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Fredi falls short in Manager of the Year balloting

Skipper places third after leading Braves to division title despite injuries to key players

ATLANTA -- Fredi Gonzalez led the Braves to an unexpected division title this year. But he did not benefit from the more expected verdict of this year's National League Manager of the Year voting.

The Baseball Writers' Association of America rewarded Pittsburgh's Clint Hurdle with his first Manager of the Year Award on Tuesday night. Gonzalez finished third in the balloting, just behind Los Angeles' Don Mattingly.

Hurdle was the only NL manager to be included on all 30 ballots. He received 25 first-place votes and five second-place votes.

Gonzalez received three first-place votes, which was one more than Mattingly. But the Dodgers skipper received 17 second-place votes, which was 13 more than Gonzalez, who was included on 23 of the 30 ballots.

Gonzalez might not have garnered as much attention as Hurdle, who spent this year guiding the Pirates to their first winning record and postseason appearance since 1992.

But Atlanta's skipper certainly built his own strong candidacy while leading the Braves to 96 wins and their first division title since 2005.

The Braves sat at the top of the National League East standings for all but one day during the season and ended up finishing 10 games in front of the second-place Nationals, who entered the season as the favorites to represent the NL in the World Series.

On the way to winning the division in convincing fashion, the Braves benefited from the steady demeanor Gonzalez displayed when forced to deal with a number of potentially disastrous setbacks. While many managers have to deal with significant injuries on an annual basis, Gonzalez had to do so while also handling the season-long struggles endured by his club's two highest-paid players -- Dan Uggla and B.J. Upton, who found themselves serving in backup roles during the final weeks of the regular season.

With pitching coach Roger McDowell's assistance, Gonzalez did a splendid job managing a relief corps that compiled a franchise-record 2.46 ERA, despite the fact that the two top projected setup men -- Jonny Venters and Eric O'Flaherty -- both underwent Tommy John elbow reconstruction surgery in the middle of May.

The Braves were once again staring at a potentially disastrous development when Tim Hudson was lost for the season after he fractured his right ankle on July 24. But two days later, this resilient club began a 14-game winning streak that was significantly influenced by Gonzalez's decision to move Jason Heyward to the leadoff role.

Heyward missed a month after undergoing an emergency appendectomy in April and yet another month when he fractured his jaw on Aug. 21. While the club certainly missed his presence during the early weeks of September, it continued to persevere under Gonzalez's guidance.

Gonzalez has finished among the top five in the balloting for this award in four of the past six seasons.

Mark Bowman is a reporter for

Atlanta Braves