The 96th annual New York Baseball Writers' Association of America Awards Dinner was held on Saturday night at the New York Hilton Midtown Hotel in Manhattan. As has been tradition, the New York chapter officially presented the BBWAA awards for American League and National League Most Valuable Player, AL and NL Cy Young, AL and NL Rookie of the Year and AL and NL Manager of the Year. MLB.com's Anthony DiComo, chairman of the New York BBWAA, served as master of ceremonies.
Toward the beginning of the event, newly-elected Hall of Famer Mariano Rivera addressed the crowd after becoming the first player to be unanimously chosen for induction in Cooperstown, having his name checked on each of the 425 ballots cast.
"Four hundred twenty-five," Rivera said. "That's a good number. That's the address of my house."
As the laughter in response quieted down, the all-time saves leader (652) continued by thanking the BBWAA for his history-making selection, and also the fans, particularly in New York, where he spent all 19 years of his legendary career.
"For you fans, thank you, thank you," Rivera said. "You baseball fans all over are the best, but you guys, New Yorkers, you guys are No. 1. Even when you guys booed me if I blew the game, I love you guys."
In accepting the AL Rookie of the Year Award, Angels two-way sensation Shohei Ohtani chose to address the audience in English, capping his remarks with flair.
"First off, I want to say what an honor it is to share this stage with so many great players," Ohtani said. "Congratulations to you all. I would like to thank the BBWAA for hosting this great event, and the writers who voted for me. … Hopefully I won't need a cheat sheet the next time I'm up here."
Ohtani's rookie campaign was historic, in that he started 10 games on the mound before a season-ending elbow injury that required Tommy John surgery, while also serving as the Angels' designated hitter. He excelled in both capacities, posting a 3.31 ERA and 30 percent strikeout rate as a pitcher and a .925 OPS with 22 home runs in 367 plate appearances.
The NL Rookie of the Year Award was presented to Braves outfielder Ronald Acuna Jr. Introducing him was his manager -- also the NL Manager of the Year -- Brian Snitker, who noted in his remarks "how great it is to watch the young guys [like Acuna] have fun playing the game."
Acuna slashed .293/.366/.552 with 26 home runs in 111 games for Atlanta in 2018, while playing solid defense and showing off his speed with 16 steals.
Red Sox president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski introduced the AL MVP, Boston's Mookie Betts, noting how incredible a season the 26-year-old put together in '18. Betts led the Majors in batting average (.346) and slugging percentage (.640) while becoming a 30-30 player (32 homers, 30 steals) in 136 games for the World Series champions.
The NL MVP, Christian Yelich, was introduced by his manager, Milwaukee's Craig Counsell. Yelich's breakout campaign last season was fueled by a tremendous second-half surge at the plate that played a key role in the Brewers coming up just one game short of the World Series.
"Christian told me he would win the MVP in July," Counsell said. "From the day Christian said that -- first day after the All-Star break -- he got three extra-base hits that night, hit 25 home runs in the last 65 games, and hit for two cycles in three weeks when we were in the chase for the division. And in Game 163, he came up big with three hits and helped us win a huge game in Chicago."
"As a kid, you never dream of winning an award like this," Yelich said.
Yelich added that from joining the Brewers late last offseason to reaching the NL Championship Series against the Dodgers, the season was an amazing ride for himself as well as the entire club.
AL Cy Young Award winner Blake Snell credited Rays pitching coach Kyle Snyder, who has been his pitching coach at multiple levels, for a season in which the left-hander went 21-5 with a 1.89 ERA.
"You always remember the bad days -- around this time last year when I told him I would win the Cy Young, he's probably the only guy that believed me," Snell said. "He allowed me to really believe, not to cheat myself. That man is very special to me, he teaches me so much, and I'm thankful he's in the Rays organization."
The introduction of the NL Cy Young Award winner was a special treat for the New York crowd, as the 1985 NL Cy Young Award winner, former Mets great Dwight Gooden, highlighted the historic season of current Mets right-hander Jacob deGrom. deGrom went 10-9, but his ERA was an MLB-best 1.70, making him only the second qualified starter since '96 to post a mark that low.
"Watching Jacob pitch … once his ERA got down to 1.64, I was rooting for him, but I wasn't rooting for him to get down to 1.53," Gooden said with a smile as he recalled his ERA from his '85 season.
The AL and NL Managers of the Year were also presented with their awards, as Oakland's Bob Melvin won the honor for the third time in his managerial career (also '07 with the D-backs and '12 with the A's) and Snitker won the honor for the first time. Snitker led the Braves to their first NL East title since 2013, flipping the club's record from 72-90 in '17, to 90-72 last year. Melvin guided the A's to a 95-win season that culminated in an AL Wild Card berth.
Along with the season awards, the New York BBWAA presented several other honors. deGrom won the Sid Mercer/Dick Young New York Player of the Year award. Red Sox left-hander David Price was named the Babe Ruth Postseason MVP. Mets outfielder Brandon Nimmo received the Ben Epstein/Dan Castellano "Good Guy" Award. Former Orioles outfielder Ken Singleton won the Casey Stengel "You Could Look It Up" Award. In honor of their 50th anniversary, the 1969 "Miracle Mets" were honored with the Willie, Mickey and the Duke Award.
The William J. Slocum/Jack Lang Award for "Long & Meritorious Service" went to longtime Mets vice president of media relations Jay Horwitz. Former Mets and A's general manager Sandy Alderson was honored with the Arthur & Milton Richman "You Gotta Have Heart" Award, informing the crowd that he is cancer-free and in great health. Yankees general manager Brian Cashman received the Joan Payson/Shannon Forde "Community Service" Award.
The program closed with the winner of the Joe DiMaggio "Toast of the Town" Award, longtime Mets third baseman David Wright, who retired following the 2018 season after spending his entire 15-year career with New York. Wright, who hit .296/.376/.491 with 242 home runs in his career, had been plagued by back issues since '15, severely limiting his ability to get back on the field. As he was introduced, he received a standing ovation.