The Manager of the Year awards, annually given to the guys whose teams exceed expectations by the greatest amount, was claimed Tuesday by Pirates skipper Clint Hurdle in the NL and the Indians’ Terry Francona in the AL.
Hurdle was the easy winner in the Senior Circuit, receiving 25 of the 30 first-place votes. He was listed second on the other five ballots. Dodgers manager Don Mattingly was second, getting two first-place votes and 17 second-place votes. Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez was first on three ballots, but he was second on just four, so he finished well behind Mattingly in third place.
The Cardinals’ Mike Matheny was the only other NL manager to receive votes. He was second on four ballots and third on seven.
The AL vote was much closer, with Francona receiving 16 first-place votes to Red Sox manager John Farrell’s 12. A’s skipper Bob Melvin got the remaining two and finished in third place. Overall, Francona finished with 112 points to Farrell’s 96. Both were left off two ballots.
In all, nine AL managers received votes, with Joe Girardi finishing fourth, Joe Maddon fifth and Jim Leyland sixth. Buck Showalter, Ron Washington and Ned Yost each received a single third-place vote.
They were the first Manager of the Year awards for both Hurdle and Francona, who met in the World Series while guiding different teams in 2007. Hurdle had his high finish with the Rockies that year, ending up third in the NL balloting. Francona had never finished higher than fourth in the balloting despite his 744-552 record in eight years with the Red Sox. Of course, expectations were higher then.
Jim Salisbury of CSN Philly reports that the Phillies are close to signing free agent reliever Joaquin Benoit. An announcement is expected before the winter meetings end on Thursday.
Benoit, 39, has quietly been among the better relievers in baseball over the past seven years. This past season with the Mariners and Blue Jays, the right-hander put up an aggregate 2.81 ERA with a 52/24 K/BB ratio in 48 innings. That included a 0.38 ERA in 23 2/3 innings after the Jays acquired him from the Mariners.
Benoit suffered a torn calf muscle during a benches-clearing brawl with the Yankees near the end of the regular season. He’s expected to be healthy for spring training.
The Phillies have now added three relievers this offseason with Benoit, Pat Neshek, and David Rollins.
ESPN’s Pedro Gomez provides a previously unreported detail of the new collective bargaining agreement, agreed to by the owners and the players’ union last week. Players’ meal money for road games is being reduced from $105 to $30 per day. Teams are providing pre- and post-game meals in the visitors’ clubhouse to offset some of the decrease in meal money.
Gomez quotes an unnamed player who said, “I doubt many guys know about the money going down, nor would they have agreed to it.” All of the players Gomez contacted said they were unaware of and unhappy about the change.
Clubhouse attendants are certainly unhappy about this change, too. As Gomez notes, the attendants previously provided food for visiting teams which earned them tips from the players.
EDIT: It’s worth clarifying that chefs are required in clubhouses now as part of the new CBA, so it’s not a complete loss for the players.