After the final out is recorded in the World Series, and before the start of the Winter Meetings in Nashville, important business is conducted that can be downplayed or ignored in some circles.
The four Baseball Writers’ Association of America awards in November. A much bigger deal for the Orioles after they regained their contender status and inflated the level of talent on the roster.
I remember when I could skip the MLB Network programs, which run longer than the Oscars, because the Orioles didn’t have anyone in the discussion. My work was done. Let the other beat writers craft their stories while I tuned into "Jeopardy" or whatever was streaming on Netflix. Those poor fools.
Those days are over.
Gunnar Henderson has become the leading contender for Rookie of the Year in the American League. I won’t say he’s a runaway winner, but the kid sits in the driver’s seat - looking young enough to carry a learner’s permit.
He’s hitting, hitting for power and driving in runs, and his defense at shortstop only strengthens his case.
Manager Brandon Hyde says Henderson has his vote, though it's an imaginary one because I checked the BBWAA roster again and he isn't on it. But this isn't just favoritism.
“He’s showing everybody why he’s Rookie of the Year,” Hyde said. “It’s fun to watch him play right now.”
Especially when it's for the club that you're managing.
The ballot holds three names. Orioles reliever Yennier Cano could sneak onto a few, but the Red Sox’s Triston Casas and Masataka Yoshida and the Guardians’ Tanner Bibee probably are ahead of him. Rangers All-Star third baseman Josh Jung hasn't played since Aug. 6 after fracturing his left thumb.
Cano retired 62 of the first 67 batters he faced across 21 2/3 scoreless innings. He became more hittable after that ridiculous stretch – he couldn’t be expected to maintain it – but he’s still putting up numbers worthy of consideration in high-leverage situations. And now that he’s going to be the primary closer, he has an opportunity to make a bolder statement.
Félix Bautista might have tumbled off the five-man Cy Young ballots after injuring his ulnar collateral ligament. Maybe. Kyle Bradish might be forcing his way onto them with his 3.03 ERA that hasn't changed in his last two starts.
Must tune in to find out.
Hyde is the favorite for Manager of the Year. I haven’t taken an informal poll, but I say so.
I also said he should have won the award last year. No offense or disrespect to Terry Francona, but I think the BBWAA got it wrong. And don’t come at me with average age of the rosters or whatever else. He did fantastic work as usual. The award was his third. But the Orioles won 83 games after losing 110 in 2021.
Nobody, and I mean nobody, expected them to be .500, let alone finish four games above it.
The Sporting News and Baseball America chose Hyde. The BBWAA figures to do the same this year with the Orioles possessing the American League’s best record, but they still have the rest of September to play.
The Rangers’ Bruce Bochy, the Mariners’ Scott Servais, and the Rays’ Kevin Cash also have done tremendous jobs and could appear on the three-man ballot. Servais finished third last year, receiving one first-place vote. Francona received 17 and Hyde nine.
None of the Orioles are going to be selected as Most Valuable Player, but the ballot holds 10 names and at least one of them could get votes.
That’s four programs on four consecutive nights that constitute must-see TV.
There’s also the possibility of Mike Elias receiving an Executive of the Year award, and we haven’t even discussed Silver Slugger - which could impact catcher Adley Rutschman, Gold Glove, Reliever of the Year or Comeback Player of the Year. Cedric Mullins should at least be a finalist again for Gold Glove, and you could build a case for others. Ryan O'Hearn has a shot at Comeback Player.
No Oriole has been named MVP since Cal Ripken Jr. in 1991. He also was the winner in ’83.
Reliever Gregg Olson is the last Rookie of the Year, in 1989, seven years after Ripken won it.
Steve Stone won the last Cy Young Award back in 1980. He needed two more to match Hall of Famer Jim Palmer. Didn't come close.
Buck Showalter was chosen Manager of the Year in 2014, 17 years after Davey Johnson.
Catcher Rick Dempsey was the last World Series MVP in 1983, after Brooks Robinson in 1970 and Frank Robinson in 1966. Who’s your pick for 2023?