Royals reign with four-pack of GIBBY Awards
AL champions are top Postseason Storyline, while Holland, Davis, Moore receive honors
The Royals may have fallen short of baseball's ultimate prize last season, but they still took home plenty of hardware with multiple MLB.com Greatness in Baseball Yearly Awards.
The American League champions were recognized with 2014 GIBBY Awards for Closer, Executive and Setup Man of the Year as well as top Postseason Storyline on Saturday night in a live broadcast on MLB Network and MLB.com.
The Royals became the darlings of the AL with an unforgettable postseason run that ended one victory short of a World Series title. And if it weren't for their late rally in one of the most memorable games of the year, they wouldn't have even played in the Division Series.
That incredible comeback victory over the Oakland A's in the AL Wild Card Game on Sept. 30 will be remembered in Kansas City for a long time and was remembered on Saturday as the year's best Postseason Storyline.
There were a lot of grand October moments to choose from, including the Giants winning the World Series over the Royals in Game 7, Travis Ishikawa's National League pennant-winning home run in San Francisco, the Cardinals beating Dodgers ace Clayton Kershaw to win their NL Division Series, and Brandon Belt's 18th-inning homer to give the Giants a Division Series win over the Nationals.
But the Royals resonated more, and not just because of their huge win over the A's. The victory at Kauffman Stadium, the first postseason event in that ballpark in 29 years, stoked the fires for a record eight consecutive playoff victories en route to a Fall Classic appearance.
Among Kansas City's individual award winners, Greg Holland added to his postseason haul with the Closer of the Year Award, beating stellar peers Aroldis Chapman of the Reds, Craig Kimbrel of the Braves, Zach Britton of the Orioles, Kenley Jansen of the Dodgers, Jonathan Papelbon of the Phillies, Fernando Rodney of the Mariners, Francisco Rodriguez of the Brewers and Huston Street of the Padres/Angels in nailing down his first such honor.
Holland followed up an excellent 2013 with more of the same in '14. He converted 46 of 48 save opportunities and pitched to a 1.44 ERA, his second consecutive season with an ERA under 1.50. He also lowered his career opponents' batting average to .197, the best of any Royals pitcher with at least 250 career innings. Holland had 90 strikeouts in 62 1/3 innings.
"Watching Greg pitch, he's part of why their team is where they are right now, playing in the World Series," Kimbrel said in October when Holland was given the Mariano Rivera Award as best reliever in the AL, while Kimbrel got the Trevor Hoffman Award for top NL fireman. "He's a big part of that, and he converted almost all of his saves this year, and he goes out there each and every night and expects to do his job, and to do it perfect and make it look easy."
Holland wasn't the only Kansas City reliever to be honored on Saturday. Wade Davis was also named Setup Man of the Year.
Davis, who came to the Royals from Tampa Bay in the 2012 trade that also brought starting pitcher James Shields, had an epic 2014 campaign. The right-hander had a 9-2 record, three saves and a 1.00 ERA in a team-high 71 appearances. His ERA was the best among Major League relievers, and his 109 strikeouts in 72 innings were a club record out of the bullpen. Davis surpassed the 103 K's by Holland in 2013 and Jim York in 1971. In 12 postseason appearances, Davis was 2-0 with a 0.63 ERA.
And in the GIBBY voting, Davis managed to finish at the top of a strong group that included Dellin Betances of the Yankees, Tyler Clippard of the Nationals, Tony Watson of the Pirates, Andrew Miller of the Red Sox and Orioles, Pat Neshek of the Cardinals, Darren O'Day of the Orioles, Drew Storen of the Nationals and Joe Smith of the Angels.
The man who constructed this World Series contender, Dayton Moore, was also recognized on Saturday with the Executive of the Year Award for his accomplishments leading up to his club's magical 2014 season.
Moore's GIBBY triumph was the culmination of a construction process years in the making in Kansas City. It's already paid off with a seven-game Fall Classic thriller, a young team that looks like a perennial contender, and now this honor, which Moore won over some of the best GMs in the business.
Moore oversaw a Royals renaissance in part because he stuck with homegrown players including Hosmer, outfielder Alex Gordon, designated hitter Billy Butler, catcher Salvador Perez, third baseman Mike Moustakas, along with starting pitcher Yordano Ventura, and relievers Holland and Kelvin Herrera. Moore also orchestrated bold trades that were successful.
The most high-profile deal was the swap with Tampa Bay on Dec. 9, 2012, that sent top prospect Wil Myers and pitching prospects Jake Odorizzi, Mike Montgomery and Patrick Leonard in return for Shields and Davis. Shields became the ace of the Royals' staff for the next two seasons, while Davis blossomed into one of the best setup men in the game.
Moore also orchestrated the 2010 deal that sent Zack Greinke to the Brewers and netted center fielder Lorenzo Cain and shortstop Alcides Escobar in return. The Royals' defense throughout the season and October, anchored up the middle by Cain, Escobar and Perez, was a big reason they went as far as they did.
Now the Royals have a bright future and Moore has his first GIBBY Award.
"It's always going to be centered about pitching and defense and speed," Moore said. "The players are in place. It's a great core group of talent that we've got to continue to build around."
Major League Baseball's A-listers won 2014 GIBBY trophies based on votes by broadcasters, reporters, front-office personnel, MLB alumni, fans at MLB.com and the Society for American Baseball Research.
This year's GIBBY Awards feature winners in 25 categories. Individual honors went to the Most Valuable Major Leaguer, in addition to the year's best starting pitcher, everyday player, closer, setup man, rookie, breakout everyday player, breakout pitcher, bounceback player, defensive player, manager, executive and postseason MVP.
GIBBY trophies also were awarded for the year's top regular-season play, outfield throw, storyline, hitting performance, pitching performance, oddity, walk-off, Cut4 Topic, regular-season moment, postseason storyline, postseason walk-off and postseason play.
In the past several seasons, fans have cast millions of votes across the GIBBY categories, none of which is restricted to individual league affiliation. That's how you know the GIBBYs consider the best of the best.
All 30 clubs were represented among the award candidates, which is a testament to the competitive balance around the game.