11/21/11 4:40 PM EST
Royals trio lauded for '11 excellence
By Dick Kaegel / MLB.com
You've got, in order, Alex Gordon, Bruce Chen, Melky Cabrera and the winners of the first annual MLB.com awards for the Kansas City Royals.As selected by MLB.com, awards have been designated in three categories -- Pitcher, Perfomer and Breakout Player -- for each of the 30 teams.
Gordon was named Player of the Year, Chen was Pitcher of the Year and Cabrera, who was dealt to the Giants for pitcher Jonathan Sanchez and a Minor Leaguer on Nov. 7, was Breakout Player of the Year.
A product of Lincoln, Neb., Gordon finally fulfilled the high expectations put on him when he was the Royals' first-round Draft choice out the University of Nebraska in 2005.
When this season was over, he not only had established himself as an outstanding left fielder and team leader but he registered career highs in many categories, including average (.303), hits (185), runs (101), doubles (45), homers (23), and RBIs (87). He also had 17 stolen bases.
No matter where he batted -- first, third or occasionally fourth -- he was a consistent force in a vigorous offense on a team that scored 54 more runs than in 2010. And he leaped into prominence after two subpar seasons marked by hip surgery (2009) and a demotion to Triple-A Omaha (2010).
"I just came into this season motivated -- not that I haven't before -- but with the last two years, injuries and being sent down and stuff like that, I think that drove me in the offseason to work even harder and that's what I did," Gordon said. "Throughout the year, I took every day playing 100 percent on the practice field and in every game and it paid off a little bit."
Chen, whose grandparents moved from China to Panama City where he was born, led the Royals' pitching staff in victories with 12 for the second straight season.
Despite missing six weeks with a lat injury, he posted a 12-8 record and 3.77 ERA in 25 starts. The Royals are Chen's 10th Major League team and, in addition to victories, he gave them leadership for their young pitchers and provided a light-hearted spirit in the clubhouse and on the bench. On the mound, Chen falls into that crafty lefty category -- he doesn't throw that hard, maybe 88 mph tops, but he throws four pitches from a lot of different angles.
Chen, after 10 years in the Majors, slipped from view for a year after undergoing Tommy John surgery on his left elbow. But the Royals took a chance and signed him to a Minor League contract in March 2009. He reached the Majors that year and didn't have much success. But in 2010, he worked his way out of the bullpen and into the rotation, ultimately delivering more wins than staff ace Zack Greinke.
"2010 was a good year and I tried to build on that," Chen said. "This year, I couldn't have done by myself. I had the support of my teammates who played really good defense behind us and the offense was great."
Even with the long stay on the disabled list, Chen used a strong finish to again top the staff in victories.
There was a good deal of skepticism when the Royals signed Cabrera at the last Winter Meetings. The Melk-man was coming off a lackluster season for the Atlanta Braves after being traded by the New York Yankees.
However, Cabrera took a big salary cut to sign and the switch-hitter from Bajos De Haina in the Dominican Republic worked strenuously to get back into shape, losing weight and adding muscle. When he hit the field for the Royals this season, scouts marveled that he looked like a different player.
That showed not only in his physique but in a huge upswing in his statistics. Talk about a breakout, bounce-back year: Cabrera accumulated 201 hits -- the first Royals player to reach 200 since 2000 -- and had a career-best .305 average. He settled in as the Royals' two-hole batter and piled up 44 doubles, 18 homers, 87 RBIs, 102 runs and 20 stolen bases -- all career highs.
He also excelled in center field, getting 13 assists to contribute to the Major League-leading 51 posted by the Royals' outfielders.
Gordon had 20 of those assists and that, plus his dazzling play all over left field, earned the converted third baseman a spot on the American League Rawlings Gold Glove team. It was the 19th Gold Glove Award in Royals history.
In team awards announced by the Royals, Gordon was the Les Milgram Player of the Year, Chen was the Bruce Rice Pitcher of the Year and first baseman Eric Hosmer won the Joe Burke Special Achievement Award.
Also a contender for the AL Rookie of the Year Award, Hosmer finished third in the BBWAA voting. He fit right into the Majors with 19 homers, 27 doubles, 78 RBIs and a .293 average in 128 games. He also flashed a gifted glove at first base, tightening the Royals' defense.
|MVP||Cy Young||Rookie of the Year|
|George Brett||1980||Bret Saberhagen||1985||Lou Piniella||1969|
|Bret Saberhagen||1989||Bob Hamelin||1994|
|David Cone||1994||Carlos Beltran||1999|
|Manager of the Year||Rawlings Gold Glove||Silver Slugger|
|Tony Pena||2003||Amos Otis, OF||1971||Willie Wilson, OF||1980|
|Amos Otis, OF||1973||George Brett, 3B||1980|
|Amos Otis, OF||1974||Hal McRae, DH||1982|
|Frank White, 2B||1977||Willie Wilson, OF||1982|
|Al Cowens, OF||1977||George Brett, 3B||1985|
|Frank White, 2B||1978||Frank White||1986|
|Frank White, 2B||1979||George Brett, 1B||1988|
|Frank White, 2B||1980||Gary Gaetti, 3B||1995|
|Willie Wilson, OF||1980||Dean Palmer, 3B||1998|
|This Year in Baseball||Frank White, 2B||1981|
|Zack Greinke (Starting Pitcher)||2009||Frank White, 2B||1982|
|George Brett, 3B||1985|
|Frank White, 2B||1986|
|Frank White, 2B||1987|
|Bret Saberhagen, P||1989|
|Bob Boone, C||1989|
|Jermaine Dye, OF||2000|
|Mark Grudzielanek, 2B||2006|
|Alex Gordon, OF||2011|
|Player of the Year||Pitcher of the Year|
|Amos Otis, Fred Patek||1971||Dick Drago||1971|
|John Mayberry||1972||Roger Nelson||1972|
|Amos Otis||1973||Paul Splittorff||1973|
|Hal McRae||1974||Steve Busby||1974|
|George Brett||1975||Dennis Leonard||1975|
|George Brett||1976||Mark Littell||1976|
|Al Cowens||1977||Dennis Leonard||1977|
|Amos Otis||1978||Larry Gura||1978|
|George Brett||1979||Dennis Leonard||1979|
|George Brett||1980||Dan Quisenberry||1980|
|Willie Wilson||1981||Larry Gura||1981|
|Hal McRae||1982||Dan Quisenberry||1982|
|Frank White||1983||Dan Quisenberry||1983|
|Willie Wilson||1984||Dan Quisenberry||1984|
|George Brett||1985||Bret Saberhagen||1985|
|Frank White||1986||Mark Gubicza||1986|
|Danny Tartabull||1987||Bret Saberhagen||1987|
|George Brett||1988||Mark Gubicza||1988|
|Jim Eisenreich||1989||Bret Saberhagen||1989|
|George Brett||1990||Steve Farr||1990|
|Danny Tartabull||1991||Bret Saberhagen||1991|
|George Brett||1992||Kevin Appier||1992|
|Greg Gagne||1993||Kevin Appier||1993|
|Bob Hamelin||1994||David Cone||1994|
|Gary Gaetti||1995||Kevin Appier||1995|
|Tom Goodwin||1996||Tim Belcher||1996|
|Jay Bell||1997||Tim Belcher||1997|
|Dean Palmer||1998||Jeff Montgomery||1998|
|Jermaine Dye||1999||Jose Rosado||1999|
|Mike Sweeney||2000||Jeff Suppan||2000|
|Carlos Beltran||2001||Jeff Suppan||2001|
|Mike Sweeney||2002||Paul Byrd||2002|
|Carlos Beltran||2003||Darrell May||2003|
|David DeJesus||2004||Zack Greinke||2004|
|Mike Sweeney||2005||Mike MacDougal||2005|
|Mark Teahen||2006||Mark Redman||2006|
|Mark Grudzielanek||2007||Gil Meche||2007|
|Mike Aviles||2008||Joakim Soria||2008|
|Billy Butler||2009||Zack Greinke||2009|
|Billy Butler||2010||Joakim Soria||2010|
|Alex Gordon||2011||Bruce Chen||2011|
Dick Kaegel is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.