BBWAA finalist crop not without snubs
Tanaka not deemed one of AL's top rookies; Matheny bested by NL skipper peers
Next week, the prestigious end-of-season awards will be handed out by the Baseball Writers' Association of America, and the game's best will be honored for their spectacular efforts in 2014.
As always, some great names will be missing from the lists.
On Tuesday, the BBWAA revealed the finalists for the major awards (American and National League Rookie of the Year, Manager of the Year, Cy Young Award and Most Valuable Player), and each category features only three names. These were the top three leading vote-getters in each category from the BBWAA balloting process, which took place, as always, prior to postseason play.
Here are the finalists … and a few deserving non-finalists.
AL Rookie of the Year
It's hard to argue that the finalists -- slugger Jose Abreu of the White Sox, dominant Yankees reliever Dellin Betances and Angels starting-rotation savior Matt Shoemaker -- don't deserve to duke it out for the honor, which, along with NL Rookie of the Year, will be announced on MLB Network on Monday, Nov. 10, at 6 p.m. ET, but Masahiro Tanaka should get some love.
The Yankees right-hander came over from Japan and was right there among the best pitchers in the AL when healthy, going 13-5 with a 2.77 ERA and 141 strikeouts and only 21 walks in 136 1/3 innings. Unfortunately for Tanaka and the Yankees, his season was delayed from July 8 to Sept. 21 because of a partial tear of the ulnar collateral ligament in his right elbow, which may require Tommy John surgery down the road.
Another rookie pitcher worth mentioning is Royals right-hander Yordano Ventura, who went 14-10 with a 3.20 ERA over 183 innings, striking out 159 and walking 69 and serving as a steady hand as Kansas City pushed toward an AL pennant.
NL Rookie of the Year
The finalist triad of surprising Mets breakout star Jacob deGrom, Cincinnati speedster Billy Hamilton and Cardinals second baseman Kolten Wong is as deserving as it is difficult to pick from when it comes to this award.
But let's not forget about Ken Giles, a 23-year-old fireballer out of the Phillies' bullpen who didn't make an appearance in the Major Leagues until June but made the rest of the season count. Giles went 3-1 with a 1.18 ERA and struck out 64 batters in 45 2/3 innings, posting a WHIP of 0.79 along the way.
Also worth mentioning: Arizona outfielder Ender Inciarte, who hit .278 and stole 19 bases.
AL Manager of the Year
How can you ignore Mike Scioscia, whose Angels had the best record in baseball; Buck Showalter, whose injury-depleted Orioles ran away with the AL East; and Ned Yost, who piloted the Royals to the team's first playoff appearance in 29 years? Well, you can't. They're the three deserving finalists here for the award that, along with NL Manager of the Year, will be revealed on Tuesday, Nov. 11, at 6 p.m. ET on MLB Network.
But you shouldn't ignore Lloyd McClendon, either.
McClendon took over a young Mariners team that had gone 71-91 in 2013, led it to a 16-game improvement (87-75) and had it in postseason contention until the last game of the season, when it fell short by a mere game.
Joe Girardi of the Yankees deserves credit, too, leading a banged-up team to an 84-78 record in the tough AL East.
NL Manager of the Year
Giants skipper Bruce Bochy, Pirates manager Clint Hurdle and first-year manager Matt Williams of the Nationals all fit well in this category. Bochy, of course, led his team to an NL Wild Card berth and then navigated the Giants to their third World Series title in five seasons. Then again, postseason play doesn't count on this ballot, which honors only the first 162 games.
That's why Dodgers skipper Don Mattingly and Cardinals manager Mike Matheny should be mentioned here, even though they didn't make the cut as finalists. Mattingly again steered his Dodgers to a division title, and Matheny did the same with the Cardinals in the tough NL Central. Both had injury issues to weed through and made the best of it.
AL Cy Young Award
The BBWAA voters pretty much nailed this one, tabbing Mariners ace Felix Hernandez, Indians right-hander Corey Kluber and White Sox lefty Chris Sale as the top three pitchers in the AL this year.
The AL and NL Cy Young winners will be announced on Wednesday, Nov. 12, at 6 p.m. ET on MLB Network, and Hernandez can win his second such award, while Kluber and Sale are in the running for their first.
But two veterans who happen to be free agents -- Max Scherzer and Jon Lester -- had wonderful years that should be acknowledged. Scherzer went 18-5 with a 3.15 ERA for the Tigers and established career-high totals in strikeouts (252) and innings (220). Lester, splitting time between Boston and Oakland, won 16 games, pitched to a sterling 2.46 ERA and fanned 220 batters in 219 2/3 innings.
Another worth mentioning is Kansas City reliever Wade Davis, who took to a setup role with aplomb, going 9-2 with a 1.00 ERA in 71 games, striking out 109 batters in 72 innings and putting up a WHIP of 0.85.
NL Cy Young Award
If there's any certainty from this year's BBWAA awards, it will be this: Clayton Kershaw will win the NL Cy Young Award. That's simply what happens when you go 21-3 with a 1.77 ERA, 239 strikeouts in 198 1/3 innings and a 15-strikeout no-hitter that would have been a perfect game if not for an error.
That said, the other two finalists for this award, Reds righty Johnny Cueto and Cardinals ace Adam Wainwright, were 20-game winners, too, and deserve this billing.
As for non-finalists, Jordan Zimmermann of the Nationals and Madison Bumgarner of the Giants deserve a few atta-boys. Zimmermann went 14-5 with a 2.66 ERA and threw a no-hitter in his last start of the season. Bumgarner, whose postseason heroics did not factor into this voting, wasn't bad in the regular season, either, going 18-10 with a 2.98 ERA and 219 strikeouts in 217 1/3 innings.
This could very well be Mike Trout's year after two close calls. The Angels outfielder heads a solid trio of finalists that also includes Indians outfielder Michael Brantley and Detroit designated hitter Victor Martinez. These results, along with the NL MVP, will round out the BBWAA awards for 2014 and will be revealed on Thursday, Nov. 13, at 6 p.m. ET on MLB Network.
It's tough to argue with the well-rounded offensive and defensive work done by Trout and Brantley this year, and Martinez's spectacular year at the plate warrants his position here.
But as far as the term "valuable" goes, Mariners second baseman Robinson Cano deserves recognition for a solid year at the plate (.314/.382/.454, 82 RBIs) and a huge impact in the clubhouse of a young and vastly improved team.
Jose Bautista of the Blue Jays also had a quietly impressive season (.928 on-base plus slugging percentage, 35 homers, 103 RBIs) that should get some ink.
Kershaw's incredible season might very well win him this award, too, but it wouldn't be surprising or undeserved if the honor fell into the hands of the other two finalists, Pittsburgh outfielder Andrew McCutchen and Marlins slugger Giancarlo Stanton. McCutchen, who won this award last year, led baseball in the new statistical metric of weighted runs created, and Stanton led the NL in homers with 37, drove in 105 runs and put up an OPS of .950.
Looking outside of the finalists, let's honor a pair of catchers: Jonathan Lucroy of the Brewers and Buster Posey of the Giants.
Playing the most demanding position on the field, Lucroy broke out for Milwaukee in 2014, slashing .301/.373/.465 with 13 homers, 69 RBIs and an MLB-leading 53 doubles. Posey, the 2012 NL MVP, did his usual thing, posting a .311/.364/.490 line with 22 homers and 89 RBIs.