Brett Gardner has been named the Yankees’ finalist for the AL Hank Aaron Award, the team announced. The award is given annually to the top offensive player in each league, so Gardner doesn’t really have much of a chance of winning, but every team needs a nominee. There is a fan voting component, so cast your vote right here. The last Yankee to win the AL Hank Aaron Award was Derek Jeter in 2009.
The regular season ends six days from now, which means the voting for the various league awards will soon end as well. The voting ends after the regular season but before the postseason — what happens in October has no bearing on anything. These are regular season awards, as it should be.
The Yankees are an extreme long shot to make the postseason and teams that don’t make the playoffs tend not to have major awards winners. That’s not always the case — Alex Rodriguez was the 2003 AL MVP on the last place Rangers, for example — just most of the time. Don’t get mad at me. That’s the way the voters vote. The Yankees do still have some candidates for each of the major awards this season, however. Let’s run them down.
Most Valuable Player
There is an excellent chance the Yankees will not have a player finish in the top ten of the AL MVP voting this year for the first time since 1996, when Mariano Rivera finished in 12th place. The lack of a truly elite player, a Robinson Cano or prime-age A-Rod or Derek Jeter, combined with their second straight postseason-less year all but eliminates anyone on the team from serious MVP consideration. The BBWAA has shown time and time again they prefer to vote for players on contending teams.
Now, that said, the MVP ballot is ten players deep and those last two or three slots are like the Twilight Zone. A lot of weird stuff happens there. Raul Ibanez received a tenth place MVP vote in 2012, remember. Jacoby Ellsbury and Brett Gardner have been the team’s two best players all year and I’m guessing they’ll combine for at least one down-ballot vote this year. Same with Dellin Betances and maybe David Robertson. The Yankees don’t have any serious MVP candidates this season but I feel comfortable saying someone on the roster will appear on a ballot.
Had he not gotten hurt, Masahiro Tanaka would have been an excellent Cy Young candidate alongside Felix Hernandez and Corey Kluber (and Chris Sale). The injury takes him right out of the running for the award, unfortunately. The Cy Young ballot is one five players deep and it would surprise me if Tanaka even managed to sneak on and grab one fifth place vote at this point. He simply missed too much time and there are too many good pitchers in the AL. Maybe Betances will grab a fifth place vote like Robertson did in 2011. Maybe. He is the club’s only real shot at being included in the Cy Young conversation this season.
Rookie of the Year
Believe it or not, the Yankees have never had two players receive Rookie of the Year votes in the same season. That is all but certain to change this year thanks to Tanaka and Betances. There are a lot of good rookies in the AL this year but Jose Abreu has lapped the field — I think he should win unanimously, this is a no-brainer in my opinion — so neither Tanaka nor Betances will win. I do think both are safe bets to garner multiple second and third place votes though. (The ballot is only three players deep.)
Shane Greene has had a nice year but I would be very surprised if he received any votes. There are too many other good rookies in the league (Collin McHugh, Matt Shoemaker, George Springer, Marcus Stroman, Yordano Ventura, etc.) for him to get serious consideration. That doesn’t take away from what he’s done this year. This just isn’t a good year to be a good but not great rookie in the so-called Junior Circuit.
Manager of the Year
The Manager of the Year award has morphed into the “manager whose team most exceeded expectations” award, so Joe Girardi won’t win. I’m guessing the award will go to either Ned Yost of the Royals or Lloyd McClendon of the Mariners, depending on which non-Athletics team wins a wildcard spot.
The Manager of the Year ballot is only three names deep and it’ll be tough for Girardi to get even a third place vote this year given his competition. I’m guessing at least one BBWAA member will give him a vote based on the team’s ability to linger in the wildcard race until the final week of the season though. After all, nine of 15 AL managers received at least one Manager of the Year vote last season.
Comeback Player of the Year
This one will be interesting. If Jeter put together nothing more than a decent season, say hitting .280 with a .340 OBP and no power, I think he would have won the Comeback Player of the Year award easily. Mariano Rivera won last year and deservingly so, but, even if he had been merely good instead of excellent, I think he would have won anyway for sentimental reasons.
Jeter’s brutal August and pre-current homestand September really dragged down his season numbers (.256/.304/.313) and it will be hard for voters to look the other way. Melky Cabrera and Albert Pujols stand out as two deserving Comeback Player of the Year candidates, so there is no lack of competition. Maybe Jeter will win on the strength of sentimental votes, but I don’t think it’s a slam dunk at all.
A sabermetric component was added to the Gold Glove voting a few years ago, but it only counts as 25% of the vote. The other 75% is still based on the league’s managers and coaches. Whether they admit it or not, offense still has some impact on the voting, though it has gotten better in recent years.
Right off the bat, we can completely eliminate the entire infield. I mean, maybe Jeter will get a sentimental vote, but I can’t see it at this point. Gardner is a good left field Gold Glove candidate — they used to hand out three general outfield Gold Gloves, but they are position specific now — but Alex Gordon has this one in the bag. He’s outstanding in left and his offense won’t hurt his case either. Yoenis Cespedes might also get more votes than Gardner because of his throwing arm.
Ellsbury has been stellar in center field all season though the numbers hate him for whatever reason: -6 DRS, +1.1 UZR, and +0 Total Zone. I don’t get it. That doesn’t match up with the eye test at all. The various defensive stats always seem to hate Yankees center fielders. Maybe because Gardner takes plays away from them. Anyway, Ellsbury has some stiff Gold Glove competition in Mike Trout, Jackie Bradley Jr., Adam Jones, Leonys Martin, and Desmond Jennings. I think the chances of Ellsbury winning the Gold Glove are better than the chances of any Yankee winning any other award, but I would bet on the field with this many qualified candidates.
Yeah, no. You actually have to hit to win a Silver Slugger and not many Yankees did that this year. Gardner and Ellsbury have been the team’s two best hitters and they aren’t beating out Gordon or Trout, respectively. Nevermind the other candidates around the league. As far as the Yankees are concerned this year, the most exciting part of the awards voting will be seeing where Tanaka and Betances finish behind Abreu for the Rookie of the Year award. Jeter’s possible Comeback Player of the Year and Ellsbury’s possible Gold Glove are the only other items of note.
CC Sabathia has been selected as the Yankees’ nominee for the Roberto Clemente Award, MLB announced. It is given annually to the player who “best exemplifies the game of baseball, sportsmanship, community involvement and the individual’s contribution to his team.” Here are the 30 nominees. Derek Jeter won the award in 2009 and Carlos Beltran won it last year.
In other news, Beltran is one of six players nominated for the Marvin Miller Man of the Year Award, the MLBPA announced. The award is given annually to the player “whose on-field performance and contributions to his community inspire others to higher levels of achievement.” Mariano Rivera won it last year. Beltran is up against Max Scherzer, Clayton Kershaw, Josh Hamilton, Adam LaRoche, and Anthony Rizzo. Congrats to both Sabathia and Beltran. It’s a honor just to be nominated for awards like this.
After the nightmare that was 2013, the Yankees’ farm system rebounded to have a strong but not really great year in 2014. It was more of a normal season than anything. There were a few surprises, a few disappointments, a bunch of injuries, and several comebacks. Pretty typical year for a minor league system, and, for the Yankees, a typical year meant a huge step up from last season.
The team’s seven domestic minor league affiliates combined to go 387-373 (.509) this summer, so after having their consecutive winning season streak snapped at 30+ years last year, they got turned things around quickly. None of the four full season affiliates qualified for the postseason, however. Only the two Rookie GCL Yankees squads did. The system did not have at least one league champion for only the third time in the last eight years.
As a reminder, this annual awards post has nothing to do with prospect status. This is all about recognizing 2014’s notable performances in the farm system. Pure production with future outlook taking a backseat. These are also my awards and my opinions, so you’re welcome to disagree. There is no right answer with stuff like this. Here are my 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, and 2013 awards posts. So, without further delay:
Minor League Player of the Year: 2B Rob Refsnyder
From start to finish, the best and most consistent player in the system this year was Refsnyder. The 23-year-old opened the year with Double-A Trenton, hit .342/.385/.548 (159 wRC+) with 19 doubles and six homers in 60 games, then was promoted up to Triple-A Scranton. Refsnyder hit .296/.386/.453 (135 wRC+) with 19 doubles and eight homers in 77 games with the RailRiders, giving him an overall .317/.385/.495 (~145 wRC+) batting line. The team’s fifth round pick in the 2012 draft led the farm system in batting average (min. 400 PA), doubles (38), and total bases (255) while placing second in hits (163). He also cut his error total from 25 in 108 games last season to 12 in 122 games this season. Refsnyder put himself on the map a year ago and this year he proved he was no fluke. He’s played his way into big league consideration just two years after being drafted and asked to change positions.
Masahiro Tanaka was named the AL Pitcher of the Month for May, MLB announced. He had a 1.88 ERA (2.21 FIP) with a 42/6 K/BB in 43 innings across six starts last month, so it was very clearly deserved. Tanaka’s the first Yankee to be named Pitcher of the Month since … Ivan Nova last August. Two in the last four months. Neato.
Yesterday, Major League Baseball announced a new award that will honor the best relief pitcher in each league, replacing the Delivery Man of the Year award. Yes, that existed. The AL version of the new award will be called the Mariano Rivera Reliever of the Year Award. The NL version has been named after Trevor Hoffman. Both players spent their entire careers in their respective leagues.
“Both Mariano and Trevor represented our sport magnificently on and off the mound and earned the universal respect of our fans in their legendary careers,” said commissioner Bud Selig in a statement. “I believe it is appropriate to redefine an existing award in honor of their contributions to Baseball, and I am delighted that many of the most decorated relievers in history will select the winners.”
From the press release, here are the nuts and bolts of how the new awards will work:
A panel of nine of the greatest relief pitchers in history will vote on the recipients of the new awards. In addition to Rivera and Hoffman, other voters will include the four living Hall of Fame relief pitchers – Dennis Eckersley, Rollie Fingers, Rich “Goose” Gossage and Bruce Sutter – and the three relievers who round out the top five in career saves – Lee Smith (478 saves), John Franco (424 saves) and Billy Wagner (422 saves).
The nine voters will rank the top three A.L. relief pitchers and the top three N.L. relief pitchers, based solely on regular season performance. Using a 5-3-1 weighted point system (i.e., five points for a first-place vote; three points for a second-place vote; and one point for a third-place vote), the Award in each League will be given to the relief pitcher who accrues the most total points.
Based on the voting panel, something tells me the new awards will go to whoever leads the league in saves. Or maybe the guy who finishes second if he has a really low ERA. I’m not expecting a whole lot of objectivity out of that group. Whatever.
Rivera, as you know, retired after last season and was the greatest relief pitcher in the history of the universe. Hoffman was very good himself, but Rivera was on another level. For example, Rivera allowed 38 fewer runs than Hoffman despite throwing 194.1 more innings, and that doesn’t consider ballparks and divisions and all that. Let’s not even bring up the postseason.
Anyway, awards are fun and I’m glad Mo has one named after him. He certainly deserves it not only because of the career he had, but because of the person he was and how he represented both the Yankees and MLB. I wonder who will be the first Yankees reliever to win the award? David Robertson is as good a guess as anyone, but who knows with this stuff. It’ll be cool when it happens though. Congrats to Rivera for having the award named after him.
As expected, Tigers third baseman Miguel Cabrera won his second consecutive AL MVP Award on Thursday night. He again beat out Mike Trout by a pretty big margin, taking home 23 of the 30 first place votes. Based on the points system, Trout was closer to finishing fifth than he was first. For shame.
Speaking of finishing fifth, that’s what Robinson Cano did. He appeared on all 30 ballots and was as high as third on one ballot. Miggy, Trout, Chris Davis, and Josh Donaldson finished ahead of him. Robbie was the only Yankees player to receive MVP votes, which isn’t all that surprising. I thought Mariano Rivera might get a going away vote or two, but that didn’t happen. The full voting results are right here. Andrew McCutchen took home NL honors in a landslide.