The one-word formula for winning manager of the year is tried and true: Overachieve.
Clint Hurdle and Terry Francona were managers of teams that showed some early season promise in recent years, but couldn't get over the hump. In 2013, they did in big way, and won Manager of the Year honors by the Baseball Writers Association of America.
In the American League, was Francona's first season with the Indians after a long and successful run with the Boston Red Sox. Francona played for the Indians during his brief career, as did his father Tito from 1959-64. Terry made it a memorable return to Northeast Ohio. The Indians caught fire in September and came out on top in a memorable American League wild-card race, winning their final 10 games to make the playoffs for the first time in six years. They lost in the wild-card game to Tampa Bay, but the season still remained a resounding success.
The Indians were 68-94 in 2012 and improved by 24 games in 2013, finishing 92-70 and one game behind the Detroit Tigers in the American League Central. He nurtured a young, unproven pitching staff into one of the league's best, and despite not having any regular with a batting average better than .284, the Indians were fourth in the AL in runs. It's the first time Francona has ever won the award -- he'd never finish better than fourth despite eight consecutive winning seasons and two World Series championships in Boston. The only other Indians manager to win the award was Eric Wedge in 2007. The award was estabilished in 1983.
John Farrell, another former Indians player, was pitching coach for Francona when the Red Sox won their titles in 2004 and 2007 and was voted the runner-up. It was a close vote; Francona received 16 first-place votes to Farrell's 12. Farrell engineered an even-bigger turnaround in Boston, taking a dysfunctional team that won just 69 games in 2012 to a team that went 97-65 and won the American League East, then went on to win the World Series. (The voting is done for the annual BBWAA awards before the playoffs, so the Red Sox's run to the championship was not a factor in the voting.)
Bob Melvin, the 2012 winner when he took the Oakland A's to a surprise AL West championship, was third this year. The A's, with one of the smallest payrolls in baseball, repeated as AL West champion and won 96 games, two more than in 2012.
Like Francona, it was the first time Hurdle had won the award. The challenge was just as steep -- if not steeper -- for Hurdle, whose Pittsburgh Pirates had losing seasons in every year from 1993 to 2012, the longest span without a winning season in MLB history. The third season was the charm for Hurdle, as the Pirates improved by 15 games and won a National League wild-card berth. They finished three games behind the St. Louis Cardinals.
"Players play, and they took ownership of the clubhouse, they took ownership of the field," Hurdle said on the MLB Network telecast. "All I tried to do every day was, yes, be positive, and it is challenging to do that. But I needed to model behavior that I wanted them to emulate and take on. I believe that happened throughout the year.''
Led by NL MVP candidate Andrew McCutchen (.317, 21 HR, 84 RBI, 27 SB) and an unheralded pitching staff that had a stellar 3.27 ERA, the Pirates followed through by winning the wild-card game over the Cincinnati Reds before losing to the eventual pennant-winning Cardinals in five games in the NLDS round. Jim Leyland is the only other Pirates manager to win the award, and he did it twice, in 1990 and 1992.
The Los Angeles Dodgers' Don Mattingly, whose job was in jeopardy in the spring after a slow start, was the runner-up in the voting. The Dodgers caught fire in midseason and were 19-6 in July and 23-6 in August to easily win the NL West. They were eliminated in the NLCS by the Cardinals. Mattingly received two first-place votes.
Fredi Gonzalez of the NL East-winning Atlanta Braves finished third and received the other three first-place votes. The Cardinals' Mike Matheny was fourth.