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Sunday, November 16, 2014

Hank Aaron award: silly even for Bud Selig. Say, hey!

1. Quick, what is the Hank Aaron award?

2. Who won the the Hank Aaron award in 2013?

3. Who won the the Hank Aaron award in 2014 in the American Conference?

Probably your responses were:
1. incorrect
2. I don't have any idea.
3. What, there's a Hank Aaron award in the American Conference?  But Hank was a National League guy for 90% of his career.

http://mlb.mlb.com/mlb/fan_forum/haa/y2014/index.jsp

Est. April 8, 1999

2014 HANK AARON AWARD

Your votes for the 2014 Hank Aaron Award, given to the top offensive player in each League, will be counted alongside those of a special panel of Hall of Famers. The panel, led by Hank Aaron, includes some of the greatest offensive players of all-time: Hall of Famers Roberto Alomar, Johnny Bench, Paul Molitor, Eddie Murray, Frank Thomas and Robin Yount, all personally chosen by Aaron to help select the winners. Voting ends at 11:59 p.m. ET on Sunday, Oct. 5. The Awards will be presented during the World Series.
Learn more about this year's award

SELECT THE TOP OFFENSIVE PLAYER IN EACH LEAGUE
Limited to one player per league. You can vote up to 10 times per day.
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That's a nice touch, limiting fans to 10 votes per day.  Really adds to the integrity of this prestigious
honor in keeping with protecting the overall integrity of the game.

Note: Two of Aaron's "personally chosen" "special panel": more Milwaukee players: Molitor and Yount.

I had thought that the Hank Aaron award was for the best hitter, not the "top offensive player" (wikipedia has hit as best hitter) and I might have thought it was one player for the entire Major Baseball League (MBL), not one for each conference.  The relief pitcher award started in 2014 is named for Mariano Rivera for the AC winner and Trevor Hoffman for the NC winner.  Shouldn't the AC "top offensive player" award be named for Babe Ruth or Ted Williams?

It's embarrassingly apparent that MBL commissioner Allan Huber "Bud" Selig has a man crush on Hank Aaron, especially since Aaron played in Selig's home town of Milwaukee from 1954 through 1965; the Braves then moved to Atlanta.

Aaron Born: February 5, 1934 in Mobile, AL (age 80)

Selig Born: July 30, 1934 in Milwaukee, WI (age 80)

The 20 year old Selig must have been quite impressionable when he first became aware of the 20 year old Aaron.  Enough, so that 45 years later Selig, by then MBL commissioner and owner of the Milwaukee Brewers, a team that Selig had just switched from the American to the National Conference, decided to create an award in honor of Aaron to commemorate the 25 years since Aaron had broken the career home run record of Babe Ruth.

Say what?

Willie Mays cover Baseball Digest
Sept. 1954 via Wikimedia Commons
Or maybe I should write: Say, hey!  As in "The Say Hey Kid", Willie Mays.  Even if the award was for best hitter and Selig wanted it named for a living legend, it still should have been named for Willie Mays, who was superior to Aaron in hitting, fielding and base running.  And Mays and Aaron were contemporaries, which makes Aaron second in his own era in his own league, so we're omitting Mickey Mantle.  Through 1965 nobody in his right mind back then thought that Hank Aaron was better than Willie Mays.  Nobody.

Mays v. Aaron OPS on road against the other teams 1954-1968 v. OPS+  Sunday, May 29, 2011

PA:
Aaron 4,399
Mays 4,400

Aaron:
... OPS on road against the other teams .9705

Mays:
... OPS on road against the other teams .97908
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Willie Mays was a better home run hitter than Hank Aaron.  Friday, January 4, 2013

home rune (HR) rates (HR/AB) of Willie Mays and Hank Aaron for seasons 1954 through 1968 on the road against the other teams.  That makes the comparison in the same ball parks against the same pitching staffs...

Sample size in at bats (AB): Aaron 4,002; Mays 3,868.  HR: Aaron 232, Mays 243.

Mays leads per season 8-7.  However, the total puts Mays ahead by 8.5%...

The main difference in their careers are the almost two full seasons that Mays spent in the Army in 1952 (34 games, 4 HR) and 1953.  It is reasonable to project that Mays would have passed Babe Ruth's career record of 714 HR before Aaron had Mays played full time those two seasons.  Mays hit 660 HR, only 54 fewer than Ruth.

To me this confirms what I have always thought, that Willie Mays was a better home run hitter than Hank Aaron.
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But Mays, of course, never captured Selig's heart and never played for a Milwaukee team.  Aaron returned to Milwaukee for his final two tack on seasons and played for, you guessed it, Bud Selig's very own Milwaukee Brewers, whom Selig had taken from Seattle where they spent one failed season as the Pilots.  This was after Selig had failed in trying to steal the White Sox from Chicago.

What the heck?

Plus, Selig made his usual mess, even with something as simple as an award:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hank_Aaron_Award

The criteria and means for selecting a winner changed multiple times over the years.  Sort of like division schedules and Selig switching yet another team from one conference to the other: Houston two years ago.  Nothing is thought out.

The winners list is pretty amazing.  Miguel Cabrera won in 2012 and 2013, his two MVP seasons, despite Mike Trout's batting being at least comparable and Trout's base running being on another planet from Cabrera's.  Kevin Youkilis won in 2008.  Andruw Jones in 2005.  Enough said.  Check the past winners yourself:

http://m.mlb.com/awards/history-winners/?award_id=NLHAA

Finally, for the steroid sheriff, Bud Selig, there is this to consider:

Those 1973 Atlanta Braves: was there something in the water?  Tuesday, August 31, 2010

At age 30, Baltimore second baseman Davey Johnson joined the Atlanta Braves and hit 43 home runs. His previous high had been 18 at age 28...

Teammate Darrell Evans played his first 7 seasons with Atlanta. In 1972 at age 25, Evans hit 19 home runs. In 1973 Evans hit 41 home runs: 24 home, 17 road. Very similar to Johnson...

The great Hank Aaron hit 40 homers in 1973 in only 392 at bats at age 39. 1973 was Aaron's personal best in AB/HR: 9.8. Second best: age 37, 10.5 AB per HR. Aaron entered the 1973 season with 713 career home runs, one short of Babe Ruth's record. Aaron hit his career high for a single season at age 37, the same as Barry Bonds, in 1971 with 47 in only 495 at bats...

Clearly Aaron benefited from playing his home games in Atlanta from 1966 through 1974. In 7 of those 9 seasons his AB/HR was better at home and in the other two seasons the road advantage was very small.

Just as clearly Aaron, if not actually improving with age, certainly performed very well late in his career.
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