Non-stop action brings awards, international flair
All-Star Japan series showcases MLB talent
By Josh Rawitch / MLB.com
At MLB.com, the baseball season doesn't end with the last out of the World Series and non-stop November was proof of that fact. With the managerial merry-go-round keeping baseball fans in 10 different cities on the edge of their seats, the first month of the offseason was filled with more twists and turns than a Michael Jackson trial.
Yet it wasn't just the skippers that snagged headlines in November, as many of the game's best players took center stage in a series of games in Japan. Other elite members of baseball's fraternity took the podium at press conference across America, as the game's annual awards were announced shortly after the completion of the Fall Classic. Plus, November witnessed the first important free agent signing of the winter, with several others that followed in what promises to be a busy offseason for baseball.
One of Japan's finest players, Hideki Matsui, announced that he was to become a free agent and wanted to play in the Major Leagues in 2003.
In the first postseason award announcements, Jason Jennings took home Rookie of the Year honors in the NL while Eric Hinske earned the award in the AL. "I just really wanted to stay in the big leagues the whole year," Hinske said.
It almost seems like a formality these days: When the season ends, the National League hands Randy Johnson a Cy Young Award. It happened again this year, marking the fourth straight season he has won the award and fifth time overall.
The top skippers were announced in each league and Tony LaRussa took home the honor in the Senior Circuit. In the American League, Angels manager Mike Scioscia earned the honors. Meanwhile, on the other side of the Pacific Ocean, the MLB squad met the Japanese media before kicking off the All-Star Series in Japan.
At just 24 years of age, Oakland's Barry Zito captured his first Cy Young Award, becoming the youngest player to claim that prize since Roger Clemens did so in 1986 at the same age. Press conference: Audio | Video
How do you follow up a season in which you shatter the single-season home run record? Just ask Barry Bonds, who earned NL MVP honors for the fifth time by leading the Majors with a .370 average and shattering the single-season on base percentage record set by Ted Williams.
Amidst much controversy over whether an MVP must come from a winning team or not, Oakland's Miguel Tejada convincingly won the AL Most Valuable Player Award by beating out Alex Rodriguez, whose Texas Rangers were never in contention.
After they could not come to terms with Dusty Baker, the Giants hired former Expos manager Felipe Alou, the only candidate identified by GM Brian Sabean, to guide the NL Pennant winning squad.
Just two days after his former team nabbed Felipe Alou as its manager, Dusty Baker was hired by the Chicago Cubs, becoming one of the few managers to ever leave his team the year after winning a league championship. Around the same time the Cubs made their announcement, the Seattle Mariners named Bob Melvin their new manager, as the former Arizona bench coach took over the reins of a big league club for the first time. Melvin press conference: Audio | Video
In the first blockbuster deal of the offseason, the Rockies sent Mike Hampton and Juan Pierre to the Marlins for Preston Wilson and Charles Johnson, among others, while Hampton would later get dealt to the Braves for Tim Spooneybarger. Though the other deal of the day was not quite as sexy, The A's sent Cory Lidle to the Blue Jays, as Oakland shed the payroll it was hoping to lose and Toronto gained a No. 2 starter.
Returning to the roots of his ancestors, Mike Piazza conducted a clinic for youngsters in Italy, just one of the stops he made on behalf of Major League Baseball in Europe, where baseball is not nearly as popular as soccer.
Baseball continued its global expansion, as the Expos announced they will play 22 home games in San Juan, Puerto Rico next season. But those won't be the only regular season games played abroad, as the A's and Mariners announced that they will open the regular season with two games at the Tokyo Dome in Japan.
The idea was intriguing, but one of the most public trade discussions in recent memory led to nothing more than talk, as a deal that would have sent Arizona's Matt Williams to Colorado in exchange for Larry Walker fell through. Arizona could not finalize compensation issues with Walker while Williams wanted to remain closer to his three children in Phoenix.
It is known as a breeding ground for baseball's top prospects, but winning is still an important part of the equation in the Arizona Fall League where Peoria defeated Scottsdale to win the AFL championship. Royals prospect Ken Harvey was named MVP of the league in 2002.
In the first big free-agent signing of the winter, David Bell inked a four-year, $17 million contract with the Philadelphia Phillies, opening the floodgates that would eventually lead to former Indian Jim Thome's arrival in the City of Brotherly Love. "I'm glad I'm going to be here for four years," Bell said.
After growing up just miles from Fenway Park, Theo Epstein, 28, was promoted to General Manager of the Boston Red Sox, making him the youngest GM in baseball history.
For the second time in 13 months, the Phillies extended manager Larry Bowa's contract, just one of many moves the Philadelphia franchise has been busy working on with its new stadium set to open in 2004.
When baseball expanded north of the border years ago, the sport began finding some very talented players as evidenced by Eric Gagne and Larry Walker who were named co-winners of the Tip O'Neill Award, given by the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame to the Canadian baseball player of the year.
In an annual announcement, the Baseball Writers Association of America released its ballot for the 2003 Hall of Fame class, with Eddie Murray, Lee Smith, Ryne Sandberg and Fernando Valenzuela topping the list of candidates who are eligible for the first time.
Josh Rawitch is a reporter for MLB.com and can be reached at email@example.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.