05/06/2008 10:00 AM ETFans to pick top rookie each monthRookie of the Month Award presented by Gillette to debut
By Mark Newman / MLB.com
Click >> Armando Galarraga
<< to vote!
That is pretty much what it's all about here right now. Voting is under way
for the first time ever as Major League Baseball introduces its newest major award in both leagues -- the Rookie of the Month Award presented by Gillette.
You get to help decide the best starts by players starting their careers, and by voting you become automatically entered in a drawing for a trip to see either the 79th All-Star Game on July 15 at Yankee Stadium or one of the 2008 World Series games. It is all about something new and incredible, and get used to this new responsibility because you will be asked at the start of each month to pick the top rookie from each league.
In the American League, nominees for April (including March games) are outfielder Jacoby Ellsbury of the Red Sox, right-hander Armando Galarraga of the Tigers,
outfielder David Murphy of the Rangers and left-hander Greg Smith of the A's.
In the National League, your four choices are outfielder Kosuke Fukudome of the Cubs, right-hander Jair Jurrjens of the Braves
, right-hander Kyle McClellan of the Cardinals and catcher Geovany Soto of the Cubs.
The online fan vote will represent 20 percent of the overall balloting, with the remaining votes coming from team baseball writers and club broadcasters. Once voting is concluded, Gillette, MLB and Major League Baseball Advanced Media will announce the winning rookie for each league in a monthly press release and congratulate the winners at mlb.com/gillette
That first announcement will be this Friday, after which Gillette will present the award winners with a Rookie of the Month trophy and make a donation to a charitable organization in each award recipient's name. It is yet another major role that MLB.com voters add to their growing list of participatory powers, and it is worth reinforcing the point that this will not be a popularity contest.
"There's statistical criteria, which will be provided on the site," said Fred Lynn, the 1975 AL Rookie of the Year, while visiting MLB.com last week as spokesperson for this new award. "For position players, it's going to be home runs, batting average, on-base percentage, runs scored. For pitchers, it's wins and saves, strikeouts, ERA. So there are criteria that have to be met. And you have to be top 10 in all of the categories for the players. So it will be all laid out for [fans], and they'll be able to see it there.
"You have to watch."
That usually is not a problem, judging by today's numbers for overall game attendance, MLB.TV subscriptions and television ratings. Fans are watching players like never before, and you are immersed today in stats. Visitors to mlb.com/gillette all season will find information on the nominees, unique statistics, video clips and exclusive editorial content all focused around the rookie theme.
It's an interesting decision time right off the bat. In each league, you are forced to choose between two pitchers and two position players. And in the senior circuit, what happens when Cubs fans have to choose from among two of their finest?
Ellsbury picked up where he left off last October, covering big ground in center at Fenway Park and finishing April with a .282 average, three homers, 11 RBIs, eight steals and 20 runs. Galarraga -- signed as a non-drafted free agent last October -- was a rare bright spot in Detroit's rough start by going 2-0 with a 1.50 ERA and 13 strikeouts in 18 innings. While fellow Rangers outfielder Josh Hamilton was earning AL Player of the Month honors, look what Murphy was doing right beside him: 28 hits, including 11 doubles and 47 total bases. Smith helped Oakland with a 2-1 record and 2.73 ERA, striking out 21 in 33 innings.
Fukudome became an immediate happening at Wrigley Field, finishing April with a .305 average, 21 runs and 29 hits. Soto finished April in style with six RBIs in that historic rout of Milwaukee that gave Chicago its 17th victory of the month, and by month's end he had an unreal 54 total bases. But could their huge fan base cancel each other out in the balloting? There is big competition from those rivals in St. Louis, because McClellan was a holds machine, appearing in relief 12 times and striking out 13 in 15 2/3 innings with a WHIP under 1.00. Jurrjens has been a stalwart in 2008 for the Braves' rotation: 3-2, 3.05 ERA and 28 strikeouts in 38 1/3 innings.
The annual Jackie Robinson Rookie of the Year Award presented in both leagues is voted on exclusively by the Baseball Writers Association of America immediately after the regular season. The Rookie of the Month Award has nothing to do with that annual award, but suffice to say that if a player cleans up on a bunch of these monthly awards, it is likely that he is going to take home that one.
Lynn said the Red Sox would have taken a batch of them back in that powerhouse '75 season. He and Jim Rice tore up the AL that year, finishing Nos. 1-2, respectively, in the AL Rookie of the Year voting. Lynn also won that year's AL MVP Award, with Rice finishing third just three votes behind John Mayberry of Kansas City.
"Between my teammate, Jimmy Rice, who was a rookie as well, out of six months we might have taken four between the two of us," Lynn said. "Jimmy and I were neck-and-neck in everything as far as the awards were concerned. You can only be as good as your teammates, I think. If you have great teammates around you, especially in the order -- I was fortunate enough to hit in the middle of the order, so I got protection all over. If you have protection around you, it makes your job a whole lot easier."
That still holds true today. But one big difference 33 years later is that a fan can go on something called the Internet and help decide which rookies are the best so far. It is a brand new award, a brand new opportunity for you, and it's time to get off to a great start deciding which rookie's great start was the best in each league for April.
To be eligible for "rookie" status, a nominee must be under the maximum number of combined days of Major League service, regardless of how many previous seasons in which he might have appeared. Ellsbury was a marquee name last fall in helping the Red Sox win it all, but he's still a rookie. Fukudome was a standout for years in Japan's major league, but he's still a rookie in the Majors.
Lynn's advice for fan voters is to simply watch the games and pay close attention to the nominees' stats. As for today's rookies, he has some advice there as well.
"I'd talk to the older player," Lynn told Harold Reynolds on MLB.com's "Leading Off" show. "Some clubs don't have many veteran players. But talk to the oldest guys. If I'm a left-handed hitter, I want to talk to Yaz. He's a lefty, we have similar styles. We both can hit the ball out of the ballpark, so they're going to pitch us kind of the same way. When you're sitting down watching the game, watch how guys pitch guys like yourself. That's really important. You can learn a lot by just watching. Pick the brains of these older guys. Your coaching staff. Maybe your manager. Don't be afraid to talk to these guys. They have a lot of information."
Gillette continues to make significant media commitments to national Major League Baseball rightsholders, This Week In Baseball presented by Aquafina, produced by Emmy Award-winning Major League Baseball Productions, and to MLB Jewel Event publications created by MLB Properties. Gillette is also a participating sponsor of DHL All-Star FanFest, the interactive baseball theme park that opens Major League Baseball All-Star Week. This year, DHL All-Star FanFest will take place at the Jacob K. Javits Center in New York from July 11-15, and during that week, Gillette will unveil its brand-new MLB-themed All-Star Shower & Shave attraction.
Mark Newman is enterprise editor for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.
NOTE:Check back on May 9th to see which players have been named the April
Rookies of the Month and come back on June 3rd to vote again and get
another chance to win a trip to the All-Star Game.