HEIDI WATNEY: Hello, everyone, and hello, to our distinguished panel up here. I'd like to welcome you to the 2016 Reliever of the Year Awards presented by The Hartford. In 2014 the awards were revamped, officially named in honor of two of the greatest relievers in baseball's history, and thankfully they're here with us today, of course, Mariano Rivera and Trevor Hoffman. Thank you guys so much for being here.
And of course, Baseball's Commissioner Rob Manfred is joining us as well.
And of course, we have our guest Zach Britton here.
I'd like to bring up the Commissioner to have some remarks first.
COMMISSIONER MANFRED: Thank you, Heidi. It really is my pleasure to be here tonight to announce the National League and American League Reliever of the Year Awards presented by The Hartford. Probably fitting that we're doing this at the World Series, since it's been the postseason of the reliever. I would be remiss if I did not thank both Trevor Hoffman and Mariano Rivera for being here with us tonight and for lending their names to these great awards.
I would also like the to acknowledge the other great relief pitchers who participate in the voting for this award: Dennis Eckersley, Rollie Fingers, John Franco, Lee Smith, we've got some Cubs in here, Bruce Sutter and Billy Wagner. And of course, Doug Elliot from The Hartford, thanks for being with us tonight.
So in the National League, the Hoffman Award this year is going to Kenley Jansen. Unfortunately, because of some unforeseen travel difficulties, he's not here with us tonight. But I am going to still tell you about what a great year he had: He had a 1.83 ERA. He had 47 saves, and he was a member of the All-Star Team. His WHIP was the Major League best 0.67. He really had a great year, and most importantly he led the Dodgers into the postseason. So congratulations to Kenley, and I'm sure he's disappointed that he couldn't be here with us tonight.
In the American League, the Mariano Rivera Award goes to Zach Britton of the Baltimore Orioles, who is thankfully here with us.
Zach had an unbelievable year. He was 47-for-47 in save opportunities. I had to read this twice. The decimal point is in the right place. His ERA was 0.54. His last 40 games this year he did not give up a run. I mean, just an unbelievable performance and congratulations to you.
I'd also, on a couple of personal notes, I believe Zach's brother, Clayton, is here with us this afternoon. There you are. He's a police officer in Texas. Welcome to you. And I especially appreciate you being here, because I know you and your wife Courtney are about to have your second child any day, so congratulations to both of you.
HEIDI WATNEY: Thank you so much, Commissioner. The Reliever of the Year Award is presented by The Hartford and although this is only their second year in sponsoring the award, they actually have a long and deep and very interesting history with baseball. They've insured many teams, and they even insured Babe Ruth, is what I am told, back in the 1920s. That's very interesting.
I'd like to welcome the president of The Hartford, Doug Elliot.
DOUG ELLIOT: Thank you, Heidi, and good evening to everyone. It's a pleasure to be here. And I'd personally like to welcome everybody. We're so proud to be associated with MLB and tonight's Reliever of the Year Awards for both American and National Leagues.
Also, it's incredible to have to my right two of the greatest closers of all time, Mariano and Trevor. We're so appreciative of what you do for our brand and our company. But really tonight is all about Zach and Kenley.
So congratulations on an incredible year. We were proud of your results and there were lots of great performances around you.
We as a company with our 19,000 employees are just so appreciative of being associated with MLB and all that it stands for. Thank you very much.
HEIDI WATNEY: Thank you, Doug. Well, he is a seven-time All-Star in the National League, one of the most intimidating pitchers in the game and his entrance music is to die for, Trevor Hoffman.
TREVOR HOFFMAN: Thank you. It's a pleasure to be here with you guys this evening. I am, certainly honored to have my name attached to such a great award, and certainly The Hartford supporting us as well as they do.
But congratulations to Zach and Kenley on a fantastic year. It's award that to both of them it's well deserved. There's a cutter back in the postseason; Kenley had an amazing year and showed his resiliency throughout the postseason and having such a fantastic run.
I had a chance to speak with his manager, Dave Roberts, and he spoke, obviously, of his exploits as a pitcher this year, but he said he grew as a man as well. And I think that says a lot about the young man, and he's going to have many years to come. So certainly proud of his efforts, and I wish he could have been here.
HEIDI WATNEY: Thank you, Trevor. Unfortunately, as we mentioned, Kenley couldn't make it, but he did film this short video for us.
KENLEY JANSEN (via video): Hi, everyone. Thank you so much for this tremendous honor. I'm so sorry that I could not be there to receive the Trevor Hoffman Award from the man himself, a pitcher I respect and always admire. Mr. Commissioner, Trevor, Mariano, Zach, Mr. Elliot, I wish I could have been there with all of you tonight. Thank you for the legends and Hall of Famers to vote for me to earn that respect from the greatest reliever of all time means a lot.
Zach, congrats on your award. You had an awesome season, and it's always fun watching you pitch.
Thank you to everyone, to The Hartford who helped to make this award an important part of baseball and the World Series. And to A.J. and Ted from the Make-A-Wish Foundation, I'm very sorry I couldn't be there to meet you guys and spend time with you. I'll be sending you guys a nice gift. So look forward for a special delivery. So thank you again to everyone, and have a great night. (Applause).
HEIDI WATNEY: I'm certain they're excited about those gifts they'll be getting.
As for the American League, 13-time All-Star, he brought new meaning to the word "closer", Mariano Rivera.
MARIANO RIVERA: Thank you, Heidi. It's a privilege and honor for me to be here tonight. It's amazing when I'm sitting here and seeing these boys, Zach to my left, and hopefully would have been here, Jansen. But it's a privilege when you see youngsters do the type of job that they have done. I mean, you're talking about -- and that point was right, in the right spot, you know? Talking about 0.54 ERA, I mean, that's amazing, you know. Zach, congratulations, man. You're on my team (laughter).
But I wanted to say thank you to The Hartford for having me here, and having a tremendous partnership and friendship. So, thank you, thank you very much.
What can I say about these two youngsters? First of all, Jansen, he's throwing a cutter. He's throwing a great cutter. Kind of reminds me of someone (laughter), back in the years. But it's amazing how these guys are taking the challenge and respond to the challenge.
And what I said about this guy right here, it's amazing. Again, the job that he did for the American League and for his team, well done. Continued success and my blessings, and congratulations. Thank you.
ZACH BRITTON: Thank you. First off, I wanted to thank The Hartford for putting this on. And for Trevor and Mariano, it's been awesome to meet you guys and to mingle. I had the opportunity to watch Mariano pitch a few times when I first came into the Big Leagues, so I got to witness the walkout. Unfortunately, I never got to see that with Trevor, but just the whole presentation he put on was something that I'll never forget. So to be up here with you, to get award with his name on it is very special.
And Kenley, watched from afar. We played the Dodgers a few times, and the year that he had was nothing short of impressive. Was at home and got the opportunity to watch him in the postseason, and just kind of been blown away with him and a lot of the other relief pitchers this postseason. It's been a great thing for baseball.
But to the panel for the selection, it's such an honor to be considered for an award like this, but to win one is even better. So I want to thank everybody that had a say in the vote. It's just an honor, and I appreciate it. (Applause).
HEIDI WATNEY: This has been the postseason of the reliever. It will be interesting to see if it changes the way the game is played going forward at all. Some of the greatest closers in the game up here on the dais, and thank you so much for being here.
What I'm most impressed with, for Mariano and Trevor, is how much you guys give back to the game now that you're no longer playing. Thank you so much for being here and of course Commissioner Manfred and Zach. Now I'd like to open it up for any questions?
I'll start with one: Zach, you were perfect, 47-for-47 in save opportunities this year. It is not often in this game of failure that people are perfect. What does that mean to you?
ZACH BRITTON: I think it's a credit to the teammates around me. Obviously you're only as good as the guys behind you on the field. Me relying on ground balls, obviously we have a great defense back there. So a lot of the credit goes to the teammates and putting me in situations to be successful, too. The coaching staff, everyone really went out of their way to make sure -- or put me in situations to be successful. That's really what it comes down to at the end of the day. You're only as good as the guys around you.
Q. Trevor, you were a converted shortstop turned reliever. Kenley's a converted catcher turned reliever. When you see another player who made the reliever conversion have that level of success, knowing how hard it was having done it yourself, just what are your impressions of a player who can do that like Kenley?
TREVOR HOFFMAN: Yeah, sometimes you don't have the opportunity to make that choice on your own. I think sometimes the game lets you know you might need to try a different position. But to his credit, to work as hard as he did, to understand learning his craft and to be as dominant as he has been over the last few years is a credit to him.
Obviously a lot of coaching goes into that. Player development is a part of that. He's been with the Dodgers system his whole career. Actually caught Clayton, so I think he was paying attention when he was behind the plate and what a good pitch looked like.
So I think he's great. I think he's embraced it. Anytime you have the opportunity to go from a little bit more failure on the hitting side to a little more success as a pitcher, it's something you embrace.
Q. Mariano and Trevor, guys who have been out of the game for a few years, what do you think about the way that some managers have used their best reliever in the fifth, sixth inning this postseason? Do you see that becoming a trend?
MARIANO RIVERA: Well, I mean, we've been talking about this and it's amazing because you're talking about the playoffs, especially now in the World Series where there's no tomorrow. So those guys are aware of that. They need to do whatever they need to do to get it done. Both managers have done tremendous jobs.
But Tito has used, I mean, especially Miller in situations where he's been shining. He's been shining the whole postseason. It's great to see that, but again, there's no tomorrow. So whatever he has to do, he has to do it now.
TREVOR HOFFMAN: I think the thing that stands out to me is the unselfishness on the players' part to embrace the opportunity and know you're in a leverage situation that will impact the game maybe sooner than you're used to. Fortunately there are guys other than just Miller on their staff. The job Shaw has done this year and Allen, it's pretty amazing as a group what they've been able to accomplish.
But to think about this kind of setting, we'll say, to try and do this over the regular season, I think it would be -- you'd find people probably getting hurt in the middle of May. So it's something that the urgency of the postseason can provide. It makes sense to me. But I don't think you're going to see a full swing to the regular season.
HEIDI WATNEY: Thank you, gentlemen, for coming today. And congratulations once again, Zach. (Applause).