Rounding Third: Let's hand out some hardware

Philadelphia, PA ( - It may not be fully cranked up, but Major League Baseball's hot stove is definitely starting to heat up.

Managers are being hired, players are being tendered contracts, options are being picked up and declined, rumors are starting and the lesser awards have been doled out.

Yes, ladies and gentleman, we are in full-fledged offseason mode.

Speaking of the recent manager hires, with Rick Renteria expected to be getting the job with the Chicago Cubs, that would mean four of the five hires this offseason have no big league managerial experience.

Now as Brad Ausmus (Detroit) and Matt Williams (Washington) walk into tailor- made, win-now situations, the guy who just may find himself in a better-than- expected situation next season could new Seattle skipper Lloyd McClendon.

McClendon, of course, failed miserably in Pittsburgh (hardly his fault), but the Mariners have all the makings of being a breakout team in 2014. Now it may seem silly saying that considering we are barely into the offseason and Seattle lost 91 games this past season.

But, in Felix Hernandez and AL Cy Young Award nominee Hisashi Iwakuma, they have as good a top of the staff in baseball. Plus, the Mariners have some young pitching who could make an impact next year.

The Mariners have always showed a willingness to spend money and with McClendon in town, expect the rumors to heat up for a potential deal with Detroit surrounding Prince Fielder.

It makes sense for everyone. And it's not as crazy as you may think.

But there will be plenty of time to discuss that. Before the offseason really gets underway, though, there's a little business of handing out the only awards that anyone really seems to care about, those that are handed out by the Baseball Writers' Association of American.

So without further ado, here is how I see them going this year:


Quite simply, Cabrera is the best hitter in baseball. In fact, he's headed down a path of being in the conversation of best right-handed hitters of all-time. Yes, he's that good.

Cabrera may have fell short of his remarkable 2012 season, but still hit a career-high .348 to become the first player in more than two decades to win three straight AL batting titles. His 44 home runs were second to the 53 by Baltimore's Chris Davis, and he finished second in RBI, one behind Davis' 138.

Of course, he batted .330 last year with 44 homers and 139 RBI to not only win an MVP, but become the first player to win a Triple Crown since 1967.

Cabrera became the first right-handed batter in either league to win three straight batting titles since Rogers Hornsby's six straight for the St. Louis Cardinals from 1920-25. Cabrera became just the fifth player to win three consecutive AL crowns, joining Nap Lajoie (1901-03), Ty Cobb (1907-09, 1911-15 and 1917-19), Rod Carew (1972-75) and Wade Boggs (1985-88).

Davis and Los Angeles' Mike Trout will get votes, but Cabrera should win easy.


The biggest benefactor of having the great Cabrera in the lineup may be Tigers starter Max Scherzer, who enjoyed the best year of his career, as he won an MLB-best 21 games, while pitching to a 2.90 ERA and striking out 240 batters over a career-high 214 innings.

With 2011 winner Justin Verlander inconsistent for the majority of the year, Scherzer anchored a staff that led the AL in almost every major category.

Scherzer has captured almost every pitching award this offseason and will likely become the Tigers' second pitcher to win a Cy Young in three years. Still, as good as Scherzer was, there are heavy rumors that he could be moved this offseason.

He won't win, but kudos to the baseball writers for acknowledging just how good Iwakuma was for the Mariners this past season. Iwakuma only own 14 games, but pitched to a 2.66 ERA and finished third in the league in innings pitched (219 2/3) and opponent batting average (.220), and tied for fifth in opponent OPS (on-base plus slugging percentage) at .630.


Finally an award I pegged at the start of the season. Tampa's Wil Myers didn't debut until June 18, but led all AL rookies with 53 RBI, which he compiled in only 88 games. Myers also batted .293 with 13 home runs to help the Rays reach the playoffs for the fourth time in six years.

Luckily for Myers, votes were tallied before the postseason. Myers struggled mightily in the playoffs, going just 2-for-20.


Only two teams were worse than Boston in the AL in 2012, leading to the dismissal of manager Bobby Valentine after just one season. So, out with the old and in the new, as the team hired John Farrell away from Toronto to be their new skipper.

All Farrell did was put himself atop most people's AL Manager of the Year ballots, as he guided the Red Sox to a 28-game turnaround and ended the year 97-65, while leading the club to a World Series title.

The 97 wins were also the second-most for the team since 1978.


There were few stories better than the Pittsburgh Pirates' return to the postseason this year for the first time since 1992. At the center of it all was outfielder Andrew McCutchen, who has already taken home the bulk of offseason hardware.

On Monday, in fact, McCutchen became the third back-to-back recipient of that Players Choice Award. Last year, though, he finished third in MVP voting to San Francisco catcher Buster Posey.

McCutchen should get his due this year, however. Although, he was only hitting .238 at the start of May, the three-time All-Star hit .317 with 21 home runs, 84 RBI, 27 stolen bases, a .404 on-base percentage and a .508 slugging percentage in 157 games. He became just the fourth major league center fielder since 1947 to have consecutive seasons of hitting .300 with a .400 slugging percentage and .500 on-base-plus-slugging percentage, joining Mickey Mantle, Willie Mays and Ken Griffey Jr.

Should he win, McCutchen's 84 RBI would be the fewest of any winner of this award since Kirk Gibson knocked in 76 in 1988.


Of all the awards handed out this offseason, none will be easier than NL Cy Young Award, considering Dodgers left-hander Clayton Kershaw could be the first unanimous selection since the Philadelphia Phillies' Roy Halladay in 2010.

Kershaw, who won this award in 2011, was brilliant this season, going 16-9 while leading the major leagues with a minuscule 1.83 ERA and an NL-best 232 strikeouts.

It was the fourth consecutive season that Kershaw tallied 200 or more strikeouts. He also allowed a .195 batting average -- .202 to right-handed hitters and .165 to left-handed hitters.

This one is a no-brainer. Actually, the only real drama here is whether or not Kershaw becomes the first $200 million pitcher in baseball.


Los Angeles' Yasiel Puig may have gotten most of the headlines, but no rookie in either league was more electric than Miami right-hander Jose Fernandez, who is also a finalist for the NL Cy Young Award.

In a year that not much went right for the 100-loss Marlins, Fernandez turned in perhaps the best rookie season in team history, going 12-6 with a 2.19 ERA. He also struck out a team rookie record 187 batters, and he posted a WHIP (walks plus hits per inning pitched) of 0.98.

From June 1 to the end of the season, Fernandez's 1.50 ERA was the best in the NL.

The Marlins were 18-10 in his 28 starts and Fernandez was 9-0 at home with a 1.19 ERA, while holding opponents to .164 clip at Marlins Park.


In case you didn't know, the Pirates were back in the postseason for the first time since 1992. It may not sound like much, but you have to consider that the last time Pittsburgh got to see playoff baseball Barry Bonds was patrolling center field at Three Rivers Stadium.

And like that magical year 21 years ago, the Pirates had not only the MVP (Bonds) but also had an NL Manager of the Year. The same will happen this year as Clint Hurdle will take home the award.

In his third season with the Pirates, Hurdle led them to a 94-68 record, a wild-card playoff game win and a loss in five games to the St. Louis Cardinals in the NLDS. After consecutive falls from contention in the second half of both the 2011 and '12 seasons, the Pirates went 38-31 in the second half this season.

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