2008 MLB Awards
Tampa took down the Chi Sox in short order, wrapping up their ALDS series in yesterday's 6-2 win. Perhaps you, like me, were somewhat disappointed at the outcome, subscribing to the axiom that "may the team who beat us perform well and play onward," therefore making our boys look better. Alas, Tampa looks plucky. But they're not alone, and I suspect that their series with Boston will be a fine throwdown. In the N.L., I took the Cubs a few months back, so I suppose I'll now lean toward Joe Torre and the Dodgers. For my money: It's the Red Sox over L.A. in the Series, doing it in 6 games.
Before I present my selections for the 2008 MLB Awards, may I again thank you readers for all your Commentary in this baseball season. This will be my final baseball entry of the year. Again, I warmly appreciate all your collective opinion and participation -- whether said feedback came in the form of either concurring or dissenting Commentary.
"Buy the ticket, take the ride."
- Hunter S. Thompson
MVP: Dustin Pedroia, Boston
Come Labor Day, this was a three-headed monster between Pedroia, Justin Morneau, and the Chi Sox’ Carlos Quentin. But then Quentin went down with injury never to return and Morneau hit .239 with just 2 HR’s in his last 23 games. Pedroia was the model of consistency for Boston throughout, a club that was beset by injury to several key players. He hit .303 or better in every month but one, played in 157 games, finished second to Joe Mauer in the batting race, tied for the league lead in hits, and led the A.L. in both runs and doubles. He stole 20 bases and made just 6 errors as Boston easily claimed the Wild Card. The pick
Runner-Up: Morneau, Us
Cy Young: Francisco Rodriguez, L.A. of A.
Some people have a beef with pitchers winning an MVP or relievers winning a Cy. Hey -- had Cleveland’s Cliff Lee been in a position to win something for Cleveland on the last day of the regular season, I’m thinking he would have been healthy enough to go. Instead, he rested. Plus, he already won the Comeback Award, so his mantle’s not empty. Perhaps I’m biased and sour he didn’t go against the White Sox on that final day. But Rodriguez gets my nod because he tied for the league lead in games, crushed Bobby Thigpen’s save record with 62, and was the most important guy on the league’s best team. Neither righties nor lefties hit better than .227 against him.
Runner-Up: Lee, Cleveland
Skipper of the Year: Joe Maddon, Tampa
Easy choice, and not just for Manager of the Year, but for Manager of the Decade. The cerebral skip took a club that had just once finished above last in their brief, ten-year history prior to 2008 -- and won the league’s toughest division. The Rays won a crazy 31 more games than they did in ’07, doing so with a bunch of young talent. Gardy no doubt deserves kudos for likely his best managing job to date, taking the Bread Basket to #163, but he did so with more refined talent and a better closer.
Runner-Up: Gardy, Us
Rookie of the Year: Mike Aviles, K.C.
Tampa’s Evan Longoria will likely win this, and may be more closely rivaled for the award by deserving candidates like the Chi Sox’ Alexi Ramirez, Boston’s Jacoby Ellsbury and Oakland’s Brad Ziegler. But we here in the Central got to see a great deal of this 27-year-old rookie -- maybe too much. Aside from hitting .310 against the Twins, Aviles hit .325 for the season in 102 games, taking over at short for the oft-maligned Tony Pena, Jr. That average is 35-points higher than Ramirez’ and more than 50-points higher than Longoria’s. He sported more runs, doubles and triples than either, and also charted a higher on base percentage. In the field, he played three infield positions (often switching spots in mid-game), and made an acceptable 10 errors at short, while committing none at either second or third. Hey, Longoria signed a $17.5 million contract in April, so his stellar season was almost expected. But Aviles led lowly K.C. to a highly respectable 18-8 September and, for those of us that watched all those Royals’ games, he truly seemed to gel all that young talent, something that Alex Gordon, David DeJesus, Mark Teahan have failed to do.
Runner-Up: Longoria, Tampa
MVP: Shane Victorino, Philly
The non-playoff Mets sport four guys -- David Wright, Carlos Beltran, Carlos Delgado, Jose Reyes -- that will all get votes for this award, and thus cancel one another out. In Philly, 2006 MVP Ryan Howard has the big numbers (league-leading 48 HR’s and 146 RBI) to boast his value to the Phillies’ charge to the postseason. But Howard also hit just .251, struck out a crazy 199 times and made a whopping, career-high 19 errors at first. Philly center fielder Victorino won’t win this award, but I think he should. The speedy Hawaiian led his club in batting (.293), hit 30 doubles, 8 triples, scored 102 runs and swiped 36 bags. In center, he made just two errors in 139 games. Lastly, Victorino hit a massive .344 in September, leading the Philly stretch run alongside Howard’s 11 September bombs. But this scrapper brought it all year, with the bat, glove, and his uncharted enthusiasm. Surely the most underrated outfielder in all of baseball.
Runner-Up: Howard, Philly
Cy Young: Tim Lincecum, San Francisco
Awarding players on crappy teams sometimes can’t be avoided. But there’s no question that Lincecum deserves this prize. He led the N.L. in strikeouts with an amazing 265, was second in wins at 18-5, and second to Johan Santana in ERA at 2.62. 0.79% of his games were quality starts, and his win total (as per Santana’s) would no doubt have been higher should his club have provided better than the league’s 35th best run support when he pitched. Dude is just 24.
Runner-Up: Santana, N.Y.
Skipper of the Year: Joe Torre, L.A.
Yeah, the Dodgers had 5 fewer wins than any division-winning club in baseball at 84, and the arrivals of Manny, Casey Blake and Maddux surely gave L.A. a shove they had been waiting on for four months. But for anyone that has ever read Torre’s “Ground Rules for Winners,” you’ll note that it’s about the grind, not always the shine. Furthermore, I love how Torre is now in the NLCS while the Yankees are two weeks into golf -- I think that’s made for the best story in baseball this year. Torre, with 4 rings, always got a bad shake in NYC (as most skippers will), and I thought they were nuts to let him go. Only six guys have ever won more ballgames.
Runner-Up: Charlie Manuel, Philly
Rookie of the Year: Geovany Soto, Chicago
Some competition here, but not much. Soto was the preseason pick for this baby and lived up to the hype, hitting a solid .285 with 23 homers and 35 doubles. He followed suit with the glove, committing just 5 errors and throwing out a respectable 27% of would-be base stealers in 141 games. Some are calling him the Joe Mauer of the N.L. Just two batting titles to go . . .
Runner-Up: Joey Votto, Cincinnati