Close calls to come during awards season
Tight races include NL Rookie of the Year, AL Cy Young
There will be no shortage of close calls and no-brainers this week as baseball's award season rolls on.
On tap are the Baseball Writers' Association of America awards, starting Monday with the American League and National League Rookie of the Year Awards.
Right out of the chute, there figures to be a close call in regard to the NL Rookie of the Year. Who do you prefer, Buster Posey of the World Series champion Giants or Jason Heyward of the Braves?
The American League Cy Young Award, which will be awarded on Thursday, might be the most compelling award of them all, as Sabermetric favorite Felix Hernandez, of the Mariners, gets some heady competition from CC Sabathia of the Yankees and David Price of the Rays.
Not every award figures to be so contentious.
Texas closer Neftali Feliz, who set the rookie record for saves (40), looks like the easy frontrunner for the American League Rookie of the Year Award.
Roy Halladay of the Phillies looks like the runaway favorite for the National League Cy Young Award. Halladay, of course, had the perfect game in May against the Marlins and led the Major Leagues in several important statistical categories.
A friendly reminder: Voting among members of the BBWAA concluded at the end of the regular season.
Here's a brief rundown of the upcoming awards:
Rookie of the Year
AL (Monday): This figures to be a two-man race between Austin Jackson of the Tigers and Feliz, both of whom enjoyed big rookie campaigns. Jackson hit .293 and showed he could handle the leadoff spot in Detroit, while Feliz saved 40 games for the Rangers, who ran away with the AL West and advanced to the World Series.
NL (Monday): Like the AL, this figures to be a two-man race as well, between Posey -- who began the season at Triple-A Fresno -- and Heyward. Heyward, of course, started on Opening Day and put up consistent numbers. But Posey excelled from the moment he reached the big leagues, and not just offensively, either. He, of course, was a big reason why the Giants won the World Series.
Cy Young Award
NL (Tuesday): For the first half of the season, Colorado's Ubaldo Jimenez appeared well on his way to winning this award. Others, like Adam Wainwright of the Cardinals and Tim Lincecum of the Giants, wavered at times. Halladay, however, was strong throughout. He even tossed his ninth complete game on the last day of the regular season to go along with that perfect game in May.
AL (Thursday): There are plenty of qualified candidates here. Sabathia won 21 games, had a 3.18 ERA and was a workhorse for a team that advanced to the playoffs. Then there's Hernandez, who pitched for a struggling Mariners team that was out of postseason contention early and whose numbers across the board -- except wins -- trump everyone. Price was golden in September when the Rays needed him most. And did anyone notice the year Clay Buchholz had in Boston? A 2.20 ERA at Fenway?
Manager of the Year
AL (Wednesday): The Rangers were finally able to overtake the Angels in the AL West with an exciting team built on solid fundamentals that reflected positively on Ron Washington. The Rays, under Joe Maddon, took the AL East and did so with a young roster. Ron Gardenhire of the Twins won the AL Central without closer Joe Nathan all year and slugger Justin Morneau for half the season. Terry Francona of the Red Sox put together an 89-win season, even though Boston's roster was decimated by injuries.
NL (Wednesday): Two years removed from a 99-loss season, Bud Black led the Padres to 90 wins. Bobby Cox led the Braves to the postseason in the final year of his storied career. Dusty Baker led the Reds to the NL Central Division title and their first postseason appearance in 15 years. Finally, Charlie Manuel won 97 games and a fourth straight NL East title while juggling a roster beset by injuries to important players. Bruce Bochy of the Giants merits strong consideration as well.
Most Valuable Player
NL (Nov. 22): Carlos Gonzalez of Colorado had people talking about the Triple Crown, though his statistics away from Coors Field weren't nearly as impressive, and his team faded in the second half. Joey Votto was a big reason why the Reds won the NL Central and Albert Pujols had another, well, Pujols kind of season.
AL (Nov. 23): Had Josh Hamilton of the Rangers not broken two ribs on Sept. 4 while crashing into an outfield wall, this wouldn't be much of a discussion. It still may not be, even though Jose Bautista hit 54 home runs for the Blue Jays, and Paul Konerko, Miguel Cabrera and Robinson Cano also had big seasons.