Rocco Baldelli wins AL Manager of the Year after leading Twins turnaround

Mark Townsend
Yahoo Sports Contributor

Rocco Baldelli looked right at home in his first season managing the Minnesota Twins. After leading the team to a 23-win turnaround and its first American League Central division title since 2010, he became the preferred choice for the AL’s Manager of the Year award.

The 38-year-old was announced as the Manager of the Year on Wednesday after a vote by the Baseball Writers Association of America. Baldelli topped New York Yankees manager Aaron Boone and Tampa Bay Rays skipper Kevin Cash.

Baldelli and Boone each earned 13 first-place votes, but Baldelli got four more second-place votes to take the honor. Cash finished third, followed by Bob Melvin of the Oakland Athletics in fourth place, then A.J. Hinch of the Houston Astros and Terry Francona of the Cleveland Indians.

Baldelli is the fourth different Twins manager to win the award. Tom Kelly (1991), Ron Gardenhire (2010) and Paul Molitor (2017) each won the award once, which speaks to the unpredictability and volatility of the award and the manager position.

Minnesota Twins rookie skipper Rocco Baldelli earns AL Manager of the Year honors. (AP Photo/Jim Mone)

In the case of Kelly and Gardenhire, it's shocking they only won the award once given their track record of success. As for Molitor, he was fired one year after his award-winning victory campaign, which opened the door for Baldelli to step in.

Baldelli earned top honors thanks largely to Minnesota’s stunning turnaround. After finishing 2018 with a 78-84, many figured a better season was ahead for Minnesota. However, nobody could have reasonably projected a jump to 101 wins.

The rookie skipper had a strong roster to work with, which was aided by breakout seasons from hitters like Mitch Garver and Max Kepler and a very strong bullpen. It also helped that Minnesota mashed an MLB record 307 home runs. Baldelli had little control over that, but is credited with keeping the clubhouse focused and on the same page, which is something it lacked last season.

As far as first seasons goes, Baldelli could not have authored a better one that didn’t include a World Series title.

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