The 2021 awards season is upon us. The three finalists for each of the four major awards in each league were announced Monday evening. As usual, there are quite a few surprises within the 24 MLB award finalists. One thing that fans should be reminded of is that award voting by the BBWAA takes place prior to the start of the postseason. Either a positive or negative surprise, it is important to remember this is a huge accomplishment for all involved. Before getting to the surprises, let’s run down each award finalist.
Manager of the Year
Dusty Baker, Houston Astros (AL)
Kevin Cash, Tampa Bay Rays (AL)
Scott Servais, Seattle Mariners (AL)
Craig Counsell, Milwaukee Brewers (NL)
Gabe Kapler, San Francisco Giants (NL)
Mike Shildt, St. Louis Cardinals (NL)
Rookie of the Year
Randy Arozarena, Tampa Bay Rays (AL)
Wander Franco, Tampa Bay Rays (AL)
Luis Garcia, Houston Astros (AL)
Dylan Carlson, St. Louis Cardinals (NL)
Jonathan India, Cincinnati Reds (NL)
Trevor Rogers, Miami Marlins (NL)
Gerrit Cole, New York Yankees (AL)
Lance Lynn, Chicago White Sox (AL)
Robbie Ray, Toronto Blue Jays (AL)
Corbin Burnes, Milwaukee Brewers (NL)
Max Scherzer, Los Angeles Dodgers/Washington Nationals (NL)
Zack Wheeler, Philadelphia Phillies (NL)
Vladimir Guerrero Jr., Toronto Blue Jays (AL)
Shohei Ohtani, Los Angeles Angels (AL)
Marcus Semien, Toronto Blue Jays (AL)
Bryce Harper, Philadelphia Phillies (NL)
Juan Soto, Washington Nationals (NL)
Fernando Tatis Jr., San Diego Padres (NL)
No MVPs in the Postseason
While there are six outstanding MVP finalists, none of their teams made the playoffs. This means that neither MVP winner played in the postseason. The last time that both MVPs were not in the postseason was more than 30 years ago. This just further solifies the notion that a player does not have to come from a playoff team to be seen as very valuable. Heck, Mike Trout has been bucking this notion for the better part of a decade. This is still surprising, because postseason teams usually have one or two players whose outstanding seasons merit MVP consideration. This was just not the case as Harper, Soto, and Tatis represent the clear top three in the NL. Meanwhile, even if Salvador Perez or Matt Olson were finalists, no playoff teams would have been represented among the AL MVP finalists. Speaking of Perez…
Salvador Perez is Not an MVP Finalist
Marcus Semien put up an impressive 7.2 bWAR and 45 home runs this season. Even so, Perez made history and put up arguably one of the best ever offensive seasons from a catcher. His 48 home runs are the highest single-season total in catcher history. He led not only the AL, but all of baseball in home runs and runs batted in. Even with a measly .316 OBP, he posted a .544 SLG and .859 OPS, along with a 5.3 bWAR. Even if his WAR total is nowhere close to Semien’s, nobody would have been shocked to see Perez’s name up there among the finalists for this award.
Wander Franco is a ROY Finalist Despite Playing 70 Games
Wander Franco put up very good numbers as a rookie in 70 games this year. He hit .288/.347/.463, 129 OPS+, and posted 3.5 bWAR. His season highlight is that 43-game on-base streak, which tied with Frank Robinson for the longest in history by a player 20 years old or younger. However, Franco only played 70 games. If Franco wins the award, he would have played the second-fewest games in history en route to Rookie of the Year. Willie McCovey put 13 homers and a 1.085 OPS in only 52 games to win the award in 1959. While Franco’s performance in the 70 games was not shocking, it is a surprise to see him among the finalists because players like Adolis Garcia or Ryan Mountcastle played over 140 games and hit 30 or more home runs.
Alex Cora is not a Manager of the Year Finalist
When a team goes from a .400 win percentage one to year to .568 the next, the manager typically gets credit and praise. Especially if that .568 win percentage team had a different manager. This is the case of Alex Cora with the Boston Red Sox. In 2020, all Cora could do was watch from the sidelines as he was suspended for his role in the Astros sign stealing scandal. However, Boston re-hired him in 2021 knowing he was the clear best person to lead the team. Cora took a team that was not thought to be a contender into one who led the AL East until August. This is a recipe for someone to win Manager of the Year. However, Cora was not one of the three award finalists despite his team being one of the biggest stories of the season. While you cannot take anything away from Baker, Cash, and Servais, Cora definitely deserves to be among the finalists.
Awards season is usually one of the most exciting times of the year. As is the case with most things in the sport, there are some surprises among the finalists. However, they all deserve recognition for their outstanding seasons. Being an awards finalist is a notable achievement. Some of these players put up historical seasons and broke records. Announcing these award finalists begins a week of debate until the results are presented next week.
I am a sports administration graduate student that has been a passionate sports fan practically my whole life. I started writing about sports four years ago on my own blog. I have mostly written about baseball, the Yankees in particular because they are my favorite team.