Baseball: Longoria, Soto top rookies
NEW YORK ó The rookie races were all but over by July, when Evan Longoria and Geovany Soto gave an All-Star glimpse of things to come.
Longoria won the American League Rookie of the Year award in a unanimous vote and Soto ran away with the NL honor Monday, capping impressive seasons that included All-Star appearances for both players at Yankee Stadium.
Pretty rare stuff for a pair of first-timers, but these were no ordinary freshmen.
“I had a great year, bar none,” Longoria said. “I know I have the ability to do more.”
Following a season of breakthroughs for the AL champion Rays, Longoria became the first Tampa Bay player to win a national award from the Baseball Writers’ Association of America. The power-hitting third baseman received all 28 first-place votes, making him the league’s first unanimous rookie winner since Nomar Garciaparra in 1997.
Soto, the steady catcher with pop who helped the Cubs win the NL Central, got 31 of 32 first-place votes. The other went to Cincinnati’s Joey Votto.
“It’s kind of surreal. It really hasn’t sunk in yet,” Soto said on a conference call from Puerto Rico.
Called up from the minors in April, Longoria batted .272 with 27 homers and 85 RBIs despite missing five weeks after breaking his right wrist Aug. 7. Confident at the plate and splendid on defense, he was a big reason for the Rays’ stunning surge to the World Series after 10 straight losing seasons.
“I definitely felt some awe most of the time during the season. I kept that to myself,” Longoria said on a conference call from his California home. “I didn’t start the year in the big leagues. I struggled all the way through high school ball and college ball. The journey that I went through as a baseball player ó to be sitting here means a lot.”
Chicago White Sox second baseman Alexei Ramirez was the runner-up. Boston outfielder Jacoby Ellsbury finished third.
Soto hit .285 with 23 homers, 35 doubles and 86 RBIs. He is the first catcher to win Rookie of the Year in either league since Mike Piazza of the Los Angeles Dodgers in 1993.