The votes are in: Wedge and Melvin MLB’s top managers for 2007

NEW YORK – Eric Wedge and Bob Melvin, former backup catchers who found far more success in the dugout than on the field, were honored today as managers of the year.

Wedge became the first Cleveland manager to win the AL award, picked 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, chosen after leading the young Diamondbacks to the top mark in the league.

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 on a conference call.

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 Game 7 of the AL championship series.

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 chosen 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.

Wedge and Melvin are among nearly a dozen former catchers who manage in the majors. Many of them were far from standout players – in fact, Wedge and Melvin each hit .233 in their careers.

“There’s been quite the trend,” Wedge said. “It’s a leadership position. That position demands a great amount of passion for your teammates and the game of baseball.”

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 in his first season as a big league manager.