Longoria, Soto are Rookies of the Year

Longoria, Soto Rookies of the Year

Evan Longoria, the third baseman whose powerful bat keyed the Rays' remarkable turnaround season, and Cubs catcher Geovany Soto were named Monday the 2008 winners of their respective leagues' Jackie Robinson Rookie of the Year Award.

Longoria was the unanimous American League selection of the 28 voting members of the Baseball Writers Association of America, for the 27 homers and 85 RBIs that followed his delayed addition to the Rays' lineup on April 12.

Longoria, also the only player named on all 28 ballots, and White Sox shortstop Alexei Ramirez, who drew 18 second-place votes and 59 total points, reigned over a deep influx of first-year players.

An unusually high number of 10 different rookies, half of them pitchers, attracted votes.

But none of them wowed voters like Longoria, the first unanimous AL winner since Nomar Garciaparra in 1997 (Albert Pujols took NL honors unanimously in 2001).

"This is so special. I appreciate every vote, and every writer who thought I was No. 1, " said Longoria, who spoke on a conference call from his California home and quickly set his sights on more.

"I know I had a great year, and if I can keep replicating it, I'll have a productive career," Longoria said. "But I know I have the ability to do a lot more. All I can do is prepare to the best of my ability. You can't control the results, only the preparation."

Soto was nearly as popular a choice in the NL, getting 31 of the 32 first-place votes after minding the critical defensive position for the Central Division champs while putting up 23 homers and 86 RBIs.

He was the only player named on each of the 32 ballots, his 31 firsts and one second resulting in a total of 158 points. Cincinnati first baseman Joey Votto finished second with 76 points and was followed by Atlanta pitcher Jair Jurrjens (34).

"I feel very honored," said Soto, speaking from his homeland of Puerto Rico, calling the moment he learned he'd won the award "very emotional. It was a very good moment in my life.

"I worked really, really hard. And now I feel all the work paid off."

The Reds had the distinction of placing three young talents among the top five, with right-hander Edinson Volquez and outfielder Jay Bruce following Jurrjens.

Volquez's presence on that list is definitely unique: No longer a rookie, the pitcher was mistakenly placed on the ballot and received three votes for second, thus there was an obligation to include him in the final results.

2008 NL Rookie of the Year Voting
Player, Club 1st 2nd 3rd Points
Geovany Soto, CHC 31 1   158
Joey Votto, CIN 1 21 8 76
Jair Jurrjens, ATL   6 16 34
Edinson Volquez, CIN*   3   9
Jay Bruce, CIN     7 7
Kosuke Fukudome, CHC   1 1 4
* Volquez received votes despite being ineligible as a rookie.

Longoria, the first Rookie of the Year in Tampa Bay's 11-season history, also became the first third baseman to earn the award in the AL since his current Tampa Bay teammate Eric Hinske -- who played that position for Toronto in earning honors in 2002.

Ironically, Longoria identified Hinske and Cliff Floyd as the two veteran teammates on whose advice he depended while making the challenging transition to the Majors.

"I tried not to show it, but I was in awe most of the time," said Longoria, who cracked the Rays' lineup 22 months after having been the team's No. 1 pick in the 2006 First-Year Player Draft. "I knew staying in the big leagues is a lot harder than getting there, and I constantly talked to Cliff and Hinske about handling certain situations."

Soto is the first Cub honored with the award since pitcher Kerry Wood in 1998, and the first catcher in the NL since the Dodgers' Mike Piazza in 1993.

"I had a huge responsibility with the pitchers," Soto conceded. "Day in and day out, I just prepared the best I could. It was a rollercoaster all season, and everything just happened for the best."

The rookie award caps off a remarkable year for the 25-year-old Puerto Rican native, four months after he'd been elected by fans as the first rookie catcher to start in an All-Star Game.

Soto's power numbers were 47-year highs for Cubs rookies. Billy Williams hit 25 homers and drove in 86 runs while also earning NL Rookie of the Year honors in 1961.

Soto gave heartfelt props to teammate Henry Blanco, thanking the veteran catcher for being "in my corner, like a big brother."

"I owe him a lot of my success," Soto said. "It was huge having him on my side."

2008 AL Rookie of the Year Voting
Player, Club 1st 2nd 3rd Points
Evan Longoria, TB 28     140
Alexei Ramirez, CWS   18 5 59
Jacoby Ellsbury, BOS   7 5 26
Mike Aviles, KC   2 3 9
Armando Galarraga, DET     9 9
Joey Devine, OAK   1   3
Denard Span, MIN     3 3
Nick Blackburn, MIN     1 1
Joba Chamberlain, NYY     1 1
Brad Ziegler, OAK     1 1

There were premature ends to the storybook seasons of the first set of Rookies of the Year to play in the postseason since 2001, when Pujols and Ichiro Suzuki appeared with the Cardinals and Mariners, respectively.

Longoria's Rays dropped the World Series in five games to the Phillies, while Soto's Cubs couldn't survive a Division Series meeting with the Dodgers.

"I want to get a ring. That's why you go to Spring Training, to ultimately win it all," said Soto, not short of further motivation. "I want to work harder, to have a better season and help my team win again, then go deeper into October."

Longoria's aspirations are more basic following his second full professional season during which he played 129 games (including the first seven in Triple-A), but missed 30 others with a fractured right wrist after being hit by a pitch in early August.

"My No. 1 goal is to get myself ready and healthy for 162 games next year," Longoria said. "I want to play every day. If I do that, I know everything else will fall in place."

Tom Singer is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.