More than 30 years have passed since the last time that an Orioles player was the winner of one of the “Big Three” writer-voted awards - Rookie of the Year, Cy Young, and Most Valuable Player. This streak has an excellent chance of being broken this year. Gunnar Henderson was announced as a finalist for ROY on Monday night.
As a reminder, MLB labeling players as finalists just means that they are announcing the top three vote-getters of already-concluded balloting for each of these awards. There is no further balloting among the finalists. Each award is voted on by two BBWAA members per league city. MVP ballots have ten slots. Cy ballots have five. Each of Rookie and Manager of the Year ballots have three slots.
These awards will have the winners announced next week. Rookie of the Year will be announced next Monday, with Manager of the Year’s announcement coming next Tuesday. Less relevant to Orioles fans, the Cy Youngs will be revealed next Wednesday, and the awards season will wrap up with MVP announcements next Thursday.
If the 30 voters for AL ROY were at all paying attention, Henderson will be the unanimous first place choice when results are revealed. None of the other AL rookies were on his level or even close; it would only be an interesting competition if he had to be compared against Arizona’s Corbin Carroll, the almost certain NL winner.
Henderson’s combination of offensive performance and defense set him up as one of the better players in the game, without even needing to add the rookie qualifier. He was probably hosed out of a Gold Glove by splitting time between third base and shortstop, somehow not making it under the “utility” category either. He hit .255/.325/.489 over 150 games, with 28 home runs and 10 stolen bases. By bWAR, this all added up to his being the third-best position player in the AL - a 6.3 WAR.
It’s impressive stuff for anyone at any age. Henderson being only 22 makes it that much more impressive. Orioles fans will be in for a good time for the next several years if Henderson is able to perform anywhere near this level for as long as he’s on the team.
The last Orioles player to win the Rookie of the Year was Gregg Olson, who took home that hardware after a 1989 campaign in which he finished with a 1.69 ERA and 27 saves across 85 innings.
The other AL rookies announced in the top three were Cleveland pitcher Tanner Bibee and Red Sox infielder Triston Casas. Bibee finished with a 2.98 ERA in 142 IP this season. Casas hit 24 home runs in 132 games with Boston.
Hyde was the runner-up for the Manager of the Year voting last year as the Orioles surprisingly went 83-79. He deserved to win. The voters had the opportunity to make up for the slight and it would be a shock if they do not do so. The Orioles once again shocked everyone with their 101-61 regular season record.
For Hyde to be the guy who bridged the gap from the horrible tanking era to the present is remarkable. Keeping so many players motivated through those dark years and then having that pay off with a year like this year really says a lot. Given that the manager of the year award winner is usually given out to the biggest surprise team of the season, Hyde seems like an easy choice.
The drought for an Orioles skipper winning Manager of the Year is not nearly so long as these other ones. That one was won by Buck Showalter in 2014.
The other AL managers who placed in the top three are Rangers manager Bruce Bochy and Tampa Bay’s Kevin Cash. Keep in mind that all awards were voted on before the postseason began, so there will be no influence on the voting by anything that happened there. Cash is is a two-time winner. Bochy won the award in the NL for the Padres back in 1996.
We’ll keep on waiting another year at least for an Oriole to win either MVP or Cy Young. The franchise’s last MVP was Cal Ripken Jr. in 1991, when he won for the second time. If Henderson avoids a sophomore slump, he could be a 2024 MVP contender.
There has not been an Orioles Cy winner since Steve Stone did so in 1980. I imagine we’ll see Kyle Bradish with some down-ballot votes when the full votes are revealed next week, if not enough to get him in the top three. The top three AL finishers were Gerrit Cole, Kevin Gausman, and Sonny Gray.