They announced the Rookie of the Year award winners this morning.
As predicted by just about everyone except maybe my building manager's mom, Huston Street gets the American League ROY, and rightly so. He's a great pitcher, a nice guy, and did an awesome job as closer. I'm pretty happy about this choice; the only sad part is how our Felix sort of got screwed over in terms of ROY honors since he was called up halfway and logged enough innings to be ineligible next year, but didn't really log enough to warrant a single vote this year.
The NL choice was a lot closer, as there were several outstanding rookies this year. Most people thought it'd come down to Ryan Howard, Willy Taveras, and Jeff Francoeur, and they were right. And, amazingly, Ryan Howard won it. (Zach Duke got a few stray votes, but was screwed over similarly to Felix)
Now, most of you know that I call Ryan Howard "Pedro Cerrano" because of his frustrating inability to hit lefties (he was .148/.175/.246 against lefties in 61 at-bats, as opposed to being .323/.396/.645 against righties in 251 at-bats). There was nothing nearly as anticlimactic as the one game I saw in Citizens Bank this year, September 6th: the score was 4-1 Astros in the bottom of the 7th, the bases were loaded, there was finally a righty pitcher on the mound instead of Andy Pettitte, and it was the pitcher's turn to bat for the Phillies. So Charlie Manuel put in Ryan Howard to hit. Finally, there was real excitement in the stadium, as with one swing of the bat he could swing the score to 5-4 Phillies - the music got loud, the crowd got loud... and Phil Garner swapped out righty Qualls for lefty Gallo, and "gallows" is about what it was for Howard, as he struck out.
That day, I decided Ryan Howard probly shouldn't be ROY, especially since it was also the day that Willy Taveras practically singlehandedly won the game for the Astros in the first inning by throwing off Brett Myers after an unfortunate David Bell error. It must be said that Ryan Howard gets incredible style points for managing to step in and fill Big Jim's big shoes, but his weakness against lefties also makes him a liability.
Two short weeks later, the Phillies somehow still found themselves in the Wild Card race, two games behind with 10 games to go, and were playing the team with the other likely NL ROY. The Braves had tied the game at 6-6 in the 7th inning, and it went into extra innings. The Phils managed to load the bases in the top of the 10th, and Ryan Howard was at-bat, having come in to pinch-hit in the 8th. The Braves did the smart thing of switching to a lefty pitcher, but Charlie decided to let Ryan stay in anyway. And Ryan Howard picked this moment to get his first ever major league home run off a lefty -- by hitting a grand slam over the left-field wall.
Those are the moments that make baseball so great -- and also the moments that make a rookie into a Rookie of the Year. Congrats, Cerrano. Now next year, you learn to hit the curveball, okay?