Press Box: No surprises in MLB awards season

In this Sept. 27 file photo, Ronald Acuña Jr. celebrates after scoring the winning run during a game against the Cubs in Atlanta. (Associated Press)
In this Sept. 27 file photo, Ronald Acuña Jr. celebrates after scoring the winning run during a game against the Cubs in Atlanta. (Associated Press)

Major League Baseball’s awards week has come to a close without much suspense.

Both MVPs were unanimous selections for the first time, as was one of the Cy Youngs and both Rookie’s of the Year.

Who the awards would go to was pretty well known through the second half of the season, leaving the conversation of who was most likely to end in second.

That seemed to be the conversation as early as April for the American League MVP.

Shoehei Ohtani was voted first by all 30 voters, earning his second MVP and the Angel’s fifth as a team in the past 10 years.

The most interesting part of the MVP award around Ohtani is where he’ll end up playing next season and whether he is still the top pitching target on the free agent market after getting his second Tommy John surgery.

The Rangers’ last couple of offseason’s work in the market proved successful in their championship season with Corey Seager and Marcus Semien placing second and third in voting. The Mariners’ young superstar Julio Rodriguez took fourth to earn his second spot in the top-10 in two seasons. And the Royals’ Bobby Witt Jr. placed seventh to get in the voting for the first time.

The National League was the one that surprised me. The conversation between Ronald Acuña Jr. of the Braves and Mookie Betts of the Dodgers seemed to lead to a non-unanimous decision. But the first player to ever record a 40-home run, 70-stolen base season ran away with the award as he did on the basepaths since opening day.

Betts received all 30 second-place votes, while their teammates Freddie Freeman and Matt Olson, who the Braves let Freeman leave to bring on, nearly split the third- and fourth-place votes.

Diamondbacks rookie Corbin Carroll made an impressive first campaign to place fifth.

Carroll’s fifth-place result came two days after his unanimous selection for N.L. Rookie of the Year.

The right fielder who came in to the season as the top N.L. prospect easily cleared Mets’ starter Kodai Senga, Dodgers outfielder James Outman, Rockies’ outfielder Nolan Jones and Reds infielder Matt McLain who placed second through fifth, respectively.

For the first time, the Rookies of the year both entered the season as the top prospects and went wire-to-wire as awards favorites as the Orioles’ Gunnar Henderson was unanimously Carroll’s A.L. counterpart.

The field was far behind Henderson with Guardians’ starter Tanner Bibee, Red Sox first baseman Triston Casas, Rangers third baseman Josh Jung and Astros catcher Yainer Diaz took the next four spots.

Gerrit Cole was the unanimous selection for A.L Cy Young, the first time he has earned the award after multiple seasons taking second. But the following names on the list are a change from a lot of recent voting.

The Twins’ Sonny Gray placed second and ended in the voting for the first time since 2019 with his only other appearance a third-place finish in 2015. The Blue Jays’ Kevin Gausman appeared for the third consecutive year after taking sixth in 2021 and ninth last year. The Orioles’ Kyle Bradish placed fourth in just his second season. Finally in fifth, the Mariners’ Luis Castillo made good on the big extension he signed last year.

Both Cy Youngs came from aces headlining disappointing teams, with the Padres’ Blake Snell taking 28-of-30 first place votes for a near-unanimous choice.

The Giants’ Logan Webb grabbed one first place vote in his second-place finish and the Diamondbacks’ Zac Gallen received the final first-place vote as he took third. All three had been talked about as possible winners, but Snell’s incredible run through the second half of the season gave him a clear advantage. Snell is the example showing what modern awards voters are looking for in a Cy Young. He barely cleared enough innings to qualify for the ERA title -- passing it for just the second time in his career with the other coming in his first Cy Young season in Tampa Bay -- but in those limited innings he was far better than anyone else in the N.L.

Baltimore’s Brandon Hyde received 27 first-place votes for A.L. Manager of the Year, beating Bruce Bochy in his fourth championship season.

Finally and the most up for grabs, the N.L. Manager of the Year was Miami’s Skip Schumaker who claimed only eight first-place votes. The now Cubs’ manager, Craig Counsell, was second with five first-place votes for the Brewers. The Braves Brian Snitker also claimed eight first-place votes, but his lack of second-place votes pushed Schumaker into first.

Overall, the awards week wasn’t as interesting this year, but that is because we got to watch some truly incredible play this year. Ohtani had arguably the best season we’ve ever watched, Acuña reached marks no one ever has. Cole continued to prove he is one of the best pitchers in the league and Snell powered through his awful-to-watch style to become the seventh player to win the Cy Young in both the A.L. and N.L.

It was an incredible season to watch, now onto the Winter Meetings and preparing for next year.