The best injury in the National League this year came from Philadelphia Phillies first baseman Jim Thome, who went on the disabled list on July 1 with tendinitis in his right elbow. That ailment opened the door for 25-year-old Ryan Howard.
The best injury in the American League this year beset Oakland Athletics closer Octavio Dotel, who went on the disabled list May 20 with elbow problems of his own. Dotel's subsequent surgery allowed 22-year-old Huston Street to step into the closer's role.
Yesterday, Howard and Street were honored for the job they did as fill-ins. Howard, who hit 22 home runs and drove in 63 runs in 88 games with the Phillies, was named the National League's rookie of the year, and Street, who converted 23 of his 27 save opportunities and posted a 1.72 ERA, won the award in the American League.
"You never want to see anybody hurt or injured," Howard said yesterday in a conference call with reporters. "I just came up and tried to make the most of my opportunity."
Howard's performance, which included a .288 average and 11 homers in September and October, leaves the Phillies in a bit of flux this offseason. Thome has three years remaining on a six-year, $85 million contract, but because of a history of injuries, he could be hard to trade. And even if Thome is healthy, it will be impossible to sit Howard, who had a .645 slugging percentage against right-handers.
Howard received 19 of 30 first-place ballots cast in voting by the Baseball Writers' Association of America, and he beat out Houston center fielder Willy Taveras, who received seven first-place votes, for the award. Atlanta outfielder Jeff Francouer, like Howard a midseason call-up, placed third.
Street is the second consecutive Athletic to win the award, following outfielder Bobby Crosby in 2004. Street said "maybe he rubbed off on me," because the pair roomed together this season. But when spring training began, Street didn't even expect to be on the roster. He was taken in the 2004 draft from the University of Texas, for whom his father, James, played quarterback, leading the Longhorns to the 1969 national title.
Street, who received 15 of 30 first-place votes, beat out New York Yankees second baseman Robinson Cano. Tampa Bay designated hitter-outfielder Jonny Gomes was third, though Chicago White Sox second baseman Tadahito Iguchi received the second-most first-place votes, with five.
-- Barry Svrluga