Gibson, Maddon deserving of awards
Kirk Gibson is the exception.
He is one of those who could, and can, still teach or coach or manage.
And he didn’t waste any time proving it.
Gibson just completed his first full season as a big-league manager, guiding the Arizona Diamondbacks, who finished last in the NL West in 2010, to the NL West title in 2011.
Plenty of people were.
He was a runaway winner of the NL Manager of the Year award, earning first-place votes from 28 of the 32 Baseball Writers Association of America members who voted, and getting second-place votes from the other four. Milwaukee manager Ron Roenicke finished second, and Tony La Russa, who announced his retirement after taking St. Louis to a world championship, was second in voting that was completed prior to the first pitch of the postseason.
Joe Maddon of Tampa Bay won the AL award for the second time in four years, having led the Rays to the post-season for the third time in four years, and overseeing a rally in which the Rays overcame a nine-game September deficit in overtaking Boston on the final day of the regular season.
Maddon was listed first on 26 of 28 ballots with second-place finisher Jim Leyland of Detroit and third-place finisher Ron Washington of Texas each picking up one vote.
Maddon is the baseball lifer, a former minor-league player, who worked his way up through the minor leagues as a manager, and then did his apprenticeship as a big-league bench coach.
Gibson majored in the majors, and is one of those rare star players who has enjoyed managerial success.
He becomes the fourth former MVP to earn manager of the year honors. There was Frank Robinson, NL MVP in 1961, AL MVP in 1966, and AL manager of the year in 1989; Joe Torre, NL MVP in 1971, and AL Manager of the year in in 1996 and 1998, and Don Baylor, Gibson’s hitting coach in Arizona, who was the AL MVP in 1979, and NL Manager of the Year in 1995.
Dusty Baker, who was the N Manager of the Year in 1993, 1997 and 2000, is the only other man to win the award who even finished in the top 10 in MVP voting. He finished seventh in NL MVP voting in 1981 and fourth in 1980.
And then there is Gibson, who had never filled a lineup card until he was given the Arizona job on an interim basis midway in the 2010 season, only to be rewarded with the full-time job later that season, after Kevin Towers assumed the job of general manager.
Yes, Gibson is talented.
He was an All-America wide receiver at Michigan State with NFL potential, but opted for baseball. It didn’t hurt that he was a first-round draft choice in 1978 of his childhood favorite, the Detroit Tigers, but he was pretty much headed for baseball, regardless. He had indicated a willingness to sign with Seattle, but the Mariners were in a budget crunch, and ownership overruled that decision, leaving Seattle to draft Tito Nanni.
A year later he was in the big leagues, a key member of the 1984 world champion Tigers and the Detroit team that won the AL East in 1987. And a decade after being drafted he was the NL MVP with the Los Angeles Dodgers, who stunned Oakland in the World Series that year.
But more than talent, Gibson is driven.
Remember, he is the only player to win an MVP award and never be selected to an All-Star team. Even as a player his value was as much his presence and the way he played the game as it was his physical ability.
What underscores Gibson was his reaction to becoming the second Diamondbacks manager in history to earn a manager of the year award. Bob Melvin won the award in 2007.
"It’s not all because of me," he said, citing his coaching staff, the Arizona ownership, front office, scouts and players. And he gave a tip of the hat to a group of Navy Seals, who visited the Diamondbacks training camp during the spring and provided a motto for success.
"We asked them how they accomplished all the things they did,’’ said Gibson. "They said it was three letters, D, W, I — Deal With It. You’ve got to deal with situations and move on. You make mistakes, but you don’t want to get bogged down with them. You want to keep moving forward."
And there is something that still keeps Gibson moving forward, a goal he has set because his managerial mentors, Jim Leyland, who he had in the minor leagues, and Sparky Anderson, who he had in the big leagues, both reached the ultimate — a world championship.
"I still want to win that World Series ring as a manager,’’ said Gibson, who has the one from his playing days. "Those guys have done that, and they are the guys who drove me to where I am today."
It’s a pretty exclusive neighborhood that Gibson finds himself in.