Ramirez Is Top Rookie

Ryan Zimmerman
With both his glove and his bat, third baseman Ryan Zimmerman has proven to be a valuable building block for the Washington Nationals. (Preston Keres - The Washington Post)
By Barry Svrluga
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, November 14, 2006

When Ryan Zimmerman received the news yesterday afternoon, his reaction was the same as it might be to a borderline pitch called a strike, or to a scorching liner just out of his reach. Shrug it off, and move on.

"There's no point being mad," Zimmerman said. The result, indeed, was irreversible: Zimmerman, the Washington Nationals' cornerstone of a third baseman, lost out in the race for the National League's rookie of the year award to Florida Marlins shortstop Hanley Ramirez in the closest vote since the current ballot structure was instituted in 1980.

"It was going to be close," Zimmerman said by phone shortly after receiving the news. "There's a lot of good people. I wasn't really expecting anything. It wasn't like it was worth getting mad or upset or anything. Hanley's a great player, and he had a great year."

In voting by 32 members of the Baseball Writers' Association of America -- two in each NL city -- Ramirez received 14 first-place votes and 105 points, edging out Zimmerman, who received 10 first-place tallies and 101 points. Candidates receive five points for a first-place vote, three for second and one for third. Florida second baseman Dan Uggla finished third with six first-place votes and 55 points, one of six Marlins to appear on at least one ballot. Washington Post writers do not participate in the balloting.

Detroit's Justin Verlander, a flame-throwing right-hander who helped the surprising Detroit Tigers to the American League pennant by going 17-9 with a 3.63 ERA, won the AL award in a landslide over Boston closer Jonathan Papelbon. Verlander received 26 of 28 first-place votes to rack up 133 points, 70 more than Papelbon.

In any other year, any of those names -- Ramirez, Zimmerman, Uggla, Verlander, Papelbon or Minnesota lefty Francisco Liriano -- might have been deemed a worthy winner. The class of 2006 might be remembered fondly over the next decade.

"You can see kind of a turning of the page in the game with all these young guys," Zimmerman said. "It's kind of a fun new thing to watch. Hopefully, having all this new talent around will help the game. That's all we care about. Personal awards are fun. But in the end, if we can help the game and help our teams, that's more important."

Still, the NL race -- which was expected to be close after balloting wrapped up immediately following the season -- was fascinating to break down even afterward. Zimmerman, whose 110 RBI was the fourth-highest total for an NL rookie since the award was first given out in 1947, was completely left off three ballots. Ramirez, whose 119 runs were the most for an NL rookie since Vada Pinson scored 131 in 1959, didn't appear on five ballots.

The race was so close that it might have actually been determined by the fourth-place finisher -- Florida pitcher Josh Johnson, who went 12-7 with a 3.10 ERA but didn't pitch after Sept. 12 because of an injury. He appeared on only three ballots, but got two first-place votes. John Fay of the Cincinnati Enquirer cast one of the first-place votes for Johnson, putting Ramirez second and Uggla third in a "close" vote over Zimmerman, he said yesterday.

If either of Johnson's first-place votes had gone to Zimmerman -- or, for that matter, if any of the voters who left him off the ballot completely had placed him first -- Zimmerman could have won.

"I guess having it be so close is the consolation prize," Zimmerman said.

Ramirez had an outstanding season as well. He had a higher average than Zimmerman (.292 to .287), higher slugging and on-base percentages (.480 and .353, respectively, for Ramirez, to .471 and .351 for Zimmerman). His most significant edge, though, came in his 51 stolen bases. Zimmerman barely edged out Ramirez in doubles (47-46) and homers (20-17), and his major offensive advantage came in RBI (110-59).

CONTINUED     1        >

© 2006 The Washington Post Company