Pedroia, Braun win Rookie of Year awards
The Associated Press
Aspen, CO Colorado
NEW YORK ” Dustin Pedroia won in a runaway, just like his Red Sox in the World Series.
The little Boston second baseman with the big swing was an easy pick for AL Rookie of the Year, while Ryan Braun barely edged Troy Tulowitzki for the NL honor Monday.
Generously listed at 5-foot-9, Pedroia became a fan favorite at Fenway Park with his all-out style. Plus, few knew he played with a broken left hand down the stretch.
“Everyone doubted me at every level I’ve been to, saying I’m too small, I’m not fast enough, my arm’s not strong enough,” Pedroia said. “There’s a lot of people that have stuck by me and knew deep down in, that there’s something about me that makes me a winning baseball player.”
Pedroia hit .317 with eight home runs and 50 RBIs. He got 24 of the 28 first-place votes to outdistance Tampa Bay outfielder Delmon Young in balloting by the Baseball Writers’ Association of America.
Braun’s brawn earned him the NL award. The slugging third baseman from Milwaukee finished two points ahead of Tulowitzki, Colorado’s sparkplug shortstop.
Braun said he had trouble sleeping Sunday night, then woke up early at his condo in Santa Monica, Calif., and went for a jog to ease his “nervous energy.”
“I had no idea what the vote would be based on,” he said. “I knew that it would be a close vote.”
Braun received 17 of 32 first-place votes and finished with 128 points. Tulowitzki got 15 first-place votes and 126 points. Ballots were completed by the end of the regular season, before Pedroia and Tulowitzki met in the World Series.
“To show you how good Ryan was, in any other year Troy Tulowitzki would have won hands down,” Brewers general manager Doug Melvin said.
Called up from Triple-A in late May, Braun hit .324 with 34 home runs and 97 RBIs. The Brewers led the majors in homers this season and stayed in contention for the NL Central championship until the final week.
Braun’s .634 slugging percentage led NL players and was the highest by a rookie in major league history. He did not have enough plate appearances, however, to qualify for the title.
His big offensive numbers were enough to overcome 26 errors, tied for most in the majors with Minnesota shortstop Jason Bartlett.
“Everybody has things they need to work on,” Braun said on a conference call.
Braun showed off his power in the Brewers’ exhibition opener, hitting a grand slam and a three-run homer. He also made a wild throw in that game.
Tulowitzki led big league shortstops in fielding percentage, got to many more balls than anyone at his position and turned an unassisted triple play.
He also set an NL rookie record for home runs by a shortstop (24) and batted .291 with 99 RBIs as the Rockies surged to the NL pennant. Colorado won 14 of 15 to take the wild-card spot ” Tulowitzki had four hits in a one-game tiebreaker for the slot, including a key double off Trevor Hoffman.
The crowds at Coors Field began a rhythmic chant for Tulowitzki, and the 6-foot-3 shortstop was in the middle of the Rockies’ playoff push. Colorado set a big league record for fielding percentage.
Tulowitzki was on vacation this week and the Rockies did not make him available for comment.
There was a tie for the NL rookie award in 1976 between San Diego’s Butch Metzger and Cincinnati’s Pat Zachry, though the voting format was different then. Last year, Florida shortstop Hanley Ramirez beat out Washington third baseman Ryan Zimmerman by four points.
Braun, who turns 24 this Saturday, became the second Brewers player to win Rookie of the Year. Pat Listach won in 1992 when Milwaukee was in the American League.
Houston outfielder Hunter Pence was third this year and Arizona outfielder Chris Young was fourth.
Pedroia will have to hold his award with his right hand ” his left hand is in a soft cast. A test in early September revealed a crack, and he played through the pain until having surgery last week.
“I don’t really know when it happened,” he said on a conference call from his home in Chandler, Ariz.
Pedroia excelled in October. He sparked Boston’s comeback from a 3-1 deficit in the AL championship series, homering and driving in five runs to beat Cleveland in Game 7. Pedroia then led off the World Series opener with a home run, sending the Red Sox toward their sweep of the Rockies.
A month into the season, Pedroia was hitting just .172 with no home runs and only two RBIs. His slump was so severe that some Red Sox fans were calling for Alex Cora to take over the starting spot.
“The first month was definitely tough on me,” Pedroia said. “I don’t think a player is made over one month.”
Encouraged by Cora and future World Series MVP Mike Lowell to stick with it, the 24-year-old Pedroia perked up in May. His diving stop on a grounder by Miguel Tejada helped preserve Clay Buchholz’s no-hitter in September.
Pedroia became the sixth Red Sox player to win the AL award and first since Nomar Garciaparra in 1997.
Delmon Young was next with three first-place votes and 56 points, and Kansas City pitcher Brian Bannister received the other first-place vote. Boston pitcher Daisuke Matsuzaka finished fourth in the AL voting, followed by Angels outfielder Reggie Willits and Red Sox reliever Hideki Okajima.
The AL Cy Young Award will be announced Tuesday. Boston’s Josh Beckett and Cleveland’s C.C. Sabathia are considered favorites.
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