Phils' braintrust garner TYIB Awards
Manuel, Gillick honored as Manager and Executive of Year
In a tough-to-please city like Philadelphia, it was the character trait Charlie Manuel was most criticized for that ended up being his biggest strength.
Ever since Manuel took the job as manager of the Phillies in 2005, and leading up to the World Series championship '08 season, the 64-year-old's undying loyalty to his players was usually under heavy scrutiny.
This year, the Phillies likely would've been dead in the water without it.
Down 3 1/2 games to the National League East-rival Mets as late as Sept. 10, Philadelphia went on to win 24 of its final 30 games -- including 11 of 14 in the playoffs -- to capture just the second World Series title in the franchise's 126-year history.
Because of that, Manuel was chosen as the 2008 Manager of the Year in MLB.com's annual This Year in Baseball Awards presented by State Farm, which was voted on by the fans. A record 12 million votes were cast, eclipsing last year's total of 9.6 million.
Manuel collected 36.3 percent of the vote to finish ahead of Rays skipper Joe Maddon, who ended up with 20.5 percent.
Also nominated for the award were Cecil Cooper (Astros), Terry Francona (Red Sox), Ron Gardenhire (Twins), Fredi Gonzalez (Marlins), Ozzie Guillen (White Sox), Lou Piniella (Cubs), Mike Scioscia (Angels) and Joe Torre (Dodgers).
In four seasons as the Phillies' skipper after coming over from the Indians, Manuel -- who's finished second in NL Manager of the Year voting the past two seasons -- has compiled a 354-294 regular-season record, with his club never finishing worse than second in its division.
Along the way, Manuel has seen the confidence he shows his players be directed right back at him.
"He was so important for us," shortstop Jimmy Rollins said after the title-clinching 4-3 win over the Rays on Oct. 29. "No question, the players have great respect for him."
But Manuel wasn't the only member of the Phillies organization to garner TYIB honors. The man who put it all together, former general manager Pat Gillick, was named Executive of the Year after he received 31.8 percent of the vote -- 10-plus points higher than Red Sox general manager Theo Epstein.
Also nominated for that award were Ned Colletti (Dodgers), Andrew Friedman (Rays), Jim Hendry (Cubs), Doug Melvin (Brewers), Tony Reagins (Angles) and Ken Williams (White Sox).
Gillick, a former standout pitcher at the University of Southern California and an Orioles prospect, has been in baseball front offices since 1963, when he started with the Astros. Along the way, he's served as the GM for four Major League teams -- the Blue Jays, Orioles, Mariners and Phillies -- and now has three World Series rings -- with the other two coming in Toronto in '92 and '93.
Shortly after his club won its first World Series since 1980 and his ultimate goal was reached, Gillick stepped down as general manager after fulfilling his three-year contract, and Ruben Amaro Jr. took his spot. Gillick now holds an advisory role with the team.
"You always want to walk away as a winner," Gillick said after Game 5 of the World Series. "You always want to win. Every time you go out there, you want to win. That's what's important to me. Winning like this is kind of special and kind of puts the icing on everything for me."
Perhaps Gillick's biggest key for 2008 was acquiring closer Brad Lidge, who went a perfect 48-for-48 in save situations -- also nailing down the clincher. But even Gillick admits his role is about merely laying down the groundwork.
As Gillick said, it was the players and coaches who got it done on the field.
"I can't say too much about the players and Charlie," Gillick said in a video interview with MLB.com during the Winter Meetings. "It was the players and Charlie and his coaching staff that got it done. We're behind the scenes, and we're the support staff that gives him the pieces and dimensions to get the job done, but they have to put it together."
Manuel and his guys definitely had to battle their share of adversity before finally putting it together.
Playing in the NL East with the star-studded Mets and surprising Marlins, the Phillies' offense struggled to get going throughout the year, especially with slugger Ryan Howard batting .206 in the first two months of the season. The starting rotation was also in flux, with frontline starter Brett Myers being optioned to the Minor Leagues in early July.
Eventually, though, Howard and Myers got it together. And so did the Phillies in winning their second successive NL East title to claim the elusive crown.
But en route to getting there, Manuel's mother, June, died at age 87 on the eve of the NL Championship Series. Despite her passing, Manuel never missed a single playoff game.
And because of the unconditional love and faith he poured into his players, the Phillies never missed a beat.
"When I get mad, I have a tremendous temper," said Manuel -- who signed a contract extension to keep him in Philadelphia at least through the 2011 season on Dec. 9 -- after the clincher. "People say they haven't seen it, and it's good they don't see it. I can get my message across. At the same time, I think my players see my love for the game and my passion -- how much I pull for them.
"I want to give them comfort to play and succeed."
MLB.com is rolling out results for its TYIB Awards daily. Here's a look at the schedule for the remainder of the week:
- Thursday: Closer/Setup Man/Starter
- Friday: Moment/Postseason Moment/Performance
Alden Gonzalez is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.