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Kirk Gibson got the Diamondbacks to the playoffs in 2011
Most of the prognosticators had picked the Arizona Diamondbacks to finish fourth or fifth in the NL West. Kirk Gibson led them to a surprising first place finish in the division, with a record of 94-68. The Diamondbacks won the NL West by eight games over the second place Giants.
At the start of the season, the expectations for the Diamondbacks were extremely low. Gibson molded a team together and was rewarded by good years from Justin Upton, Ryan Roberts and a stellar pitching staff.
The low expectations and high finish of the Diamondbacks is the reason Kirk Gibson gets my vote for NL Manager of the Year.
Running a close second was Milwaukee Brewers' manager Ron Roenicke. He led the Brewers to a first place finish in the NL Central. His team finished with a record of 96-66.
Tony LaRussa is my third place finisher for NL Manager of the Year. The Cardinals trailed the Braves by 10.5 games on August 25 and 8.5 games on September 5. The Cardinals played well down the stretch and ultimately caught and passed the stumbling Braves, to win the NL Wild Card.
Although the Cardinals won the World Series, post-season play was not a consideration for our choice. LaRussa just announced his retirement after 33 years as a manager. He won three world championships, two with the Cardinals and one with the Oakland A's.
Charlie Manuel earns a mention here, as he led the Phillies to the best record in the National League. Philadelphia finished the year at 102-60.
The final mention is for the Giants' manager Bruce Bochy. Although the Giants failed to make the playoffs, Bochy kept the team in contention despite an unimaginable string of injuries. Buster Posey and Freddy Sanchez were lost for the season early on and several other players missed significant time due to injury.
These included Pablo Sandoval, Carlos Beltran, Miguel Tejada, Cody Ross, Pat Burrell, Andres Torres, Mike Fontenot, Nate Schierholtz, Darren Ford, Barry Zito, Brian Wilson, Santiago Casilla, Jonathan Sanchez, Jeremy Affeldt and Ramon Ramirez. First baseman Aubrey Huff was the only regular position player that did not miss considerable time due to injury.