One was a favorite from Day One, the other didn't really get noticed until July. But Chicago White Sox slugger Jose Abreu and New York Mets pitcher Jacob deGrom saw their different paths meet Monday, as they won the MLB Rookie of the Year awards.
Abreu received all 30 of the first-place votes cast by the Baseball Writers Association of America. Mike Trout in 2012 was the last unanimous winner. Matt Shoemaker of the Los Angeles Angels finished second in the AL with 12 second-place votes and Dellin Betances of the New York Yankees was third, getting seven second-place votes.
Meanwhile, deGrom earned 26 first-place votes to win a much-closer vote. Billy Hamilton, the speedy outfielder for the Cincinnati Reds finished second, getting the other four first-place votes. Kolten Wong of the St. Louis Cardinals was third.
Of the two awards, Abreu's win was the no-brainer. He was known as the "Cuban Barry Bonds" before coming to America, and he certainly lived up to the nickname once he arrived.
Even as far back as the first month of the season, he was turning heads. Abreu set rookie records by hitting 10 homers and knocking in 31 runs in April. He finished the season with 36 homers, 107 RBIs and a .964 OPS that was second in all of baseball.
The only knock on Abreu — and it doesn't even hold up logically — is that he played pro baseball in Cuba before coming to MLB. But with so many imported players in the league nowadays, that's not rare anymore. Abreu is 27, but the other two AL Rookie of the Year finalists are close in age. Shoemaker is 28 and Betances is 26.
In the NL, deGrom used a strong second half to overthrow Hamilton, who was the favorite for the award at the start of the season and still at the All-Star break.
But deGrom, 26, exploded in July, August and September. He had a 1.99 ERA in his final 15 starts. You could argue that Clayton Kershaw was the only NL starting pitcher better than deGrom toward the end of the season. He finished the year 9-6 with a 2.69 ERA. In 140 innings, he had 144 strikeouts.
In the case of both players, both teams and their cities, these strong 2014 seasons are a signal of new hope.
The Mets are trying to morph from a punchline into a contender. They'll have Matt Harvey back next season in their rotation, deGrom behind him and young pitcher Zack Wheeler close to hitting his stride. It's a beautiful thing when a Rookie of the Year-level pitcher comes out of nowhere to bolster your rotation as deGrom did.
That's a very formidable trio to lead the rotation for years to come. The Mets signed Michael Cuddyer to a two-year contract on Monday, a signal that they're actively trying to increase their offensive potential to match their pitching. All of that might not equal an NL East division championship in 2015, but it's a team heading in the right direction.
In Chicago, Rookie of the Year is short-term thinking for Abreu. He's signed with the White Sox for six years, and looks every bit like a franchise cornerstone in the making. He was the White Sox's best player according to his Wins Above Replacement measure, and was one of the big reasons the White Sox won 10 more games in 2014 than they did in 2013.
Before Abreu, the White Sox were a franchise that had sort of lost its way. With Abreu there, punishing baseballs for the foreseeable future and Chris Sale topping the starting rotation, White Sox fans have a couple of legitimate reasons to be excited.
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