Time to hand out the hardware.
Photo: Getty Images | Licensed to Alpha Media Group 2013
After 162 games (or 163 in the case of the Texas Rangers and Tampa Bay Rays), baseball’s regular season has come to a close, which means it’s time to hand out some hardware. Now, because it would involve twice as much work, we’re not splitting these into the National League and American League. The All-Star team has nine position players, one starting pitcher, and a reliever. That’s it. Some picks were tougher than others, but overall, 2013 saw plenty of impressive performances, and with the likes of Bryce Harper (20), Jose Fernandez (21), Manny Machado (21), Mike Trout (22), and Yasiel Puig (22), the game’s in good hands for the foreseeable future. So, without further ado, the awards:
Catcher: Yadier Molina, St. Louis Cardinals
The Cards finished with the National League’s best record, and no player was more important to that effort than the team’s backstop. In fact, it’s hard to recall a catcher who better handled his pitching staff, let alone one who could hit like Molina.
Honorable Mention: Joe Mauer, Buster Posey
1st Base: Paul Goldschmidt, Arizona Diamondbacks
This is a tough one. Chris Davis put on a near-historic slugging performance, with 53 home runs and 138 RBIs to lead the American League. Thing is, Goldschmidt was simply the more well-rounded player, with his 7.0 Wins Above Replacement leading all first-basemen. Really, this is a tossup, but we’ll get to Davis later.
Honorable Mention: Chris Davis, Joey Votto
2nd Base: Robinson Cano, New York Yankees
Is Robinson Cano worth the $300 million over 10 years that he’s said to be seeking in the off-season? No, he’s not. He is, however, one of the best players in the game, and almost certainly the best second baseman. But he’s 31 and won’t be playing at his current level into his 40s. For my money (and I really have no money), the only player worth that kind of cash is the very best player in the game. (See below.)
Honorable Mention: Matt Carpenter, Dustin Pedroia
3rd Base: Miguel Cabrera, Detroit Tigers
When did the hot corner become the most-stacked position in baseball? Seriously, it’s insane how many of the game’s best are playing third. All of the “Honorable Mentions” below deserve MVP votes, and Manny Machado is one of the most exciting young players in memory. But Cabrera is one of the best hitters, not just today, but ever. No, he didn’t repeat last year’s Triple Crown, but statistically he had an even better season. Dude’s a machine.
Honorable Mention: Josh Donaldson, Manny Machado, David Wright, Adrian Beltre, Evan Longoria
Shortstop: Andrelton Simmons, Atlanta Braves
First of all: Troy Tulowitzki is baseball’s best all-around shortstop. Fine. But Simmons is such a phenomenal defensive force that we’re giving him this slot. In fact, one could argue that Simmons just put up the greatest defensive season in history. He’s been operating at a Brooks Robinson-Ozzie Smith level, and damned if it isn’t exciting to watch. Luckily for us, he only just turned 24, so we should have years of mind-boggling highlights to look forward to.
Honorable Mention: Troy Tulowitzki, Jean Segura, Elvis Andrus
Outfield: Mike Trout, Los Angeles Angels; Andrew McCutchen, Pittsburgh Pirates; Carlos Gomez, Milwaukee Brewers
Yeah, two of these guys are center fielders. But you know what? Fuck it. They’re the three best, most well-rounded outfielders in the game; three players who can rake, run, and play killer defense. In a season that saw Matt Kemp, Carlos Gonzalez, Giancarlo Stanton, and Bryce Harper all sidelined with injuries, and Ryan Braun sidelined because of suspension, this was a pretty easy choice.
Honorable Mention: Michael Cuddyer Sin-Shoo Cho, Jason Werth, Yasiel Puig, Matt Carpenter
Designated Hitter: Chris Davis, Baltimore Orioles
So, sure, we’re cheating here. In a just world, David Ortiz takes this spot because, well, because he’s actually a designated hitter. But then again, in a just world, Chris Davis has to find a place somewhere on this squad, and given his prodigious production at the plate, this is as good a spot as any. Sorry, Papi, you’ll have to settle for the playoffs.
Honorable Mention: David Ortiz; Edwin Encarnacion, Prince Fielder
Starting Pitcher: Clayton Kershaw, Los Angeles Dodgers
Well, that was easy. This season, it was really just a race to determine who was the second-best pitcher in the game. Kershaw won his third-straight ERA title, helped lead the Dodgers on their improbable postseason run, and could well win the NL MVP award.
Honorable Mention: Max Scherzer, Felix Hernandez, Yu Darvish, Matt Harvey, Adam Wainwright, Jose Fernandez
Relief Pitcher: Mariano Rivera, New York Yankees
For old times’ sake. And also because even at 43, he was the last guy you wanted to face in the ninth inning.
Honorable Mention: Greg Holland, Koji Uehara, Joe Nathan, Jim Johnson, Craig Kimball
Rookie of the Year: Jose Fernandez. No, Yasiel Puig. No, definitely Fernandez. Fuck.
Who knows? Fernandez, the Marlins’ 21-year-old Cuban ace recorded one of the most dominant rookie pitching campaigns in history, with a 2.18 ERA and a sub-1.0 WHIP. Meanwhile, on the other side of the country, the Dodgers’ 22-year-old Cuban outfielder scorched the NL like few before him, conjuring up images of Bo Jackson.
Defensive Player of the Year: Andrelton Simmons, Atlanta Braves
See above, under "Shortstops." Or just watch this.
Manager of the Year: Don Mattingly, Los Angeles Dodgers
Fine, maybe Clint Hurdle or Terry Francona should win this. Or Jim Leyland, based entirely on his reaction to clinching the Tigers' playoff spot. But you know what, this is my list, and I’m invoking executive privilege (or something like that). Don Mattingly is my favorite person that is neither a close personal friend nor a family member. For over a year, when I was 9 or 10 (c. 1986-87), I had his number 23 shaved into the side of my head. I modeled my batting stance on his. When Michael Jordan entered the NBA, he automatically became my favorite player simply because he shared Mattingly’s jersey number. A picture of the Hitman in his prime is my iPad wallpaper. I cried in 1986 when he lost the batting title to Wade Boggs, and the MVP to Roger Clemens. His nickname was “Donnie Baseball” for fuck’s sake! So in June, when the Dodgers were atrocious and it looked like he was going to be fired, I was concerned. But what happened next was epic: From June 22 through August 17, the Dodgers went 42-8, tying them for the best 50 game stretch since 1900. Safe to say, Donnie’s job is safe. God, I love the guy.
(Postscript: Was there a more awesome/ridiculous moment this season than the Dodgers-Diamondbacks brawl in June? If you’re a child of the ‘80s and ‘90s, you had to love seeing Mattingly, Kirk Gibson, Alan Trammell, Mark McGwire, and Matt Williams get into it. Old school.)
Honorable Mention: Clint Hurdle, Terry Francona, John Farrell
Pitcher of the Year: Clayton Kershaw, Los Angeles Dodgers
See above, but again, this was no contest. Consider this: he just won his third-straight ERA title. Who else has done that? Greg Maddux, Roger Clemens, Sandy Koufax, and Lefty Grove. Those are five of the best pitchers ever. Another thing worth considering: Kershaw is only 25.
Offensive Player of the Year: Miguel Cabrera, Detroit Tigers
The guy’s stats are just sick. Coming off the first Triple Crown since 1967, all Cabrera has done is hit .348 with 44 home runs and 137 RBIs. Last year? He hit .330 with 44 homers and 139 ribbies in 13 more games. He’s the most dangerous offensive force in baseball, and one of the best in history. He’s going to win his second-straight AL MVP award, but for the second-straight year, someone else deserves it.
The Best Player of the Year: Mike Trout, Los Angeles Angels
Because this guy deserves it, even if his team didn’t make the postseason (we can blame Albert Pujols, Josh Hamilton, and others for that). How good is the Angels’ 22-year-old outfielder? Well, when your closest historical comparisons are Mickey Mantle and Willie Mays, you’re pretty fucking good. Really fucking good. Historically good, in all aspects, of all time. Don’t believe me? Stop what you’re doing (okay, wait until you finish reading this post. You’re almost there) and read this take by Sports Illustrated’s Tom Verducci; or this one, by Grantland’s Rany Jazayerli. As stated above, Miguel Cabrera will win the AL MVP, and he’s a worthy winner. But with his combination of hitting prowess, plate discipline, speed on the base paths, and defensive acumen, Trout is the best player in the game today.
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