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Torey Lovullo, Paul Molitor win 2017 Manager of the Year Awards

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Diamondbacks skipper Torey Lovullo won the National League Manager of the Year Award. In his first year as a manager, he helped lead the Diamondbacks to a 93-69 record, good enough to earn home field advantage in the Wild Card game, where they defeated the Rockies to advance into the NLDS. They were then swept by the Dodgers.

The D-Backs finished 69-93 in 2016, which prompted the firing of then-manager Chip Hale and a complete overhaul of the front office. Lovullo was part of a new direction in which the organization wanted to go.

Lovullo, 52, is the third Diamondbacks manager to win the award. Kirk Gibson won it in 2011 and Bob Melvin won it in 2007. Lovullo received 18 first-place votes, five second-place votes, and six third-place votes. Dodgers manager Dave Roberts, who finished in second place, received five first-place votes, eight second-place votes, and six third-place votes. Third-place finisher Bud Black of the Rockies had three first-place votes, six second-place votes, and 10 third-place votes. Also receiving votes were Craig Counsell of the Brewers, Dusty Baker of the Nationals, and Joe Maddon of the Cubs.

In the American League, Twins skipper Paul Molitor won the honor. After losing 103 games in 2016, Molitor helped orchestrate a quick turnaround as the Twins went 85-77 in 2017, good for the second AL Wild Card. They ended up losing to the Yankees in a brief playoff appearance. It was the first time a team had lost 100 games and then reached the playoffs in the very next season.

Molitor, 61, just finished his third year at the helm of the Twins. He had a Hall of Fame career as a player, spending 21 seasons in the big leagues including his last three with the Twins. He’s the first Twins manager to win the award since Ron Gardenhire in 2010 and the third in franchise history (Tom Kelly, 1991). Molitor and Frank Robinson are the only Hall of Fame players to win Manager of the Year Awards.

Molitor received 18 first-place votes, six second-place votes, and four third-place votes. Indians manager Terry Francona, who finished in second place, had 11 first-place votes, nine second-place votes, and eight third-place votes. Third-place finisher A.J. Hinch of the Astros had one first-place vote, 13 second-place votes, and 12 third-place votes. Former Yankees manager Joe Girardi also received votes.

It’s worth noting that the Baseball Writers Association of America completes its balloting before the start of the postseason, so Hinch winning the World Series had no impact on the results.

Must-Click Link: Do the players even care about money anymore?

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Yesterday I wrote about how the union has come to find itself in the extraordinarily weak position it’s in. The upshot: their leadership and their membership, happily wealthy by virtue of gains realized in the 1970s-1990s, has chosen to focus on small, day-to-day, quality of life issues rather than big-picture financial issues. As a result, ownership has cleaned their clock in the past few Collective Bargaining Agreements. If the union is to ever get back the considerable amount of ground it has lost over the past 15 years, it’ll require a ton of hard work and perhaps drastic measures.

A few hours later, Yahoo’s Jeff Passan dropped an absolute must-read that expands on that topic. Through weeks of interviews with league officials, agents and players, he explains why the free agent market is as bad as it is for players right now and why so many of them and so many fans seem not to understand just how bad a spot the players are in, business wise.

Passan keys on the media’s credulousness regarding teams’ stated rationales for not spending in free agency. About how, with even a little bit of scrutiny, the “[Team] wants to get below the luxury tax” argument makes no sense. About how the claim that this is a weak free agent class, however true that may be, does not explain why so few players are being signed.  About how so few teams seem interested in actually competing and how fans, somehow, seem totally OK with it.

Passan makes a compelling argument, backed by multiple sources, that, even if there is a lot of money flowing around, the fundamental financial model of the game is broken. The young players are the most valuable but are paid pennies while players with 6-10 years service time are the least valuable yet are the ones, theoretically anyway, positioned to make the most money. The owners have figured it out. The union has dropped the ball as it has worried about, well, whatever the heck it is worried about. The killer passage on all of this is damning in this regard:

During the negotiations leading to the 2016 basic agreement that governs baseball, officials at MLB left bargaining stupefied almost on a daily basis. Something had changed at the MLBPA, and the league couldn’t help but beam at its good fortune: The core principle that for decades guided the union no longer seemed a priority.

“It was like they didn’t care about money anymore,” one league official said.

Personally, I don’t believe that they don’t care about money anymore. I think the union has simply dropped the ball on educating its membership about the business structure of the game and the stakes involved with any given rule in the CBA. I think that they either so not understand the financial implications of that to which they have agreed or are indifferent to them because they do not understand their scope and long term impact.

It’s a union’s job to educate its membership about the big issues that may escape any one member’s notice — like the long term effects of a decision about the luxury tax or amateur and international salary caps — and convince them that it’s worth fighting for. Does the MLBPA do that? Does it even try? If it hasn’t tried for the past couple of cycles and it suddenly starts to now, will there be a player civil war, with some not caring to jeopardize their short term well-being for the long term gain of the players who follow them?

If you care at all about the business and financial aspects of the game, Passan’s article is essential.