Hey, everyone! Time for everybody’s favorite awards – the randos! Not sure who the best player in the league was? Or the best pitcher? Well, here, it doesn’t matter. That’s because we’re voting for the Manager of the Year and Rookie of the year on this ballot. More after the jump.
Let’s start with the rookies, and begin on the Junior Circuit. And as we begin, let’s point out that the Texas Rangers haven’t exactly had a lot to root for this year. But in spite of a 100-loss season (their first since 1973, and only their third ever in Texas) and a third last-place finish in four years, there was at least one bright spot: Adolis Garcia. Garcia has managed a 30-HR, 90-RBI season. The last four rookies to do that and win the Rookie of the Year Award all went on to win the MVP award later in their career (Cody Bellinger, Jose Abreu, Ryan Braun, and Albert Pujols). It’s pretty good company to be in. Given the Texas has been a frequent home to MVPs in the past, this may bode well for Mr. Garcia. Also, a fun fact about the Rangers’ ineptitude this season: this is their fifth-straight losing season. They haven’t had that since moving to Texas. This has, in spite of never winning a World Series, been a competitive, interesting franchise for much of its history, particularly in the last 25 years.
Let’s be sure to highlight one pitcher here, as roughly a third of all RoY winners are pitchers. The lead candidate has to be Luis Garcia. This year’s Astros have been winners, even without perpetual Cy Young candidate Justin Verlander. But part of that has to be the emergence of Garcia. Tell me – do you know, without looking, which of these stat lines belongs to Garcia, and which belongs to Astros ace Zack Greinke:
11-8; 4.16 ERA; 1.178 WHIP; 69 HR+BB allowed; 3.34 SO:BB; 28 starts
11-6; 3.48 ERA; 1.170 WHIP; 66 HR+BB allowed; 3.33 SO:BB; 29 starts
Pretty indistinguishable, right? Again: pretty good company to keep for a rookie! Check the bottom of the post for which is which.
Next, we’ll take a look at the man who was the preseason favorite: Randy Arozarena. Last year, Arozarena rewrote the postseason record book (setting new records for Games, Plate Appearances, At-Bats, and Home Runs), knocking 10 HR and 14 RBI while scoring 19 runs in a single postseason. So expectations were high heading into the season. Arozarena has batted .274/.356/.459 as one of four Rays with an OPS+ between 130 and 140. He has essentially as good a claim as anyone on that roster of being the best hitter on the best offense in the American League.
But if he’s not the best hitter on the Rays, perhaps our final candidate, Wander Franco, is. Franco spent 2019 and 2020 as the top prospect in all of baseball. He then came to MLB and absolutely scorched the ball, nearly matching Arozarena’s line, batting .288/.347/.463 (albeit in about half as many games). His 43-game on-base streak captivated baseball fans in the latter portion of the season, matched Frank Robinson for the longest ever by a player 20 or younger, and was something for Rays to keep up with once the division title was locked in.
Over on the Senior Circuit, we’ll start with another postseason hero from last year: Ian Anderson. Anderson has, perhaps, not been as electric as he was in a late-season callup last year… but that level of play was not sustainable. His regular season ERA last year (1.95) – and his somehow-even-lower postseason ERA from last year (0.96) were never going to be his baseline. Yet, he has still impressed, posting a 124 ERA+ and averaged over 5 innings/start. Add in a 9-5 record for a playoff team in the Braves, and you’ve got yourself a candidate.
Elsewhere in the National League, have you heard about the AAA team calling themselves the “Chicago Cubs” this season? I’m going to give some love to an old-guy Rookie of the Year candidate. Everyone loves these stories, though they rarely win the award. Frankly, I think baseball is better for it when they do, because these guys are not going to go to the Hall of Fame. But I digress. Patrick Wisdom batted .231/.305/.518 for an atrocious ballclub, but he gave the fans a reason to show up at the ballpark. Great power (28 HR) and a good walk rate (8.5%) will serve him well if he can stop striking out in nearly half his at bats. (I’m pretty sure he still has rookie status… but I find that whole thing so confusing, I’m never quite sure.)
Quick shout-out to another guy who I think has no chance. The Cubbies have a guy named Frank Schwindel. He’s only played in 53 games for the Cubbies this year (he also played in 8 for the A’s). But in those 53 games, he’s hitting a Juan Soto-like .349/.398/.627. I happened to catch a bit of this kid against my beloved Brewers and my adopted Twins in back-to-back series in September. Schwindel was 8/23 with three doubles, a homer, and a walk, scoring five runs in five games. I don’t know that he’ll get support here, but I’m putting him down as my betting favorite for NL Rookie next year.
To round things out, we would be remiss if we failed to mention the hated St. Louis Cardinals. If you’re not a Cards fan and you don’t think of them as “the hated St. Louis Cardinals,” you must only watch the American League. Because every stinkin’ year, they seem to come up with a Dylan Carlson: a guy who comes out of nowhere to perform on the level with the best. Carlson had a 68 OPS+ last year in 35 games, portending a nothingburger for his future. Yet, this season, the 22-year-old has batted .263/.339/.437, all while playing RF to a draw for a team that should’ve been left for dead at midseason, yet came back to wrap up a playoff spot.
And now, the managers:
In the AL, Kevin Cash of the Rays was the only 100-win manager in the bigs. With that traditional Rays small-market thing going. On the other hand, a lot of people hate the way he manages pitchers. But then… he won 100 games. So something is working.
In 2018, first-year manager Alex Cora led the Red Sox to a World Series title. In 2019, he posted a winning record. He was gone in 2020, and the Sawx fell to 24-36 and last place in the AL East. Cora returned in 2021… and the Red Sox returned to the ALCS. Notice anything?
Tony LaRussa is 1,000 years old. Count me among those who thought he’d be an absolute flop as the White Sox manager. Yet (albeit with a very talented roster), LaRussa won a division title.
Looking out west is no bad thing either. Any of those three managers – Dusty Baker returns the Astros to the Series, Scott Servais somehow gets the Mariners to 90 wins, or Bob Melvin gets a lifetime achievement award for yet again managing an A’s team to play above its weight.
There’s hardly a wrong choice in the whole American League.
Over in the NL, we could praise Craig Counsell or Dave Roberts… but that’s pretty much every year at this point. So let’s look at the three biggest surprises.
First of all, there are the World-Champion Atlanta Braves, led by skipper Brian Snitker. (I hope players call him “Skip Snit.” It just seems like the worst nickname of all time.)
I think you also have to praise Joe Girardi for the work he did with the Phillies to get them back above .500. While they’ve hovered around that mark in recent years, the last time they were actually over .500 was 2011, when they won 102 games and Roy Halladay was not only alive, but pitching. Things have changed in a decade. Everywhere Girardi goes, the team improves.
Finally, the man I would assume to be the presumptive favorite is San Fransisco’s Gabe Kapler. Did he make the mess of the Phillies Girardi had to clean up? Maybe. But he took a team of senior citizens and won 107 games – the most in the history of the franchise. While they came up short in the postseason, it was a very impressive (and unexpected) run to the top.
FYI: those two lines of Astros pitchers way up top? Greinke’s line was the top one – the worse one. (The higher ERA, anyway.)
So… who’s it going to be in each of these votes? Polls will close on Friday, December 31 at 11:59:59. In other words, we’ll save the AL MVP for 2022! Happy voting, and the rules are here:
Vote by making a comment below and numbering your choices with 1 being the MOST preferred candidate, and 3 being your LEAST preferred candidate of your three choices. Your ballots will be EXACTLY three places, just as the BBWAA does. You must vote for 3 players/managers. Scoring will be 5-3-1, just as the BBWAA does. You are not required to vote in all elections; only vote in the ones you would like to vote in. You may make vote changes, if the discussion so moves you. If you change your vote, please do so in a new comment, not as a reply to your original comment (it’s a lot easier to find new comments than replies to old ones). Please don’t vote strategically; we’re trying to get the best result, not to manipulate the vote totals based on what others have done. Voting will remain open about one week. When players are tied, tiebreakers go as follows: first tiebreaker is number of ballots on which players were named; second tiebreaker is highest placement on a ballot; third tiebreaker is the first player to be named (as this usually only happens when a bunch of players are tied for last). Results will be posted in a comment at the bottom of the post when balloting closes.