Oakland Athletics manager Tony La Russa was named American League Manager of the Year by the Baseball Writers' Association of America yesterday, finishing well ahead of Milwaukee Brewers manager Phil Garner and Orioles manager Johnny Oates.
La Russa, who guided a bruised and battered A's team to the American League West title, received 25 first-place votes and 132 points. Garner, whose Brewers club made a late run at the AL East title, got two first-place votes and 76 points to finish second. Oates was not named first on any of the 28 ballots, but finished ahead of Toronto Blue Jays manager Cito Gaston, who got the only other first-place vote.
The balloting is done by a committee of 28 baseball writers. The votes must be submitted before the start of postseason play.
"I would have voted for Tony even after the World Series," Oates said. "I think Tony did a great job and I think Cito did a great job, too. The thing that's so impressive about Tony is, he had a lot of talent but he seldom had it all on the field at the same time.
"No. 1, for me, was how he handled his bullpen throughout the year, and No. 2, the way he got a contribution from everyone. The job of a manager is to try and create an overachieving atmosphere and he did that. He had talent, but under the circumstances, I still think it overachieved."
The Orioles seem to fall into the same category. They didn't figure to be a strong contender in the AL East, but they pressed the Blue Jays all summer and stayed in the race until the final weeks of the season. The voters obviously gave Oates some credit for squeezing the most out of his lineup, but he wasn't ready to accept the compliment.
"It's flattering," he said, "but looking back, I don't think we over-achieved. Looking forward, people didn't expect anything from us. But looking back, I'm disappointed we didn't play as well as we could. I don't think Mike Mussina over-achieved. I don't think Mike Devereaux overachieved. Maybe you could say that Brady [Anderson] and Alan Mills were overachievers, but there were players like Glenn Davis and Cal Ripken who could have been better."
There was a point in the season, however, when Oates appeared to be an even stronger Manager of the Year candidate. The Orioles stayed within two games of the Blue Jays from April 29 to July 5 and emerged as the surprise team of the American League.
"He did a great job," general manager Roland Hemond said. "He is deserving of that kind of honor. I was still holding out hope that he would get it."
Oates never really considered the possibility.
"I don't think any manager goes into the season thinking about being Manager of the Year," Oates said. "I would gladly finish last in the voting in exchange for finishing first in the standings."
AL Manager of the Year
Voting for the Baseball Writers' Association of America's 1992 American League Manager of the Year, on a 5-3-1-point basis:
Manager, Team.. .. .. ...1st.. .. .2nd.. ..3rd.. .. .Tot
Tony La Russa, Oak.. .. ..25.. .. ..2 .. .. 1.. .. ..132
Phil Garner, Mil.. .. .. ..2 .. .. 21.. .. .3 .. .. ..76
Johnny Oates, Bal.. .. .. .0.. .. ..4.. .. 15.. .. .. 27
Cito Gaston, Tor.. .. .. ..1.. .. ..1.. .. .5.. .. ...13
Mike Hargrove, Cle.. .. ...0.. .. ..0.. .. .4.. .. .. .4