Cleat Geeks

Congrats, Cubs!

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The Chicago Cubs made a clean sweep of the Baseball Writers Association of America awards, with three winners in three days. On Monday, Kris Bryant was named NL Rookie of the Year. On Tuesday, Joe Maddon was named NL Manager of the Year and on Wednesday, Jake Arrieta was awarded the NL Cy Young. The Cubs become the 13th team in MLB history to win three of the four awards, and the first since the 2001 Mariners. The last time the Cubs accomplished this was in 1984, when Ryne Sandberg won MVP, Rick Sutcliffe won the Cy Young and Jim Frey won Manager of the Year. The only other team to win Rookie of the Year, Manager of the Year, and the Cy Young in the same season was the 1983 Chicago White Sox.

May 26, 2015; Chicago, IL, USA; Chicago Cubs third baseman Kris Bryant (17) is greeted by manager Joe Maddon (70) after hitting a home run against the Washington Nationals during the eighth inning at Wrigley Field. Mandatory Credit: David Banks-USA TODAY Sports Screen-Shot-2015-11-18-at-5.02.38-PM

 

Chicago Cubs' Kris Bryant watches his RBI single during the fifth inning of an MLB baseball game against the San Diego Padres Saturday, April 18, 2015, in Chicago. Bryant's single was his first major league hit. (AP Photo/Paul Beaty)Third baseman Kris Bryant was an unanimous pick for National League Rookie of the Year after he batted .275 with 26 home runs and 99 RBIs to go with a .368 on-base percentage in the 2015 season. Bryant tied for the major league home run lead among first-year players while leading all full-time NL rookies in OBP, slugging, and OPS. He had a rough start in the majors, leading NL hitters in strikeouts with 199 but came through when the team needed it the most; hitting .292 with a 4.17 on-base percentage with runners in scoring position. Bryant received all 30 first-place votes, for a total of 150 points from the BBWAA in balloting. San Francisco third baseman Matt Duffy was second, with 70 points, and Pittsburgh infielder Jung Ho Kang third, with 28 points.

“I think we’re in very similar situations in that we’re surrounded by a lot of young guys,” Bryant said. “I think the only expectations that really matter are the ones you put on yourself. I definitely exceeded my own expectations.” Kris Bryant was chosen second overall by the Cubs in 2013 and made his big league debut April 17th of this year. He quickly became an All-Star as Chicago returned to the playoffs for the first time since 2008.

JoeMaddon1280_3wfw7tz4_v0y8suzzJoe Maddon won his third Manager of the Year award after guiding the Cubs to a 97-65 record and a berth in the Nation League Championship Series. Maddon also won the award in the American League with Tampa Bay in 2008 and 2011. This year, he received 18 first-place votes, for 124 points from the BBWAA in balloting.

“It’s really good to know that what you believe in works in other places,” Maddon said. “I didn’t tweak anything. It was the same approach.”

The Cardinals’ Mike Matheny came in second with nine first-place votes and 87 points, followed by Mets’ Terry Collins, who was listed atop three ballots and had 49 points. Maddon perfectly guided a team loaded with talent, but not much experience. After hovering just above .500 for more than half the season, the Cubs took off in August and September, finishing 19-9 each month. Maddon also gave rookies Addison Russell, Kyle Schwarber, and Kris Bryant major responsibilities, but kept the pressure at a minimum and maintained a relaxed locker room. The Cubs improved by 24 games over the 2014 season, tops in the majors.

“To be the steward of this wonderful group of young players, I feel very fortunate,” Maddon said on MLB Network. His best move came in handling All-Star shortstop Starlin Castro, who was struggling. Castro was benched in favor of Addison Russell, then moved to second base. I believe that was exactly what Castro needed because it worked; he thrived at the plate and at his new position in the final weeks of the season. Maddon’s reputation as a players’ manager came with him from his time in Tamp Bay. In Chicago, he made everything relaxed with pajama night on an overnight flight, a zoo day at the ballpark for players’ families. He always stressed a “less is more” attitude about the game and he often canceled batting practice, citing it as the “most overrated” part of the game. Maddon set the relaxed mentality in spring training, but also demanded attention to detail, especially when it came to fundamentals. He called out his team after a series of mistakes in the spring. Days later, the Cubs were playing better baseball, which carried over to the regular season.

“Overachieving would indicate that we really did not have that level of talent, and I don’t think that’s true,” Maddon said. “I believe what occurred eventually was that we kind of realized our potential.” The Cubs finished April four games over .500 but easily could have been four games under, considering Maddon wasn’t familiar with his bullpen and lineup that didn’t feature any rookies to open the season. The first month set the tone for the whole year and set up Maddon to win Manager of the Year in his first season as Cubs’ manager. “Obviously, the spotlight is shining from Wrigley Field,” Maddon said.

arrietaCubs president Theo Epstein told a reporter in early October that Jake Arrieta carried himself like he was the best pitcher in baseball. “He did before he was,” Epstein said. “And now he is, so it’s even better.” Now that statement is even more official because Jake Arrieta won the 2015 National League Cy Young Award beating out Dodgers aces Zack Greinke and Clayton Kershaw. There is no magic that can explain Arrieta’s rise from Baltimore bust to Chicago Cy Young. It’s simply the outcome of talent, hard work, confidence, and a support system coming together. What Arrieta did in 2015, from his no-hitter against the Dodgers to his late-season dominance, mirrored the success of his team. His second half of the 2015 season is what won him the Cy Young, with a 12-1 record with an 0.75 ERA in 107 1/3 inning over 15 starts. Overall, Arrieta went 22-6 with a 1.77 ERA and that was all the writers needed to know.

They gave him 17 of 30 first place votes, 169 points in all. He put in the hard work and saw the results. He knew he was more than capable of throwing a shutout or a complete game most times he took the mound in August and September. “I was locked in, and what I mean by that was my timing and my tempo and my delivery were as close to perfect as I feel they could be,” he said. Arrieta admitted to fatigue setting in during the postseason. In the Wild Card Game, he threw a complete-game shutout against the Pirates then gave up four runs in 5 2/3 innings in an 8-6 win over St. Louis in the divisional round and four runs in five innings in a 4-1 loss to the Mets in the NLCS. When the Cubs traded for him in 2013, he went back to the minors and worked on some mechanical and mental parts of his game. In 2014, he put it together and looked promising. In 2015, he certainly dominated. By letting Arrieta be himself, from his workout regimen to his preferred style of pitching, the Cubs perfected a once in a decade kind of deal.

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The Chicago Cubs definitely had an amazing year, congratulations to these very deserving three!

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