After a long wait Monday night, the American League Rookie of the Year Award voting was announced and Cleveland Indians shortstop Francisco Lindor found himself a close second but, ultimately, the runner-up of the yearly award selected by the Baseball Writers’ Association of America.
The news was obviously a disappointment to the Indians and fans of their organization, as well as other fans around the nation who took notice of the exceptional play displayed by Lindor in his 99-game presentation to the baseball viewing world in the final two-thirds of the 2015 regular season. His efforts fell just short of those of Houston’s award-winning shortstop, Carlos Correa.
Honestly, that was a tough vote, unless you were Hideo Kizaki of the Jiji Press, the Japanese wire news service affiliated with Seattle’s BBWAA chapter, and formerly of Nikkan Sports, who apparently forgot how to baseball. No Lindor on your ballot? Not sure if that was a better act to get your name in the press nationwide or a really cruel way to punish Lindor for Corey Kluber defeating Felix Hernandez in a tight AL Cy Young Award race last season.
Let it go…
Back to Lindor and Correa, both young men had fantastic seasons that should set the tone for some pretty exciting competition between the two former top prospects and now bona fide Major League rising stars. The shortstop position is arguably at its most electrifying point since the arrival of Derek Jeter, Nomar Garciaparra, Miguel Tejada, Omar Vizquel, and others in the mid-1990s.
Boston has Xander Bogaerts, who only hit .320 with 81 RBI and was third in the league with 196 hits. Chicago was crowded enough at short that they had to play one of their top prospects, Addison Russell, at second just to get him on the field. The New York Mets may have answered the long asked question of who their shortstop of the future would be with the find of Wilmer Flores, he of Chase Utley brutality. Utley’s Dodgers brought up a player with MLB pedigree in Corey Seager, brother of Seattle’s Kyle, late in the season and he forced his way into the every day lineup with a .337 average, four homers, and 17 RBI in 27 games. Up the coast, Oakland has some pop at the spot with Marcus Semien, even if he plays with a hole in his glove in the field.
And this is by no means a slight at some of the “veteran” mid- to late-20-something shortstops around the league like Texas’s Elvis Andrus, Kansas City’s Alcides Escobar, New York’s Didi Gregorius, Detroit’s Jose Iglesias, new Los Angeles Angel Andrelton Simmons, Chicago’s Starlin Castro, San Francisco’s Brandon Crawford, Philadelphia’s Freddy Galvis, Miami’s Adeiny Hechavarria, or Milwaukee’s Jean Segura, or the established vets like Ian Desmond, Jhonny Peralta, Jose Reyes, and Troy Tulowitzki.
They all can use the stick and can flash some leather, too. The pool of quality and exciting shortstops around baseball is at one of its greatest points in recent history.
As for the comparison between Correa and Lindor, it was a close vote.
Correa received 17 first place votes and 13 second place for a total of 124 points across the 30 ballots cast. Lindor received 13 votes for first, 14 votes for second, two third place votes, and was inexplicably, notably, and inexcusably absent from one ballot, giving him a total of 109 points possible.
Minnesota’s impressive slugging rookie third baseman Miguel Sano took home 20 third place votes for a 20 point score.
Correa hit the Majors just before Lindor, arriving on June 8th. The right-handed hitter was just 20 years old and was the first overall pick by Houston out of the Puerto Rico Baseball Academy in 2012. Lindor, a switch-hitter, was drafted the previous season, eighth overall by the Indians, out of Montverde Academy in Florida and, like Correa, is a native of Puerto Rico. He arrived on June 14th at the ripe old age of 21.
The two, with their similarities, were touted for two different styles of baseball. Correa was expected to be good in the field but impressive at the plate with speed to flash. Lindor was looked at for his glove work and speed, a better hitter for average possibly, but with much less power.
Correa hit .279 with a .345 on-base percentage and .512 slugging. He hit 22 homers, added 22 doubles, and drove in 68 from the heart of Houston’s order. He stole 14 bases and was caught four times. His Astros were at the top of the AL West and looked to get even stronger with his addition, but the young, inexperienced, and remodeled club faltered some down the stretch and reached the playoffs through the Wild Card, knocking out the New York Yankees before giving the eventual World Series winning Royals a scare in the ALDS.
Lindor hit .313 with a .353 on-base percentage and .482 slugging. He surprised with 12 homers, equaled Correa’s 22 doubles, had four triples, and drove in 51 at the top of the Tribe order. He stole 12 bases and was caught twice. He also led all MLB position players with 13 sacrifices. His Indians received a near-immediate shot in the arm with his arrival, as the defense improved, as did the excitement and energy level in the dugout. He was a significant contributor to a Cleveland club that fought its way back over the .500 mark by year’s end, led by his AL-leading .345 average in the second half and his 4.6 wins above replacement that ranked first on the season for all AL rookies.
Both played in 99 games during the season. Offensively, the numbers were comparable, but baseball still loves its long ball.
“You’re a little upset because you want to win. I’m not disappointed,” said Lindor following the announcement. “You build memories and those stick with you for the rest of your life. I’m just enjoying the ride and I’m blessed to play the game, and I’m honored and blessed to even be mentioned as a finalist.”
He continued, “I put up good numbers, but we didn’t win. At the end of the year, we didn’t make it to the playoffs, so I was more bummed out about that than me not winning the award. I’m looking forward to next year.”
So Cleveland fan, if you feel slighted about Lindor not winning the ROY this year, remember this come All-Star voting time in 2016 and make sure Escobar and the Royals fanatics don’t give him another easy trip to the Midsummer Classic.
But if you are fretting the outcome of the voting, don’t. Historically, Indians’ runners-up have fared much, much better over the course of their Cleveland careers than those who won the Rookie of the Year.
Look at the winners.
Herb Score, 1955. A line drive. Heavy usage early in his career. He was never quite the same after the injury that cost him all but five games in his 1957 season.
Chris Chambliss, 1971. He rushed to the Majors with just 118 games of minor league play under his belt. He would develop into a contributor at the MLB level – in pinstripes.
Joe Charboneau, 1980. He lucked into a breakout season after Andre Thornton’s injury shelved him and opened up a spot in the outfield vacated by Mike Hargrove. Injuries ended his career with just three MLB seasons to his credit.
Sandy Alomar, 1990. Easily the most successful of the bunch in Cleveland, his star rose, but did not rise as high as it could have had injuries not slowed down his progress.
Now, the “runners-up”…
Suffice it to say, you’re likely pretty familiar with the majority of the names on that list, regardless of your age cohort. Maybe it is better to be second best in the Rookie of the Year voting if you are going to spend the early years of your career in Cleveland?
If Lindor did not already have the heart, drive, and hustle to play the game of baseball hard on a nightly basis, he has a new reason now…
To prove the dissenters wrong.
Lindor-like talents are hard to find, but not difficult to appreciate. Indians fans – enjoy the enthusiasm, the passion, the energy, and the genuine smile, because he is going to be an awful lot of fun to watch for many years to come. Do as Lindor does – smile and enjoy the ride.
Congratulations, Francisco, on a season few Indians fans will forget any time soon.
Photo: Leon Halip/Getty Images