Let’s Talk Some MLB Awards
On the PosCast this week — coming out Wednesday — Mike Schur and I talk about how ridiculous it is that baseball does not have a special, star-studded awards night. There are many complicated reasons why this is the case, most relating to the fact that MLB’s big awards are actually given out by the Baseball Writers Association of America, but it’s an absurdity.
Here’s how Mike and I would do it — and, oh, by the way, we are offering our services free of charge to help put this on.
— We’d like to have the awards night on an off-day before the World Series (and maybe in the city where the World Series begins). If that’s too hard to schedule, we can do it New York or L.A. at some point right after the season ends or something like that.
— My idea is we’d give the awards a super-awesome name like “The Aarons.” The individual awards wouldn’t change — still MVP, still Cy Young, still Rookie of the Year and so on — but they’d all still be “Aarons,” the same way that Best Picture, Best Actress and even the Irving G. Thalberg Award are all Oscars.
— We believe with 99.3% confidence that we could get Jon Hamm to host. And we believe with equal confidence that we could get some big stars to present.
— We’d add a few awards, for sure. We can talk about those later.
— One award we’d DEFINITELY add is the Shohei Ohtani Award, or simply the Shohei. This would go to the best pitcher/hitter combination in baseball, and it would go to Shohei Ohtani every year. He’d be the only nominee. And we’d like for him to come up each year and say, “Oh, wow, I wasn’t expecting this. I didn’t prepare anything.”
We have so many more ideas. Please. Baseball. Do this. Let’s go.
OK, until baseball listens to us, I guess we’re just stuck with this ridiculous “Let’s announce the awards one evening at a time in the second week in November” process. Ugh. It seems to me that this is how you would announce a bad financial quarter or some other news you were hoping to bury, but this is what we’re going with.
So let’s talk about the awards. Today’s award is the Manager of the Year. And we’ll recap the Rookie of the Year balloting as well.
Monday: Rookie of the Year
This went exactly as expected.
Winner: Julio Rodriguez, Seattle
This was, expected, a complete runaway. Rodriguez got 29 of the 30 first-place votes, with Baltimore’s Adley Rutschman getting the remaining one. We’ve talked quite a bit about how awesome Rodriguez is — he was actually my darkhorse Rookie of the Year pick before the season began — but I think there’s a more fun question here: Will he end up being the best player to come out of this rookie class?
And I’m not sure. I love Rodriguez, obviously. But this class includes Rutschman, Bobby Witt Jr. and Jeremy Peña, among others. And it seems to me that any of those three could emerge, for sure, could become the best player. The one person who voted for Rutschman, Ben Nicholson-Smith of Sportsnet.ca, wrote a passionate, and I thought excellent, explanation for his pick (click through to read).
I probably would have voted for Rodriguez, but I think Rutschman was a totally defensible pick. He had a five-win season as a rookie, was fantastic behind the plate, he helped change the entire character of the Orioles pitching staff, and after a sluggish start offensively he hit .282/.401/.481 after mid-July with almost as many walks as strikeouts. He absolutely might be the best player in this lot.
And I’m still super-bullish on Bobby Witt Jr. He came into this season with SO much hype and he got off to a rough start and the Royals were terrible and there was a position change at some point — it was not an atmosphere conducive to excellence. But the guy still hit 20 home runs, still stole 30 bases, still showed the stuff that awed the scouts. He absolutely might be the best player in this lot.
And we all saw in the postseason what Jeremy Peña can do.
Young stars abound, that’s what I’m saying.
Winner: Michael Harris II, Atlanta
This was a two-player race between teammates — Harris had such a good year (135 OPS+, 19 homers, 20 steals, brilliant defense) and Atlanta’s Spencer Strider also had such a good year (11-5, 2.67 ERA, 202-45 strikeout to walk, 1.83 FIP).
By Baseball-Reference WAR, Harris had the better year, 5.3 wins to 3.7 wins.
By FanGraphs WAR, Strider was a tick better, 4.9 wins to 4.8 wins.
Harris won comfortably, with 22 of 30 first-place votes. I think I would have voted for Harris.
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Tuesday: Manager of the Year
The nominees: Terry Francona, Cleveland; Brandon Hyde, Baltimore; Scott Servais, Seattle.
Predicted winner: Francona, maybe? Could be Servais too.
This is the only category where I don’t feel SUPER confident about the winner. The other categories I’m 99.3% sure. This one — I know it won’t be Brandon Hyde, no offense. Part of me says it has to be Francona, who took a Cleveland team that had no expectations whatsoever, and ran away with the division.
And part of me thinks it has to be Servais, who managed the Mariners to a 90-win season and their first playoff appearance since, I think this is right, 1823.
Francona has already won two Manager of the Year awards, including one for Cleveland in 2016, and I think that will hurt him in the vote.
Servais’ Mariners won EXACTLY the same number of games they won in 2021, which I think will hurt him in the vote. The award usually goes to the manager whose team improves the most year over year.
So I don’t know. I think it will be Francona. But it could be Servais. It won’t be Brandon Hyde, I feel pretty confident in saying that, even though the Orioles improved by a staggering 31 wins — oh shoot, maybe it will be Brandon Hyde.
The nominees: Dave Roberts, Los Angeles Dodgers; Buck Showalter, New York Mets; Brian Snitker, Atlanta.
Predicted winner: Buck Showalter in a walk
Yeah, this will be Showalter, and it won’t be especially close, and it will be Buck’s FOURTH Manager of the Year Award. Wow. Four of these things.
He won his first in 1994, for the Yankees, that was the strike season. He was fired one season later, and the Yankees went on to win the World Series the year after that.
He won his second in 2004, for the Texas Rangers, when he led the team to an 18-game improvement. He was fired two seasons later.
He won his third in 2014 for the Baltimore Orioles. He lasted four more years with Baltimore, though his last season was a 47-115 disaster.
And now he will win his fourth after guiding the Mets to a 101-win season. Buck has now been in this managing game on and off for 30 years, and there really isn’t another career quite like it. He is 19th all-time in wins among managers, and yet he has not only never won a World Series, has not only never won a pennant, he’s never even come CLOSE to winning a pennant. The closest was 2014, when his Orioles did reach the ALCS, but they promptly got swept by the Royals.
This year, Dusty Baker finally won his World Series. I think he was going to the Hall of Fame anyway, but that certainly clinched it. If Showalter can win a World Series, I think he will suddenly become a viable, Lou Piniella sort of Hall of Fame candidate himself. If he doesn’t, though, I don’t think he will be a Hall of Famer no matter how many Manager of the Year awards he wins. That’s just the nature of things.
Dave Roberts won his one and only Manager of the Year Award in 2016, his rookie season with the Dodgers. His team has been better every single season since then. That tells you a little something about the silliness of this award.