Breaking down awards season
Baseball's postseason awards are far from perfect, but they are historic
Evan Longoria and Joe Maddon of the Rays are expected to win
The AL MVP race is muddled, but Dustin Pedroia should come out on top
This is the week that baseball's postseason awards -- for the rookies, the managers, the MVPs, the Cy Youngs, all of that -- begin to roll out. It's a week-plus procession of announcements and conference-call acceptances, of cash registers ringing and a lot of people complaining that, somewhere along the line, somebody screwed up something.
It's inevitable, of course. Voters -- in this case, members of the Baseball Writers Association of America -- pick the players and the managers that, presumably, they think deserve the award. And then the non-voters chime in with all the reasons why the voters got it wrong. It's usually harmless stuff, a little fat-flinging at the sausage-making process that, let's face it, most fans don't much care about at all.
But these are important decisions being made, for a couple of reasons, so how they're made is important, too. The awards for manager of the year have been around since the early '80s. The Cy Young award has been around for more than 50 years, in one incarnation or another. The BBWAA has been giving out the rookie awards since the late-'40s. The MVP has been doled out since the 1930s. These are not the DHL whatever trophies or the comeback player thingy.
These awards matter because of their history and because, unfortunately, not only is a great deal of prestige tied to them but, sometimes, a good chunk of money is, too. If the Mets' Johan Santana wins the National League Cy Young this week, for instance -- and you could make a pretty good case that he should -- he'll get $500,000 for it.
That, among other things, makes this a tricky, dangerous process for the voting members of the BBWAA. It's hard enough tuning out all the outside noise and internal biases to try to pick the worthy winner of one of these awards. Now, money's on the line, too. And where there's money, there's the possibility for corruption. It can get ugly out there.
And so the debates plod onward. Who deserves to vote for these awards? What factors should they weigh as they consider their votes? And how badly do these bonus clauses sully the whole process?
It gets awfully grisly in the sausage-making factory sometimes. But the show, for now, has to go on.
Here's a breakdown of each of the major awards categories:
Rookie of the Year
The smart pick on the NL side here -- and I think it's one that both traditionalists and statheads can reasonably agree on -- is catcher Geovany Soto of the Cubs. (Quick aside: The opposite of a stathead is ... what? A storyhead?)
It's not as cut-and-dried as many might immediately think, given Soto's position on the media-popular Cubs. First baseman Joey Votto of the Reds posted remarkably similar numbers (.297/.368/.506 with 24 home runs and 84 RBIs in 151 games for Votto compared to .285/.364/.504 with 23 HRs and 86 RBIs in 141 games for Soto). And he easily outplayed Soto in the second half. The difference is the position. It's a lot harder to play catcher. I think voters should, and probably will, consider that to swing the award Soto's way.
On the American League side, it'll be hard to get past the Rays' Evan Longoria, and I'm fine with that. Royals' shortstop and Mike Aviles and White Sox infielder Alexei Ramirez are contenders that more people should know about, but Longoria, who hit .272 with 27 HRs and 85 RBIs in just 122 games, had superior numbers than both of them. And, more important to the storyheads voting out there, he played for the feel-good team of the summer. That's how it goes.