Major League Baseball awards bookend an eventful season

There’s always next year for the Blue Jays
Mookie Betts won the 2018 AL MVP award. KEITH ALLISON/CC FLICKR
Mookie Betts won the 2018 AL MVP award. KEITH ALLISON/CC FLICKR

The Boston Red Sox won the 2018 World Series, handing the Los Angeles Dodgers their second World Series loss in a row. Whether you’re a Dodgers fan wallowing in disappointment all over again, a Red Sox fan celebrating your club’s ninth championship, or even a Blue Jays fan forgetting already almost all that has happened this season and thinking wistfully of the impending Guerrero era, you’d be inclined to agree that 2018 was a pretty fun season for baseball.

For starters, there were three teams who recorded no-hitters — up from last year’s grand total of one. Oakland’s Sean Manaea secured one, and Los Angeles’ quartet of Walker Buehler, Tony Cingrani, Yimi Garcia, and Adam Liberatore combined to secure another no-hitter. In addition, Seattle’s James Paxton became the second Canadian-born pitcher to record a no-hitter; even more symbolic is that he achieved this feat against the Toronto Blue Jays at the Rogers Centre.

However, none of the aforementioned pitchers won the coveted Cy Young award, which went instead to Tampa Bay Rays’ Blake Snell in the American League (AL). Snell recorded a remarkable ERA of 1.89, helping Tampa Bay surpass expectations. The Rays finished comfortably third in the AL East division, eighteen games over .500.

In the same league, the pitcher who generated the most buzz preseason on account of his ability to both hit and pitch, Shohei Ohtani, won Rookie of the Year, which came as a surprise to no one. Ohtani, along with Silver Slugger winner Mike Trout and Gold Glove winner Andrelton Simmons, made the Los Angeles Angels an exciting team to watch, though they did not ultimately reach the playoffs.

In the National League (NL), Atlanta Braves’ Ronald Acuna Jr. won Rookie of the Year, while the New York Mets’ Jacob deGrom also became a first-time winner, securing the Cy Young with an almost unbelievable ERA of 1.7.

And it was a good year for pitchers — specifically, for the strikeout: for the first time in Major League history, there were more strikeouts recorded than hits. In more hitter-friendly records broken this season, the previous record of 80 walk-off home runs was broken in August.

One player who contributed to setting this record was Mookie Betts, who had a year that can only be described as spectacular. The Red Sox’s right fielder finally won the AL MVP award, as well as a Gold Glove and a Silver Slugger — all while helping his team win the World Series. Boston combined to win more awards than any other team, with three Gold Glove winners and three Silver Slugger award recipients, to secure 2018 as the year of Boston.

In more local review, the Blue Jays put up a less than impressive season: no pitcher landed in the league’s top 50 lowest ERAs and no hitter landed in the top 50 highest averages. To say Toronto was mediocre would be a compliment, as the Jays were uninspired and utterly forgettable.

However, that may have been partially due to the moves the team made during the season: the Jays dealt JA Happ to the New York Yankees, Josh Donaldson to the Cleveland Indians, and Curtis Granderson to the Milwaukee Brewers. If Toronto fans want any claim, however small, to Boston’s World Series win, it would be in Steve Pearce, who had started the season with Toronto until being traded in June, and was named the World Series MVP.

Pearce, Betts, and JD Martinez will make the AL East a difficult division to compete in for years to come. This season, the AL East was the only division to have two 100-win teams in the Yankees and the Red Sox. The former would go on to be eliminated in the Division Series, whereas the latter would go on to win the whole thing.

On the flip side, not a single team recorded a 100-win season in the NL. In fact, four teams had to play one extra game — increasing their total to 163 games in the regular season — because they were tied for division champs: the Los Angeles Dodgers defeated the Colorado Rockies to clinch the NL West, while the Brewers defeated the Chicago Cubs to clinch the NL Central. Milwaukee would go on to lose to the Dodgers in the NL Championship Series, though they found some consolation, as newly-acquired Christian Yelich secured the NL MVP award for his incredible season.

From no-hitters to walk-offs, 2018 gave baseball fans a lot to be happy about. Established teams, like the Red Sox, the Dodgers, and the Yankees, delivered what their fans expected — while the Braves and the Brewers surprised all with their dominance. With the likes of Bryce Harper, Manny Machado, and Dallas Keuchel as prominent free-agents this offseason, 2019 can be the success story for teams that had unimpressive seasons this year.

Wherever the superstars land, and however players are traded from one team to another, one thing is for sure in this offseason: March can’t come soon enough.

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