Baseball's Award Season
Baseball always seems to find a way to keep you interested, even when the season is long over with.
Baseball is the master of this game, although all other sports have imitated them well with offseason drafts, continuing news reports and free agent signings.
In baseball, the owners meetings that are going on right now, always produce a few trades and signings. Later on they'll have the General Managers meetings that always spark great interest from fans and create big interest in making deals and signing players.
But right now, it's award season in baseball. Not to be confused with the CMAs last week or this week's AMAs, or the Golden Globes or the Oscars that will soon follow, this is postseason greatness time for baseball. No singing, dancing or acting.
Notice how they let you wonder and think about it for awhile? The winners were voted on and decided long ago. The season ended Oct. 3 and the playoffs are not accounted for in the voting. So MLB has known who these winners are for nearly two months, but the marketing of the game dictates that they wait and drag the suspense out over the offseason. It takes them almost two weeks to announce the winners in each category so that everybody can have ample time to react and discuss who did win and who should have won before the next winner is announced.
So let's talk about those winners.
Let's start with the Manager of the Year because, which might be the least important of all and baseball writers may have done a lousy job choosing a winner.
San Diego Padres manager Bud Black won the award in the National League. this year for guiding a team that I called a "AA club" at the beginning of the season to within one game of making the playoffs. He did a great job in S.D., and he is a very good manager, not only with his pitching staff, but with his everyday players as well. But how does Bruce Bochy not win this award? Do I have to remind Dodger fans what the Giants did this year? With an equally bad lineup as the Padres. Heck, Reds manager Dusty Baker finished in front of Bochy.
In the American League, it was Ron Gardenhire of the Twins. And yes, I had to mention that he manages the Twins because there are plenty of people who don't know. What a great job he's done with that organization for a number of years now with little to work with, but I gotta lean toward Ron Washington on this one. To guide a young team with an even younger pitching staff all the way to the World Series, playing in that Texas heat every day is quite a feat.
ROOKIE OF THE YEAR
Buster Posey won the rookie of the year award in the NL and I thought it was his after I watched him play for just two weeks. The race was so much more hotly contested in the NL than it was in the AL. Braves outfielder Jason Heyward was the early favorite, but the more I saw him the less I thought he was the cream of the crop. Not to say that he won't be a superstar, because I think he will be, but it was Posey that out-lived the hype that was piled on him better than Heyward. Washington Nationals starting pitcher Stephen Strasburg made a big splash before getting injured and missing the rest of the season and much of next season. Jamie Garcia of the Cardinals was also impressive. I'm not a fantasy league, guy but if you're looking for a great pick for your team next season, Marlins outfielder Mike Stanton. In five years, he may be the best everyday pro of all of this rookie class. In the AL, Rangers closer Neftali Feliz saved 40 games. Tigers center fielder Austin Jackson tried to make a little noise, but you can't compete with a kid who was thrown into a high profile closing job at 20 years old and made it look like it was his.
This was certainly the year of the pitcher! In Dodgers broadcasts, I've talked so much about the pitching in the NL West and I still do believe it's the best pitching in baseball on a day-to-day basis, but look at what else is out there. Rockies starter Ubaldo Jimenez, who was the odds on favorite for most of the season finished third in the voting, while Tim Lincecum, who won the previous two awards, finished 11th.
Phillies starter Roy Halladay was the obvious choice. Unanimous, in fact. His numbers were mind boggling, he threw a perfect game in the regular season and only the second playoff no hitter in baseball history. He led the league in wins, 21, complete games, shutouts, innings pitched and was second in strikeouts. It's his second Cy Young and now has one in both leagues.
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Dodgers pitcher Fernando Valenzuela also only had 13 wins when he won the Cy Young in 1981 during the strike-shortened season in which the Dodgers only played in 110 games.
Not that he didn't have competition. Adam Wainwright also won 20 games this year. Jimenez was untouchable for half the season at least and also threw a no hitter this year. Lincecum, Matt Cain and Brian Wilson all got votes. And a guy that will win a Cy Young in the next three years, if he stays healthy, which has been a problem, is Josh Johnson in Florida. He has a heavy sinker and a nasty slider. And don't forget about Atlanta's Tim Hudson, who was finally healthy. He likes his name near the top of the leaders when it's all said and done, even though he's getting a little long in the tooth.
Feliz Hernandez won the awared in the AL. Finally, somebody took notice of what pitching is all about. Hernandez won the award with the lowest AL win total in history since they started giving this award with just 13. But that's because his Mariner team stinks. They scored the fewest number of runs of any team in the AL since the advent of the DH.
Hernandez beat out David Price with 19 wins and CC Sabathia, who had 21. This is where the recognition of pitching comes in. Sure he was 13-12, but he led the league in ERA and innings pitched. He had just one fewer strikeout than Jered Weaver. Only 10 pitchers ever have led the league in all three of those categories in one season and all 10 of them won the CY.
Unfortunately, Halladay will get some votes for MVP this season, and for as good a year as he had, he's no MVP. But he shouldn't take it personally, I don't think any pitcher should win the MVP. That's what the Cy Young is for. Every team needs good pitching but when a starter only plays in 35 games that guy can't be my MVP.
In the N.L. I think Joey Votto will win it. He posted fantastic numbers and was the glue that held that offense together for Bakers' Cincinatti team. Carlos Gonzalez will finish second only because he got a little bit of a late start with the triple crown race. He is the most exciting of all the contenders for MVP. And how do you leave Albert Pujols out of the conversation? He's a multiple winner and perennial contender, but he won't win it this year. Notice all three of those contenders hit in extremely friendly hitters parks.
In the AL, the choices are harder. Robinson Cano, Josh Hamilton, Miguel Cabrera and Jose Bautista are the front runners. I think this award has evolved from the guy who has the best season to the guy who helps his team have the best season, so that eliminates Home Run king Bautista and Cabrera. This race should come down to Cano and Hamilton, both of whom are great choices. But we love a great story in this country and Hamilton has the best one. Former No. 1 overall selection-turned druggie, back from the ruins to lead his team to the World Series. He also flirted with the triple crown this year and was the ALCS MVP.
So, there are the winners of the awards that have been given, and my opinion of the ones to come. One of the good things about these awards is that it affords us all the opportunity to argue about who we think should win.
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