GIBBY Awards offer one more reason to reflect
Comprehensive group of honorees leaves us anticipating greatness to come
Let's push the pause button on the comings and goings of a busy offseason to celebrate our amazing game. In the end, that's what our 12th annual Greatness in Baseball Yearly Awards are all about.
To salute a season that took us on an incredible ride of soaring individual achievement and of teams that captivated us with their heart and effort and unselfishness.
To remember moments, small and large, moments that helped create a scrapbook of memories. To cheer you, Miguel Cabrera. You, too, Mike Trout. Hey, Pittsburgh Pirates, thank you. Likewise, the Boston Red Sox.
Finally, the GIBBYs remember those who performed at such a high level for so long that they've woven their way into the hearts and minds of all of those who love the game.
Has any season given us more than this one? There were the Los Angeles Dodgers playing two months of near-perfect baseball. The Tampa Bay Rays were pretty much unbeatable for a few weeks, too.
The Cleveland Indians sprinted to the finish line to grab a playoff spot. The Rays and Rangers played a 163rd game to decide another. There were young guys blazing across the sky, Jose Fernandez and Yasiel Puig and Evan Gattis. There were proven veterans like Adam Wainwright and Max Scherzer performing at the highest level. There was Chris Davis continuing an amazing breakthrough season and Jayson Werth having maybe his best season.
Our GIBBYs are a chance to honor the best of the best, with an inclusive voting process that includes fans, media, front-office personnel and the Society for American Baseball Research.
We recognize players for breakout years, for individual achievements. We remember top plays, odd moments and plays that lingered in our hearts and minds. We salute them all.
There's Cabrera, the game's resplendent offensive star, earning the GIBBY for MLB Most Valuable Player. In the appropriate follow-up to winning the Triple Crown in 2012, Cabrera kept it going by winning a third straight American League batting championship (.348). He matched his 2012 home run total with 44 and had 137 RBIs, missing his 2012 total by just two.
Cabrera probably hits the ball hard more consistently than any other player on earth and might have won a second straight Triple Crown if not for Davis, who was voted our Breakout Hitter of the Year, and Davis' story is as amazing and inspirational as any in the game. He arrived in Baltimore in July 2011 from the Texas Rangers with shaken confidence and unfulfilled potential.
Orioles manager Buck Showalter began restoring Davis' confidence in their first meeting, telling him, in part, that he believed in him, that he thought he was still capable of doing great things.
That Davis has done, having hit 33 home runs in 2012 before leading the big leagues with 53 home runs and 138 RBIs this season. Having now evolved from top prospect to potential bust to AL MVP candidate, Davis is appreciative for everything he has gotten. If Davis becomes one of the faces of the game, the game will have someone for whom we can all root.
Matt Harvey grabs the GIBBY for the Breakout Pitcher of the Year. He was just 24 years old and had made all of 10 Major League starts on Opening Day. Over the next 26 starts, he established himself as one of baseball's most consistent and most dominant performers.
Harvey is so good that every start has become an event for Mets fans. He could miss the 2014 season after undergoing Tommy John surgery on his right elbow, but in 2013, Harvey gave them another reason to be optimistic about the future.
Clayton Kershaw was honored for being the Starting Pitcher of the Year, Craig Kimbrel for being the Closer of the Year. We also handed out GIBBYs for Defensive Player of the Year (Yadier Molina ), Setup Man of the Year (Mark Melancon ) and Comeback Player of the Year (Francisco Liriano ).
One of the beauties of the GIBBYs is that they cover not just the basics but also the achievements and moments that fans roll around in their hears throughout the offseason.
Tim Lincecum won the Pitching Performance of the Year for a 148-pitch, 13-strikeout no-hitter against the Padres. Manny Machado was honored for making the Play of the Year, one in a series of dazzling plays he made during the season. Giancarlo Stanton raced home with our Walk-Off of the Year, securing a no-hitter for Henderson Alvarez to cap the Marlins' final game of the season.
The Pittsburgh Pirates were our Storyline of the Year, while the Boston Red Sox got our Moment of the Year with an emotional return to Fenway Park not long after the Boston Marathon tragedy.
Lifetime Achievement Awards went to some of the game's household names -- Mariano Rivera, Jim Leyland, Tommy Lasorda and Jack Morris. Their contributions can never be measured with mere numbers.
In the end, the GIBBYs are a reminder that the game is special on so many levels, a game to be savored and remembered, a season that whetted our appetite for what's ahead.
Richard Justice is a columnist for MLB.com. Read his blog, Justice4U. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.