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November 12, 2013

Managers of the Year: Hurdle and Francona

NEW YORK — Terry Francona of the Cleveland Indians and Clint Hurdle of the Pittsburgh Pirates won the Manager of the Year awards Tuesday after guiding their small-budget teams to charming turnarounds.

Francona edged John Farrell of the World Series champion Boston Red Sox for the American League honor 112 points to 96 in a close vote by the Baseball Writers’ Association of America.

It was the first Manager of the Year honor for Francona, even though — in an interesting twist — he steered the Red Sox to World Series titles in 2004 and 2007. In his first season with the Indians, he directed them to a 24-win improvement and their first playoff berth in six years.

They lost the AL wild-card game to Tampa Bay, but voting is conducted before the postseason.

“This was one of the funnest years I’ve ever had,” Francona said in an interview on MLB Network.

Hurdle was a runaway winner, selected first on 25 of 30 ballots by the NL panel after taking the Pirates to the playoffs in their first winning season since 1992.

Don Mattingly of the Los Angeles Dodgers came in second and Fredi Gonzalez of the Atlanta Braves finished third.

“It’s a bit overwhelming, to tell you the truth,” Hurdle said. “It’s humbling. It’s gratifying from an organizational standpoint.”

It also was the first Manager of the Year honor for the 56-year-old Hurdle. His highest finish had been third in 2007, when he led the Colorado Rockies to the World Series.

The only other Pittsburgh manager to win the award was Jim Leyland in 1990 and 1992, the bookends to three consecutive division titles for the Pirates.

After that, they endured a record 20 straight losing seasons — the longest drought in any of the four major professional sports — before going 94-68 this year to capture an NL wild card.

“I’m a realist, but I am an optimist,” said Hurdle, who has managed the Pirates for three seasons. “Everybody played a part.”

Riding a wave of excitement from a rejuvenated fan base in a city finally enthralled by baseball again, Pittsburgh beat the Cincinnati Reds in the wild-card game before losing to league champion St. Louis in a division series that went the full five games.  

“I said it’s the greatest coaching opportunity in all of sports — the opportunity to be part of a select group of men and women that re-bond a city with a ballclub,” Hurdle said. “Three years almost to the day that I said it, it’s starting to happen.”

Hurdle was chosen second on the other five ballots and was the only manager picked on every one. He had 140 points in the 5-3-1 scoring system to 68 points for Mattingly, who received two first-place votes after leading the Dodgers to the NL West title.

Gonzalez got three first-place votes and finished with 43 points.

Mike Matheny of the Cardinals was the only other skipper to appear on a ballot. He was tabbed second by four voters and third by seven.

Francona garnered 16 of 30 first-place votes to 12 for Farrell. Bob Melvin, last year’s winner, received the other two and came in third after his low-payroll Oakland Athletics won their second consecutive AL West crown.

Francona never received a first-place vote during eight seasons as manager of the Red Sox. He had never finished higher than fourth in 12 years as a big league skipper.

“It gives me a chance to brag about our organization,” Francona said. “When you get an award like this, it’s a representation of an organization. I’ll gladly accept it, but it’s for all those people.”

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