Seems like only yesterday that I was previewing every division in anticipation for the coming baseball season, and yet here we are at the end. It was a crazy season full of streaks and slides, absurd individual performances (good and bad), and plenty of hot takes to go around. If your team didn’t make the playoffs (can’t relate), don’t be sad the season’s over, smile because it happened (unless you’re a Mets, Padres, Giants, Tigers, Blue Jays, Braves, Phillies, Rangers, A’s, Marin- actually, you probably should just be sad if your team didn’t make the playoffs). If your team is in, hope you had your annual colonoscopy because your butthole is going to be uncomfortably tight for the next month. Believe me, snacking during games helps (bonus, completely out-of-nowhere Chip Power Rankings: 1. Cape Cod Dark Russet 2. Ruffles All Dressed 3. Doritos Spicy Nacho 3. Cape Cod Salt and Vinegar 5. Santitas Tortilla Chips). I’ll get into the playoff experience later when I do a full playoff preview, but I’d rather have my team miss the playoffs than have to play in the wildcard game, and, if they aren’t going to win the World Series, I want them to lose ASAP. Being emotionally invested in 10-20 playoff baseball games only to not come out on top is one of the worst feelings of all time. On a related note, I’m sure you’re all looking for my wildcard picks, but predicting the outcomes of single baseball games in a winner-take-all atmosphere is virtually impossible, so I’ll just say I’d be awfully surprised if the Yankees or DBacks lost. Anyway, time to get on the the Official Brian’s Den 2017 MLB Awards, which are sure to perfectly reflect the actual awards whenever they finally get handed out. I’m dedicating this to the memory of Tom Petty, one of the five most influential American musicians ever, the greatest road trip artist of all time, and the perfect soundtrack to any baseball discussion.
ROOKIE OF THE YEAR
American League– Aaron Judge, New York Yankees
I think we can all agree on this one, no?
Apologies to: Andrew Benintendi
National League– Cody Bellinger, Los Angeles Dodgers
Boy, this is easy!
Apologies to: Rhys Hoskins
MANAGER OF THE YEAR
American League– Terry Francona, Cleveland Indians
Listen, I’ve never been one to hide my biases, and Tito is my guy for life for his time with the Red Sox, but homerism doesn’t factor in, here. When you win 22 straight games with two of your three best position players out, coax a league-leading ERA out of a pitching staff that was hit with injuries all season long, and generally improved a team that was one inning away from winning the World Series last year, you get my vote. Actually, homerism probably does play a factor, because Paul Molitor of the Twins has a strong case, and is probably going to win the actual award because, when it comes to Coach of the Year awards in literally any sport, voters always take the easy way out and just give it to whoever lead a team that was supposed to be shitty to a good record (Molitor is actually a good manager, though, and does deserve to win).
Apologies to: Paul Molitor
National League– Torey Lovullo, Arizona Diamondbacks
All these great baseball minds to come through the Red Sox organization in the last few years, and we’re stuck with John Farrell? Why? I know I just kind of bashed the thought process that having an unexpected winning season is enough to win Coach of the Year, but Lovullo didn’t take a group of young guys who were going to be good anyway to the top or completely revamp the roster and bring in his guys. At the start of the season, the DBacks had pretty much the exact same team as last year, when they were terrible. Literally the only change they made was adding J.D. Martinez midseason, and, by then, they were already in position to make the playoffs, anyway. So clearly Lovullo was doing something right. They had better injury luck, sure, but he also managed the lineups, bullpen, and personalities of the team better than anyone in the National League. Baseball is a mental game more than anything, and he turned a team full of head cases and malcontents into a legitimate title contender.
Apologies to: Dave Roberts, Bud Black
American League– Corey Kluber, Cleveland Indians
Sigh. At the All Star break, I really thought I’d be sitting here talking about Chris Sale’s unbelievable dominance and how it was the greatest trade of all time, but, in good faith, I can’t give it to anyone but Kluber. Hot take, saying the guy who lead baseball in ERA and WHIP and was third in strikeouts should win Cy Young, I know. The narrative you’ll hear about this was that Sale faded down the stretch while Kluber surged, but that’s not necessarily accurate. His second half ERA (3.12) wasn’t that much higher than his first half ERA (2.75), and his WHIP and opponents’ slash lines were higher, but not that much higher. He actually struck people out at a higher rate in the second half than the first. It’s just that, while Sale was seemingly alternating between giving up five runs and zero, Kluber was giving up nothing every time out. He was excellent in the first half, and then became otherworldly in the second, posting an 11-1 record with a 1.79 ERA, 142 strikeouts, and 12 (!!!) walks over 110 innings. Those are decent numbers. It doesn’t factor in, but Kluber’s got a air of invincibility about him right now that no American League pitcher has.
Apologies to: Chris Sale
National League– Max Scherzer, Washington Nationals
It was reeeeeeeeeeeeallly tempting to say Kershaw, but I’m a big durability guy, and, because Dusty Baker would throw him out there for 8 innings if both his arms literally fell off his body, I’ll take the guy who still had unreal numbers and didn’t miss (much) time. He’s been a strikeout beast ever since he came into the league, and he just keeps improving on his ERA, ERA+, and WHIP every year. He allowed the fewest hits per 9 innings since Pedro Martinez in 2000, who wasn’t even really human. He slowed down juuuuuust a bit late, but that’ll happen when you’re a little banged up and forced to pitch anyway. The only problem he might run in to is that he has two teammates that could draw votes from him.
Apologies to: Clayton Kershaw, Gio Gonzalez, Steven Strasburg, Robbie Ray
MOST VALUABLE PLAYER
National League– Giancarlo Stanton, Miami Marlins
Switching up the league order here, and for good reason, as you’ll soon discover. This is the closest race out of all the awards, and at least five guys have legitimate claims. First off, I know I’ve established this before, but team success should have absolutely no impact on MVP voting. None. It’s icing on the cake, not the cake itself. One man can only effect 162 baseball games so much. There’s too many variables, too many things outside of anyone’s control, just too many weird things that happen during the course of a full season to say that a guy with 50+ homers or a league-leading on-base percentage and OPS actually wasn’t good because their teams stunk. With that out of the way, I’m all in on Giancarlo. His supernova hot-streak was the most fun couple weeks of the season, and his pursuit of 60 homers became the most interesting subplot in the National League. If you want to throw out team success, the Marlins briefly flirted with a possible wildcard spot, and it was solely because of Stanton. He had 33 home runs after the All Star break, and was pretty much unstoppable all season. He was a feel-good story for a franchise desperate for some good energy (even though he’s probably getting traded this offseason), and hits the most aesthetically-pleasing home runs this side of New York City. I would also listen to cases for Joey Votto, the most under-appreciated future Hall of Famer ever who just painted his masterpiece of plate control, or Nolan Arenado, the most complete blend of elite offense and defense in the league.
Apologies to: Joey Votto, Nolan Arenado, Paul Goldschmidt, Charley Blackmon, J.D. Martinez
Cross-League– J.D. Martinez, Detroit Tigers/Arizona Diamondbacks
I just wanted to create this award to recognize J.D. Martinez a bit. Do people realize what kind of season he had? He was third in MLB in home runs while playing in 119 games! He hit a home run every 9.6 at bats. Stanton? 10.1. Cody Bellinger, who finished 10th in the league in slugging percentage, is closer to Giancarlo Stanton, number 2, than Stanton is to Martinez’s unreal .690 slugging, the highest since someone named Barry Bonds was playing. He tied the record for most home runs ever hit in September. He has a real case to be National League MVP despite playing 62 games in Arizona. There’s never been a better case for Contract Year Magic, and because MLB doesn’t have any kind of First Team All MLB or anything, the only thing J.D. will get out of this absurd season is a big fat new contract.
American League– Jose Altuve, Houston Astros
As I said in the Cy Young section, I’m a big fan of durability, and, by proxy, consistency. That’s really the only thing separating Altuve from Aaron Judge. Normally, one valley in a long season full of peaks wouldn’t be enough to sway an MVP vote, but when the valley is as low as the one Judge went through right after the All Star break, it’s hard to ignore. There was about a month and a half where Judge was legitimately one of the worst players in baseball. He hit .185 in August, for crying out loud! Altuve was great all season. Sure he doesn’t have the flashy power numbers, but don’t let that distract you from his all-around game. Whatever batting average actually means these days, Altuve lead the league in it and hit .485 in July. .485! He added a .410 on base, .547 slugging, and 24 home runs, all pretty atypical for 5’6″ second basemen. He stole 32 bases, and is in general a better baserunner than Judge. Judge isn’t a bad fielder by any means, but there’s a reason you put the kid that picks daisies in right field. Altuve plays a premium defensive position and plays it well. He the most well rounder player in the American League, and has been all season. And, yes, the Astros won 100 games.
Apologies to: Aaron Judge, Corey Kluber