ST. LOUIS -- Tony La Russa brought home the big prize, but a couple of less experienced skippers trumped him in National League Manager of the Year award balloting announced Wednesday.
La Russa finished third in the voting, behind Arizona's Kirk Gibson, in his first full season at the helm, and Milwaukee's Ron Roenicke, in his first season. He was bidding to become the first five-time winner of the award, and the first to win it at least twice in each league. Instead, La Russa finishes his career tied with Bobby Cox, who also won it four times.
The St. Louis skipper received one of the 32 first-place votes, with Gibson taking 28 and Roenicke three. La Russa was the second-place candidate for two voters and third place on 13 ballots. He finished with 24 points (on a 5-3-1 scale), well behind Gibson (152 points) and Roenicke (92).
La Russa previously won in 2002 with St. Louis, in 1992 and 1988 with Oakland and in 1983 with the Chicago White Sox. The award is voted upon by the Baseball Writers' Association of America, and ballots had to be submitted by the end of the regular season. No manager has won the award twice with the Cardinals.
NL Manager of the Year voting
Tony La Russa
It's easy to see what voters saw in La Russa's body of work in 2011. The Cardinals fell as far as 10 1/2 games back in the Wild Card race before going on an historic run. A team that seemingly had little to play for instead kept charging and eked into the postseason on the final day of regular-season play and ultimately won the World Series.
The story starts long before that, though. It starts with the loss of staff ace Adam Wainwright, coming off a runner-up finish in the Cy Young balloting in 2010, before the first game was played in Spring Training. Wainwright missed the entire season due to elbow surgery.
From there, the Cardinals took one hit after another. Their closer, Ryan Franklin, got off to a terrible start and was removed from closing duties before being ultimately released. The Cards gave a shot at closing to five different pitchers, finally settling on Jason Motte.
They suffered injuries at various times to Albert Pujols, Matt Holliday, David Freese and Allen Craig, among others. Jon Jay was the only Cardinal to play more than 150 games, and only Pujols made 600 plate appearances.