Melvin and Wedge win manager of the year awards

NEW YORK - Bob Melvin and Eric Wedge barely made a ripple as players. Backup catchers, they both batted a pedestrian .233 in the big leagues.

All that time spent pondering on the bench paid off. Far more successful in the dugout than on the field, they were honored Wednesday as managers of the year.

Wedge became the first Cleveland manager to win the AL award, chosen by a wide margin after the Indians and Boston tied for the best record in baseball. Melvin was the first Arizona manager to get the NL prize, picked after leading his young team to the top mark in the league.

Wedge and Melvin are among nearly a dozen former catchers who manage in the majors.

'There's been quite the trend,' Wedge said on a conference call. 'The catcher has to be aware and knowledgeable of every aspect.'

'It's a leadership position. That position demands a great amount of passion for your teammates and the game of baseball."

Wedge said he knew Melvin mostly from across the diamond. Their paths crossed years ago - a month after Colorado took Wedge from Boston in the November 1992 expansion draft, the Red Sox wanted a second-string catcher and signed Melvin as a free agent.

Wedge received 19 of the 28 first-place votes and got 116 points in balloting by the Baseball Writers' Association of America, finishing ahead of the Angels' Mike Scioscia (62 points). Joe Torre, who walked away from the Yankees last month, was next with 61 and Terry Francona of the World Series champion Red Sox got 13.

'There's always challenges and unexpected challenges you go through over the course of six months. I think we were the extreme of that,' Wedge said.

Wedge, a no-nonsense guy with a John Wayne calendar in his office, guided the Indians to a 96-66 record. Cleveland made its first playoff appearance since 2001, then lost to the Red Sox in the AL Championship Series in seven games.

Melvin was chosen on 19 of the 30 first-place ballots and got 119 points. Philadelphia's Charlie Manuel (76), Colorado's Clint Hurdle (58) and the Cubs' Lou Piniella (25) followed.

Melvin was honored for his steady hand in leading a team that sometimes started six rookies to a 90-72 mark. Back in the playoffs for the first time since 2002, Arizona swept Chicago in the first round before getting swept by Colorado in the NLCS.

'At the beginning, we were cautiously optimistic. We liked the young group,' Melvin said on a conference call.

The 39-year-old Wedge played 39 games for Boston and Colorado in the early 1990s. He's done a lot better with the Indians since starting out 68-94 in 2003.

The NL Cy Young Award will be announced today. San Diego's Jake Peavy, who led the league with 19 wins and topped the majors in ERA and strikeouts, is the heavy favorite.