Posted on November 15, 2017, by Bryan Zarpentine
When 2017’s Manager of the Year Award was announced Tuesday night, it wasn’t quite as cut and dry as the Rookie of the Year award. But in the end, there were two winners that were more than deserving of the honor. Paul Molitor of the Minnesota Twins took home the award in the American League while Arizona Diamondbacks skipper Torey Lovullo won National League Manager of the Year.
Lovulllo took home the award in his first full season as a major league manager. He took over a Diamondbacks team that went 69-93 in 2016 and with largely the same roster led them to a 93-69 record in 2017. That record was good enough to earn Arizona a wild-card spot. The Diamondbacks won the one-game playoff against the Rockies before getting swept in the NLDS. Nevertheless, he made a tremendous impact on the Diamondbacks in his first year at the helm.
“He’s one of the best I’ve seen at doing what managers need to do, and that’s communicating with your players,” said Diamondbacks first-base coach Dave McKay. “I always see him before game time, during batting practice, walking around the outfield and talking to all his pitchers. He just makes a point to have a conversation with guys.”
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The National League offered several worthy candidates, although the voting wasn’t all that close. Lovullo received 18 of 30 first-place votes. Dave Roberts of the Dodgers finished second, Bud Black of the Rockies finished third, and Craig Counsell of the Brewers was a competitive fourth in the National League voting.
“It speaks for itself, when you get separated from the field like I did,” Lovullo said. “There’s a lot of great candidates.”
The voting was a little closer in the American League, but it shouldn’t have been. What Molitor accomplished in Minnesota this season was downright shocking. The Twins were 59-103 in 2016, but Molitor turned the tables in 2017, leading the Twins to a record of 85-77, as Minnesota earned a spot in the wild-card game.
“What was so impressive with Mollie is how he was still learning about being a better manager,” Twins second baseman Brian Dozier said of Molitor. “It’s nothing negative. When you stop learning, you might as well leave the game. He could easily say, ‘I’m Paul Molitor, Hall of Famer, and we’re doing it my way.” But instead, he really poured into us and we poured into him, and bounced off things to learn as a unit.”
Like Lovullo, Molitor earned 18 of the 30 first-place votes. However, runner-up Terry Francona, who won the award last year, earned 11 first-place votes for the job he did with the Cleveland Indians. With Francona a close second, A.J. HInch of the world champion Astros was a distant third.
By winning Manager of the Year, Molitor made a bit of history. He’s just the second member inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame as a player to then win Manager of the Year. The other is the great Frank Robinson, putting Molitor in good company.