Debates to heighten as awards time nears
MVPs, AL Cy, NL Rookie certain to draw most attention
Up for a good debate?
Baseball's annual awards season is upon us, which means there will be plenty of discussion about who should win those awards -- and who is more deserving.
Beginning on Tuesday with the Rawlings Gold Glove Awards, baseball's best will be honored over the two weeks that follow, culminating when the Baseball Writers' Association of America honors each league's Most Valuable Player, Cy Young Award winner, Rookie of the Year and Manager of the Year.
These are the awards that carry the most weight with the players and fans, awards that will link these winners to so many great players from the past who claimed the same honors, the same hardware.
There will be some easy calls, awards that don't merit discussion. Some of the awards will provoke substantial debate, with strong and valid opinions. It's what makes this time of year -- much like the game itself -- great and meaningful.
One of the biggest debates figures to center around the American League Cy Young Award, which pits Sabermetrics against traditional baseball statistics with regard to the value of victories against overall dominance.
Is CC Sabathia of the Yankees, with a league-leading 21 victories on a playoff team, a better Cy Young candidate than Seattle's Felix Hernandez, who went 13-12 but won the ERA and strikeout titles while pitching for a last-place team?
There figures to be even more lively discussion moving forward.
Here's a brief rundown of the upcoming awards:
American League (Tuesday): Torii Hunter of the Angels and Ichiro Suzuki of the Mariners have each won nine Gold Gloves and could reach double digits. There are some new faces who are in the mix for their first Gold Gloves, including A's first baseman Daric Barton, Yankees second baseman Robinson Cano, A's shortstop Cliff Pennington and White Sox shortstop Alexei Ramirez.
National League (Wednesday): Jimmy Rollins of the Phillies has won the past three Gold Glove Awards at shortstop. But, like in the American League, there could be some new faces, including Reds outfielder Jay Bruce, Giants outfielder Andres Torres and Mets first baseman Ike Davis, in the mix.
AL (Wednesday): There are some interesting choices for the Silver Slugger in the AL. Does Derek Jeter get his fifth Silver Slugger Award or does Ramirez get his first? Evan Longoria, the winner among third basemen a year ago, figures to get pushed by Adrian Beltre, who had a monster season for Boston. And two AL MVP candidates, Miguel Cabrera and Paul Konerko, figure to rank high among first basemen.
NL (Wednesday): There figures to be a few tough calls here, starting at first base, where Albert Pujols and Joey Votto each merit strong consideration. What about catcher? Did Buster Posey do enough to unseat Brian McCann? Also, Chase Utley, Martin Prado and Brandon Phillips make the second-base conversation very interesting.
AL (Nov. 15): This figures to be a two-man race between Austin Jackson of the Tigers and Rangers closer Neftali 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.
NL (Nov. 15): Like the AL, this figures to be a two-man race as well, between Posey -- who began the season at Triple-A Fresno -- and Braves outfielder Jason 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. This could end up being a close call.
NL (Nov. 16): 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. Roy Halladay, however, stayed strong throughout. He even tossed his ninth complete game on the last day of the regular season. And, yes, that was before his no-hitter in the playoffs against the Reds (which will not factor into the voting).
AL (Nov. 18): 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. David 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?
AL (Nov. 17): 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 (Nov. 17): 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.
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. Votto was a big reason why the Reds won the NL Central and 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 Konerko, Cabrera and Cano also had big seasons.