Major League Baseball announced Thursday that Cleveland’s Eric Wedge and Arizona’s Bob Melvin were selected as their respective league’s managers of the year and that San Diego Padres ace Jake Peavy won the NL Cy Young award.
Being former catchers, possessing identical lifetime .233 batting averages and nearly identical lifetime managerial records, Wedge and Melvin both guided their teams to successful 2007 seasons.
AP baseball writer Ben Walker writes about the trend toward former catchers becoming managers as well as background and voting results for Yahoo sports;
“There’s been quite the trend,” Wedge said on a conference call. “The catcher has to be aware and knowledgeable of every aspect.”
“It’s a leadership position. That position demands a great amount of passion for your teammates and the game of baseball,” he said.
Wedge and Melvin crossed paths years ago. A month after Colorado took Wedge from Boston in the November 1992 expansion draft, the Red Sox wanted a second-string catcher and signed Melvin as a free agent.
Wedge received 19 of the 28 first-place votes and got 116 points in balloting by the Baseball Writers’ Association of America. He finished ahead of a pair of former catchers, the Angels’ Mike Scioscia (62 points) and ex-Yankees manager Joe Torre (61). Terry Francona of the World Series champion Red Sox got 13.
Melvin was chosen on 19 of the 30 first-place ballots and got 119 points. Philadelphia’s Charlie Manuel (76), Colorado’s Clint Hurdle (58), himself a former catcher, and the Cubs’ Lou Piniella (25) followed.
Melvin was honored for his steady hand in leading a team that sometimes started six rookies to a 90-72 mark. Back in the playoffs for the first time since 2002, Arizona swept Chicago in the first round before getting swept by Colorado in the NLCS.
“At the beginning, we were cautiously optimistic. We liked the young group,” Melvin said on a conference call.
The 39-year-old Wedge played 39 games for Boston and Colorado in the early 1990s. He’s done a lot better with the Indians since starting out 68-94 in 2003.
Wedge became the first Cleveland manager to win the AL award, chosen by a wide margin after the Indians and Boston tied for the best record in baseball. Melvin was the first Arizona manager to get the NL prize, picked after leading his young team to the top mark in the league.
Cleveland, under Wedge, won the AL Central Division championship with a 96-66 record, took the New York Yankees by 3 games to 1 in the AL division series and went up 3 games to 1 on the Boston Red Sox before losing the ALCS as Boston pounded them in games 5 through 7.
Arizona, under Melvin, took the NL Central Division, swept the Chicago Cubs in the NL division series only to be swept themselves in the NLCS by the Colorado Rockies who advanced to the World Series due to a late season tare winning 21 of 22, including 7 straight in NL post-season play.
San Diego’s Jake Peavy was designated as the NL Cy Young award winner unanimously, being “named first on all 32 of the ballots that were distributed to voting members of the Baseball Writers’ Association of America.”
MLB.com’s Corey Brock provides stats, background and Peavy’s comments;
“I just feel like that’s the way I’ve got to pitch,” Peavy said this season about being aggressive. “I can’t go out there and pitch to contact. Be aggressive. … That’s the type of pitcher I am. I go as hard as I can for as long as I can and see where the cards fall.”
Peavy led the league in just about every pertinent category in 2007 — victories (19), ERA (2.54), strikeouts (240) and strikeouts per nine innings (9.67). Peavy also started the All-Star Game in July in San Francisco.
The 2007 season certainly represented quite a turnaround for Peavy, who was troubled in 2006 by shoulder tendinitis. He lost 14 games that season, posted a 4.07 ERA and never found a level of comfort when pitching.
But a change in his offseason workout routine allowed Peavy to head to Spring Training with a healthy shoulder. He backed off workouts for his shoulder once the season began and spent a fair amount of time in the trainers room.
Peavy spent part of his conference call on Thursday praising the work of the team training staff.
“Those guys are the backbone of what any player on the San Diego Padres does,” Peavy said. “Those guys see me every day. In-season, we modified the amount of work I did, especially my arm routine and shoulder. I feel very fortunate and blessed to be healthy.”
Peavy bolted to a fast start in 2007, with six scoreless innings in the season opener in April against the Giants. There were few hiccups along the way, as Peavy won nine of his final 12 starts of the regular season with one loss and one no-decision.
“I don’t really feel like I did anything different than in ‘04 and ‘05 other than have better luck and win games,” Peavy said. “Obviously, health plays a factor in everything. It starts in the winter with working out.”
Peavy certainly proved that his success wasn’t just a result of his surroundings at roomy PETCO Park either. In fact, Peavy performed better on the road, posting a 10-1 record with a 2.57 ERA in 15 starts.
Peavy — who allowed one or fewer runs in 18 of his 35 starts in 2007 — is just the fourth player in Major League history to win two ERA titles before the age of 27.
“And when you’re able to do that and throw the ball where you want to … it’s a pretty tough combination.”
Peavy was paid the ultimate compliment by Padres general manager Kevin Towers, who was asked in September what he thought of his team’s chances were in a big game with Peavy on the mound.
“If it’s a deciding game,” Towers said, “there’s nobody in baseball I’d rather have on the mound than Jake Peavy.”
As for 2008, Peavy said he is going to go about his preparation much the same way that he did last offseason and that, in his mind, he still considers himself an unfinished product.
“I’m going to try and mimic everything I did, day in and day out. I’ve got a long ways to go to be who I want to be,” he said.
The San Diego Union-Tribune’s Tom Krasovic reports that a club option in Peavy’s contract would raise his pay for 2009 to $11 million as a result of his winning the Cy Young award. He further reports that;
Padres CEO Sandy Alderson and Peavy’s agent said the sides have explored terms for a multiyear extension and plan to revisit talks. The deal would run through 2011 and perhaps longer.
Agent Barry Axelrod and Padres General Manager Kevin Towers have discussed dollars and years, and Towers has spoken to Peavy about what it would take to retain him past 2009.
“The Padres have interest in exploring every possibility of keeping Jake here,” Axelrod said yesterday. “I’m an optimist. I’m always an optimist. I think we’ve got a pretty good grip on what we believe Jake’s value to be.”
The Padres, a midrevenue club, control Peavy’s contractual rights through 2009. “It’s not the end of the world if we don’t reach an agreement,” Towers said. “We felt it was at least worth exploring.”
Axelrod considers Peavy superior to pitchers such as the Cubs’ Carlos Zambrano and the Giants’ Barry Zito, who this year received a five-year, $91.5 million guarantee and a seven-year, $126 million guarantee, respectively.
Don’t expect the Padres to guarantee Peavy the $18.3 million rate Zambrano got from the Cubs, and don’t expect Peavy to insist on it.
Finally, in the latest twist in the A-Rod, Scott Boras, Yankees soap opera, 3rd baseman Alex Rodriguez has done an about-face from the opt-out stance which agent Boras publically announced in up-staging the world series.
It now appears that A-Rod is now proclaiming that he wants to remain a Yankee, has upstaged Boras and is now speaking directly with Hank Steinbrenner who has taken over the Yankee ownership helm from father George.
By Wednesday night, not only were Rodriguez and the Yankees back on speaking terms, but sources said they were close to a deal that would pay Rodriguez a base salary of $275 million over 10 years. The deal will include performance incentives that could increase the value.
The amount of the guaranteed money was revealed by a person familiar with the negotiations who spoke Thursday on condition of anonymity because the deal hasn’t been finalized. A-Rod met Wednesday in Tampa, Fla., with the Steinbrenner brothers but the parameters of the deal were set in place last weekend.
“Yeah, I could say that,” Yankees senior vice president Hank Steinbrenner said. “The meeting was a final get-together. He wanted to make sure myself and my brother knew that he was sincere and serious.”
The Yankees still must draft the agreement with Rodriguez’s agent, Scott Boras.