Well, that was a fun 2014 baseball season. Time to move on to the next phase of baseball magic: the offseason.
During baseball’s offseason, many interesting things happen. Unusual contracts are signed, granting mediocre players obscene amounts of money that cripple your franchise’s pitching staff for years (sorry, I’m still bitter about Homer Bailey). Odd choices are awarded for fielding awards, using subjective rather than objective criteria (fortunately, nobody awarded anything to Brandon Philips this year). And random-ass Hall of Fame elections happen, resulting in as much head-scratching as they do in triumphant celebration (seriously, who the fuck voted for Jacque Jones??).
While all of the above is going on, I like to take a back seat to much of the action. This means I won’t be writing about spending sprees, raises, and other hot stove action. What I do like to focus on is the rewarding of excellence, whether through my annual four-part Hall of Fame breakdown (expanding to five this year, because the Veterans Committee is a thing), or through the granting of awards for play upon the field.
The finalists for the major awards of 2014 were released earlier this week. Below, I’m taking at look at who will probably win, who should win, and who I think would win in a perfect universe (which might be from left field…haha baseball puns).
Important Caveat – These awards do not take into account postseason play. Therefore, ignominious things like Clayton Kershaw melting down in his two postseason starts and the Royals’ absurdly improbable postseason run don’t factor into the finalists. Hence, my Perfect World selections.
Rookie of the Year
AL: Jose Abreu, Dellin Betances, Matt Shoemaker
Will, Should Win: Abreu
A fairly easy one – Abreu led all rookies in homers and RBIs, key award counting stats (though hardly the most deserving ones). He also anchored the White Sox line-up, and has an argument as the team MVP with Chris Sale.
Perfect World: Masahiro Tanaka
Why Tanaka got excluded in favor of Matt Shoemaker can be boiled down to two reasons: 1) The Yankees didn’t make the postseason. The Angels did. 2) Tanaka isn’t a “true rookie”. Both are, quite frankly, bullshit reasonings. Rookie of the Year has historically ignored postseason contenders (see any recipient of the award from the Rays/Marlins over the last ten years), and Tanaka has never faced major league hitters before, among the best in the world. The translation from Japanese ball to American isn’t always as smooth as he made it look. The result is that awards voters now look fairly xenophobic. There’s an argument that much of this is injury related, though Shoemaker and Tanaka pitched about the same amount of innings…and Tanaka was better. Ugh.
NL: Jacob De Grom, Billy Hamilton, Kolten Wong
Will, Should Win: De Grom
See above statement. De Grom was the best of the bunch, consistent, and turned in completely dominant performances at times. When Matt Harvey returns next year, the Mets rotation will be a thing to watch out for.
Perfect World: Billy Hamilton
I’m allowed one homer pick a year. This is it. I’d truthfully vote for De Grom. But in a perfect world, Hamilton would have better than a .299 OBP.
Manager of the Year:
AL: Mike Scioscia, Buck Showalter, Ned Yost
Will Win: Showalter
The work he did with the Orioles was fantastic. They were expected to be good. Nobody expected them to run away with their division. Much of that rests upon Showalter’s management of the team.
Should Win: Scioscia
Have you seen their pitching staff? Specifically what it looked like by the end of the season? Jesus H. Christ. Reward the guy already.
Perfect World: Yost
Seriously, what the hell happened in October? Who saw that coming?
NL: Bruce Bochy, Clint Hurdle, Matt Williams
Will Win: Clint Hurdle
The NL Central is tough, yo. The Pirates contended in spite of most of the teams tearing each other to pieces. Hurdle should enjoy this for getting a lot out of a little. When two of your best starters are Edinson Volquez and Francisco Liriano, you deserve a pat on the back.
Should Win: Bochy
That being said, the Giants alternated between dominant and terrible, barely eking out a playoff berth at the end. As with Showalter, the biggest reason for that is Bochy’s cool calm throughout it all.
Perfect World: Dusty Baker
Well, we can’t all win, can we.
Cy Young Award
AL: Felix Hernandez, Corey Kluber, Chris Sale
Will Win: Hernandez
Name recognition is part of this, but Hernandez just turned in one of the best seasons of his career, anchoring a team that almost made the playoffs. There are only a handful of teams who have a guy where if he starts, then your team is probably going to win. Hernandez is that guy for the Mariners.
Should Win: Sale
…and yet, Sale could be that guy for the White Sox if their offense consisted of more than Adam Eaton, Abreu, and a cloud of dust. His year was just as good as King Felix’s, something that became more apparent after Hernandez faded down the stretch. This guy’s going to be good for years to come.
Perfect World: Corey Kluber
Because something has to go right for Cleveland.
NL: Johnny Cueto, Clayton Kershaw, Adam Wainwright
Will, Should, Perfect World: Kershaw
This ought to look pretty nice next to Kershaw’s other two Cy Young awards.
AL: Michael Brantley, Victor Martinez, Mike Trout
Will, Should, Perfect World: Trout
There are few guarantees in this world, and seldom do predictions actually come true. One that’s been around for two years running is that Mike Trout would eventually win an MVP or three once Miguel Cabrera stopped being Ted Williams 2.0. Well, Miggy’s come back to earth, and while Trout wasn’t as good as he was during his first two years, his third year was still heads and tails better than everyone else. This, along with NL Cy Young, constitutes a fairly safe bet.
NL: Clayton Kershaw, Andrew McCutchen, Giancarlo Stanton
Will Win: ??
This one’s tough. I honestly can’t tell whether NL voters are willing to reward a pitcher who just had one of the ten most dominant seasons of the live ball era post-1968 (the year modern pitching rules went into effect), or if they’ll reward the more traditional production and consistency of Stanton or the all around efforts and everyday brilliance of McCutchen. This one – I’m punting on this decision. (Or bunting. #Yosted) With that being said…
Should Win: Kershaw
I hope everyone appreciates what we’re seeing here. With three Cy Youngs in the bag, his fourth consecutive ERA title, and a year in which he almost won the pitching triple crown despite missing a month of the season, Kershaw is two or three big years away from clinching a Hall of Fame worthy career. And he’s only getting better – his ERA has decreased for four consecutive years, and his peripherals have stood strong. Further indicators of sustained success include a continually low FIP, a measure of the stats a pitcher can control. What’s more, without him performing at a high level, the Dodgers are barely a .500 team. He makes them better and puts them in a position to win every time he goes out there, while making the rest of the competition look feeble.
Perfect World: Kershaw
Seriously, just give him the award. Right now. PLEASE.