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McKeon wise choice; Pena by a landslide

NEW YORK -- Jack McKeon calls himself an "old goat." He can add "wise."

The 72-year-old manager of the Florida Marlins was voted NL Manager of the Year for the second time after transforming a last-place team into a World Series champion.

"This is something that topped off all the good things that happened to us this year," he said yesterday after the voting was announced.

Kansas City's Tony Pena won the AL honor after the Royals rebounded from their first 100-loss season to stay in contention until the final week of the season.

McKeon received 19 of 32 first-place votes and 116 points in balloting by the Baseball Writers' Association of America, becoming the first manager to win the award after taking over a team during the season.

He is the third-oldest in major league history, trailing Hall of Famers Connie Mack (88) and Casey Stengel (75). He thanked the Marlins for hiring him. Florida was 16-22 when McKeon replaced Jeff Torborg May 11. The Marlins dropped to 10 games under .500 on May 22, falling into the NL East cellar, then rebounded to finish 91-71 and win the NL wild card.Voting took place before the postseason, when Florida upset San Francisco in the first round, overcame a 3-1 deficit to beat the Cubs in the NL championship series, then rebounded from a 2-1 deficit to beat the New York Yankees in the World Series. It was McKeon's first time in the postseason. Dusty Baker, a three-time winner of the award, finished second with 62 points after leading the Cubs to the NL Central title in his first season as manager. Pena was an overwhelming choice for the AL award, getting 24 first-place votes and 130 points. Minnesota's Ron Gardenhire was second with four firsts and 44 points. "When they told me, I got on my knees to thank God. Then I cried with my family," Pena said in a telephone interview from his home in Santiago, Dominican Republic. "There are no words to describe what I feel."

After the unexpected success this season, Pena thinks more will be expected from Kansas City next year.

"Everybody believes we have a good chance to win," he said.

Pena, 46, took over the Royals in May 2002 and Kansas City finished 62-100. The Royals won their first nine games this year, got off to a 16-3 start and were 51-41 at the All-Star break, leading the AL Central by seven games.

But they slumped in the second half and wound up 83-79, their first winning season since 1994. Kansas City used 29 pitchers, including an AL-high 15 starters, and set a team record by using 53 players.

"We did not run out of bullets, we just ran out of time," Pena said.

He is only the second Dominican to win manager of the year. Felipe Alou won in 1994 with Montreal.

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