Voting is underway through Thursday, exclusively at MLB.com, to help decide the winners of the Hank Aaron Award, now in its 15th year and given at the World Series by "The Hammer" himself to the outstanding offensive performer in each league.
For the fourth consecutive year, a special panel of Hall of Fame players led by Aaron will join fans in voting for the award, which is officially sanctioned by Major League Baseball and has recognized the most outstanding offensive performer in each league since it was established in 1999. Last year marked the first time that both recipients were in the same Fall Classic, as the award was won by the Tigers' Miguel Cabrera and the Giants' Buster Posey.
Cabrera, who perhaps even improved on his Triple Crown season of a year ago, is back as a repeat candidate. Other American League nominees include Chris Davis of the Orioles, David Ortiz of the Red Sox, Alexei Ramirez of the White Sox, Jason Kipnis of the Indians, Jason Castro of the Astros, Eric Hosmer of the Royals, Mike Trout of the Angels, Joe Mauer of the Twins, Robinson Cano of the Yankees, Josh Donaldson of the A's, Kendrys Morales of the Mariners, Evan Longoria of the Rays, Adrian Beltre of the Rangers and Edwin Encarnacion of the Blue Jays.
The National League nominees are Paul Goldschmidt of the D-backs, Freddie Freeman of the Braves, Nate Schierholtz of the Cubs, Jay Bruce of the Reds, Michael Cuddyer of the Rockies, Hanley Ramirez of the Dodgers, Giancarlo Stanton of the Marlins, Carlos Gomez of the Brewers, David Wright of the Mets, Domonic Brown of the Phillies, Andrew McCutchen of the Pirates, Matt Carpenter of the Cardinals, Will Venable of the Padres, Hunter Pence of the Giants and Jayson Werth of the Nationals.
"All 30 club nominees should feel honored to be considered for an award named for one of our game's legends, Hank Aaron," Commissioner Bud Selig said. "Hank was a brilliant all-around player who demonstrated great power, selectivity and baserunning in his Hall of Fame career. Our game today is fortunate to have so many dynamic players emulating the remarkable example of Hank Aaron."
The panel, led by Aaron, features some of the greatest offensive players of all-time -- Roberto Alomar, Johnny Bench, Tony Gwynn, Paul Molitor, Eddie Murray and Robin Yount. These Hall of Famers -- who combined for 17,629 hits, 8,278 RBIs and 1,723 home runs -- have all been personally selected by Aaron to lend their expertise in selecting the best offensive performer in each league.
"It is a great honor that Major League Baseball recognizes the most outstanding offensive performer in each league with an award in my name," Aaron said. "The game is full of so many talented players today that I am thankful my fellow Hall of Famers and the fans assist in selecting the much-deserving winners."
The last three Aaron Awards in the AL went to that league's home run leader -- Cabrera last year and Toronto's Jose Bautista in 2010-11. Eight of the 14 AL Aaron Award winners were home run champs in those seasons. In the NL, it is six of 14, but five of the past eight years. So in recent years, the long ball has spoken loudly. That will make it especially interesting to keep an eye on Davis, who set the Orioles' single-season home run record with 53, as well as Goldschmidt, who led the NL with 36 homers.
Cabrera, McCutchen and Stanton are the only nominees who have appeared on the ballot in each of the past three seasons. It will be interesting to see whether the Pirates' first postseason berth in 21 years might factor into support for their star center fielder.
Past winners of the award include Bautista and Matt Kemp (2011), Bautista and Joey Votto ('10); Derek Jeter and Albert Pujols ('09); Aramis Ramirez and Kevin Youkilis ('08); Alex Rodriguez and Prince Fielder ('07); Jeter and Ryan Howard ('06); Ortiz and Andruw Jones ('05); Manny Ramirez and Barry Bonds ('04); Rodriguez and Pujols ('03); Rodriguez and Bonds (2001-02); Carlos Delgado and Todd Helton ('00); and Manny Ramirez and Sammy Sosa (1999).
Posey last year joined Jeter and Manny Ramirez as the only players to accept the award and then celebrate a subsequent World Series title. One of the best moments at last year's ceremony was when Posey said in his acceptance speech, "I'm humbled that Hank Aaron knows who I am."
The Hank Aaron Award was introduced in 1999 to honor the 25th anniversary of Aaron hitting his 715th home run to break Babe Ruth's long-standing career record. At that time, it was the first major award introduced by MLB in more than 25 years, and it has grown in importance each year, always starting the rollout of major individual-performance hardware.