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Formula for the winning NL Manager of the Year in 2011?
[Bad expectations for team] + [Young, up-and-coming manager] + [Good start by team] +/- [Eventual Playoff Chances] = [Manager of the Year]
Now if you don't believe me, just look at the last two NL Manager of the Year award-winners. Bud Black won last year for the San Diego Padres and Jim Tracy won the award when he led the resurgent Colorado Rockies to an unexpected playoff berth in 2008. The formula holds true again this year for eventual winner Kirk Gibson.
But seriously, Gibby and Acta are about the only two managers in the league (this side of Charlie Manuel, Mike Scioscia and Terry Francona) who are completely unfireable this offseason.
Gibson has taken an Arizona Diamondbacks club that has—up until this season—underperformed, and has them playing like they actually believe in themselves. Gibson has taken NL MVP and NL Cy Young candidates Justin Upton and Ian Kennedy, respectively, from high-potential players to full-blown stars this season.
However, a very honorable mention must go to the Pittsburgh Pirates' manager Clint Hurdle, who took a franchise with 18 consecutive losing seasons and had them competing for the divisional crown before they fell off the map in August and September.
Still, Gibson's winning the NL West may be too much for Hurdle and the transformed Pirates to overcome.
NL Manager of the Year Runners-Up: Clint Hurdle, Ron Roenicke, Fredi Gonzalez