Red Sox in Game 7 of the AL championship series.
Melvin was chosen on 19 of the 30 first-place ballots and got 119 points. Philadelphia’s Charlie Manuel (76), Colorado’s Clint Hurdle (58), himself a former catcher, and the Cubs’ Lou Piniella (25) followed.
Melvin was honored for his steady hand in leading a team that sometimes started six rookies to a 90-72 mark. Back in the playoffs for the first time since 2002, Arizona swept Chicago in the first round before getting swept by Colorado in the NLCS.
The 39-year-old Wedge played 39 games for Boston and Colorado in the early 1990s. He’s done a lot better with the Indians since starting out 68-94 in 2003.
One promise Wedge made to himself after becoming a major league manager: ‘‘I would never forget how hard it is to play this game,’’ he said.
The Indians took over first place for good on Aug. 15 and went a major league-best 31-13 to finish the season.
C.C. Sabathia, picked as the AL Cy Young Award winner Tuesday, and Fausto Carmona each won 19 games to lead Cleveland. The Indians were in good hands and the team rewarded Wedge with a three-year contract extension in July.
The 46-year-old Melvin played 10 years in the majors with seven teams. He managed Seattle from 2003-04, got fired and then took over the Diamondbacks in 2005.
A year after Arizona went 76-86 and tied Colorado for last place in the NL West, the Diamondbacks surged. They did it despite getting outscored by 20 runs, becoming the first team in the majors since the 1906 Chicago White Sox to have a league’s best record despite the worst batting average.
Melvin’s evenhanded approach meshed well with his young team, which lost stars Randy Johnson and Orlando Hudson to season-ending injuries. Arizona went 43-29 after the All-Star break.
Eric Byrnes and rookie Chris Young led the offense, and Melvin could always count on ace Brandon Webb and closer Jose Valverde. Melvin also benefited from the experience of bench coach Kirk Gibson.
Seven managers got votes on the NL ballot. Manuel received seven first-place votes after Philadelphia won the NL East, Hurdle got four first-place votes with the NL champion Rockies and Piniella got two first-place tallies after winning the Central in his first season with Chicago.
Scioscia got four first-place votes after leading Los Angeles to the AL West title. Torre, since hired by the Los Angeles Dodgers, got the other five first-place votes.
The BBWAA first presented the manager awards in 1983.
The NL Cy Young Award will be announced Thursday. San Diego’s Jake Peavy, who led the league with 19 wins and topped the majors in ERA and strikeouts, is the heavy favorite.