Two Rays were honored in the BWAA's MLB awards this offseason; Joe Maddon and Jeremy Hellickson. Also part of the baseball award season, is MLB.com's team awards. The MLB.com team awards include Breakout Player of the Year, Player of the Year (top non-pitcher), and Pitcher of the Year. The Breakout Player award went to Hellickson, who added that accolade to his prestigious 2011 ROY award. I wouldn't describe Hellboy's fantastic season as a 'breakout year' exactly, as his 2010 previewed great things to come. James Shields' unbelievable season was a picture perfect example of a great breakout year though. But with how the MLB.com team awards work, it is unlikely that one player wins multiple awards. The Player of the Year Award was the most anticipated of the three, and was won by Ben Zobrist. The choice for the award was mainly between Longoria and Zobrist, as both put up the best offensive production during the season. Zorilla's consistency and ability to serve as baseball's best utility man separated him from Longo's great glovework and powerful bat. I strongly agree with the decision to honor Zobrist as the Rays' top player in 2011, after such a terrific season. All season long I felt as if Zobrist was one of the most underrated players in the game, considering how much he contributed to such a successful team. The third team award acknowledges the ace of the Rays talented young pitching staff. Obviously, the 2011 Pitcher of the Year award went to James Shields, who also finished third in the Cy Young Award voting. The stats did all the talking for 'Big Game' James, as 11 complete games and a 2.82 ERA were simply impossible to argue with.
The MLB.com awards were not the only official team awards passed out this offseason. The Tampa Bay Chapter of the BWAA gives out three team awards of their own; MVP, the Outstanding Rookie Award, and the Paul C. Smith Champion Award. The MVP award went to Shields, which was definitely the right choice. Many people tend misinterpret the Player of the Year Award and the MVP award, and get them mixed up. Since the MLB.com team awards also acknowledge the best pitcher, the Player of the Year award basically refers to the best player that's not a pitcher. In the BWAA team awards there is the MVP Award and no Pitcher of the Year award, giving pitchers an opportunity to win the team MVP. That's exactly what happened in the Rays' case this year, as Shields deservingly took home the team MVP. The third BWAA team award is the Paul C. Smith Champion Award. This award is handed to the player who best exemplifies the spirit of true professionalism on and off the field. The award was given to Johnny Damon, who I believe represents this award perfectly and was the obvious choice. Johnny Damon not only is a great clubhouse guy and person, but also a real winner on the field. His tremendous effort and hustle displayed on the diamond day after day is what makes him such a great baseball player, and keeps him still playing the game he loves. Those are all the Rays' team awards for 2011, but that's not all the accolades for Rays players this fall. The J.G. Taylor Spink Award (Minor League Player of the Year) was won by Rays' phenom top-prospect Matt Moore. Moore earned the extremely high honor by putting up ridiculous numbers (in AA and AAA combided), including a 1.92 ERA.
The Rays' award isn't season over, MLB.com's GIBBY Awards (Greatness in Baseball Yearly) feature 5 nominated Rays. Click here to vote today!
To see my choices for the 2011 Rays team awards click here.