By the end of the day on Sunday, ballots from Baseball Writers Association of America voters for 2013 awards have to be submitted. There are some slam dunks and close calls among the major categories. Here is one person’s view on how it should go down:
American League MVP — Certainly, Detroit third baseman Miguel Cabrera faded in the last month, but he was a huge reason why the Tigers won the Central Division. Cabrera, the 2012 Triple Crown and MVP winner, nearly duplicated the feat if not for the injuries.
Second place in this debate would have to go to Oakland’s Josh Donaldson, a converted catcher who had a breakout season and led a less-talented (than the Tigers) collection of platoon players. Third place should go to Chris Davis, whose Orioles’ record-breaking 53 homers and 138 RBIs need to be recognized.
Others to consider: Mike Trout, David Ortiz, Koji Uehara, Robinson Cano, and Adrian Beltre.
National League MVP — This was a tough call, but the player who stood out as most “valuable” was Pittsburgh outfielder Andrew McCutchen. The Pirates didn’t have the best of offenses and McCutchen seemed to be the catalyst and biggest producer.
Clayton Kershaw should easily win the Cy Young Award and should garner major consideration for MVP. He was as dominant every fifth day as any pitcher in recent times, and will finish with an ERA under 2.00.
Others to consider: Yadier Molina and Matt Carpenter of the Cardinals. Molina had an outstanding all-around season, but it probably hurt his chances that he missed some time. Carpenter had a breakthrough season. Cincinnati’s Joey Votto is having an excellent season with a league-best .434 on-base percentage. Arizona’s Paul Goldschmidt also deserves votes.
AL Cy Young — Maybe it’s the obvious choice based on his 21-win season, but Max Scherzer takes it with a 21-3 record and 2.90 ERA, a league-low 0.97 WHIP, and the fact he pitched 214⅓ innings. The only disappointment is that he had no complete games, but then again he hasn’t had one in 165 career starts.
Second, for me, is Bartolo Colon. Chris Sale’s WAR is the highest among AL pitchers at 7.1, but Colon went 18-6, was second in the league in ERA (2.65), and had three shutouts and a 1.166 WHIP for a first-place team. The idea of pitching pressure innings is important. Sale pitched for the last-place White Sox, which you don’t want to punish him for, but Colon should get credit.
Sale, by the way, was 11-14 with a 3.07 ERA and 1.073 WHIP. He had 226 strikeouts in 214⅓ innings, an outstanding year except for the won-loss record.
Another worthy pitcher is Yu Darvish, who went 13-9 with a 2.82 ERA and led the league in strikeouts (269) in 204 innings.
Others to consider: Felix Hernandez, Anibal Sanchez, C.J. Wilson, and Uehara.
NL Cy Young — Kershaw. A 16-9 record, 1.83 ERA, and 0.915 WHIP tell it all. Adam Wainwright, Zack Greinke, Matt Harvey, and Jordan Zimmermann should all get some votes. Kershaw, however, wins this hands down.
AL Rookie of the Year — Not a real clear-cut group. Tigers shortstop Jose Iglesias and Rays outfielder Wil Myers, as well as pitchers Chris Archer of Tampa Bay and Dan Straily of Oakland seem to be in the hunt.
The winner here is Iglesias. A combination of out-of-this-world defense and a .306 average trumps Myers’s power display since his recall. Iglesias also impacted two contending teams. Archer pitched some big games, and the often-overlooked Straily pitched a lot for a rookie.
NL Rookie of the Year — The prediction is that Marlins righthander Jose Fernandez (12-6, 2.19, 0.979 WHIP with 187 strikeouts in 172⅔ innings) wins the vote, but the winner in this corner is Yasiel Puig.
Puig, .322/19/42/.931 since June 3 when he was called up, brought the Dodgers back from their early-season malaise and performed at a high level during the most crucial time. The Dodgers were 23-32 when he joined the lineup.
Fernandez was phenomenal but did his pitching for a last-place team. Cardinals righthander Shelby Miller is 15-9, good enough most years to take the award but not this time.
AL Manager of the Year — A lot of worthy candidates, but the bottom line is John Farrell took over a new team and deserves the award. You can make compelling cases for Cleveland’s Terry Francona, New York’s Joe Girardi, and Oakland’s Bob Melvin.
Tampa Bay’s Joe Maddon did what he always does — took a low-payroll team to the playoffs.
Both Farrell and Francona benefited from offseason moves their general managers made and both were placed in good situations to succeed in their first seasons. Girardi lost more than $100 million of payroll to injuries, including Derek Jeter, Mark Teixeira, Curtis Granderson, Alex Rodriguez, and Kevin Youkilis, but managed to keep the Yankees in the hunt until the final week.
NL Manager of the Year — Should be a close one between Clint Hurdle of the Pirates and Don Mattingly of the Dodgers. We’ll give it to Hurdle for overseeing Pittsburgh’s first winning season in 21 years. Mattingly was nearly fired in May when the team was floundering with numerous injuries, but he managed to keep an even keel in the clubhouse, survived Greinke’s collarbone injury, and energized the team with Puig.
IS TIME RIGHT?
African-American choice considered
One thing owners are pondering as they begin to sort through who will replace Bud Selig when he steps down after next season is whether it’s time to turn to an African-American commissioner?
As one owner recently pointed out, “Our sport is lagging when it comes to African-American participation. We’re losing great athletes to other sports. I think having an African-American leader would definitely go a long way in improving that.”
We asked some prominent African-Americans in the game about their choices for commissioner. Here are some names they came up with:
1. Hank Aaron — He’s worked very closely with Selig and is one of the classiest people in the game. Up there in age (79), but Aaron would be a great face for the game, believing in the right principles, including a strong anti-steroid stance. “If he was 10 years younger, he’d be it hands down,” said one former player turned agent.
2. Ken Williams — The White Sox executive vice president is one of the brightest and most personable people in baseball. He now looks at the big picture since he’s no longer a GM.
3. Dave Winfield — “He was the player who commanded the most respect,” said one ex-player. “He was the smartest guy in the room. There’s no doubt he could do it.”
4. Condoleezza Rice — She once aspired to be NFL commissioner, so why not baseball? Rice is a huge sports fan, obviously worldly, and smart.
5. Colin Powell — Another big sports fan who would project a very positive image for baseball.
6. Joe Morgan — A Hall of Famer, he has had a lot of roles in baseball, including television analyst and now senior adviser for the Reds.
7. Frank Robinson — Robinson works for Selig and has filled many roles in his baseball life. At 78, would likely not be interested in the grind.
8. Michael Hill — Hill has risen through the Marlins ranks to be vice president and GM. Only 43, he might be too young for the job.
Apropos of nothing
1. Want bewilderment? Ask a Yankees scout about the offseason plan.
2. Eight of Josh Reddick’s 23 assists since 2012 have come against the Angels. Think maybe you shouldn’t run on him?
3. Pet peeve: Reporters asking John Farrell about last year. He wasn’t here.
4. Two websites I’d recommend: Dodgerscribe.com, from longtime Dodgers beat writer Tony Jackson, and Gammonsdaily.com, with former colleague Peter Gammons breaking down baseball as only he can.
5. Brian McCann is a fiery guy who will get attention from the Rangers and Yankees in free agency. But does anyone think he’s taking his policing of the game a little too seriously with his shouting matches with Jose Fernandez and Carlos Gomez over the last two weeks?
6. I’d say David Ross is among the top five best people I’ve covered in the last 30 years with the Red Sox.
7. The Fenway grounds never looked better, Dave Mellor.
8. Mark Buehrle is one special guy. Thirteen straight years of 200-plus innings. Let’s see who does that again.
9. Former Red Sox outfielder Reggie Jefferson, now a player agent, has left SFX and has joined Larry Reynolds’s agency.
10. Twenty-eight pitchers have pitched 200 or more innings this season. Adam Wainwright led the way with 236⅓.
11. Sheldon Ocker, Indians beat writer for the past 33 years for the Akron Beacon Journal, has called it a career. I’m sure we’ll see Sheldon in Cooperstown.
12. Why do I think the “gift” the Red Sox gave Todd Helton was that 88-mile-per-hour fastball Jake Peavy threw in his wheelhouse?
13. I said it before and I’ll say it again, Carlos Beltran is a perfect fit for the Orioles as their DH.
14. The Angels feel much better about Josh Hamilton moving forward. He has hit .318 in September, .284 the second half of the season, and they hope his .249 overall average with 21 homers and 78 RBIs was an aberration.
Updates on nine
1. Troy Tulowitzki, SS, Rockies — The Rockies will listen to trade proposals on “Tulo”, even though it’s unlikely they’ll get an offer they would pull the trigger on. One of the issues is Tulowitzki’s injury history, but there’s no doubting the impact player he is if he can turn the corner on health. The Red Sox have been intrigued by him, and there’s no doubt he would do major damage at Fenway. He would also be a great heir apparent for Derek Jeter, but the Yankees may not have a package that would satisfy the Rockies.
2. Tom Werner, chairman, Red Sox — Werner could emerge as a top candidate to replace Bud Selig as commissioner. Werner was on the search committee that produced Selig and is popular among owners, which is a big part of the battle. When asked about the possibility Werner said, “I love my current job. My focus right now is on a third World Series championship.” Werner indicated that “it’s an incredibly interesting position and there will be no shortage of very qualified people.” He even indicated there could be a candidate from outside of baseball.
3. Daisuke Matsuzaka, RHP, Mets — Matsuzaka may have bought himself another chance, as Mets officials are citing quickening his tempo as a reason for his recent success. Let’s face it, you dread when Matsuzaka pitches because the process is so tedious, but he finally got it through his head that working quickly and trusting his stuff is the way to go.
4. Robinson Cano, 2B, Yankees — Can we all agree that no team will pay Cano $300 million for 10 years? He may want to surpass Alex Rodriguez’s deal, but he has never been as talented as A-Rod, especially when A-Rod signed his first megadeal. Take off about a hundred million for Cano and you have a deal. When the numbers begin to get more realistic, you’ll see the Yankees, Mets, Angels, and perhaps the Tigers interested. The Dodgers say they’re not interested, but in their case never say never.
5. Jose Abreu, 1B, free agent — I don’t know how many times I’ve heard this when a scout is talking about one of the Cuban hitters: “We’re not sure he can hit high velocity because he hasn’t faced that mid-90s-type pitcher.” They said it about Yoenis Cespedes, Yasiel Puig, and now they’re saying it about Abreu. In the end, you sign him if you see bat speed.
6. Masahiro Tanaka, RH, Rakuten Golden Eagles — With pitching thin in the free agent market, the 24-year-old Tanaka is going to get some play when he’s posted this fall. Tanaka was throwing 96 m.p.h. late in the season. He’s got a little Dice-K command issue, which might scare some teams away. But the Yankees, Blue Jays, Rangers, Dodgers, Cubs, and Mariners have interest.
7. Bronson Arroyo, RHP, Reds — Earlier I referred to Mark Buehrle as special, but how about Arroyo? He’s now made 354 consecutive starts, never been on the disabled list, and will soon be a free agent. He’s going to have the Brewers, Mets, Dodgers, and Giants interested after he went 14-11 with a 3.60 ERA in 31 starts this season.
8. Peter Angelos, owner, Orioles — Angelos is a brilliant lawyer, but one thing he doesn’t seem to get: The Orioles aren’t that far from putting it all together. You have a window with the current core — Manny Machado, Matt Wieters, Adam Jones, Chris Davis, J.J. Hardy — why not go for it now? Angelos keeps tightening the purse strings on a major starting pitcher, more relief help, and another hitter (at DH) that could put the Orioles over the top. Here’s the other thing, GM Dan Duquette has always been one of the best at spending big money wisely. He did it with Manny Ramirez, Johnny Damon, and Pedro Martinez.
9. Brad Ausmus, special assistant, Padres — While there’s speculation about Joe Girardi going to the Cubs as manager if Dale Sveum gets the ax after two seasons, the real name to keep watch of is Ausmus, who has always been a favorite of Theo Epstein dating to their San Diego days. Ausmus might have gotten the Red Sox job had a deal for John Farrell fallen through with the Blue Jays. Ausmus had great interviews with the Red Sox and could be the Cubs’ choice if they make a move.
From the Bill Chuck files — “Max Scherzer pitched two games each against the Rays, Orioles, and Red Sox and had a 2.57 ERA against each.” Also, “Oakland’s pitchers held the Red Sox to a MLB-best 3.29 ERA and a 1.135 WHIP. Tampa pitchers had a 3.54 ERA but a 1.095 WHIP.” And, “The Red Sox’ leading batter this season against the Tigers won’t be able to help them in the postseason, it’s Jose Iglesias, now playing short for Detroit.” . . . Happy birthday, Joe Thurston (34) Calvin Pickering (37), Joe Hudson (43), and Rob Deer (53).Nick Cafardo can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @nickcafardo. Material from interviews, wire services, other beat writers, and league and team sources was used in this report.