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After finishing runner-up in the voting for American League Manager of the Year five times in his first eight seasons as Twins manager, Ron Gardenhire finally received an award of his own. Gardenhire edged out Rangers manager and 1987 Twins spring training competitor Ron Washington for the award. Of the 28 ballots, Gardenhire received 16 first-place votes, eight second-place votes, and four third-place votes. He was the only manager to appear on all 28 ballots. Washington received 10 first-place votes. Terry Francona finished in third, while Joe Maddon finished in fourth place.
Ron Gardenhire led his team to a 94 win season despite a season full of injury and other distractions. Before the season even started, he lost his closer, Joe Nathan, to Tommy John surgery. Joe Mauer missed three weeks in late April. JJ Hardy’s wrist injury cost him significant time. Orlando Hudson was injured following a terrific catch. His season-opening 3B Nick Punto missed a lot of time. And Justin Morneau, who was putting up MVP-type numbers did not play after July 7th. Several players did not meet expectations, and yet, the manager coaxed the team to another AL Central title.
Ron Washington was certainly a deserving candidate. Many believed that the Angels would be a lock to win the AL West yet again despite all of their losses on and off the field. The Mariners were supposed to continue to improve. But instead it was the Rangers who fought bankruptcy and a team sale to dominate the division. The Rangers dominant offense and surprisingly good pitching staff clawed and moose-eared their way all the way to the World Series, thanks in large part to second-half additions of Bengie Molina, Cliff Lee and others. Washington is a great story, overcoming his admission of cocaine use as recently as last year. The Rangers stood by him and he rewarded them. Washington is the epitome of a player’s manager.
In the NL, Bud Black finished with one more point than Dusty Baker to win the award.
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