Was there any surprise to the last three awards? No, not really.
American League Manager of the Year. Jim Leyland. Of course. He took a team that lost 119 games three years ago to the postseason. His was the best team in the American League. They made the playoffs, so we can overlook that slight slide at the end of the season that had them arrive there as Wild Card entrants rather than AL Central division winners.
Where would the Phillies have been had they hired Leyland before the 2005 season instead of Charlie Manuel? Philadelphia finished second in the two years under Manuel, compiling 88 and 85 wins and missing the Wild Card by no more than three games in either year. Considering the talent the Phillies already have, you’d have to think they’d have played postseason ball one of those years, if not both. But the Phillies cut Leyland out of consideration rather early, and he surfaced a year later in Detroit.
National League Manager of the Year. Joe Girardi. Everyone knew this was coming. When the Marlins fired Girardi right after the season, it was talked about as firing the NL Manager of the Year. In his first stint as skipper, Girardi took a rookie-laden squad from 20 games under .500 back to the break-even mark by Labor Day and even had his young Fish in the Wild Card hunt until mid-September. How can you overlook that? That the Marlins couldn’t get along with Girardi and chose to fire him is the team’s fault, and they’ll have to live with that when next year’s squad doesn’t improve. We’ll see what happens, but even if the Marlins can’t reach 80 wins in 2007, I wouldn’t lay the blame on new skipper Freddi Gonzalez.
That the Mets’ Willie Randolph was second was also no surprise. Randolph didn’t win the award for the same reason Joe Torre’s only award came in 1998, when the Yankees established a new American League record with 114 wins (and Lou Pinella got it in 2001 when the Mariners broke that record). Like Torre in ’98, Randolph had too many tools at his disposal. The Mets’ payroll and their lineup of All-Stars essentially precluded Randolph from collecting the hardware, because he had so many resources. That the Mets demolished the National League and were the best team from start to finish wasn’t enough. Had they won 100 — actually, they probably would’ve needed to win 105 or 110 — games, Randolph probably would’ve taken it. (More wins for the Mets likely would have also meant a better record against the Marlins than the 11-8 the Mets put together, which may have reduced Girardi’s star some.)
American League Cy Young. Johan Santana. For the second time in his career, Santana won the award with 100 percent of the vote. Another unanimous winner in a year that wasn’t quite as good as his first Cy Young campaign — but that’s splitting hairs. This time, too, his competition wasn’t as strong. As best as I can tell after a quick look at the voting totals, Santana is the first pitcher to win each of his first two Cy Young Awards unanimously since the voting went to first-second-third in 1970, rather than just one vote for a pitcher.
Today, we’ll get the most up-in-the-air award of the postseason — or second-most, after NL Rookie of the Year. Will Albert Pujols retain the NL MVP, or will Ryan Howard come away with it? My guess is that the writers stick with Pujols, but I’m not so sure he should get it. Hopefully, I’ll have time to break down some numbers before 2 p.m. If not, I’ll look into the results after the announcement.