Jim Tracy was out of baseball when Clint Hurdle called last October to talk to him about joining Hurdle's staff in Colorado. Tracy was focused on his duties as bench coach for the Rockies when he came to spring training.
Now, he's the NL Manager of the Year _ and has a new contract, too.
Talk about a nice season.
Tracy won the NL award Wednesday while Mike Scioscia of the Los Angeles Angels was selected AL Manager of the Year for the second time.
Tracy became the second manager to win the award after taking over during the season, joining Jack McKeon for Florida in 2003. Less than an hour after the honor was announced, the Rockies said Tracy had been rewarded with a three-year deal.
"What we're talking about this afternoon, it's probably as flattering an experience as I've come to realize during the course of my professional career in athletics," Tracy said. "And obviously a new contract is extremely exciting. But what is more intriguing for me is what is still out there for our ballclub."
Tracy received 29 first-place votes and two seconds for 151 points in balloting by the Baseball Writers' Association of America. Scioscia got 15 first-place votes, 10 seconds and one third for 106 points.
The Rockies fired Hurdle in late May and handed the job to Tracy, who led the team to the NL wild card. Scioscia kept the Angels going after the death of pitcher Nick Adenhart, and they won their fifth AL West title in six years.
"Those things really weren't about us. That was about the Adenhart family," Scioscia said. "As we supported that family, we got a little measure of peace and I think it helped us to get through the season and just play baseball."
Ron Gardenhire finished second in the AL voting for the second straight year and fifth time during his eight seasons as Minnesota manager. He also placed third in 2002, when Scioscia was honored for the first time, but has never won the award. Tony La Russa of the Cardinals, a four-time winner, was a distant second in the NL with 55 points.
Lou Piniella of the Cubs and Joe Maddon of the Rays were honored last year.
Colorado was 18-28 and 14 1/2 games behind NL West-leading Los Angeles when general manager Dan O'Dowd dismissed Hurdle on May 29 and offered the job to Tracy.
"I didn't immediately say yes," Tracy recalled. "I asked for 60 minutes to think about it and he told me you can have 60 but you can't have 61 because he needed somebody down in the dugout to manage that night."
Tracy, 53, was sold when O'Dowd told him he just wanted to see the team play better. He thought he could take care of that _ and the Rockies responded to his steady hand. They went 74-42 the rest of the way, extending the division race to the final weekend before settling for the wild card.
There was no Rocktober this year _ Colorado lost to Philadelphia in the division series _ but it was still quite the turnaround for the club and Tracy, who was fired after leading the Pittsburgh Pirates to a 68-94 record in 2007.
Scioscia managed the Angels to their third consecutive division title during one of his most difficult seasons in the dugout. Los Angeles has earned six postseason berths in the last eight years under Scioscia, who was a catcher for the Dodgers for 13 seasons and retired in 1994.
The Angels used 14 starting pitchers and played without sluggers Torii Hunter and Vladimir Guerrero for long stretches due to injuries. The team's biggest challenge was moving past the sorrow it felt when Adenhart was killed in a car accident in April.
"There wasn't one defining moment," Scioscia said. "I think as the season started to evolve guys found that sense of purpose to play baseball again and they played it at a very, very high level."
Scioscia, who turns 51 on Nov. 27, was credited for giving his players time to grieve while gently insisting on accountability as an early slump lingered. Los Angeles responded by surging to another division title and making it to the AL championship series, eliminating postseason nemesis Boston along the way.
"I feel very, very privileged to have an opportunity to not only manage in the major leagues but to manage in an organization moving in the right direction," Scioscia said, "and to have been able to do it in one place for going on 11 years next year."
The baseball honors continue Thursday with the NL Cy Young Award.