The day the Rookie of the Year award is given out is always a sad day to me. And no, not because of the players selected or what it represents, but for the simple reminder that I will never be a major league rookie. If somehow a magic bolt of lightning gave me explosive reflexes and a powerful bat, I would still be one of those old rookies, the ones no one expects much from. It’s sad.
But let’s forget about that. Let’s think of happier things. Like the performance of Jose Fernandez and Wil Myers in 2013, earning them their rookie of year awards. Live it up, boys, because who knows who will be the next Ben Grieve or Bobby Crosby.
In the National League, Fernandez’s season long dominance of the National League gave him the award over Yasiel Puig, his 2.19 ERA coming in second only to Clayton Kershaw’s Mystical Pitching Arm, all the while striking out 187 batters in 172.2 innings.
But let’s also consider Fernandez’s story. Three times he tried to defect from Cuba, winding up in a Cuban prison at the age of 15, and when he finally did escape the island, he had to save his mother along the way.
From the Grantland article that you should really read in full:
"And then he remembers the splash. He heard it one night while he was making small talk with the captain. After the splash, he heard the screams. A wave had crashed over the boat’s deck and swept Fernandez’s mother out to sea. He saw her body and before he had time to think, he jumped in. A spotlight shone on the water, and Fernandez could make out his mother thrashing in the waves about 60 feet from the boat. She could swim, but just barely, and as Fernandez pushed his way toward her, he spat out salty water with almost every stroke. Waves — "stupid big," he says — lifted him to the sky, then dropped him back down. When he reached his mother he told her, "Grab my back, but don’t push me down. Let’s go slow, and we’ll make it." She held his left shoulder. With his right arm — his pitching arm — he paddled. Fifteen minutes later, they reached the boat. A rope dropped, and they climbed aboard. For now, at least, they were going to be OK."
Five years later, Fernandez dominated the National League at the age of 20 to win the award. While I’m sure Puig’s own defection was probably just as difficult, with at least one failed attempt that was recorded, still, you can’t help but be happy for Fernandez’s victory.
As for Myers, well, the story is less interesting. As far as I know, there was no death-defying chase on the high seas. No dealing with Mexican cartel members to gain access into the country. Again, I could be wrong, but it’s doubtful.
Instead, his story is tied with Dayton Moore and the Kansas City Royals’ success. While Myers played phenomenally well in Tampa Bay, hitting .293/.354/.478 with 13 home runs in half a season of work, helping push the Rays into the postseason, his first comparison is not to other 22-year-old outfielders, but to how James Shields pitched with the Royals in 2013. (Shields, by the way, lead the league in innings and posted his second best ERA. Still, no playoff berth for the Royals.)
Myers has the ability to be a perennial All-Star, the potential to be among the best hitters in the game. And every year, from here on out, Royals fans will do the mental math and try to imagine Myers taking his place in right field and just what that could mean.
While Myers’ season was strong, he didn’t run away with the award, the Red Sox/Tigers’ Jose Iglesias coming in second thanks to amazing defense and a surprising bat that saw him hit .303/.349/.386, numbers that are probably inflated from where he’ll actually end up for his career. But still, his defense is so sexy, multiple conservative parenting groups have contacted ESPN and FOX asking them not to show his highlights during primetime.
So far, the BBWAA is 2 for 2 in its awards, giving people room to argue, but no one reason to write screaming diatribes. And that’s what the internet is built on. We’ll see how they do tomorrow when the best manager awards are handed out.
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