Twins manager Rocco Baldelli and Cardinals manager Mike Shildt have won Manager of the Year honors in their respective leagues, the Baseball Writers Association of America announced Tuesday evening. (As a reminder, award voting is conducted at the conclusion of the regular season but prior to postseason play.)
The 38-year-old Baldelli narrowly edged out Yankees skipper Aaron Boone. Baldelli and Boone both received 13 first-place votes, but Baldelli’s 13 second-place votes carried more clout than the nine second-place nods for Boone. Rays skipper Kevin Cash finished third on the ballot and landed three first-place votes. Oakland’s Bob Melvin, Houston’s A.J. Hinch and Cleveland’s Terry Francona came in fourth, fifth and sixth place, respectively. Hinch received the lone first-place vote that did not go to Baldelli, Boone or Cash (link to full breakdown of voting).
Baldelli secures Manager of the Year honors in his first season at the helm of a big league club. Hired to step into shoes that were most recently filled by longtime skipper Ron Gardenhire (2002-14) and Hall of Famer Paul Molitor (2015-18), Baldelli represented a significant departure from the organizational norm in Minnesota. His appointment as skipper marked a continuation of a trend toward modern, data-driven decision making in what had long been viewed as one of the game’s most traditional (and at times, insular) organizations.
Baldelli’s Twins shocked baseball by bashing a Major League-record 307 home runs and usurping the American League Central division throne. The “Bomba Squad” reignited the Twin Cities fanbase and brought numerous sellouts to Target Field late in the 2019 season as the Twins charged toward their first division championship since the stadium’s inaugural season back in 2010. Unfortunately, the postseason brought more of the same for the Twins, who were swept away in the ALDS by their postseason nemesis, the Yankees. Still, the 2019 campaign marked a clear return to relevance for the Twins, who are now widely expected to be active players on the offseason trade and free agent markets with an eye toward a deeper playoff push in 2020.
Shildt, 51, won an even tighter race to secure NL Manager of the Year honors. Milwaukee’s Craig Counsell actually took home more first-place votes (13 to 10), but Shildt’s 14 second-place votes (compared to Counsel’s six) gave him a total of 95 points to Counsell’s 88. Atlanta’s Brian Snitker finished third and received three first-place votes, while the Dodgers’ Dave Roberts was fourth place and received four first-place votes of his own. Washington’s Dave Martinez and Arizona’s Torey Lovullo finished fifth and sixth, respectively (full voting breakdown here).
Like Baldelli, Shildt was in his first full season as a big league manager, although he wasn’t a rookie, having taken over the reins of the Cardinals in July 2018 when Mike Matheny was dismissed. Shildt’s Cardinals looked like an NL Central afterthought early in the month of August, sitting at just 58-55 on Aug. 8. However, the Cardinals went on a tear to close out the season, playing at a 33-16 pace down the stretch to overtake both the Brewers and the Cubs en route to an NL Central Championship.