The Major League awards season is complete, and the teams with the best records in each league, the two teams that ultimately met in the World Series, the Cardinals and the Boston Red Sox, were shut out.
In the American League, Tampa’s Wil Myers was the rookie of the year. The World champion Red Sox had John Farrell in the conversation for Manager of the year, but that award was won by Boston’s former manager, Terry Francona of the Indians. The AL Cy Young went to Detroit’s Max Scherzer, the Parkway Central and Mizzou product, and the MVP went to Miguel Cabrera of the Tigers.
The National League awards went to Marlins rookie pitcher Jose Fernandez; Pirates manager Clint Hurdle; Dodgers lefty Clayton Kershaw, who won the Cy Young award; and Pittsburgh center fielder Andrew McCutchen, who won MVP.
Once again, we’ve seen how a deep roster of quality players trumps a few superstars, and how a good roster can overshadow a great managerial job. Farrell took over a last-place team with a strong nucleus, but needed leadership. Boston went out and signed Shane Victorino, Jonny Gomes and Mike Napoli. Those three added veteran leadership and intensity to a club that in 2011 was having fried chicken and beer delivered to the clubhouse during games, and then bottomed out with Bobby Valentine at the helm last year. Farrell guided a ship through tumultuous waters, dealing with the loss of closers Joel Hanrahan and Andrew Bailey before getting to Koji Uehara.
The Sox had three players who hit over .300, and had only two who hit 23 or more homers and one – David Ortiz – who drove in 100. They could pitch, but had only one pitcher who won as many as 15 games, and their ERA leader among starters was John Lackey at 3.52 – almost a full run more than AL ERA leader Anibal Sanchez. They went to prove that award-winning players aren’t necessary to have the best record in the league. Nonetheless, if the writers didn’t have anyone to vote for among the Red Sox for the big awards, you would think they’d believe Farrell did a terrific job.
Of course, in the National League the Cardinals led the league with 97 wins. They did have several award candidates, but didn’t take home any hardware. The Cards were victimized by the great Pittsburgh storyline, with the Buccos posting a winning record and making the playoffs for the first time since 1992.
Certainly, Fernandez’s year was more impressive than Shelby Miller’s. The Miami phenom deserved rookie of the year. And Kershaw was deserving of the Cy Young award; everyone else should have been and was fighting for second place.
But how can the writers determine that McCutchen is more valuable than Molina? The third MVP finalist, Paul Goldschmidt of Arizona, put up great Triple Crown numbers, but didn’t lead his team to a playoff spot. McCutchen didn’t lead his team to a record as good as the Cardinals, and didn’t play a position that allowed him to dictate the outcome of games like Molina. Yadi guided a young pitching staff through a season in which 10 rookies participated, and absolutely shut down opponents’ running games. McCutche didn’t have transcendent numbers; in fact, he didn’t lead the National League in a single offensive category. He was a very good player, but Molina was simply better.
And if the writers were going to decide that the Cards didn’t have an award-winning player, how could they look at the roster and not have Mike Matheny as a top-three manager? It seems ridiculous to me that the Cardinals could play 20 rookies and Matheny wouldn’t be among the finalists for manager of the year. Why did all those rookies play? Because the Cardinals lost shortstop Rafael Furcal and co-ace Chris Carpenter by the time spring training games started. Closer Jason Motte followed, failing to pitch in a regular-season game, and replacement Mitchell Boggs imploded. David Freese was never himself, and lefty Jaime Garcia was lost for the year in May.
So, if Molina wasn’t the most valuable and in fact was the third-most valuable player in the league, Matheny had to be the manager of the year. Except he wasn’t. Clint Hurdle of Pittsburgh was. The Cardinals could have had some hardware, but paid the price for being a great organization over the years rather than missing the playoffs for 21 years.
They’ll certainly trade their World Series trip for winning a trophy, but they should have had both. It’s a shame the voters of the Baseball Writers Association of America voted for stories rather than performances. They make themselves look bad when they make choices like the ones they made for NL MVP and manager of the year.