Beckham shares SN rookie award
White Sox infielder made impact after June 4 debut
CHICAGO -- Gordon Beckham was the last player Ken Williams talked to before putting a cap on this disappointing 2009 season.
Disappointing, that is, as far as the White Sox 79-83 record and third-place finish in the American League Central. But certainly no disappointment existed where Beckham's phenomenal first Major League season was concerned.
"I told him a couple of things," said the White Sox general manager of his 2009 exit interview with Beckham. "No. 1, whether he got Rookie of the Year or not, I was extremely proud of him.
"Ultimately, yes, physically he handled the situation. Mentally, though, the way he conducted himself and the pressures he was under, it's no small feat to do what he did in such a short time."
Beckham's White Sox accomplishments clearly earned recognition from more than Williams.
On Tuesday afternoon, the 23-year-old, who didn't even play his first big league game for the White Sox until June 4, was named one of Sporting News' 2009 Rookies of the Year along with Philadelphia hurler J.A. Happ. This award was selected by a panel of 338 Major League players, giving this particular piece of hardware a little extra meaning for Beckham.
"Either way, it's very special," said Beckham, during a Tuesday afternoon conference call, when asked if this honor would hold greater importance than the American League Rookie of the Year Award, as voted on by the media, to be announced Nov. 16.
"Everybody has their opinion," Beckham said. "The media has theirs and the players have theirs. When it comes down to it, I would rather have the players' than the media's vote. But everything is important and very exciting."
In 378 at-bats over 103 games, Beckham batted .270 with 28 doubles, 14 home runs and 63 RBIs for Ozzie Guillen's crew. Beckham posted a .347 on-base percentage, drawing 41 walks against 65 strikeouts, and finished with a .460 slugging percentage.
He led all AL rookies in doubles, RBIs and extra-base hits (43), tied for the AL rookie lead with 28 multi-hit efforts and finished second in slugging percentage, home runs, runs scored (58), hits (102), total bases and on-base percentage. Beckham had 18 more RBIs than Baltimore's Nolan Reimold, who finished second among AL rookies with 45.
All of this was accomplished as Beckham learned the defensive ins and outs at third base, a position he only played briefly while at Triple-A Charlotte. It was a special season for a player deemed as special from the first day the White Sox selected him as the eighth pick overall in the 2008 First-Year Player Draft.
"You can only do this once," said Guillen of Beckham's Rookie of the Year nod from Sporting News. "It's a privilege and an honor and something where he should feel proud. It's a very important step for him in his career."
According to Beckham, it's also an award that won't define who he is. In fact, Beckham already has a plan of attack for improvement. His primary goal is to get stronger, and with no Arizona Fall League action to extend his regular season, Beckham will start lifting in the next few weeks.
Picking up that extra strength could help with opposite-field home runs, as one example provided by Beckham on Tuesday, and set him up for even greater honors in year No. 2.
"Those awards coming out now, they are awards for the past year, and that's great, a tribute to whoever wins the awards," Beckham said. "It helps you remember the season a little bit.
"Next year is always the biggest year, so there's no way I'll get caught up in awards after the last season. It's good to be recognized with what you did. But you have to get ready for next year because nothing is given in baseball."
When the Rookie of the Year Award is announced in less than a month, Beckham still could come up short to Detroit hurler Rick Porcello or Texas infielder Elvis Andrus. Their raw statistics don't necessarily trump what Beckham produced, but both of those players put up these individual results for teams in season-long playoff contention.
Taking home that honor certainly stands as important to the competitor that is Beckham, by his own admission, especially with the White Sox falling well below their team goals. But the good-natured Beckham knows a built-in excuse already exists if his outstanding debut performance doesn't quite rate another top rookie award.
"As baseball players, you have to figure out something how it's not your fault," said Beckham with a laugh. "I can say I didn't play two months and they did, and I can be OK with that."
"What Gordon accomplished is a testimony to his upbringing, his parents, but also his toughness," Williams said. "Chicago is a tough city. You have to a certain amount of grit to do what he did. I'm just as proud of his efforts off the field as on the field."
Scott Merkin is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.