San Diego's Bud Black hung on in this race, nudging Cincinnati's Dusty Baker by one point for NL Manager of the Year. Minnesota's Ron Gardenhire was the clear choice in the AL, becoming a first-time winner Wednesday after five times as the runner-up.
Black was selected after guiding San Diego to a 15-game turnaround last season. The Padres finished 90-72 and led the NL West until a late, 10-game slump wound up costing them a playoff spot on the final day.
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 San Francisco Giants, Atlanta's retiring Bobby Cox and Philadelphia's Charlie Manuel got the other first-place votes.
This marked the third time that the NL Manager of the Year was decided by a single point. There was a tie for the AL honor in 1996 between Joe Torre and Johnny Oates.
Two BBWAA voters from every league city send in three top choices when the regular season ends. Votes are counted on a 5-3-1 basis.
Gardenhire was an easy pick after another AL 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.
"Congrats to the best manager in bestball!" Twins center fielder Denard Span tweeted. "Way overdue!" Span tweeted an apology moments later for misspelling baseball.
Ron Washington, who started the year with a cocaine admission and ended it with Texas' first trip to the World Series, was next in the AL 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.
Despite another loss to the Yankees in the first round of the playoffs this season, there are many in the Minnesota organization who feel that Gardenhire had his best year as a manager.
He won his 800th career game in September and sixth division title of the decade despite playing the entire year without closer Joe Nathan and most of it minus former MVP Justin Morneau. Gardenhire shuffled his lineups and batting order constantly, all the while prodding the Twins past the Chicago White Sox in the division.
The Twins finished 94-68 in their first season at Target Field.
Gardenhire joined Tom Kelly as the only managers in Twins history to win the award. Gardenhire finished second the last two years, along with 2006, '04 and '03.
The Twins have long had a reputation for having one of the closest-knit clubhouses in baseball. The feuds, bickering and infighting that can plague a team through the grind of a 162-game schedule rarely surfaces in Minnesota, something often attributed to the man in charge.
Gardenhire is as fiery and competitive as they come, as evidenced by his 53 career ejections. But in the dugout and behind the scenes, he portrays a calming, players-first mentality, which fosters a loose, easygoing clubhouse atmosphere.
The pitching-rich Padres were a surprise all season, and led the Giants by 7½ games on July 4. But San Diego's inability to hit, especially in key situations, proved to be its downfall.
The Padres went into the final day of the regular season needing to win at San Francisco to keep playing. Instead, they lost 3-0 and their season ended.
Black and Bochy are the lone Padres winners for the manager award, first presented in 1983. That first year, Tom Lasorda of the Dodgers beat Houston's Bob Lillis by one point. In 1985, St. Louis' Whitey Herzog topped Cincinnati's Pete Rose by a point.
The next BBWAA award will be the AL Cy Young, to be announced Thursday.