The Chicago White Sox lost out in the playoffs last fall, but they got some consolation in garnering the lion's share of post-season awards given out over the past few weeks. LaMarr Hoyt was a landslide winner of the Cy Young Award as the American League's best pitcher; Ron Kittle was everybody's choice for Rookie of the Year; Tony La Russa was named Manager of the Year; and General Manager Roland Hemond was selected as the Major League Executive of the Year.
Except for this big Windy City haul, most of this year's awards were pretty well spread around. And in contrast to some recent seasons, there weren't many arguments about the selections.
The American League MVP balloting did produce a contest, but it was strictly a friendly rivalry between Baltimore's one-two slugging punch of shortstop Cal Ripken, Jr., and first baseman Eddie Murray. There wasn't much to choose between the two offensively: Ripken hit .318 with 27 home runs and 102 runs batted in, while Murray posted a .306 batting average with 33 homers and 111 RBIs. Both are outstanding in the field, too, so what probably earned Ripken the nod - and rightly so - was the fact that he holds down so much more essential a defensive position.
Cal got 15 of the 28 first place votes and 322 points compared to Murray's figures of 10 and 290. Next came Chicago catcher Carlton Fisk and then Boston outfielder Jim Rice, who had the best offensive statistics of all (.305, 39 homers, 126 RBIs), but was obviously hurt by the insistence of many voters that a team's performance must also be taken into account in MVP balloting.
Ripken, who won rookie honors in 1982 and now has an MVP award and a World Series ring as well, is off to one of the most award-laden starts in big league history. It's not the fastest ever, though, since Fred Lynn, then with the Red Sox, did it all - Rookie-of-the Year, MVP, and playing on a pennant winner - in 1975.
The Ripken-Murray combo marked the first time any team had produced both the winner and the runnerup in the MVP voting since another Baltimore club back in 1969 did even better by going 1-2-3 with Frank Robinson, Brooks Robinson, and Boog Powell.
The 1983 National League voting, was pretty much cut-and-dried for Atlanta's Dale Murphy, whose .302, 36-homer, 121 RBI season easily locked up his second straight MVP award. The talented Braves outfielder thus joins a select group consisting of Ernie Banks (1958-59), Joe Morgan (1975-76), and Mike Schmidt ( 1980-81) as only the fourth player ever to win NL honors two years in a row. Five American Leaguers (Jimmie Foxx, Hal Newhouser, Yogi Berra, Mickey Mantle, and Roger Maris) have turned the trick, but so far no player in either league has ever made it three in a row.
Hoyt's victory in the AL Cy Young Award balloting was a particularly poetic piece of justice, since the big right-hander had been so unfairly overlooked the previous season when he was also the league's top winner. It was perhaps understandable that he didn't come out on top in that 1982 balloting, for Milwaukee's Pete Vukovich, with an 18-6 record including so many clutch victories in the Brewers' pennant drive, was certainly a deserving winner. But it was nothing short of amazing that Hoyt, who won 19 games, didn't receive one single vote.
The voters made up for that oversight this time, however, after LaMarr pretty much forced them to take notice by again topping the league in victories with a 24-10 record and finishing among the leaders in winning percentage (.700), strikeouts (137), innings pitched (260), and complete games (11).
In the National League, Philadelphia's John Denny (19-6, 2.37 ERA) was the obvious choice and an easy winner.
Kittle (.254, 35 homers, 100 RBIs) had no real competition for AL rookie honors, as seen by the fact that he not only got the official Baseball Writers Association of America (BBWAA) award but also received the nod in two other polls (The Sporting News and Baseball Digest).
New York Met outfielder Darryl Strawberry, who had 26 home runs and 74 RBIs despite starting the season in the minors, was the official NL rookie winner and also The Sporting News's selection, but missed a clean sweep when Baseball Digest gave its nod to Atlanta pitcher Craig McMurtry, whose 15-9 season had a lot to do with keeping the Braves in the West Division race until near the end.
La Russa, who ironically was reportedly close to being fired last spring until the White Sox got moving, won the official AL Manager of the Year award from the writers, got the same designation by The Associated Press, and was named Major League Manager of the Year by The Sporting News, but missed a clean sweep when United Press International's voters opted for Baltimore's Joe Altobelli.
In the National League, Tom Lasorda was named by the writers and both wire services for his job in guiding Los Angeles to the West Division title in what had appeared to be a rebuilding year for the club.
And as noted above, Hemond received UPI's annual Major League Executive of the Year award.