McKeon, Pena win top manager awards

Thursday, November 13, 2003

NEW YORK -- Jack McKeon was voted NL Manager of the Year after turning around Florida's season, and Tony Pena won the AL honor for keeping Kansas City in contention until the final week.

McKeon received 19 of 32 first-place votes and 116 points in balloting released Wednesday by the Baseball Writers' Association of America, becoming the first manager to win the award after taking over a team during the season.

Before this year, McKeon had never taken a team to the playoffs. With the Marlins, he won a World Series title on his first try.

"This is something that topped off all the good things that happened to us this year," he said.

Dusty Baker, a three-time winner of the award, finished second with 62 points after leading the Cubs to the NL Central title in his first season as Chicago's manager.

Atlanta's Bobby Cox was next with 56 points, followed by Felipe Alou -- Baker's replacement in San Francisco -- with 51.

Pena was an overwhelming choice for the AL award, getting 24 first-place votes and 130 points. Minnesota's Ron Gardenhire was second with four firsts and 44 points.

After the unexpected success this season, Pena thinks more will be expected from Kansas City next year.

"Everybody believes we have a good chance to win," he said from his home in the Dominican Republic during a conference call.

McKeon is the third-oldest manager in major league history, trailing Hall of Famers Connie Mack (88) and Casey Stengel (75). He thanked the Marlins for hiring him.

"They had the courage to go out and hire an old goat like me," he said. "I wanted one more crack."

He's not thinking about retirement any time soon.

"I'm not going to go home and sit in the rocking chair and drive that tractor," he said. "I hope to do it as long as I'm healthy enough and feel it's still enjoyable."

Voting took place before the postseason, when Florida upset San Francisco in the first round, overcame a 3-1 deficit to beat the Cubs in the NL championship series, then rebounded from a 2-1 deficit to beat the New York Yankees in the World Series.

Pena took over the Royals in May 2002 and Kansas City finished 62-100, its first 100-loss season. The Royals won their first nine games this year, got off to a 16-3 start and were 51-41 at the All-Star break, leading the AL Central by seven games.

But they slumped in the second half and wound up 83-79, their first winning season since 1994.

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