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Milwaukee and the Manager of the Year Award

The Manager of the Year votes are in! Joe Maddon of the Rays took home the AL hardware and Lou Piniella of the Cubs goes into the offseason with the NL title. Congratulations to them and their teams. More of note to Brewers fans, though, is the single third-place vote given to interim manager Dale Sveum.

The Brewers have never had a Manager of the Year, as voted on by the BBWAA*. The New York Mets are the only other team without one. However, that doesn't mean Brewers skippers haven't gotten votes for the award in the past. Since the BBWAA Manager of the Year award was established in 1983, four different Brewers managers showed up on ballots in seven different years. Who they are and when they appeared? Below the fold.

*George Bamberger was named the Sporting News Manager of the Year in 1978.

The BBWAA award voting is decided on a point system. A first place vote is worth 5 points, a second place vote is worth 3 points, and a third place vote is worth 1 point. As I mentioned, the BBWAA first started giving out one Manager of the Year Award in each league in 1983, one year too late for the Brewers' season that no one will ever ever forget because it was just so magical and they won a pennant and anything anyone ever does in a Milwaukee uniform from here on out just can't compare World Series appearance under Harvey Kuenn. Since the Brewers struggled for a couple seasons after '82, there wasn't much reason for writers to vote for the team's managers.

It wasn't until Team Streak that a Milwaukee skipper got a vote. In 1987, Tom Trebelhorn led the Crew to a 91-71 finish, good for third in the AL East. Trebelhorn picked up 7 first place votes (out of 28) and totaled 78 points; he finished second to Sparky Anderson of the first-place Tigers, who had 90 points and 11 first place votes. Weirdly, Tom Kelly of the Twins got 10 first place votes and still finished 4 points behind Trebelhorn. This is still the closest any Brewers manager has come to winning the award.

The next season, the Brewers finished tied for third place, two games behind division winner Boston. Trebelhorn again appeared in the AL MOY voting, placing fifth with 15 points and one first place vote. Tony LaRussa won the award.

The Brewers wouldn't have another manager show up on a ballot for seven years. In 1995, Phil Garner led the Crew to a 65-79 record in the strike-abbreviated 144-game schedule. This was good enough to get him four points (and sixth place) in that year's AL MOY balloting.

Scrap Iron would do better two years later when the 28 first place votes were split among six different managers. Garner picked up five first place votes and 42 total points on his way to a third place finish. Davey Johnson won with 10 first place votes and 88 total points.

Now we get to the fun votes! The Crew's 81-81 finish, their first non-losing season since 1992, earned Ned Yost 7 points in the 2005 NL MOY balloting. Yost's mentor, Braves manager Bobby Cox, won convincingly with 28 of 30 first place votes.

Skip ahead to last year. In 2007 the Brewers jumped out to a 24-10 record and held the division lead for most of the season. Unfortunately, they faded down the stretch and the Chicago Cubs wound up making the playoffs over the Milwaukee nine. Despite losing out on the division title, Yost picked up two third-place votes on the 2007 NL MOY balloting, finishing seventh with 2 points. Bob Melvin of the Diamondbacks finished in first place.

That leaves us with 2008. Ned Yost's dismissal after 150 games was received poorly in some baseball circles. Some people saw him as an unfair scapegoat for the team's ill-timed slump. Despite any such feelings that Yost got the team most of the way only to have the rug pulled out from under him, he didn't get any votes in the balloting. Instead, Dave Sveum became the fourth Brewers manager to be so honored, even if he did get only one point.

Where does Sveum fit into history? Since 1983, a manager has gotten votes on the MOY ballot for a partial season sixteen times. Thirteen of those instances came in cases of interim managers taking over and improving their team. Two of them came because of health issues (Larry Dierker's seizure in 1999 and Cito Gaston's back surgery in 1991). Only one of the partial-season managers got votes in a season during which he was fired. That was Jimy Williams in 2001. He got 12 points in the balloting after he was fired in mid-August. Had the Brewers faltered following Yost's dismissal the way the 2001 Red Sox did after Williams was canned, Ned would have had a better chance at picking up some votes in the ballot.

As it is, however, Brewers fans must be content with hoping Ken Macha becomes the first Brewers manager to win the award (preferably in 2009 as the team wildly overachieves) while Ned Yost and Dale Sveum look to the future for another opportunity to deserve votes.