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Maddon, Piniella named top skippers

Maddon, Piniella named top skippers

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Joe Maddon and the man he succeeded as Tampa Bay manager, Lou Piniella, were named Managers of the Year in the American League and National League, respectively, by the Baseball Writers' Association of America announced Wednesday afternoon.

Both were recognized for leading their teams to 2008 glory, with Maddon's Rays reaching a destination that remained out of the reach of Piniella's Cubs for a 63rd straight year -- the World Series.

"It is truly an honor to receive this award," Maddon said on a conference call from Rome, where news of the award interrupted his European honeymoon with his understanding bride, Jaye.

"It means we did a pretty good job, and got things moving in the right direction. It caps off a season that was remarkable in so many ways."

Speaking a bit later on his own conference call with reporters, Piniella asserted to "still have passion" after 21 years of managing, and conceded to have had a difficult time getting over the Division Series sweep by the Los Angeles Dodgers.

"Time heals a broken heart, I guess," Piniella said. "We had an outstanding year in Chicago, won the most games in the National League, but the postseason went quietly in three games, which was very disappointing."

Maddon received a total of 138 points while polling 27 of the 28 first-place votes, the other going to Minnesota's Ron Gardenhire, who finished second with 58 points to 45 for the Angels' Mike Scioscia.

Maddon took his honors as overwhelmingly as anyone ever in history -- there has never been a unanimous winner since the BBWAA began awarding Manager of the Year laurels in 1983.

"After all we accomplished ... for me, personally, this caps it all off," Maddon said.

Maddon's selection had been long anticipated, ever since he put the Tampa Bay Rays on track for their first playoff appearance following a 10-year existence of losing.

2008 AL Manager of the Year Award Voting
Manager, Club 1st 2nd 3rd Points
Joe Maddon, TB 27 1   138
Ron Gardenhire, MIN 1 15 8 58
Mike Scioscia, LAA   12 9 45
Terry Francona, BOS     6 6
Ozzie Guillen, CWS     3 3
Cito Gaston, TOR     2 2

The honor is the first for the 54-year-old Maddon, who assumed his first managerial job when he was hired by Tampa Bay in December 2005, taking over after Piniella had guided his hometown team to 200 wins in three seasons.

And, typical of the blithe spirit that is often associated with the manager, Wednesday's announcement caught Maddon on a European honeymoon with his bride of a few days.

"Before the trip began, we knew this was a possibility," Maddon said. "Jaye is very understanding, and also very appreciative."

Piniella, a two-time winner of AL honors in 1995 and 2001 with the Seattle Mariners, prevailed in a far more competitive NL race after guiding the Cubs to the Central Division title with a 97-64 record.

2008 NL Manager of the Year Award Voting
Manager, Club 1st 2nd 3rd Points
Lou Piniella, CHC 15 8 4 103
Charlie Manuel, PHI 8 6 9 67
Fredi Gonzalez, FLA 5 6 5 48
Joe Torre, LAD 3 8 6 45
Tony La Russa, STL 1 1 3 11
Jerry Manuel, NYM   3 1 10
Cecil Cooper, HOU     3 3
Dale Sveum, MIL     1 1

Piniella scored a total of 103 points on the strength of 15 of the 30 first-place votes, which were distributed among a total of five different managers. The Phillies' Charlie Manuel drew seven of them in finishing second with 67 points, followed by Florida's Fredi Gonzalez (five firsts, 48 points), the Dodgers' Joe Torre (three, 45) and St. Louis' Tony La Russa (one, 11).

The 97 wins were the Cubs' most since 98 in 1945 -- the season of their last World Series appearance. Piniella also maneuvered the Cubs into consecutive postseason appearances for the first time since 1907-08 -- the seasons of the franchise's last two World Series championships.

Piniella is the first Cubs manager to earn the award since Don Zimmer, now a senior adviser with the Rays, in 1989.

His first Cubs team in 2007 finished with 85 wins, so Piniella this season became just the second manager to reach 90-plus wins with four different teams. Piniella, who earlier had reached that plateau with the Yankees (1986), the Reds (1990, 1992) and the Mariners (1997, 2000-02), joined Dick Williams, who was inducted into the Hall of Fame in July.

"I've won a lot of games, and have been fortunate to work for a long, long time," Piniella said. "I'm appreciative of all the opportunities, and of all the players who played well for me.

"What motivates me is, I still have a job to do. I don't have much left," added the 65-year-old, "but I still enjoy what I do. I still have passion for what I do."

Along with the award, Piniella earned a contract bonus of $100,000 -- which he pledged to McCormick Foundation's Cubs Care, one of the club's charity partners.

Gardenhire added to his "bridesmaid" reputation with his fourth second-place finish in his seven seasons at the Twins' helm. He had also been runner-up in 2003-04 and 2006.

Terry Francona of the Boston Red Sox, Ozzie Guillen and Cito Gaston also placed in the AL vote.

Completing the NL chart, the Mets' Jerry Manuel was sixth with 10 points, followed by the Astros' Cecil Cooper and Milwaukee's Dale Sveum -- who drew one third-place vote for his 12 -game gig in guiding the Brewers to the NL Wild Card playoff berth.

Tom Singer is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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