By Larry Fine
NEW YORK (Reuters) - Bob Melvin of the Oakland Athletics and Davey Johnson of the Washington Nationals were named managers of the year on Tuesday in voting by the Baseball Writers' Association of America.
Melvin, who led Oakland to an unlikely American League West title, and Johnson, who steered Washington to the National League East crown, joined just four other men to win the manager awards with teams in both leagues.
Bobby Cox, Tony La Russa, Jim Leyland and Lou Piniella are the other managers to claim as manager of the year awards in both leagues.
Melvin, who won the National League award in 2007 with the Arizona Diamondbacks, guided the A's past two-time American League champions Texas Rangers and a beefed-up Los Angeles Angels team that had added free agent slugger Albert Pujols to win the AL West.
The A's skipper won a close race in the voting with Baltimore Orioles manager Buck Showalter, taking 16 first-place votes to 12 for Showalter to edge him by 116-108 points.
Showalter improved Baltimore's 2011 mark by 24 games and led the Orioles to the postseason for the first time in 15 years.
"I was shocked, absolutely shocked," Melvin told MLB TV after the announcement was made. "Buck had such a great year. Just to be talked about in the same light as Buck Showalter and Robin Ventura (the third-place finisher for the Chicago White Sox) was an honor to me," he said.
Oakland, relying on a young starting rotation that featured as many as five rookie pitchers, overcame a nine-game losing streak they snapped on June 2 by launching a strong second-half charge to join the playoff race.
They finished the regular season with a six-game winning streak that included a sweep of the Rangers to claim the title on the last day with a 94-68 record.
"For me, it was more a validation for us having a good year...in a year that probably not a whole lot was expected of us," Melvin told reporters in a conference call when asked what the award meant to him.
Johnson guided the Nationals to their first winning record since the former Montreal Expos moved to the U.S. capital in 2005 and their first playoff appearance after they registered a 98-64 mark that was best in Major League Baseball.
It was also the first postseason appearance of any Washington-based team since the original Senators lost to the New York Giants in the 1933 World Series.
Johnson, 69, received 23 first-place votes among 32 ballots submitted by two writers representing each league city to score 131 points.
Cincinnati Reds manager Dusty Baker received five first-place votes and was the runner-up with 77 points, with the other four first-place votes going to the San Francisco Giants' Bruce Bochy, who was third with 61 points.
Johnson, who turns 70 in January as the oldest active manager in the majors and won the American League award 15 years ago with Baltimore, was not shy on his predictions for next season after signing a contract extension to return in 2013.
"It's World Series or bust," said Johnson. "It could be my last year anyway.
"The organization gave me a lot of good players and they're being recognized, that's a tribute to the organization," Johnson added, noting his outfielder Bryce Harper has won Rookie of the Year honors and pitcher Gio Gonzalez was up for the Cy Young Award.
"That means a lot to me. I still feel we have a higher ceiling, that we can do better."
(Editing by Julian Linden and Greg Stutchbury)