Ben Zobrist named Rays MVP; Niemann the Rookie of the Year
The Tampa Bay Chapter of the Baseball Writers' Association of America announced their annual awards before Saturday night's game, and Ben Zobrist was named the Rays Most Valuable Player for the 2009 season.
RHP Jeff Niemann earned Rays Rookie of the Year honors, and Carlos Pena won the Paul C. Smith Award for showing professionalism on and off-the-field.
Zobrist had a career year, hitting 27 homers and racking up 91 RBI, while flirting with .300 average. He's played eight different positions this year, and filled in admirably at second base when Akinori Iwamura went down with a knee injury.
Four top candidates emerged for MVP, but Zobrist won with 56 points, followed by Carl Crawford (26 points) an Evan Longoria (20). Jason Bartlett, the 2008 MVP winner, had 12 points.
Niemann battled all spring for the No. 5 starter spot, and didn't know until the final day of camp that he made the team. All he's done has lead the Rays staff in wins (12), ERA (3.94) and complete-game shutouts (two).
Niemann was a unanimous selection (getting all the first-place votes and 65 points), with David Price (39) and Wade Davis (11).
Pena, a team leader, is still tied for the AL lead in homers with 39, but his season ended on Sept 7 when he broke two fingers getting hit by a CC Sabathia pitch. Pena had 38 points in the voting, with Crawford (26) and J.P. Howell (18) next.
-- JOE SMITH