MLB Manager of the Year: How Kirk Gibson and Joe Maddon Got Where They Are

Joel ReuterFeatured ColumnistNovember 16, 2011

PHOENIX, AZ - SEPTEMBER 26:  Manager Kirk Gibson of the Arizona Diamondbacks during the Major League Baseball game against the Los Angeles Dodgers at Chase Field on September 26, 2011 in Phoenix, Arizona. The Dodgers defeated the Diamondbacks 4-2.  (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
Christian Petersen/Getty Images

Continuing on with the week of MLB awards, the MLB Manager of the Year honors were handed out today, with Joe Maddon of the Rays and Kirk Gibson of the Diamondbacks taking home the hardware.

But how did these two men become the top managers in the game in their respective leagues? Here is a look at the road each man took to become the top skippers in the league.

NL Results

1. Kirk Gibson, Diamondbacks: 152 Points (28)
2. Ron Roenicke, Brewers: 92 Points (3)
3. Tony LaRussa, Cardinals: 24 Points (1)
4. Charlie Manuel, Phillies: 10 Points
5. Fredi Gonzalez, Braves: 4 Points
6. Bruce Bochy, Giants: 2 Points
6. Clint Hurdle, Pirates: 2 Points
8. Terry Collins: Mets: 1 Point
8. Don Mattingly, Dodgers: 1 Point

After taking over midseason last year as interim manager, Kirk Gibson was brought back as permanent manager with a two-year contract to open the 2011 season.

Gibson enjoyed a fantastic 17-year playing career, posting a career line of .268 BA, 255 HR, 870 RBI and hitting two of the most memorable postseason home runs in baseball history. Fun fact though, he never made an All-Star team and may be the best players to never do so.

His career wrapped up following the 1995 season at the age 38, but he wasn't out of baseball long, as he became the Tigers TV announcer for the 1998 season, serving that role through 2002.

It was 2003 when he got his first taste of coaching, as friend and former teammate Alan Trammel took over as Tigers manager and named him bench coach. He then moved to hitting coach midway though the 2005 season, as the team attempted to shake up the staff.

Gibson joined the Diamondbacks as bench coach for the 2007 season and served in that role until he took over as head coach.

The Diamondbacks were finally "his" team for the 2011 season, and he was at the helm of a very young and inexperienced roster coming off of a 65-97 season.

After opening the season 11-15, the team turned things around thanks to the breakout of starter Ian Kennedy and a scrappy lineup that mixed power and speed to keep opposing teams on their heels.

After fighting back-and-forth in the division throughout the summer, the Diamondbacks took the division lead for good on August 10th and ended the season up eight games. While the team lost in five games to the Brewers in the NLCS, the young core should be competitive for years to come with Gibson at the helm.

ST. PETERSBURG, FL - AUGUST 22:  Manager Joe Maddon #70 of the Tampa Bay Rays directs his team against the Detroit Tigers during the game at Tropicana Field on August 22, 2011 in St. Petersburg, Florida.  (Photo by J. Meric/Getty Images)
J. Meric/Getty Images

AL Results

1. Joe Maddon, Rays: 133 Points (26)
2. Jim Leyland, Tigers: 54 Points (1)
3. Ron Washington, Rangers: 31 Points (1)
4. Manny Acta, Indians: 16 Points
5. Joe Girardi, Yankees: 14 Points
6. Mike Scoscia, Angels: 4 Points

The road to Manager of the Year for Joe Maddon was a much longer than that of Kirk Gibson, but he takes home his second such honor in his sixth season with the Rays.

Maddon enjoyed a brief minor league playing career as a catcher in the Angels system, playing four seasons in Single-A from 1976-1979 and posting a line of .267 BA, 5 HR, 40 RBI before retiring at the age of 25.

He would go on to spend 31 years in the Angels organization, serving as interim manager in 1996 and 1999 for a grand total of 51 games and posting a 27-24 record.

It was not until 2006 that Maddon got his first chance at a full-time managing job, after losing out on the Red Sox job to Terry Francona in 2004 as one of the top candidates for that job.

Following two dismal seasons with a combined record of 127-197, Maddon and the Rays came out of nowhere in 2008 to take the AL East and win the AL pennant.

A lot of the Rays' turnaround can be attributed to fantastic player development, but Maddon's ability to handle those young players transitions from minors to majors cannot be understated. With more young talent on the way and a fantastic core in place, expect the Rays to continue to push the big budget teams in the AL East.