But now it's a whole new ballgame. Now it's about the Big Eight.
Starting Monday, the annual awards presented by the Baseball Writers' Association of America will be announced, honoring each league's Most Valuable Player, Cy Young Award winner, Rookie of the Year and Manager of the Year.
These are the awards most coveted by players. This is the stuff of history, dating back decades with lists littered with Hall of Fame names.
As usual, the honorees will tell the tale of the year they won the award. And with a mixed bag of no-brainers and hand-wrenching intrigue, this year's class of awards candidates offers a glimpse at the 2009 season.
Zack Greinke owned April with his performance on the mound and courageous story of overcoming disabling anxiety, and even if the Royals weren't in the conversation down the stretch, he's leading the AL Cy Young discussion now.
Mike Scioscia and his Angels faced unspeakable adversity in April, rose to play in the AL Championship Series in October, and his name is at the forefront as the Manager of the Year comes out this week.
Albert Pujols got off to a huge start, was the man of the moment at the All-Star Game, and he still looks larger than life in the NL MVP race.
The Yankees? Well, they got the most coveted shiny stuff already, but a few of their stars no doubt have collected some votes.
Of course, what the Yankees or anyone else did after the final day of the regular season doesn't matter. These awards are determined by members of the BBWAA, with two votes per chapter of the organization per award, creating pools of 32 votes in the NL and 28 in the AL. The MVP is a 10-player ballot, while the Cy Young, Manager and Rookie ballots have three spots, with all places on those ballots counting toward the overall vote.
Here's a brief rundown of the upcoming awards, with much more to come on MLB.com:
ROOKIE OF THE YEAR
AL (Monday): Shortstop Elvis Andrus, so good the Rangers shifted All-Star Michael Young to third base, was pretty much as advertised. But Detroit's Rick Porcello won 14 games and was a stalwart starter on a playoff team at age 20. Tampa Bay's Jeff Niemann, Oakland's Brett Anderson and Andrew Bailey all took to the Major League mound quite nicely. Gordon Beckham of the White Sox was the most powerful rookie, so the field is pretty wide.
NL (Monday): Also a pretty open field, with the much-ballyhooed arrival of Atlanta's Tommy Hanson showing his promise on the mound and a less-ballyhooed one by Florida's Chris Coghlan turning out the year's most impressive hitting performance. Phillies lefty J.A. Happ and Pirates outfielder Andrew McCutchen also made themselves very comfortable in the big leagues.
CY YOUNG AWARD
AL (Tuesday): Greinke overcame a lot to get to his career pinnacle in 2009, and this award might come down to the question of whether he can overcome the Royals' last-place finish in the NL Central. With CC Sabathia doing what he was paid to do for the Yankees and Seattle's Felix Hernandez and Detroit's Justin Verlander having superb seasons, it's hard to call it a runaway.
NL (Thursday): Chris Carpenter and Adam Wainwright both helped the Cardinals to the NL Central crown, and in the process made it difficult on the voters in this one. What would be the consequences of a split vote? There are other candidates in their midst. The Giants' Tim Lincecum actually lowered his ERA in an otherwise strikingly similar statistical season to his 2008 Cy Young campaign, and the Braves' Javier Vasquez elevated his team down the stretch.
MANAGER OF THE YEAR
AL (Wednesday): After suffering along with the rest of the Angels family the heartbreaking death of Nick Adenhart, Scioscia led his team to its fifth NL West title in six years. He did it through normal baseball adversity as well, including being without star Vladimir Guerrero for much of it. A couple of his AL West colleagues did well for their clubs as well, with rookie skipper Don Wakamatsu getting the Mariners on track and Ron Washington leading the Rangers into contention. Then there's the ringmaster, and second-year manager Joe Girardi, who did lead the Yankees to 103 wins.
NL (Wednesday): He only started managing the team in May but led them to great heights. That was Jack McKeon's road to the award in 2003, and Jim Tracy took the Rockies down a similar road this year. Usual suspects like the Cardinals' Tony La Russa, the Dodgers' Joe Torre and the Phillies' Charlie Manuel figure to get votes, as does up-and-comer Fredi Gonzalez of Florida.
MOST VALUABLE PLAYER
AL (Monday, Nov. 23): Entering September, a pretty good argument could be made for the MVP-caliber leadership of Derek Jeter, and the fact that his solid presence made everything work for the Yankees. He also put together one of the best seasons of his career. But as Joe Mauer continued to crush baseballs and make history as a catcher with the bat while the Twins extended the season to 163 games, the discussion certainly drifted northward. First basemen Mark Teixeira of the Yankees, Miguel Cabrera of the Tigers and Kendry Morales of the Angels also excelled.
NL (Tuesday, Nov. 24): Perhaps the question isn't whether it'll be Pujols but whether Pujols will be the first unanimous pick in the NL since Barry Bonds in 2002. He led the Majors with 47 homers, finished third in RBIs behind MVP candidates Prince Fielder of the Brewers and Ryan Howard (141) with 135, adding an on-base plus slugging percentage of 1.101 to lead the big leagues. Marlins shortstop Hanley Ramirez further established himself as an elite all-around talent in the game, too. It's just hard to get past Pujols this year -- ask any pitcher.
John Schlegel is a national reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.Less