In the six years I spent roaming baseball clubhouses as a vagabond beat writer, I was never invited to join that prestigious group of booze-hounds known as the Baseball Writers Association (Warning: Hilariously outdated green background will wreck your retina). This was unfortunate on a couple of levels.
First, the Baseball Writers get these handy press passes that get them into any ballpark in the country, so if you’re say, called to fly down to Miami at the last-minute to cover a weekend series it’s a lot harder to talk you way past security when all you got is, “Please let me in, sir. I’m missing Larry Bowa’s pregame, and I think he might finally lose his mind today.”
The real reason to be a dues-paying member is you get to vote for the annual awards, which allows you to stop things like this from happening. My vote still doesn’t count, but let’s surge ahead with the first-ever Boston Daily Baseball Awards.
(Winners to receive some left-over Mitt Romney for President swag
1. Kevin Youkilis—Boston
2. Dustin Pedroia—Boston
3. Alex Rodriguez—New York
Right out of the chute, I’ve got my hometown and my East Coast bias showing. First, let’s define the term, “Most Valuable.” To me, that means the individual who contributed the most to their team’s success. My definition doesn’t automatically disqualify someone if their team is less than great, but I do think team success has to be factored into the equation.
I’m not sure when it was decided that Pedroia was the Red Sox MVP, but I’m guessing it coincided with the ridiculous hot stretch he enjoyed at the beginning of the month (and the spontaneous M-V-P chants that followed)—a span that coincided with Youkilis’ absence from the lineup.
Youkilis, however, has the edge in on-base percentage, slugging, home runs and RBI’s over the little instigator, and as much as I love Pedroia’s defense, Youkilis’ versatility with the glove is far more valuable. Think about how far Youk has come in the past year. He’s hitting in the most important spot in the lineup, the one that follows David Ortiz, and he’s thriving in that role. Remember the annual Youk-swoon? A distant memory.
OK, why is A-Rod third? He had a better year than Vladimir Guerrero or Justin Morneau, and even though the Yankees stumbled, they still wound up with the fourth-best record in the American League despite losing half their rotation to injuries. Somebody had to help them win 89 games.
1. Cliff Lee—Cleveland
2. Roy Halladay—Toronto
3. Ervin Santana—Los Angeles Freeway System
This is the easiest pick of the bunch. It is a shame, however, that Halladay’s brilliance goes unnoticed for another year. Please don’t argue for Frankie Rodriguez and his 62 saves. Mariano Rivera had a better year. So did Jonathan Papelbon, for the matter.
Rookie of the Year
1. Evan Longoria—Tampa
2. Alexei Ramirez—Chicago
3. Joba Chamberlain—New York
The second-easiest choice. The future belongs to Longoria. Ramirez is what Jacoby Ellsbury was supposed to be.
1. Joe Maddon—Tampa Bay
2. Terry Francona—Boston
3. Mike Scioscia—Los Angeles Suburbs
I’m no fan of small-ball, but convincing a bunch of kids who have never even been better than awful that they can win the East deserves a ton of credit.
Tito is becoming the Roy Halladay of managers. He’s so good he gets overlooked. Same for Scioscia. (Bonus Zen question: Who is more valuable? The one who deals with the crisis, or the one who has no crisis with which to deal.)
1. Andrew Friedman—Tampa Bay
2. Theo Epstein—Boston
3. Kenny Williams—Chicago
This is not based on one-year’s results, impressive though they are. Friedman built the talent base in Tampa through the draft, and this happened to be the season that the Rays took off. Plus, the Delmon Young for Matt Garza and Jason Bartlett trade looks like a winner. Epstein is another good example. He didn’t make any splashy off-season moves, but the rookies he drafted and groomed, combined with the handful of veteran additions kept the Sox afloat in rocky waters. (Which is different than Rocky Cherry). Bonus points for keeping Jason Bay away from Tampa.
1. Albert Pujols—St. Louis
2. David Wright—New York
3. Aramis Ramirez—Chicago
Pujols is the best hitter in baseball. Period. There are about 10 deserving candidates after him. Wright and Ramirez are my top two choices.
1. Tim Linceum—San Francisco
2. Johan Santana—New York
3. C.C. Sabathia—MIlwaukee
If you haven’t read Tom Verducci’s piece in Sports Illustrated about Lincecum, do yourself a favor and check it out. Like Pedro in his prime, I would pay money to watch him pitch a meaningless game in September. The Mets bullpen has blown 10 leads for Santana this year, which illustrates the point for the umpteenth time that W-L records for pitchers are basically useless.
1. Geovany Soto—Chicago
2. Joey Votto—Cincinnati
3. Jair Jurrjens, Hideki Kuroda, John Lannan (tie)
Soto is the easy winner, and he looks like he’s got a 10-year hold on All-Star appearances, but let’s see how Clayton Kershaw and Jay Bruce develop before anointing him the best rookie in this class.
1. Doug Melvin—Milwaukee
2. Jim Melvin—Chicago
3. Pat Gillick—Philadelphia
Melvin took the bold gamble to trade for Sabathia, knowing he will sign somewhere else next year, and firing Ned Yost. History will judge the long-term effect of those two actions, but he put his team in a better position to win. We’ll give the Hendry runner-up for drafting Jeff Smardzija, and for pulling off the Rich Harden trade. Gillick made a handful of smart moves (Joe Blanton, Pedro Feliz, Brad Lidge).
1. Lou Piniella—Chicago
2. Charlie Manuel—Philadelphia
3. Joe Torre—Los Angeles
I imagine Sweet Lou’s first address to his team in spring training went something like this: I don’t give a (expletive) about any (expletive) history around here. Stick that (expletive) up your (expletive) (expletive). You guys got it?
You have to had spent some time in Philly to understand Manuel’s unique genius. He’s Grady Little without the Pedro moment, but the Phillies play hard for him, despite everyone in town thinking he’s a bumbling boob.
Boston Daily’s First Annual Dubious Distinction Award
1. Scott Boras
2. Hank Steinbrenner
Boras began the year by trying to take over the World Series. He spent the middle part of it trying to blow up the Red Sox, and then managed to screw up the Pirates too. Even for him it was a banner year.
Please Hank, don’t go changing. We like you just the way you are.
Which brings us to Manny. I appreciate the sentiment that he’s got a bastard agent. I understand that he is a joy to watch. I wish him no ill will and I thank him for his many contributions. But, at some point, a man is responsible for his actions, and I suspect that one day he will look back and recognize that he destroyed the best thing he ever had.