Finalists for the four major awards were announced tonight, and, unsurprisingly, no Yankees made the cut. Joe Girardi was the team’s best hope for a finalist, but a Yankees manager doesn’t get many votes if the team misses the postseason. It’s just the way it is. Girardi and several players will get down ballot votes (Robinson Cano for MVP, specifically) for the various awards, which will be announced next week. All of the finalists are right here.
As expected, Mariano Rivera has been named the AL Comeback Player of the Year, the league announced. Francisco Liriano took home NL honors. Rivera was a lock for the award after missing nearly all of last season with a knee injury, but he was certainly deserving based on merit as well. Congrats to Mo on what is likely the last award of his playing career.
Robinson Cano lost out on this year’s AL Gold Glove Award at second base to Dustin Pedroia. All of the winners are right here. Cano won the award twice before, including last year. He was the team’s only Gold Glove finalist at the various positions. Oh well. Maybe it’ll knock a few dollars off his upcoming contract.
For the second straight year, Robinson Cano is one of three finalists for the AL Gold Glove Award at second base. It’s between him and AL East rivals Dustin Pedroia and Ben Zobrist. Robbie wound up winning the award over Pedroia and Dustin Ackley last season. It was his second Gold Glove after winning his first in 2010.
No other Yankees are finalists for Gold Gloves. All of the finalists are here. Brett Gardner was the team’s only other legitimate Gold Glove candidate and while I thought he was very good in center field this year, I didn’t think he was elite like he was in left field the past few years. The defensive stats back that up but one year of defensive stats yadda yadda yadda. It wouldn’t have been a crime to list among the three finalists though. Oh well. The winners will be announced at 8pm ET on Tuesday as part of some big ESPN2 broadcast.
This has been a long and occasionally painful season, but it’s still hard to believe there are only ten games and eleven days left on the regular season schedule. The Yankees are three games back of the second wild-card spot in the loss column and their chances of making the playoffs are remote — 3.4% according to Baseball Prospectus — but they do still have a chance. A very small one, but a chance nonetheless.
Soon after the end of the regular season, the BBWAA crew will vote on the various major awards. The playoffs aren’t considered even though the official announcements aren’t made until sometime in November. The last Yankee to win a major award was Alex Rodriguez back in 2007, when he took no prisoners en route to his third MVP. It usually takes that kind of otherworldly season for a Yankee to win a major award because there is some voter bias. At least lately there has been thanks to the dynasty years and all those division titles.
This season doesn’t figure to be any different. The Yankees don’t have a 2007 A-Rod or a 2001 Roger Clemens on the roster, but they do have a handful of players who will garner at least some consideration for the major awards. At this point of the season, it’s hard to think anything that happens between now and Game 162 will change the voters’ minds. Let’s look at which Yankees have a shot at the various awards.
Most Valuable Player
The team’s only serious MVP candidate is (who else?) Robinson Cano. He’s hitting .311/.383/.514 (141 wRC+) and is top ten in the league in both versions of WAR. Obviously his chances would greatly increase if the Yankees sneak into the postseason, but even if they don’t, Cano should get a fair amount of love because he was New York’s only real offensive threat for most of the season. Fairly or unfairly, the voters do take that stuff into consideration. It’s the whole “he had no protection!” idea.
Alfonso Soriano could get some votes because of his huge production following the trade — Jack Curry wrote about this last week — but I have a really hard time seeing that unless he swats like, six more homers from here on out and the Yankees win a wildcard spot. I’m sure it’s happened plenty of times before, but the only time I can remember a midseason trade pickup getting serious MVP consideration was Shannon Stewart in 2003. He hit .322/.384/.470 (127 wRC+) in 65 games for the Twins following the deal while Minnesota went from 7.5 games back to winning the division by four games. The narrative was pretty strong.
I suppose Mariano Rivera could draw some honorary down-ballot votes in his final season, which would be kinda neat. He’s received MVP votes in nine different seasons and has finished as high as ninth in the voting (2004 and 2005). This hasn’t been Mo’s best year — he’s still been pretty great by normal closer standards — and he doesn’t really deserve MVP votes, but who knows what’ll happen. Could A-Rod get a tenth place troll vote or two if they made the playoffs? That would be a riot. Ain’t happenin’ though.
Unless Rivera gets some going away votes — unlikely since this ballot only goes five players deep — the Yankees’ only Cy Young candidate this year is Hiroki Kuroda. He led the league with a 2.33 ERA as recently as August 16th, but he crashed into the fatigue wall this week and is no longer in the mix. Kuroda, who now has a 3.13 ERA and 3.49 FIP in 189.2 innings, could steal a fourth or fifth place vote from a New York writer. It would surprise me though. There are a ton of worthy Cy Young candidates in the so-called Junior Circuit this year.
Rookie of the Year
Do you know who leads Yankees rookies in the FanGraphs version of WAR this season? Melky Mesa at 0.3. He came to the plate 14 times before being released. The Baseball-Reference version is a little kinder and has Adam Warren in the lead at 0.9. Either way, I think you get the point. They don’t have a horse in this race.
Comeback Player of the Year
Finally, an award a Yankee might actually win. Rivera is coming back from his knee injury and has the whole retirement thing going for him, which is probably enough to get him the popular vote regardless of his performance. Mariano is an icon and we’ve already seen how beloved he is around the game, by opposing players and writers alike. I hesitate to call him a shoo-in, but I think you have to consider Rivera the overwhelming favorite here.
There’s a chance Brett Gardner could get some Comeback Player of the Year love, but I would expect all the Yankees-related votes to go to Mo. Eric Hosmer, Scott Kazmir, John Lackey, and Ervin Santana figure to be Rivera’s primary competition. So yeah, his to lose I think.
Manager of the Year
I wrote about Joe Girardi‘s Manager of the Year chances way back in May, and obviously a lot has changed since then. The Yankees were exceeding every possible expectation at the time and we were still expecting guys like Mark Teixeira and Derek Jeter to come back and be productive. That didn’t happen and the team faded in a big way during the summer months. They’ve been trying to climb out of the hole for a few weeks now.
Even if the Yankees don’t make the postseason, I think Girardi’s going to get a fair amount of Manager of the Year support because the roster has been decimated by injuries. This wasn’t one or two injuries, this was half the lineup. In some cases their replacements got hurt. It’s not an accident the Yankees have used a franchise-high 56 different players this year. That wasn’t out of the kindness of their heart, they needed all of the warm bodies. Girardi has managed to keep the team in the hunt right down to the final two weeks of the season and that’s pretty remarkable.
Furthermore, I think Girardi has done a masterful job of handling the A-Rod situation. That could have easily been a big distraction — and it was for a while as the two traded barbs through the media — but he’s kept it contained and a non-issue for a good month now. It would have been very, very easy for that whole situation to blow up and become a major daily issue, but Girardi made sure it didn’t. I don’t think he will win the award — John Farrell has the worst-to-first thing going for him — but he’ll definitely get votes and could finish as high as second on the ballot. There isn’t a ton of competition for the award this year.
Mariano Rivera has been named one of six finalists for the Marvin Miller Man of the Year Award, the MLBPA announced. The award is given annually “for outstanding on-field performance and off-field contributions to the community.” Past winners include Chipper Jones, Curtis Granderson, and Jim Thome. The other five finalists are Chase Utley, Carlos Beltran, Adrian Gonzalez, and former Yankees Raul Ibanez and Nick Swisher.
In other award nomination news, the Yankees announced that David Robertson has been named the team’s Roberto Clemente Award nominee. That award is given annually to the player who “best exemplifies the game of baseball, sportsmanship, community involvement and the individual’s contribution to his team.” Derek Jeter, Ron Guidry, and Ken Singleton are among the past winners. Each team’s nominee can be seen here, and the fan voting opens tomorrow. Congrats to both Rivera and Robertson. They do a ton of work for charity and in the community and they deserve to be recognized for it.
To call this a disappointing year for the farm system would probably be an understatement. Many top prospects either got hurt or underperformed while just handful had true breakout seasons. An excellent draft with three first round picks will help their overall rankings, but Hal Steinbrenner was right to hold a staff meeting last month to figure out why the team’s farm system has been so unproductive. Hard to think of another team that gets less out of more in terms of prospects.
For the first time in at least 30 years, the Yankees seven domestic minor league affiliates combined for a losing record (373-381, .495) this season. Double-A Trenton opens the best-of-five Eastern League Championship Series tonight, but the only other affiliate to make the postseason was the Rookie GCL Yanks2, who were bounced in the one-game playoff before the title round. Thankfully, minor league win-loss records mean absolutely nothing in the grand scheme of things — organizational players decide things far more than the prospects do — but it is symbolic of the farm system in general. Things aren’t looking too good.
As a reminder, these awards have nothing to do with prospect status. They are not a ranking or anything like that. They’re just a recognition of players who had great years regardless of age or anything like that. Pure production with potential takes a back seat. In order to keep things interesting, the Player of the Year is not eligible for the Hitter or Pitcher of the Year awards. It would be pretty redundant otherwise. Here are my 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, and 2012 awards posts for reference. Onto the awards:
Minor League Player of the Year: 1B Greg Bird
Although he was a just fifth round pick, the Yankees gave Bird the largest signing bonus ($1.1M) of any player in their 2011 draft class. A back injury slowed the start of his career and forced him out from behind the plate, but the 20-year-old responded by having one of the very best seasons in all of minor league baseball this year. He hit a whopping .288/.428/.511 in 573 plate appearances for Low-A Charleston this year, which works out to a 170 wRC+ that was the eighth best in all of the minors (not counting the unaffiliated Mexican League). Among players with at least 300 plate appearances, Bird led the farm system in OBP, OPS, wRC+, and walks (107) while ranking second in total bases (234) and third in hits (132), doubles (36). and homers (20). It was arguably the best offensive season by a Yankees prospect since Nick Johnson in 1999 and more than worthy of the Player of the Year award.