Commentary

Baseball writers get it wrong

Two out of three ROY awards is proof that Beckham deserved better

Updated: November 16, 2009, 8:56 PM ET
By Jon Greenberg | ESPNChicago.com

CHICAGO -- Six votes?

After winning two rookie of the year awards voted on by his peers, Gordon Beckham got dissed by the writers.

After sweeping the Players Choice and Sporting News honors, Beckham got just two second-place and four third-place votes in the more respected, more official Baseball Writers Association of America AL ROY voting, released Monday.

[+] EnlargeGordon Beckham
Stephen Dunn/Getty ImagesGordon Beckham finished sixth in the American League Rookie of the Year voting.

He finished fifth, about four places lower than he probably deserved.

In case you're wondering, Andrew Bailey, the closer for a forgettable Oakland Athletics team and a token All-Star, won the 2009 award, beating out Rangers shortstop Elvis Andrus (.267, 9 home runs, 40 RBIs, 33 stolen bases). Detroit pitcher Rick Porcello (14-9, 3.96 ERA) and Tampa Bay pitcher Jeff Niemann (13-6, 3.94) also beat out the well-groomed 23-year-old, who made it to the majors in less than one calendar year.

I'm sure there are legions of East Bay baseball fans who will take up the game after watching the 25-year-old Bailey come up this year. He was that inspiring, picking up 28 saves for an uninspiring A's team (albeit one with just four fewer wins than the underachieving White Sox).

In a truncated season, Beckham hit .270 with 14 home runs and 63 RBIs in 103 games, leading rookies in doubles (28), extra-base hits (43) and RBIs. He was tied for first in multi-hit games (28) and second in a handful of other stats. His arrival sparked a brief, and ultimately futile, White Sox resurgence.

Beckham should have been in a tight race with Andrus, and you have to wonder if the voters just tuned out the White Sox altogether as the team faded by early September. I can't wait to hear Ozzie Guillen's impression of the voting at the winter meetings next month. Guillen sported a "Team Bacon" shirt made by the marketing department a few times before late-summer games. (Guillen's pronunciation of Beckham's name sounds like the tasty meat.)

For now, Beckham admitted to reporters that he was disappointed, but didn't ham it up.

"It is what it is," Beckham told ESPNChicago.com's Bruce Levine. "Everybody has an opinion. I'm happy I got voted in the top five. It's all an accomplishment for me. ... If anything, it's more fuel for the fire. Athletes always want something that keeps them driven. This might drive me going into next season. I'm just glad I got [to the majors] and had a good season."

In a lot of ways, this fifth-place finish seems like a slap in the collective face of White Sox Village (it's not a nation, folks), not to mention Beckham. During the season, a few of us were joking that if Beckham played on the North Side, he would be the second coming of Ryne Sandberg, if not Ernie Banks.

Not that Beckham didn't receive his just due throughout his rookie year, but in terms of media love, I guess the team's Web initiative to highlight Beckham didn't work.

The White Sox created a special Web page, Sox Rookie Watch, to honor their rookies, but really they made it plural because they didn't want to subject Beckham to howlings of preferential treatment in the clubhouse. They valued fellow rookie Chris Getz so highly they traded him to Kansas City as soon as they could. Jayson Nix wasn't a contender for anything.

It turned out to be the Wilson Betemit of marketing ideas, as BBWAA voters ignored it en masse.

This vote wasn't an outright robbery, and it shouldn't be construed as anti-Sox. But it was a little odd. I'm not saying the players who voted do a more diligent job than the writers, but as Meatloaf once opined, two out of three ain't bad.

While the three pitchers ahead of him were valuable -- though I wonder how one could pick the closer for a second-tier team over a starter for two contenders and two infielders who played vital roles to their teams -- the vote should have centered around Andrus and Beckham.

Andrus hit well enough and his defense (10.7 Ultimate Zone Rating by Fan Graphs) was Gold Glove worthy. Beckham had a minus-2 UZR, though most thought his range had improved significantly as he learned a new position on the fly. He'll be doing that again at second base this season.

Fan Graphs' salary estimates put both Bailey and Andrus ahead of Beckham, though not by much. Porcello and Niemann were valuable too, though it's interesting that none of the five played on playoff teams.

But if you asked a major league general manager which of the five he'd like to have for the next decade, I'd bet Beckham would win that poll hands-down.

Though he didn't come up until June, Beckham was a popular choice after a hot stretch, hitting as high as .316 in early August, picking up five extra-base hits in his first series at Yankee Stadium, but then he went into a little funk. After a 0-for-5 performance against Kansas City, he dropped below .300 and he never got back. And that's where his dearth of support surely stemmed from.

At the most pivotal point of the season, an 11-game road swing that took the White Sox to New York, Boston, Minnesota and Wrigley Field, his average dipped from .291 to .275, though he did hit a pair of home runs at the Metrodome. The White Sox went 3-8 on the trip, dropping out of contention by the first week in September.

After a slow start, Beckham finished with an on-base percentage of .347 and was third on the team in OPS (.808), behind thumpers Paul Konerko and Jim Thome (pre-trade). He hit .323 with runners in scoring position (.340 on the road) and hit .350 in close situations late in the game (14-for-40).

Beckham at the plate was one of the few things a star-crossed Sox team had going for it, and he was certainly passable in the field, despite never playing third before.

Beckham fit in easily in a macho Sox clubhouse that has turned other rookies, ones who weren't as good, into whimpering messes. But he realizes that self-aggrandizement isn't going to endear himself to teammates next spring, nor will it help the team rebound from a disappointing finish to the 2009 season.

"I've had a lot of time to think about my role on the team, and I could do better and focus more of my effort on the team instead of myself," Beckham told MLB.com writer Scott Merkin after winning the Players Choice Award. "The team comes first, and I guess that really goes for anyone. My concern should be for my teammates or how we win. I shouldn't worry about finishing 0-for-3 or 3-for-4, as long as the team prospers."

Beckham is the future of the White Sox organization, a clean-cut, talented future All-Star. His best days are ahead of him.

Still, six votes? That's messed up.

Jon Greenberg

Columnist, ESPNChicago.com
Jon Greenberg is a columnist for ESPNChicago.com. He has lived and worked in Chicago since 2003, and is a graduate of Ohio University and the University of Chicago.