Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Gardenhire, not Washington, AL Manager of the Year

News just hit the wire that Minnesota Twins skipper Ron Gardenhire has been named American League Manager of the Year for 2010. Gardenhire certainly was more than qualified for the honor, helping to lead the Twins to the AL Central Division title, despite being bounced from the playoffs in a three-game sweep by the Yankees.

Granted, postseason play does not factor in to these regular season awards. That being said, it's still disappointing not to see Texas Rangers skipper Ron Washington take home the honor. Maybe it was the preseason news of his positive cocaine test. Maybe it was the fact that Texas is considered to play in a weaker division with fewer teams. But don't think that Washington isn't deserving of this honor.

The Twins finished 94-68, with four more wins than the Texas Rangers (90-72) in 2010. Minnesota finished six games ahead of the second-place White Sox in their division while the Rangers bested second-place Oakland by nine games. Gardenhire's Twins were certainly a strong team, but the Texas Rangers overcame much more and Washington helped mold a group that (outside of Cliff Lee) hadn't ever achieved anything.

The Rangers hadn't won the AL West since 1999, going 11 years between playoff appearances. Texas had guys who had career years, and Washington's fingerprints were all over it, putting them in positions to succeed. The Twins have won their division in six of the last nine seasons (2002, 2003, 2004, 2006, 2009, 2010). Bottom line, this is a group of guys that have been their before. It was known that they should finish atop their division. Meanwhile the Rangers have been nothing more than a dark horse contender, a trendy up-and-coming pick for several years, but never have been a team to take seriously.

Ron Washington changed that. He took a group of guys that had a handful of All-Star appearances along with castoffs (Colby Lewis), aging veterans (Vlad Guerrero), and other parts, throwing together a division winner with some clear staying power. Bringing in a hired gun in Cliff Lee helped push the team to the division crown and through the playoffs, a move that must be credited to Jon Daniels and Nolan Ryan, but when Lee wasn't on the mound, it was Washington's philosophy of how to play the game that fueled the Rangers' success.

Perhaps this is one of those things where Gardenhire's time had finally come. He had finished second a handful of times before finally breaking through and earning the honor this season. For Ron Washington, if his Rangers continue to produce at the level we saw from this season's American League Champions, he deserves to be recognized for his efforts as well.

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