|The Padres improved by 15 wins this year in Bud Black’s fourth year at the helm. (File/Getty Images)|
Bud Black hung on to win this race. Ron Gardenhire became a first-time Manager of the Year, too, after many near misses.
A month after his San Diego Padres were knocked out of the playoff chase on the final day, Black edged Cincinnati’s Dusty Baker by 1 point for the National League award yesterday.
“I guess this vote was sort of like our season, it came down to the wire,’’ Black said.
Black was selected after guiding San Diego to a 15-game turnaround from last season. The Padres finished 90-72 and led the NL West until a late 10-game slump cost them a playoff spot.
Black drew 16 first-place votes in balloting by the Baseball Writers’ Association of America and got 104 points. Baker had 13 first-place votes and 103 points.
Baker, a three-time Manager of the Year, led the NL Central champion Reds to their first playoff spot since 1995. He was listed on 27 of the 32 ballots while Black was picked on 26.
Bruce Bochy of the World Series champion Giants, Atlanta’s retiring Bobby Cox, and Philadelphia’s Charlie Manuel got the other first-place votes.
Gardenhire was an easy pick after another American League Central crown, becoming the first manager in baseball history to win six division titles in his first nine seasons. Gardenhire drew 16 first-place votes and 108 points, and was the only AL manager listed on all 28 ballots.
Ron Washington, who started the year with a cocaine admission and ended it with Texas’s first World Series, was next with 10 first-place votes and 81 points. Tampa Bay’s Joe Maddon and Toronto’s retiring Cito Gaston drew the other first-place votes.
The Red Sox’ Terry Francona finished fourth.
Tigers, Benoit agree A person familiar with the negotiations told the AP that reliever Joaquin Benoit, 33, and the Tigers reached preliminary agreement on a $16.5 million, three-year deal. The person spoke on condition of anonymity because the deal has not been announced. The righthander was 1-2 with a 1.34 ERA and 75 strikeouts in 60 1/3 innings this year as Tampa Bay’s setup man for Rafael Soriano . . . Speedy outfielder Rajai Davis has been acquired by the Blue Jays from the Athletics for minor league righthanders Trystan Magnuson and Daniel Farquhar. Davis, 30, hit .284 last season with five homers, 52 RBIs, and 50 stolen bases . . . Catcher John Buck and the Marlins finalized a three-year, $18 million contract after Buck passed his physical. Buck was an All-Star with the Jays last season . . . Japanese shortstop Tsuyoshi Nishioka is free to move to Major League Baseball via the posting system, according to his team in Japan. Nishioka, 26, helped the Lotte Marines win the 2010 Japan Series. He led the Pacific League with a .346 average last season . . . A defense expert said former major leaguer Jim Leyritz was not drunk when he was in a car crash that killed a woman. Toxicologist Dr. Stefan Rose testified in Fort Lauderdale that Leyritz had a blood-alcohol level lower than Florida’s 0.08 percent limit when the 2007 crash happened.