NEW YORK -- Jerry Manuel had just been voted American League Manager of the Year, and to listen to him speak, he had nothing to do with it.
''I try to do is make sure I remove myself and put the team first in all aspects,'' the Chicago White Sox manager said Wednesday after winning the award in a runaway.
In a race that was no cliffhanger, Manuel received 25 first-place ballots and three seconds for 134 points in voting by the Baseball Writers' Association of America.
Oakland's Art Howe, whose team won the AL West title, was second for the second straight season, getting 74 points with two firsts, 20 seconds and four thirds.
Seattle's Lou Piniella was third with 28 points, receiving one first, three seconds and 14 thirds.
''You don't have to necessarily like me,'' Manuel said, recalling his spring-training speech to the team. ''I'm not going to be a player's manager or whatever they want to call it. I just want you to do what's best for the team and respect the office of manager more than anything else. Hopefully that has worked here for the White Sox.''
Manuel, who in his third season as manager led Chicago to its first postseason appearance since 1993, became the fourth White Sox manager to win the award, joining Tony La Russa (1983), Jeff Torborg (1990) and Gene Lamont (1993).
''Our team came together in a stretch of about 11 days in spring training,'' Manuel said. ''We had a lot of split squads, and there were 11 straight days where we won a game.''
Manuel's White Sox, who finished 95-67, wound up five games in front of the Indians and were the talk of baseball for much of the season. They did it with a payroll of just $37 million, which ranked 21st.
''It probably will be very difficult to repeat 95 wins, and also probably difficult getting into the postseason,'' Manuel said. ''My message is to get to the postseason: 85 or 86 or 87 wins, it doesn't matter. I think postseason is more of a goal than wins.''
Going in, most fans predicted Cleveland would win its sixth straight AL Central title.
But Chicago won 17 of 25 games in April, taking the division lead on April 19. By June 2, the White Sox had the best record in the league, and the White Sox went 7-0 on a June road trip to Cleveland and New York.
''We caught some people not at a good time and we were playing good baseball,'' Manuel said. ''That bred some confidence in a very young team.''
Voting took place before the start of the postseason, so Seattle's sweep of Chicago in the first round of the playoffs wasn't a factor.
''I think what happened in the Seattle series was obviously a painful lesson for us,'' he said. ''We felt we played good baseball, they played better baseball.
''The lesson that's learned is hopefully that empty feeling we had we'll remember going into spring training. We'll use that as our rallying cry throughout the season.''
The National League Manager of the Year is announced Thursday, and San Francisco's Dusty Baker is expected to win. Both Manuel and Baker are from Sacramento, Calif.
''I was on the other side of the American River,'' Manuel said. ''We didn't basically cross paths until professional baseball.''
Since then, Baker has been a friend.
''My first year, when I got the job, my first call was from Dusty Baker in my home in West Pam Beach,'' Manuel recalled. ''He just simplified it. He said, 'Be yourself. You can do it. Never waver with your confidence. You're a very confident man. never waver that despite what you're going through.''
After the White Sox began slowly, Baker called him again.
''It showed me he was still looking out for me,'' Manuel said, ''even though I was in the Midwest while he was having his problems on the East Coast.''
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