So we know who won the award that really matters – that World Series trophy – let’s get a jump on the individual hardware presentations and look at the deserving American League winners.
Manager of the Year- Bob Melvin, Oakland. today might be Halloween, but the veteran manager did some real magic during the season, taking his no-name A’s from a run-of-the-mill but predictable 75 wins last year to a playoff-clinching 97 this year. Yes, starting a guy who’s been a reliever this season in the all-important Wild Card game wasn’t smart, but the award is based on the regular season…and Melvin got the proverbial 110% out of his Moneyball, Pt. II, roster.
Runner-up- Alex Cora, Boston. Again, the award is based on regular season performance not the post-season. Either way, Cora would probably be second. Certainly he had the best team in baseball this year and it took some skill to maneuver it to the World Series, but with Sale, Price, Betts, JD etc, that wasn’t magic. Increasing the win tally by 15 from last year and earning respect of a big-money crew while a rookie “skip”… that just might be.
Rookie of the Year – we need the wisdom of Solomon to decide this one. Best position player vs best pitcher vs guy who’s not best but is good at both and has the highest upside. My choice – Miguel Andujar, New York. The 23 year-old played in a tough market all season long and was the best rookie hitter in baseball, NL pick Ronald Acuna notwithstanding. .297, 27 HR, 92 RBI, a solid .855 OPS. He tied Mookie Betts for second in doubles among all players (47) and led rookies in homers, RBI and hits. Granted his defence has pundits wondering if the Yankees won’t bring in Manny Machado and find somewhere less challenging for Miguel, which might be a decent idea. In 136 games at the hot corner, he had a lacklustre .948 fielding percentage,limited range, 15 errors and had a hand in only 6 double plays. compare that to savvy veteran Mike Moustakas, for instance, who had a .966 fielding percentage in 128 games, started 32 DPs and averaged about a chance a game more . But that doesn’t diminish Andujar’s hitting prowess and ability to stay in the lineup.
Runner-up: tie. Shohei Ohtani, L.A. Anaheim, and Ryan Yarbrough, Tampa Bay. Yarbrough could have probably been the best rookie starting pitcher this year, were it not for Tampa’s odd managing tactics and dislike of “Starters”. As it were, the lefty functioned as a “pseudo-starter”, pitching 38 games, 6 of which he began, and lasting 147 innings. He led all rookies with 16 wins, going 16-6, with a decent 3.91 ERA pitching against the hard-hitting AL east. All that from a 26 year old with an 89 mph fastball (his best pitch, according to MLB a sinker) who somehow wasn’t even on the radar before spring training despite being better-than-adequate (13-6) last year in AAA.
Ohtani, of course, is the guy baseball so wants to be Superman. What better than a multi-tasking young Asian to sell the game to Generation Z? And, all in all, Ohtani showed he was up to the task- when healthy. the first real two-way player since the Babe, he was a good pitcher (4-2 , 3.31 in 10 starts with 63K in about 51 innings, even though batters skied the ball off him, with about 1.4 flyballs for every grounder) and a good hitter too (.285, 22 HR, 61 RBI, .361 on base, in 326 AB). But he was limited to DH, despite his stated preference of having some games in the outfield. And of course, his elbow woes put him on the shelf for most of June and limited him to just two appearances on the mound after May. Sure if he was healthy, he might have won15, struck out 250, and hit 30 homers to boot… but he wasn’t and neat as it was, 4 wins, 10 starts and a decent showing as a DH in about half his team’s games isn’t quite trophy-worthy.
Next- we take on the Cy and the MVP.