Yesterday The Sporting News named Francisco Liriano their NL Comeback Player of the Year after the lefty dominated a players vote. Today, Pittsburgh Pirates manager Clint Hurdle was named The Sporting News National League Manager of the Year. The award was decided based on a vote held only by NL managers. Hurdle won with five of the 15 votes. In second was Fredi Gonzalez with three. Those were the only managers to receive more than one vote.
In a lot of cases, the manager of the year automatically goes to someone like Hurdle, who posts a winning season with a team that wasn’t expected to win. In a lot of those cases, it’s more about the players, and the manager didn’t really do much to impact that team except to watch everyone improve. In this case, Hurdle did a few unconventional things that a lot of managers wouldn’t do, specifically embracing the extreme defensive shifts that led to this team’s success. I wrote about why Hurdle deserved to be the Manager of the Year last week, pointing out those unconventional approaches. Another key factor in that article is how Hurdle held the team together, which allowed them to go the whole season without losing more than four games in a row. It also prepared them to perform well in almost every big game of the season.
Like every managerial award, the bulk of the credit has to go to the players who put the manager in position to win the award. But unlike a lot of previous awards, I think this is more than just a case where the manager with the best or most surprising record won. You could easily make an argument that Hurdle played a key role in the success the Pirates had this year.