This was not an average year for Manager of the Year voting. There was not much room for debate, because the performances of two skippers not only suggested that they should win the award; they shouted that they should win the award.
Mike Scioscia, manager of the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, won in the American League. Jim Tracy, manager of the Colorado Rockies, won the National League award. There are, as always, other managers who normally would be strong candidates for this award. But in this season, Scioscia and Tracy did work that was on a level beyond their 28 colleagues.
In a typical season, Manager of the Year comes down to three types of candidates. There is a man who did a lot with relatively little. There is a man who had championship material and did not ruin it. And there is a man with personnel that seems to be merely adequate, who wins something anyway.
These types of managers were all present in 2009, as well. But none of them could compete with the jobs done by Scioscia and Tracy.
The Angels opened the season with a pitching staff decimated by injuries. That was bad enough, but then there was the tragic death in an auto accident of pitcher Nick Adenhart.
Scioscia kept this club together, even as it understandably struggled early in the season. By mid-June, the Angels were still at .500. But then they put together a long stretch of excellence to emerge with a 97-victory season for the second-best record in the Majors.
Given their truly adverse circumstances, this was a tribute to all of the Angels. But it was Scioscia who had to find the right tone and provide the direction for his club. This was a task that required not only the usual managerial skills but a basic humanity. Scioscia did a splendid job and he richly deserved this award.
In fact, Scioscia has been in the top rank of big league managers for some time. He first won the AL Manager of the Year Award in 2002, a season in which the Angels eventually won the World Series. But Scioscia's long-term work is even more impressive. The Angels have won five division titles in the past six years. Over those six seasons, Scioscia has the best regular-season record of any manager in the Majors.
There were other completely worthy candidates among the AL managers, and the voting members of the Baseball Writers' Association of America noticed.
The Twins' Ron Gardenhire finished second with six first-place votes. He did another remarkable job this season, and some year, he will win the award that he has already deserved. Joe Girardi of the Yankees was third, with four first-place votes. He dispelled any doubts about his ability to manage under the microscope in New York, with a 103-victory regular season, and, of course, a World Series championship. If this balloting had been done after the postseason instead of the regular season, Girardi's vote total would have been higher. The other vote-getters, all of whom did commendable jobs, were the Mariners' Don Wakamatsu with two first-place votes, the Rangers' Ron Washington with one and the Tigers' Jim Leyland.
In the NL, Jim Tracy won on the strength of a complete transformation of the Rockies. When he took over the Rockies in late May, they were 18-28, in last place in the NL West. The rest of the way, they went 74-42 under Tracy to take the NL Wild Card berth.
For this work, Tracy received 29 of 32 first-place votes in the voting by members of the BBWAA. It was a landslide and justifiably so. Every year in the NL, there are top-shelf managers at work, managers of historical greatness, such as Tony La Russa of the Cardinals and Bobby Cox of the Braves, and now, Joe Torre of the Dodgers. But nobody else did the kind of job that Tracy did this season.
La Russa received two first-place votes and finished second in the overall voting. Torre received one first place vote and finished third. Cox, Bruce Bochy of the Giants, Charlie Manuel of the Phillies, Fredi Gonzalez of the Marlins and Bud Black of the Padres were the other vote-getters in that order of finish.
Those managers all did fine work in 2009. But Jim Tracy not only managed a team, he transformed a team. The Rockies, in a nicely timed move, announced just after the Manager of the Year voting was made public on Wednesday that Tracy was receiving a three-year contract.
So it was a doubleheader sweep for Tracy, and good for him. He has been a sound, dedicated, intelligent baseball man, and this award, along with this contract, constitute due recognition. He had unhappy managerial endings previously, but they weren't his fault.
Tracy built the kind of team he wanted when he managed the Dodgers, eventually winning a division title in 2004. Then he saw his general manager dismantle that team the following year. Both men were subsequently dismissed. He also had a stint with the Pirates which did not end in triumph. But the same can be said of everyone else who managed in Pittsburgh since 1992. This year, Tracy's managerial ability and his team's performance reached the same level, and he was truly Manager of the Year.
Mike Bauman is a national columnist for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.