The Book of Mike

"This is no junior college. This is the notorious University of Miami.” -- Marlins starter Dontrelle Willis, after getting knocked around for six runs in 2 1/3 innings by the Canes.

Monday, November 01, 2004

Internet Baseball Writers Association Awards - My Votes

As some of you may already know by now, the Internet Baseball Writers Association Awards have been issued for the 2004 baseball season. I was privileged enough to be invited to vote on this year’s awards, and since (in some circles) there’s been some debate and discussion of how the votes went down, I thought I’d reveal how I voted here on my site. I also don’t want to hide in shame like some of the BBWAA do each year when we find unusual votes in the results of the “real” awards. As far as I’m concerned the IBWA Awards are the real Awards (at least until SABR gets its act together and starts voting on the same thing), because they’re the closest thing we have to the voice of the informed fan.

If you’d like to see the actual results, you can check them out here.

Keep in mind that the voting took place following the conclusion of the regular season. I submitted my ballot prior to the beginning of the playoffs, so my votes are purely based on regular season performance. However, everyone had the right to keep their ballots until the beginning of the World Series, and I am not sure how much (if at all) anyone/everyone let the playoffs influence their votes.

The following are my votes, along with some commentary (actual finish in the overall vote is found in parentheses):

1. Barry Lamar Bonds (1)
2. Adrian Beltre (2)
3. Albert Pujols (3)
4. Scott Rolen (5)
5. Jim Edmonds (4)
6. J.D. Drew (6)
7. Lance Berkman (9)
8. Todd Helton (8)
9. Mark Loretta (10)
10. Bobby Abreu (7)

First of all, I think this award should be renamed the Barry Bonds Award, and he should be made ineligible for it from now on. I’m sure that fifteen or twenty years from now some fool will use the argument that Albert Pujols didn’t win any major awards early in his career against Pujol’s case for Hall of Fame enshrinement. Bonds is on another level than everyone else anyway.

While the overall order differed slightly from mine, we had consensus on the top 10. Not much to add here.

1. Vladimir Guerrero (1)
2. Gary Sheffield (4)
3. Johan Santana (2)
4. Manny Ramirez (3)
5. Carlos Guillen (9)
6. David Ortiz (6)
7. Melvin Mora (7)
8. Mariano Rivera (16)
9. Ichiro Suzuki (8)
10. (10)

My most glaring omission here was Miguel Tejada, who finished 5th in the voting. This was simply an oversight on my part. I was trying to make sure that I got Carlos Guillen in my top 10 and Ichiro Suzuki also. I’m not quite sure how I managed to overlook Tejada, who simply had a monster year.

I suppose my vote for Mariano Rivera could have gone to Tejada instead, but I think Rivera’s dominance is highly deserving of credit in the Yankees ability to outperform their Pythagorean record. The Yankees won more games than they “should” have based on the number of runs they scored and the runs they gave up this year; this is the result of Rivera’s dominance on the mound, and also, to a lesser degree, the impact that simply having Rivera in the Yankees bullpen has on opposing managers and their strategy (i.e. well, it’s the seventh inning, Rivera’s probably coming in soon, so let’s hit and run now or steal a base and try to make something happen before he comes in and breaks all of our bats).

1. Randy Johnson (1)
2. Ben Sheets (3)
3. Carl Pavano (6)

Oh the joy of leaving Roger Clemens off of my ballot. Had one other voter followed my lead in this, Clemens would have likely finished third, behind Sheets.

Granted, my vote for Pavano is a bit of a stretch. It’s a bit of a home town vote and a bit of recognition for the solid year he had which is generally being overlooked. Pavano faded down the stretch, and had the results been tallied through two-thirds or three-quarters of the season, he likely would have finished higher. More than anything though, I was just trying to not vote for Roger Clemens.

1. Johan Santana (1)
2. Brad Radke (4)
3. Curt Schilling (2)

Mariano Rivera, who finished third, got his love here instead of in the American League Player of the Year voting. I suppose that’s understandable as Rivera’s a pitcher – and a closer at that – and there’s generally a hesitation against giving a pitcher a Player of the Year or Most Valuable Player type award, since they don’t participate on a daily basis.

Part of my reasoning for voting how I did though was to help get Brad Radke more recognition for the great season that he had. Many statistics and analyses of the 2004 season would tell you that Radke was the second best pitcher in the AL this year. Santana was far and away the best. The combination of having these two at the top of one rotation was what had me thinking that the Twins would go farther than they did in the playoffs.

1. Jason Bay (2)
2. Khalil Greene (1)
3. David Wright (4)

The results for this were about as close as I was torn in voting here. In the end I voted for Bay only because I thought I would be criticized for voting for Greene. Sabermetrically, Bay had a much better season than Greene. However, if I was building a team of my own, I would take Greene much earlier than Bay. Plus, Greene handled the bat plently well and I think that most of us have enough of his defensive wizardry embedded in our memories to recall that he’s pretty decent with the leather as well.

1. Shingo Takatsu (4)
2. Bobby Crosby (1)
3. Daniel Cabrera (5)

Largely on the strength of my vote, Takatsu finished as high as he did. If you accuse me of being a homer here and voting for a White Sox, I can’t argue too much with you. But I’ll also say that I’m scared to think about how ugly of a season it might have been for the Sox without Takatsu.

Not many others were on the Cabrera bandwagon with me. Maybe everyone was really disappointed when he showed up to Spring Training a few years older than when he went home after the 2003 campaign.

1. Bobby Cox (1)
2. Tony La Russa (2)
3. Frank Robinson (x)

It doesn’t look like my vote for Robinson was counted here. Granted, the top two guys were locks in my mind, and Cox received much more than a majority of the first place votes. Still, I threw in a third place vote for Robinson for merely holding things together in Montreal/San Juan. He did a heck of a job just to hold things together.

You could also easily make the argument that La Russa deserves the hardware this year moreso than Cox, because - generally speaking - although expectations were not at an all-time high for the Braves this year, they were generally lower for the Cardinals at the outset of the season (mainly because of questions about their pitching, and the overall perceived strengths of the Astros and Cardinals). My vote for Cox, and you can argue with me over this, was swayed by the fact that I think Cox - for his success over the past decade and a half with the Braves - is deserving of something of a lifetime achievement award.

1. Buck Showalter (1)
2. Ron Gardenhire (3)
3. Lou Pinella (8)

Not many others were with me in voting for Lou Pinella. I thought that getting the Devil Rays out of the cellar for the first time in their history was an accomplishment. The Devil Rays were even in the Wild Card race until the All-Star break or so. That’s a heck of a lot more than anyone expected out of them, and to think that Pinella could have gotten those results out of the talent that was available to him over the full season is simply expecting too much.

1. Walt Jocketty (1)
2. John Schuerholz (2)
3. Paul DePodesta (4)

Walt Jocketty either knew something about his St. Louis Cardinals this year that the rest of us sure didn’t, or he simply got lucky. Given that the Cardinals are either usually in the playoffs or at least in the serious running, I’m going to guess that he knew something this year.

Gerry Hunsicker finished third in the overall voting, but off of my ballot. Like Jocketty, he clearly knew something that the rest of us didn’t, because nearly everyone had the Astros written off for dead at the trading deadline, but they ended up making it to game seven of the NLCS. I didn’t vote for him though mainly because of a lack of movement around the deadline. Yes, Hunsicker acquired Beltran, but a move for another arm at the deadline likely would have put the Astros in the World Series. Still, he probably deserved a vote from me if only for not caving in to public sentiment and starting to build for 2005 and beyond when things looked bleak in July.

I’m also of the camp that’s for renaming this award for Braves GM John Schuerholz. He is clearly someone who knows something about baseball that most of the rest of us don’t. People – myself included – have written off the Braves as contenders for the division title for years now, but somehow they are always at the top. As the architect of all of these division titles, Shuerholz surely deserves much of the credit. I know that I for one am not picking against the Braves until after they fail to do it on the field.

1. Terry Ryan (2)
2. Billy Beane (7)
3. Theo Epstein (1)

Tigers GM Dave Dombrowski finished third in the overall voting, and this was a deserving finish. The Tigers were historically bad in 2003, but – unbeknownst to us all – Dombrowski was building them into something respectable. In a few years, they’ll be a genuine, bona-fide contender.

Here again it looks like my vote wasn’t counted as Beane finished seventh and wasn’t credited with any second place votes. An extra vote for Beane wouldn’t have made much difference in the standings. I suppose folks have tired of the new Billy Ball. I think Beane deserves some credit, like Terry Ryan, for keeping a small market, or at least low revenue, team competitive. Sure, the Athletics didn’t make the playoffs this year, but if the season had been three games longer, maybe they would have.

I also would give Beane bonus points for having two former protégés in general managing positions currently (Paul De Podesta of the Dodgers and JP Riccardi of the Blue Jays). Those appointments are still recent and are either a credit to his skill in hiring talented people or in developing people (as a business manager) – or both. Those are traits that should not be undervalued, but are much harder to quantify from the outside.


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