Keep this in mind when it comes to the annual awards given out in Major League Baseball: Voting closes before the playoffs begin. MVP, Cy Young or Rookie of the Year winners don’t include postseason heroics.
The same goes for Manager of the Year, which almost always results in the award going to a skipper whose team fell just short of a World Series title.
The last manager to take home a World Series ring along with his Manager of the Year plaque was Ozzie Guillen of the Chicago White Sox in 2005. The last National League manager to do so was was Jack McKeon of the Florida Marlins in 2003.
This year, Dave Roberts of the Dodgers in the National League and Bruce Bochy of the Texas Rangers in the American League can make strong cases for Manager of the Year. But they are visions.
Why? Voters traditionally favor managers who view projected teams as playoff losers. High achievers are recognized far more often than managers who have a squad full of talent. Additionally, managers of low-payroll teams are often favored because they are perceived to do more with less.
All of this leads to oddities such as Bochy winning the award with the upstart San Diego Padres in 1996 despite being defeated in the NLDS, but never winning again despite leading the San Francisco Giants to World Series in 2010, 2012 and 2014 titles.
Roberts was named Manager of the Year in 2016 – his first season – but has not won since, despite leading the Dodgers to an unprecedented four 100-win seasons and boasting the highest winning percentage of any manager in MLB history at .630.
He’s on the cusp of his fifth 100-win season, with a starting lineup decimated by injuries and crowded with rookies, a lineup that features impressive performances from aging veterans JD Martinez, Jason Heyward and David Peralta, and one missing Front Office Add a power player at the trade deadline. The Dodgers say their clubhouse culture has never been stronger.
Yet Roberts is routinely taken for granted at best and belittled at worst. An article in the Athletic a week ago said David Ross of the Chicago Cubs should win NL Manager of the Year, with the following caveat: “David Bell of the Reds, Skip Schumaker of the Marlins and Torey Lovullo of the Diamondbacks had strong seasons and so on.” were seriously considered.”
Bochy came out of retirement to lead the Rangers, who unexpectedly lead the AL West after going 68-94 in 2022. He should get votes, particularly from writers looking to make up for his repeated snubs with the Giants, but will likely finish behind Brandon Hyde, manager of the picture-perfect AL East champion Baltimore Orioles.
The voting for managers and rookies of the year, Cy Young and MVP is conducted by Baseball Writers Assn. from America. And here too, votes must be cast by Sunday, the last day of the regular season.
Who should win the awards?
Let’s start, fittingly, with the race between two players who put together perhaps the best seasons of all time as leadoff hitters.
The Dodgers’ Mookie Betts has the most RBIs – 105 and counting – of any leadoff man in MLB history while hitting 39 homers and batting .309 with an on-base percentage of .410 and a slugging percentage of .590 hit.
Ronald Acuña Jr. of the Atlanta Braves hit even better, posting a slash line of .336/.415/.595 while hitting 40 home runs and driving in 101 runs. Oh, and he has 68 stolen bases to Betts’ 13.
Betts has a slightly better BWAR than Acuña – 8.1 to 8.0 – because he is a much better right fielder and has tremendous versatility, being rated as a plus second baseman and average shortstop. But Acuña had a stronger September at the plate, making it a tight race between two players reminiscent of the greatest leadoff hitter of all time, Rickey Henderson.
In Henderson’s remarkable 25-year career, there are quite a few that could be considered his best. His only MVP award came with the Oakland A’s in 1990, when his slash line was .325/.439/.577, for a monster OPS of 1.016. He led the league with 116 runs and 65 stolen bases and tied his career high with 28 home runs. He is the all-time leader in stolen bases with 1,406, but he never drove in more than 74 runs in a season.
Betts and Acuña’s triple-digit RBI totals set them apart, accomplishing something only two leadoff hitters had ever accomplished. The Rocky Mountains’ Charlie Blackmon drove in 103 runs in 2017 and the Angels’ Therein Erstad drove 100 in 2000.
Despite missing 27 games due to injury, the Angels’ Shohei Ohtani is the overwhelming favorite. No one in the history of baseball has gotten more out of the batter’s box and the pitching mound in a single season.
Ohtani still leads the AL in home runs (44), walks (91), on-base percentage (.412) and slugging percentage (.654), and as a testament to his speed and athleticism, he has eight triples and 20 stolen ones Bases . In 23 starts, Ohtani is 10-5 with a 3.14 ERA in 132 innings, allowing just 85 hits while posting 167 strikeouts.
Looking for a blemish: Ohtani leads the AL with 12 wild pitches, but rest assured that won’t cost him any MVP votes.
The runner-up should be Corey Seager, the former Dodgers shortstop who is enjoying a career year with the Rangers: His slash line is .331/.393/.640 and he has collected 33 home runs and 96 RBIs, despite being due to more missed more than 40 games due to injury.
NL CY YOUNG
Left-hander Blake Snell won the AL Cy Young with the Tampa Bay Rays in 2018 and should win the NL Cy Young this year with the San Diego Padres.
Snell’s 6.1 bWAR is a full two wins better than his closest competitor, the right-hander Zac Gallen the Arizona Diamondbacks. The Braves Spencer Strider leads the NL with 17 wins and 274 strikeouts, but his 3.81 ERA puts him well behind Snell (2.25 ERA), the Mets’ right-hander Kodai SengaCubs left-handed hitter Justin Steele (3.00) and Gallen (3.49).
AL CY YOUNG
The Yankees Gerrit Cole has finished in the top 10 in Cy Young voting six times in 11 seasons. This year he should win it for the first time.
Cole, a former UCLA star, is 14-4 with 217 strikeouts and leads the league with a .778 winning percentage, 2.75 ERA, 32 starts, 200 innings and a WHIP of 1.015, a great season.
NL ROOKIE OF THE YEAR
Despite being 30 years old and having spent 11 seasons in the Japanese Pacific League, Senga is a contender for Rookie of the Year and in the conversation for Cy Young. It’s hard to say whether some voters will discount him because he’s not a traditional freshman.
Arizona Diamondbacks midfielder Corbin Carroll represents a strong alternative. His numbers as a leadoff hitter don’t reach the level of Acuña and Betts, but they are consistently strong: .288 batting average, 25 home runs, 51 stolen bases, 112 runs scored, 74 RBIs and a league-best nine triples .
AL ROOKIE OF THE YEAR
If Walker Buehler’s proposal to create a new award for the best rookie pitcher in each league – he would call it the Fernando Valenzuela Award – had already been implemented, Senga and his AL counterpart would have already done so Tanner Bibee the Cleveland Guardians would be frontrunners.
Instead, they will likely finish second or worse in the Rookie of the Year voting. The AL award should go to Orioles third baseman Gunnar Henderson, who has 27 home runs, an AL-leading nine triples, 81 RBIs and 98 runs scored. His 145 games and 603 plate appearances give him a significant advantage over the Rangers All-Star third baseman Josh Jungwho missed 40 games due to a thumb injury and is a first baseman for the Red Sox Triston Casaswhose shoulder injury shortened his season.