Melvin, Wedge Named Managers of the Year

By Barry Svrluga
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, November 15, 2007

Major League Baseball managers spend much of the winter debunking the predictions of the people they like to refer to as the "so-called experts," dismissing forecasts from those whose opinions appear in print and over the airwaves. And each November, two of those managers -- this year, Arizona's Bob Melvin and Cleveland's Eric Wedge -- are afforded the opportunity to revel in the fact that they exceeded those very same expectations set forth by those very same "so-called experts."

Yesterday, Melvin and Wedge were named as National and American League managers of the year, respectively, in voting conducted by the Baseball Writers' Association of America. Each began the season with young players at key positions, and each managed his club to a division title and a berth in the league championship series. Each was rewarded because his club overcame more established, veteran teams -- in Melvin's case, the Los Angeles Dodgers and San Diego Padres, and in Wedge's case, the Detroit Tigers -- in reaching the postseason.

Wedge and Melvin were the first managers of the year for their respective franchises. Wedge's Indians finished 78-84 and in fourth place in the AL Central in 2006 before matching the Boston Red Sox for the best record in the majors at 96-66 this season.

"You work hard to establish those expectations," Wedge said yesterday in a conference call. "You want those expectations. That comes with respect."

Wedge received 19 of the 28 first-place votes cast by two writers' association members in each AL city. He was the only candidate to appear on all 28 ballots, drawing six second-place votes and three for third, totaling 116 points. He beat out Mike Scioscia of the Los Angeles Angels (four first-place votes, 62 points) and Joe Torre of the New York Yankees (five first-place votes, 61 points). Torre has since left to become manager of the Dodgers.

Melvin received 19 of the 32 first-place votes cast by two association members in each NL city. He was second on seven ballots and third on three for a total of 119 points, beating out Philadelphia's Charlie Manuel (seven first-place votes, 76 points) and Colorado's Clint Hurdle (four first-place votes, 58 points).

"At the beginning, we were cautiously optimistic," Melvin said, remembering the Diamondbacks were 76-86 in 2006. "We liked the younger group, yet we were trying not to get too much ahead of ourselves."

Washington Nationals Manager Manny Acta finished tied for fifth with four points on four third-place votes. San Diego's Bud Black also tallied four points, but appeared on only two ballots. He received one second-place vote and one for third.

Considering the ignominious projections for the Nationals in spring training -- some scouts believed it would be difficult for Washington to lose fewer than 110 games -- Acta may have outdistanced the public's expectations by the widest margin. The Nationals finished a distant fourth in the NL East at 73-89, but that represented two more wins than they collected in 2006 with a team that included Alfonso Soriano, Jose Vidro and a healthy Nick Johnson.

"I think it was a great choice," Acta said in a telephone interview yesterday. "I think Bob did a tremendous job with that young team from Day One. Me, if I do get votes, fine. But I think the people in D.C. have made me feel like I won anyway. That just made me happy."

Acta, 38, was the youngest manager in baseball in 2007, his first season managing in the majors. He said he understands that he will never again have expectations as lowly as this past season, what with the Nationals expected to increase payroll significantly as they begin play in a new ballpark.

"I really don't care, because I have my own expectations," Acta said. "I really don't care what other people's are. I'm always trying to get better, and we're trying to make our team better regardless of what other people think."

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