Gibson named NL Manager of the Year
D-backs' skipper earns award following first full season
PHOENIX -- While his name might be on it, the D-backs' Kirk Gibson said the National League Manager of the Year Award he won Wednesday belongs to the entire organization.
Gibson received 28 of 32 first-place votes from the Baseball Writers' Association of America for a total of 152 points, which easily outdistanced Milwaukee's Ron Roenicke, who received 92 points. St. Louis' Tony La Russa finished third. Tampa Bay's Joe Maddon won the award in the American League.
"I'm honored to be named Manager of the Year, and I accept it humbly," Gibson said. "It's certainly an accomplishment, but as I sit here today after I was informed, I just think of all the people who made it possible for me. Though I accept the award today, it's just a great tribute to a great organizational effort."
Gibson becomes the second D-backs manager to win the award, joining Bob Melvin, who captured it in 2007. Last month, Gibson received the NL Manager of the Year Award given out by the Sporting News.
NL Manager of the Year voting
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"I could not be prouder of Kirk and his staff, nor happier for our organization that he so well represents," D-backs team president/CEO Derrick Hall said. "He has brought a sense of culture, calm and strategy, and he richly deserves the recognition."
Gibson led the D-backs to 94 wins and the National League West title in 2011, his first full season as a manager. The D-backs pushed the Brewers to five games in the NL Division Series before being eliminated.
The division title came on the heels of back-to-back last-place finishes as the D-backs lost 92 games in 2009 and 97 games in 2010. The 29-game improvement was the third-best improvement in Major League Baseball since 1998, according to Elias Sports Bureau.
Gibson was handed the managerial reins on an interim basis July 1, 2010, when the club dismissed GM Josh Byrnes and manager A.J. Hinch.
During his first few weeks as manager, the club traded away high-profile veterans like Dan Haren and Edwin Jackson as it began to retool for the future.
After being hired as general manager in late September, Kevin Towers spent time with Gibson on a six-game season-ending road trip and decided to give him a two-year contract.
On a conference call with reporters, Gibson thanked the entire organization, starting with managing general partner Ken Kendrick and finishing with video coordinator Allen Campbell.
"Our team president, Derrick Hall, believed in me," Gibson said. "I was fortunate to get hooked up with a great general manager in Kevin Towers, who helped me weed through and hire a great coaching staff."
Following the 2011 season, Towers and Gibson both were given three-year contract extensions that included two club options, which could keep the pair in Arizona through 2016.
"I think from the first day of Spring Training, he let everybody know that the real job everybody had was to win games," Kendrick said. "That's what we were going to focus on, and he made them believe. I'm really happy for him. He certainly deserves it. He turned the culture around, and that's pretty hard to do in a year."
When he was asked to be interim manager, Gibson said his main priority was to change the culture in the clubhouse.
In addition to veteran players being brought in, Gibson instituted new rules such as a ban on cellphone use in the clubhouse and more focus on preparation.
"They bought into it," Gibson said of his players. "They bought into it, they stayed with us and they never wavered, and as it developed they just really enjoyed it. They played the game the right way, had a good time, treated everyone the way they should be treated."
Gibson put his team through an intense Spring Training, with morning workouts that harped on fundamentals, baserunning, cutoffs and relays as well as controlling the opposition's running game.
Maybe because of all the extra work in the mornings, the team played listless during the afternoon, and some picked the D-backs to finish at the bottom of the NL West. Gibson, though, was one of the few who maintained that month that his team would be successful.
At points during the season, Gibson was criticized for his lineup choices and strategy, and he mentioned that he noticed people calling his style "unconventional." The support of the organization helped give him the confidence to make those moves despite what people might have thought or said.
"It kind of makes me smile because, first of all, the sabermetrics -- the numbers part of the game -- I understand that where it's applicable, but sometimes you have to fail to become somebody who's a good ballplayer, or you have to fail for a team to become a good team," he said. "I had guys that stuck behind me when I did those things. I'm just trying to compete and win games. So it's important to have those people behind you."
Two of his mentors in the game, Sparky Anderson and Jim Leyland, won Manager of the Year Awards, but what Gibson craves most of all is something that Leyland accomplished once and Anderson three times.
"I still want to win the World Series as a manager," Gibson said. "So obviously good to be recognized, as I said, it's certainly not all because of me. I certainly played a part in it, I understand that. What I want to join with what [Anderson and Leyland] did is win a World Series."