Dodgers’ Corey Seager is unanimous choice for NL rookie of the year
For their latest rookie of the year, the Dodgers can thank one of their owners. The basketball-playing one.
Cal Ripken Jr. stood tall. Shortstops did not, at least not in a baseball world populated by the likes of Ozzie Smith, Mark Belanger and Luis Aparicio. Ripken wanted to play shortstop, so he drew his inspiration from an out-of-the-box wizard in another sport.
“I remember thinking about Magic Johnson playing the point,” Ripken said.
The lineage of big shortstops — big bodies and big success — officially extended to Corey Seager on Monday. Seager was the unanimous winner of the National League rookie-of-the-year award.
He joined Mike Piazza (1993) and Raul Mondesi (1994) as the only Dodgers to win the award in a unanimous vote. Although Dodgers players have won the award a record 17 times — more than twice as many times as any other club — Seager is the first since Todd Hollandsworth in 1996.
“It’s awesome to be able to bring it back,” Seager said.
Said Dodgers Manager Dave Roberts: “He is everything that is good about our game.”
Washington center fielder Trea Turner, 23, who did not win a place in the Nationals’ lineup until July, finished second in the voting. Dodgers pitcher Kenta Maeda, 28, placed third.
The soft-spoken Seager, 22, said he had no expectations about winning but declared himself “extremely happy” and “extremely excited.” The family and friends gathered for the announcement and subsequent celebration included big brother Kyle, 29, an All-Star third baseman for the Seattle Mariners.
“He’s kind of been the angel on my shoulder,” Corey Seager said.
The 6-foot-4 Ripken won the American League rookie award in 1982, the first big step in his Hall of Fame career and in broadening the shortstop prototype to include Alex Rodriguez and Troy Tulowitzki, each 6 feet 3, and Seager, at 6 feet 4.
“There hadn’t been a model, really,” Ripken said. “You always looked at the smaller guys who could cover ground. All of a sudden, when someone has some success at the position outside the stereotype, it provokes conversation.”
Ripken noted he was not as acrobatic as the lighter shortstops but made up for it with superior defensive positioning, an aspect of the game at which the Dodgers’ analytics staff and front office excel.
Although Seager wearied of being told from the day he was drafted that his size would force an eventual move to third base, he said he did not consider Monday’s award as evidence he had made it to the top of his profession as a shortstop.
“It’s obviously an honor just to win it,” he said. “It’s not to shove in anybody else’s face. It’s a hard game. You don’t take it for granted.”
He established himself alongside two second-year players – Francisco Lindor of the Cleveland Indians and Carlos Correa of the Houston Astros – at the head of a star-studded group of rising young shortstops.He established himself alongside two second-year players – Francisco Lindor of the Cleveland Indians and Carlos Correa of the Houston Astros – at the head of a star-studded group of rising young shortstops.
The group also includes Addison Russell of the Chicago Cubs, Xander Bogaerts of the Boston Red Sox, Aledmys Diaz of the St. Louis Cardinals and Trevor Story of the Colorado Rockies, who hit 27 home runs before suffering a season-ending injury in July.
Seager already has been announced as one of the finalists for the NL most-valuable-player award, expected to be won Thursday by the Cubs’ Kris Bryant, the 2015 rookie of the year. Seager is expected to finish second or third in the MVP vote. The highest finish for a Dodgers rookie in the MVP vote: third, by pitcher Joe Black in 1952.
Seager, a minimum-wage shortstop on the team with the highest payroll in the league, was the youngest of the Dodgers’ 24 position players this year. None of the veteran position players on the team’s current roster has finished higher than fourth in an MVP vote.
Dodgers icon Jackie Robinson was the first winner of the rookie award, in 1947. The award is now presented in Robinson’s honor to a player in each league.
On Tuesday, the Dodgers could win again, when the NL manager-of-the-year award is announced. Roberts is one of the finalists, along with Dusty Baker of the Nationals and Joe Maddon of the Cubs.
Follow Bill Shaikin on Twitter @BillShaikin
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