Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Mike Bauman Has The Memory of That Guy in Memento

Mike Bauman over at has a revelation about this year’s baseball award winners in his column “Awards season is all about what’s new”. What’s new? The stars of baseball. Who knew of these new guys before this year? C.C. Sabathia? Jake Peavy? Who are these characters and what have you done with Pedro Martinez and Roger Clemens!

Looking for a theme in the 2007 individual baseball awards? Look no further than newness.

Of the six major awards as voted upon by the Baseball Writers' Association of America, five went to first-time winners. And in fact, some of these races were dominated by several players who were relatively new to this sort of prominence. That is good news for the grand old game.

This is much different than in 2006, when five awards went to new winners. Or in 2005, when 5 awards went to new winners. Hooray newness!

6 Awards includes two rookies of the year – so I won’t address them. One race that was dominated was the NL Cy Young award, won by Jake Peavy, who beat out last year’s winner Brandon Webb. Peavy has been a presence, if not with the award voters, with MLB fans, since he won the ERA title 4 seasons ago. Also, that new character named Alex Rodriguez dominated the voting in winning his third AL MVP. In the AL CY race, we have CC Sabathia, Josh Beckett and John Lackey as the top 3. Really? These are new names? Jimmy Rollins won the NL MVP in the most heavily disputed vote of the year. But the top 10 was Rollins, Matt Holliday, Prince Fielder, David Wright, Ryan Howard (last year’s winner), Chipper Jones (’99 winner), Peavy, Chase Utley, and Albert Pujols (’05 winner). I may not be a big enough baseball fan to write for, but are those really new names? There are 3 past winners in there.

The two rookies of the year, Dustin Pedroia in the AL and Ryan Braun in the NL, are, of course, new by definition. To count them would be a form of cheating, sort of illicitly bulking up this theme. But they are both young and they both give promise of being impact players, each in his own fashion.

Yes, it is cheating to say that ROY awards help signal the newness of this year’s MLB awards. Of course Pedroia and Braun are very unlike last year’s ROY winners Justin Verlander and Hanley Ramirez, who are both 37 years old and don’t project the promise of being impact players. Thank god we have a new angle on this tired award.

The only repeat winner among the rest of the recipients was the American League MVP; Alex Rodriguez. This was A-Rod's third MVP award. He has finished second in this balloting twice and third once, so he is the ultimate familiar face when November rolls around and the writers' ballots are tabulated.

AL MVP = nothing new.

If he doesn't fit the newness theme, that's perfectly all right, because he had a season for the ages.

So A-Rod = not new, but he had a great year! That’s sort of new! By that rationale Barry Bonds’ award winning seasons were “all right” from a newness perspective because they were historically good.

There was some consternation in some New York quarters because his selection was not unanimous, but this was not particularly tragic. Magglio Ordonez had a wonderful campaign, leading the AL with a .363 average and 54 doubles and driving in 139 runs. An exceptional season such as this normally wins the MVP, but this one was eclipsed by A-Rod's work. The two Detroit writers who voted for Ordonez, and witnessed his worth every day, gave him a bit of recognition in an election Rodriguez was sure to win. This gesture might have been more humane than wrong.

That’s awesome insight that has nothing to do with your column. Also, I don't really understand that last sentence.

Elsewhere, newcomers dominated. Both Cy Youngs went to first-time winners. Jake Peavy was a unanimous choice in the National League, and deservedly so. This voting unanimity is relatively rare. It was bestowed upon Sandy Koufax three times and Greg Maddux twice, so you see the kind of company Peavy is keeping.

Both Cy Young winners were new….just like in 2005 (Carpenter/Colon). In 2006, one Cy Young winner was new, but both MVP’s were new. This year – 1 MVP was new, and both CYs were new. Is this interesting?

In the AL, C.C. Sabathia won his first Cy Young, narrowly over Josh Beckett. Yes, of course, Beckett, with a legendary postseason performance, would have won if the voting had been done at the end of October instead of the end of September. But these awards are not about the postseason. If they were, then Ernie Banks never could have been MVP, and that would have been wrong.

I feel, like this is written, for/by, a fourth grader, both, because of the use of commas, and the content. Thanks for clarifying that the voting for the season’s awards takes place before the postseason as I wasn’t reminded of this 100 times during the ALCS.

The point in this election, while the top spot was a close call between Sabathia and Beckett, was among all eight pitchers who received a first, second or third place vote, there was not a graybeard in the bunch. More promise of future greatness was written all over the AL Cy Young balloting.

Wow is that misleading. Included in the 8 pitchers who received votes were two time winner Johan Santana (who should have also won in ’05) and ’04 winner Roy Halladay. The only guy on that list who anybody was really surprised by was Fausto Carmona. Beckett was a mild surprise to do as well as he did because of how he struggled last year, but Beckett’s talent wasn’t a new thing this year given how he rose to national prominence in the 2003 World Series (as third place finisher John Lackey did in the 2002 World Series).

In another exceedingly close election, the one that ended the award season on Tuesday, Jimmy Rollins won his first MVP. It was Rollins who had said repeatedly last offseason that his Phillies were the team to beat in the NL East. Laughter followed him for much of the campaign, but Rollins and the Phils laughed last, winning the division as the Mets evaporated down the stretch.

There were strong statistical arguments to be made also for Matt Holliday and Prince Fielder in this race. Any of the three would have been worthy winners, but again in this election, but the writers may have additionally appreciated Rollins for putting his offense and his defense where his mouth was, backing up his rhetoric with a superb performance. And again, the leading vote-getters were all new to this level of recognition. There was not an "old" player on the NL MVP list until you reached Chipper Jones at the sixth spot.

Ugh, an “old” player hasn’t won a major award since 2004 (Bonds/Clemens), so this is absolutely not fucking new. Also, there were statistical arguments that could have been made for David Wright and Chase Utley too. The leading vote getters were not “new” to this level of recognition. Rollins has had MVP votes 4 times in the past including a top 10 finish. Matt Holliday was 15th last year, Wright was 9th in the voting last year, and then Ryan Howard actually won the award last year. How can you say he’s new to this level of recognition, when he won the MVP last year. Fielder is pretty new, but he’s been projected to be great for a while now, so I don’t think he surprised many this year. But yes, he is new.

Also, tell me when you spot the “graybeard” in the NL MVP voting last year:

1. Ryan Howard
2. Albert Pujols
3. Lance Berkman
4. Carlos Beltran
5. Miguel Cabrera
6. Alfonso Soriano
7. Jose Reyes
8. Chase Utley
9. David Wright
10. Trevor Hoffman (hint, it’s him).

So how is this year different from a newness perspective than last year? Why are you writing this column?

Deleted – Manager of the Year and NL ROY talk.

And that's what you come away with after pondering these elections. There were more than enough worthy candidates in all categories, and in the majority of them, position players, pitchers and managers, a new era of excellence was in evidence. The debates can go on all winter, but so can the expectations that even better days are ahead for baseball.

Really? This year’s award winners are evidence that there are better days ahead for baseball? Roger Clemens, Randy Johnson, Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine, and Pedro Martinez, the five best pitchers of the last 25 years, are no longer able to compete for awards and have been replaced by very good, but mostly lesser, pitchers. This is a sign of better days?

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