2006 MLB AWARDS
MANAGER OF THE YEAR
Jim Leyland Detroit Tigers
It had been along time since the Tigers had a winning season let alone challenge for the playoffs. However, thanks to new Manager Jim Leyland the Tigers got off to a strong start and ruled the AL Central almost the entire season. A late season slump would see them lose the Division Title, but there 95-67 record was still good enough to earn a Wild Card, and this is with many players that were around when they set and American League record for futility with 119 losses in 2003. For that reason this is the easiest award to choose.
Jim Thome Chicago White Sox
Injuries last season in Philadelphia turned him into a modern day Wally Pipp as Ryan Howard took his job at 1B. However, he was traded to Chicago and found new life as a Designated Hitter, looking like he was never inured as he finished third in the AL in home runs with 42 while driving in 109 RBI, as he was a key part of the White Sox line up all season as they fell just short of making the playoffs in their quest to win the World Series in back to back seasons.
ROOKIE OF THE YEAR
Justin Verlander Detroit Tigers
In twenty years people will look back and call 2006 the year of the rookie pitcher in the American League. However as Francisco Liriano and Jonathan Paplebon broke down in the second half, and Jered Weaver didn’t get called up until the second half, it was Just Verlander of the Tigers who pitched consistently good from April to September. His 17-9 record was a major reason for the Tigers turnaround, as he will be an ace in their rotation for many years to come.
HANK AARON AWARD
David Ortiz Boston Red Sox
Always a bridesmaid and never a bride, will be Big Papi’s refrain again as he gets the Silver Medal in the MVP again aka the Hank Aaron Award. However, when you are a DH you have one strike against you right away, then you factor in the Red Sox August collapse and five game sweep in Fenway Park at the hands of the Yankees, and the MVP slipped away again from Ortiz. However with a league best 54 homers and 137 RBI he is the obvious choice to win the Hank Aaron.
Johan Santana Minnesota Twins
After a slow start the Twins overcame a double digit deficit for both the Wild Card, and the Central Division to win their fourth division title in five years. Leading the way was ace pitcher Johan Santana who was virtually untouchable after the all-star break, as he ended up leading the Majors in wins with 19, ERA 2.77, and strike outs at 245. Pitchers who win the pitching Triple Crown almost always win the Cy Young and it won’t be different this year as Santana may even get MVP consideration.
Derek Jeter New York Yankees
For a decade no player has come to symbolize the Yankees more then their captain Derek Jeter who perhaps had the finest year of his stellar career as he finished a close second in the batting race at .343. However, it was the clutch hits that make Jeter the MVP as his bases clearing triple in August at Fenway Park helped set the stage for a 5-game sweep that broke the backs of the Red Sox and launched the Yankees to their 9th straight division title. All while the Yanks dealt with a string of injuries to key players all season.
MANAGER OF THE YEAR
Willie Randolph New York Mets
The National League was a jumbled up mediocre mess, with only one team winning more than 90 games, and that was Randolph’s Mets. The Mets had the most talented team but their pitching was a mess all season as ace Pedro Martinez was never healthy an won just 10 games, while the rest of the starting staff was a season long scramble with rethreads like Jose Lima and Allay Solar all getting their chance. However, the Mets never wavered and stayed in first place almost wire to wire, except for a few days in the first week.
Nomar Garciaparra Los Angeles Dodgers
After injuries limited him to just 143 games the last two seasons combined, most thought the best days were behind Nomar, as he was on the market for a long time before taking a 1-year $6 Million contract with the Dodgers. However, he was rejuvenated in the Southern California Sun, leading the league in batting in the first half before injuries crept up in the second. However, down the stretch he proved extra valuable as he had two big walk off homers during the stretch drive to catapult the Dodgers into the postseason.
ROOKIE OF THE YEAR
Ryan Zimmerman Washington Nationals
While young pitching was the story in the AL, the story young position of promise in the National League is Third Base, as the Nationals Ryan Zimmerman joined the Marlins Miguel Cabrera and the Mets David Wright as 3B under 25 with more then 100 RBI. Zimmerman who was picked up by the Nats in the first round of the 2005 draft spent his first full professional season in the Majors hitting 20 home runs while driving in a rookie best 110 RBI, all while playing great defense and hitting .287.
HANK AARON AWARD
Albert Pujols St. Louis Cardinals
The NL’s reigning MVP put up MVP numbers again with 48 homers and 136 RBI while hitting .330 good enough to rank in the top three in each category. He is the Cardinals MVP but not the NL MVP, only because of Ryan Howard. However, with a .667 slugging percentage the Cardinals first baseman should at least walk away with the Hank Aaron Award.
Brandon Webb Arizona Diamondbacks
As most of the National League was mediocre this year so was most of the NL’s pitching. No pitcher won more then 16 games, and there was hardly a dominate performance anywhere not even in the bullpen, where the Mets Bully Wagner could get consideration as the ace of the best pitching unit. However, with Brandon Webb leading the league in wins and ERA, he makes the best case even though years from now many wont even recall who was the Cy Young in the NL in 2006.
Ryan Howard Philadelphia Phillies
Last year Ryan Howard took over for Jim Thome in the middle of the season and powered his way to the Rookie of the Year. This year he almost single handily powered the Phillies into the postseason as he smashed a MLB best 58 homers and 148 RBI as the Phillies who looked like they were waving the white flag at the trade deadline made a final 6-week push for the Wild Card, falling just a few games short, had Howard not been there the Phillies would have likely lost 90 or more games.