Banister top AL skipper; Maddon best in NL
Cubs manager claims honor for third time in career
Without throwing a pitch or swinging a bat, Joe Maddon and Jeff Banister proved to be exceptional performers in 2015 by making the most of the opportunity to chart a successful course for their teams, earning Manager of the Year honors for their skill at running a lineup card and guiding a clubhouse.
When the Baseball Writers' Association of America announced its annual honors Tuesday night, the Cubs' Maddon took the National League award for his third career selection as his league's top skipper, while the Rangers' Banister capped off a sensational rookie season as the American League winner.
Maddon, who won twice as skipper of the Rays, became the seventh manager to win the award three times and the sixth to win it in both leagues. Banister, whose previous role before his managerial debut in Texas was as bench coach with the Pirates, becomes the fifth to win a Manager of the Year Award in his first season on the job.
In leading his team to the postseason, Maddon came through the way Cubs fans hoped he might when he was lured to the North Side from Tampa Bay, taking over a team that hasn't won a World Series since 1908 and hasn't played in one since 1945. The Cubs did neither this year, but a 97-win regular season proved to be plenty good enough to put him atop the class of NL managers in 2015, an award he called "staggering." A trip to the NL Championship Series gave Cubs fans even more hope for the future, and Maddon relishes being at the forefront of it all.
"The spotlight is shining from Wrigley Field, and you just have to believe that's going to attract other people who want to be there," Maddon said. "Obviously, a huge attraction is the fact we have not won a World Series in over 100 years. I think there's a lot of competitive Major League players who would like to be a member of the first group that did that."
Maddon is the fourth Cubs skipper to win the honor, following Lou Piniella (2008), Don Zimmer (1989) and Jim Frey ('84). Maddon won his AL awards in 2008 and '11 with the Rays.
Maddon had 18 of the 30 first-place votes for 124 points in a 5-3-1 voting system consisting of two votes per league city submitted prior to postseason play. The Cubs manager appeared on all the ballots, with 11 second-place votes and one third-place vote, outdistancing the Cardinals' Mike Matheny at 87 points and nine first-place votes and the Mets' Terry Collins, who had three first-place nods and 49 points.
Matheny led his club to a Major League-high 100 wins and a third straight NL Central title, despite losing key players such as Adam Wainwright, Matt Holliday and Matt Adams for extended periods. Collins, meanwhile, pushed the Mets to the NL East title, earning him his first postseason managerial assignment after 1,688 regular-season games in the skipper's chair.
It was Maddon who made the biggest mark on his club in 2015, according to the BBWAA electorate.
NL MANAGER OF THE YEAR VOTING
|Joe Maddon, CHC||18||11||1||124|
|Mike Matheny, STL||9||12||6||87|
|Terry Collins, NYM||3||7||13||49|
|Clint Hurdle, PIT||8||8|
|Bruce Bochy, SF||1||1|
|Don Mattingly, LAD||1||1|
AL MANAGER OF THE YEAR VOTING
|Jeff Banister, TEX||17||8||3||112|
|A.J. Hinch, HOU||8||13||3||82|
|Paul Molitor, MIN||2||3||14||33|
|John Gibbons, TOR||1||5||2||22|
|Joe Girardi, NYY||2||2||12|
|Ned Yost, KC||1||5||8|
|Mike Scioscia, LAA||1||1|
Under the direction of the free-spirited skipper, the Cubs won 24 more games than they did the year before, the biggest improvement in baseball. The veteran Maddon juggled a rookie-laden roster to get the best out of the new talent that came up in 2015, led by NL Rookie of the Year Award winner Kris Bryant.
"At the end of the day," Maddon said, "this is a players' game. To be a steward of this wonderful group of young players, I feel very fortunate."
In the AL, Banister won the award via balloting that saw five managers receive first-place votes, though none of them gained half of the 17 the first-year Rangers skipper earned. With 112 points, Banister also had eight second-place nods and three for third place, meaning just two of 30 left him off the ballot.
After spending the previous four years as bench coach during Pittsburgh's renaissance, Banister led the Rangers from worst to first in the AL West with a 21-win improvement over 2014. In his first year with Texas after 29 years with the Pirates as a player and coach, Banister did it despite a flurry of injuries that began in March with losing ace Yu Darvish for the season, but the Rangers finished strong down the stretch to overtake the Astros for the division title. Texas won 37 of its last 58 games, becoming only the sixth team since division play began in 1969 to finish first after trailing by as many as eight games in August.
"It means a group of players showed up every day, beat some odds, were resilient, showed some grit, learned to play together and for each other on a nightly basis," Banister said of the award. "I was most proud of that."
The Astros' A.J. Hinch was runner-up with 82 points, including eight first-place votes, and first-year Twins manager Paul Molitor was third with two first-place nods. Hinch led Houston to the postseason with a 16-win improvement over 2014, and Molitor had Minnesota in contention until the second-to-last day of the regular season, to most everyone's surprise.
John Gibbons, who led the Blue Jays to the postseason for the first time since 1993, ranked fourth in the voting with 22 points and one first-place vote, while the Yankees' Joe Girardi grabbed two first-place nods and 12 total points for fifth.
Banister follows on the Manager of the Year heels of two previous Rangers skippers -- Johnny Oates in 1996 and Buck Showalter in 2004 -- and he joins four others as first-year winners: Matt Williams (Nationals, 2014), Girardi (Marlins, 2006), Dusty Baker (Giants, 1993) and Hal Lanier (Astros, 1986).
"It's an organizational award for me," Banister said. "It comes down to our coaching staff, our players, our development staff, our front office. I get to sit in this seat, I get to accept the award, but really and truly I get to accept the award for our entire organization."