John Wathan voted for Blue Jays right fielder Jose Bautista as Player of the Year and Tigers ace Justin Verlander as Starting Pitcher of the Year -- two of a record 19 categories the former Royals catcher and manager helped decide in the 10th annual Greatness in Baseball Yearly awards (GIBBYs), which are revealed in a two-hour show at 9 p.m. ET Friday exclusively on MLB.com and MLB Network.
"It was fun, especially to look at the video in the different categories," said Wathan, whose son Dusty was just named manager of the Phillies Double-A Reading (Pa.) affiliate. "I was glad to do it and help. I enjoyed it. Some nominees I'd seen already throughout the year, some I hadn't. It was fun to see a recap of the season and look at all the ones up for voting."
The GIBBYs are the final and definitive say on awards season, for at least a few reasons. One, they include nominees from all 30 Major League Baseball clubs, so representation is universal and they have international appeal. Two, the 19 categories make sure you are voting on what got you up out of your seat as a fan in 2011.
Most importantly, though, is the comprehensive and inclusive selection process. These are decided not only by millions of fan votes at MLB.com, but also by industry experts. Voting is split 25 percent evenly among fans, media, front office personnel and MLB alumni.
"Because we are polling so many different people, it's not just the players or fans, it's people inside and outside the game who watch and can say that was the most popular play or that was the best player in that category," said Tyrone Brooks, the Pirates' director of player personnel. "We're giving everybody a voice, and the toughest thing is, there are so many great plays and moments that happened in the course of the 2011 season. It's almost tough when you are picking an individual category. In everyone's mind, there is something that truly sticks with them."
The announcement show will be hosted by Greg Amsinger and Mitch Williams of MLB Network and will feature interviews with winners.
Player of the Year nominees are Bautista, Ryan Braun, Miguel Cabrera, Jacoby Ellsbury, Prince Fielder, Adrian Gonzalez, Curtis Granderson, Matt Kemp, Albert Pujols and Justin Upton.
Starting Pitcher choices include Verlander, Roy Halladay, Felix Hernandez, Ian Kennedy, Clayton Kershaw, Cliff Lee, CC Sabathia, James Shields, Jered Weaver and C.J. Wilson.
"The GIBBYs are unique because it gives us a chance to recognize some of the players that wouldn't be in the running for the MVP or Cy Young Awards," Williams said after casting his ballot. "Being a former reliever, I'm happy the GIBBYs has a category for the Setup Man. David Robertson and Johnny Venters definitely should be up for an award following their great years so I'm happy the GIBBYs provide that opportunity."
"Who doesn't get a kick out of the GIBBYs Oddity of the Year Award?" added Williams' studio partner at MLB Network, former first baseman Sean Casey, who voted. "I definitely took part in some odd plays during my career, and nothing can be funnier than Ryan Dempster imitating Harry Caray this year. There are some hysterical things that happen during a baseball season and the GIBBYs gives us a chance to look back and laugh again at all those odd plays."
In addition to the always-anticipated Player and Starting Pitcher categories -- won last year by Josh Hamilton of the Rangers and Halladay of the Phillies, respectively -- crystal trophies will also be awarded in categories for the best rookie, manager; closer, comeback player, breakout player, defensive player, Wow Factor and executive.
Additional award categories include Play of the Year, along with top Moment, Performance, Oddity, Walk-Off, Fan Moment and Postseason Moment, each delivered through MLB.com's "Must C" highlight vault. Videos and a complete list of categories and nominees can be found at MLB.com/GIBBYs.
"The GIBBYs are the most comprehensive season awards in baseball," Cubs broadcaster Len Kasper said. "Not only can you vote on Player of the Year and Starting Pitcher of the Year, but also categories like Walk-Off, Postseason Moment and even Fan Moment. I picked the fan who caught the ball in the ice cream cup. They all highlight some of the season's great moments.
"Verlander was just a no-brainer for me in Starting Pitcher, though: 24 wins, over 250 innings, a 2.40 ERA, a .192 opponents batting average. And he pitched on a playoff team to boot. Too bad, in a way, that Kershaw's season (and a few others for that matter) get a little lost in the shadows of Verlander's dominant campaign."
While that remains to be seen on Friday night's show, one thing is certain: Verlander is not going to take Player of the Year. That can only happen with Most Valuable Player voting, as Verlander reminded everyone last month. Blue Jays broadcaster Mike Wilner said he "absolutely" voted for Bautista as Player of the Year and appreciates that distinction among positions in the GIBBYs.
"It's definitely an honor to be asked to participate," Wilner said. "It's great that everyone has a say in it, as opposed to it's just writers or just broadcasters or just fans. I hope everyone else who cast a vote took every category seriously as I know I did, and that they took a good, hard look at all the options available and all the nominees.
"I don't envy the people that had to narrow it down, because there is always controversy within the winners, but also within who was considered."
Wilner watches Bautista for a living, and he said: "I thought he should have been the American League MVP. The fact he won the Hank Aaron Award speaks volumes. When you lead the Major Leagues in home runs, OPS, slugging percentage, play two positions regularly, you've had a great year. He certainly had a great year."
Like Wathan, Wilner said the video clips for every nominee broadened the overall fun and put you back into that same mindset you had when the plays happened.
"For me, it's terrific that you have the video attached, because that means that even if you have a defensive play nominated, you can actually take a look at it, instead of relying on memory, 'Oh, did I see that over the course of a season?' You can just click on that video. That's an amazing tool. But it also clouds the issue as well. You're seeing them at once, and they're all so great, so it makes it harder to make that decision."
A decade after he hung up the cleats with the Pirates, John Wehner was signing autographs at a PNC Bank branch office during an regional Pirates Caravan stop on Thursday, along with manager Clint Hurdle and pitchers James McDonald and Daniel McCutchen. Wehner said voting for the GIBBYs "is special because it means I'm still part of the game of baseball. There are so many tremendous athletes in the game today and it's great that I have the opportunity to see them during the spring and summer."
Brooks said he voted for Braun for Player of the Year, "just based on what he did to help carry that club, along with Prince (Fielder). It was the first time they had won their division since 1982. He was 30-30, and what he did leading that club and being the heart and soul of it."
Brooks also said the voting kept alive the feeling you had on the last day of the regular season, which is why he voted Evan Longoria for Best Walk-Off. "We were all watching it together with our staff, and just seeing that all happening right there in front of us, was just incredible. . . . Here you are battling, scrapping the whole year, and then it comes down to the last game, you have to get that win, and for it to happen with Dan Johnson and then Longoria's walk-off, amazing."
D-backs broadcaster Greg Schulte said of his participation: "I've voted on a number of awards over the years and the one thing I can honestly say about the 2011 GIBBYs is, the categories really provided some tough decisions. It was fun, especially watching and then voting on the videos. Brought back a lot of memories for me on a terrific 2011 season."
Wathan said he naturally would love to see Royals first baseman Eric Hosmer win Rookie of the Year, but expected that Rays starting pitcher Jeremy Hellickson -- the AL Rookie of the Year winner in baseball writers' voting last month -- might have an edge.
"Hellickson had an outstanding season," Wathan said. "I'm probably a little prejudiced toward Eric because I saw him all year, and having covered him in the minors I saw him sign. He could have helped his chances if he had come up earlier, but he still put up huge numbers. I think one day he'll probably win a Gold Glove. He's got a chance for Rookie but there are a lot of great candidates."