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What? End of the season already?

I’m actually still breathless and full of adrenaline from the whizbang finale of this season’s last day. I would have blogged about it but really what more could I say than “wow” multiple times? Wow.

I’m writing this post from the Bronx, where I am awaiting the opening of the ALDS in a few hours. End of the regular season, though, means End of Season awards. As a founding member of the Baseball Bloggers Association, I take part in the voting. We’re not as glamourous as the ink-stained wretches in the BBWAA. I suppose as bloggers we’re the eye-strained kvetches.

Here’s what we eye-strained kvetches award:

Connie Mack Award: top manager
Willie Mays Award: top rookie)
Goose Gossage Award: top reliever
Walter Johnson Award: top pitcher
Stan Musial Award: top player

Since Why I Like Baseball is ostensibly a Yankees blog (with a healthy side of Red Sox), I get to vote for the American League entry in each category. Here are my picks:

Connie Mack Award: top manager
If I were voting in the NL, I’d pick Kirk Gibson, but I’m not. But the tendency to want to pick a guy who took a load of underachievers and made them achievers, or a load of achievers and made them overachievers, is high. In that way, I’m tempted to pick Buck Showalter, especially after seeing the Orioles end their season in a dogpile after being the ones to kill Boston’s playoff hopes. Yeah, Showalter takes my #2 vote for getting those kids to prove something. And how about Don Wakamatsu taking over for John Farrell in Toronto? Let’s give him #3.

That leaves Joe Maddon as my #1 vote, for all the teaching and training he does with the Tampa Bay Rays, which certainly makes a huge difference with a young team, and also how much he does to keep it fun. The team dressing up for themed road trips and such? Maddon’s brainchild.

Willie Mays Award: top rookie
I’ve got to give serious consideration to my own team’s rookie sensation, Ivan Nova. The only reason he was “sent down” in mid-season was because the Yankees have a huge financial investment in A.J. Burnett, who clogged up a slot a the rotation. But as I did above, I’ll give my sentimental favorite my #2 vote. There isn’t any one rookie this year I feel is running away with it. Maybe Brett Lawrie would have a shot, but I just looked him up and he hasn’t been up for that long. (Ah, turns out he had an injury or might have been called up sooner.) Well, I’ll give him #3 because of the short service time.

Which leaves my top rookie as…? Let’s go with Jeremy Hellickson, starting pitcher for the Rays. If he were in any other division, his numbers would probably be more eye-popping. Hm, my second Rays pick! Am I starting to like the Rays?

Goose Gossage Award: top reliever
You’re kidding, right? No sentimentality in this. #1 Mariano Rivera. He’s the all time saves leader now, and has had another typical great season. We’re almost jaded to how great he is, and that’s why now he’s practically under-rated. Let’s give #2 to the Yankees’ David Robertson. No, I’m not kidding. There’s a reason this guy has the nickname “Houdini.” Lowest WHIP of his career (1.125), lowest HR/9 (0.1!), highest K/9 of his career (2.86), and a 1.08 ERA in 66+ innings pitched. If you have a look at the leaderboards for pitchers you’ll see most of the entrants are starters. And then there’s Robertson in the top ten in Win Probability Added, Adj. Pitching Wins, and some other stat-lovers’ stats. See? I don’t just vote with my heart.

Hm, looking at those same leaderboards leads me to my #3 pick, Alfredo Aceves for the Boston Red Sox. Yes, a former Yankee, who has done yeoman work for the Sox this year. And yes, I know only I would put two set-up men on a list of “best relievers.” Truth is, I’m not that impressed with a lot of the closers this year.

Walter Johnson Award: top pitcher
#1. Verlander. No reason to even look at anyone else for that. But when it comes to the #2 and #3 guys to vote for? I’m looking at the Wins Above Replacement (WAR) list. Most of the guys on the top ten are position players, but two pitchers after Verlander stand out CC Sabathia and Jered Weaver. (James Shields and Josh Beckett just miss the cut. And I have never liked Beckett anyway.) So #2 Sabathia, #3 Weaver. Oh wait, just re-read the instructions and I get to name two more. Well, okay then: Shields #4 and Beckett #5. Have a great offseason, Josh.

Stan Musial Award: top player
We don’t mess around with semantic arguments about what part of an “MVP” is “valuable” to his team. We just vote for “best player.” Which actually makes it harder, I think.

Honestly, I think I have to give the #1 spot to Jacoby Ellsbury. He has managed to shine even while the whole rest of the Red Sox teamed seemed mired in the negativity that is the Boston legacy. #2 goes to Jose Bautista, for a breakout season for a team that is otherwise marching in place. #3 Curtis Granderson whose season is an easy comparison with DiMaggio, Mantle, and Bernie Wililams’ top seasons. (One of my writers for the Maple Street Press Yankees Annual is working on a piece on that.)

I get to name a top ten, so here they are:
1. Jacoby Ellsbury
2. Jose Bautista
3. Curtis Granderson
4. Miguel Cabrera
5. Adrian Gonzalez (Boston’s problem was not their offense)
6. Evan Longoria (and not just for that walk-off)
7. Josh Hamilton (look at that nice fat WPA)
8. Alex Gordon (ditto)
9. Dustin Pedroia (I know! Three Red Sox on this list!)
10. Derek Jeter (I needed another Yankee to balance all the Red Sox! And yeah, sentimental favorite. That 3000 hits stuff just.. yeah. You know.)

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