As the season winds down, some of the annual year-end awards are starting to trickle in. These aren’t the most famous ones, like MVP and Cy Young, but they’re still well deserved and worth recognizing. Here’s a rundown of some of the recent A’s honorees.
Liam Hendriks — Roberto Clemente Award Nominee
On Sept. 12, All-Star closer Liam Hendriks was named the A’s 2019 nominee for the Roberto Clemente Award. The 30-year-old was also the team’s nominee for the award in 2017.
MLB describes the Roberto Clemente Award as “the annual recognition of a Major League player who best represents the game of Baseball through extraordinary character, community involvement, philanthropy and positive contributions, both on and off the field.” Each team nominates one player who they believe best honors Clemente’s legacy, and a league-wide winner is chosen by a blue-ribbon panel, in which the winner of a fan vote will receive one additional vote.
For the A’s, Hendriks was likely an easy choice. He and his wife, Kristi, have been very involved with the community since joining Oakland in 2016 and have stepped up their game this season. The two work with Players for Pits, an organization that works to find new homes for abandoned pit bulls and other dogs, as well as MLB’s Shred Hate campaign, an anti-bullying initiative.
Hendriks has long been outspoken against bullying, specifically cyber-bullying. He teamed up with Strikeout Bullying and Athlete’s Brand earlier this season to sell t-shirts, with proceeds helping fund anti-bullying education. He and Kristi are also involved with many other animal welfare organizations, including Tony La Russa’s Animal Rescue Foundation, the Petco Foundation, Fetching Tails Foundation, Mission K-9, and the Rescue Me Thursday campaign.
Some of the A’s past nominees include Chad Pinder (2018), Sean Doolittle (2016) and Stephen Vogt (2015). The A’s have had one league-wide winner in the award’s 49-year history, pitcher Dave Stewart (1990).
Marcus Semien — Catfish Hunter Award Recipient
On Sunday, the A’s named shortstop Marcus Semien their 2019 Catfish Hunter Award recipient.
The award, voted upon by players, coaches and staff, “is presented annually to the Oakland Athletics’ player whose play on the field and conduct in the clubhouse best exemplifies the courageous, competitive and inspirational spirit demonstrated by the late Hall of Fame pitcher, Jim “Catfish” Hunter.”
Veteran clubhouse manager Steve Vucinich presented Semien with the award prior to Sunday’s game against the Texas Rangers. The award takes performance both on and off the field into consideration.
Again, it’s easy to see why Semien was the team’s pick. By many measures, he’s been Oakland’s best player this season. He has set career highs in runs, RBI, home runs, and doubles, and is all but guaranteed to do so in each of his rate stats as well — all from the leadoff spot. Combined with his superb defense at arguably the most difficult position on the field, this makes Semien an incredibly valuable player. Indeed, he is tied for third in all of baseball in bWAR and ranks fifth overall in fWAR.
Semien, 2019: .287/.369/.525, .373 wOBA, 138 wRC+, 42 2B, 7 3B, 32 HR, 120 R, 91 RBI, 10 SB, 7.7 bWAR, 7.3 fWAR
Perhaps even more remarkable than Semien’s strong season is his story. In his first year with Oakland back in 2015, he struggled through one of the worst defensive seasons in recent history. As the starting shortstop for a last-place A’s team, he made 35 errors, which still stands as the highest total by any player at any position since 2001.
But Semien didn’t let a tough start to his MLB career slow him down. Instead, he showed off the elite work ethic that we have since come to know him for. Semien put in extra hours every single day working on his defense with then-A’s coach Ron Washington.
It was a slow process, but Semien eventually became a capable defensive shortstop. In 2018, he took a huge step forward, ranking second in the AL behind only teammate Matt Chapman in the SABR Defensive Index (SDI) and being named a Gold Glove finalist. This season has been more of the same from Semien, who ranks second among AL shortstops in SDI and has made just 12 errors.
Semien has also been a staple of the A’s lineup. The 29-year-old has played at least 155 games in all but one of his five years with Oakland (he played only 85 games in 2017 due to a fractured wrist). This season, Semien is likely to start each of Oakland’s 162 games and currently leads the majors with 724 plate appearances.
Previous winners of the award include Matt Chapman (2018), Jed Lowrie (2017) and Stephen Vogt (2014-16).
Jim “Catfish” Hunter was inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame in 1987. He went 161-113 with a 3.13 ERA across 10 seasons with the Athletics. He won more than 20 games in five straight seasons from 1971-75 and won the American League Cy Young Award in 1974, his final year with Oakland. He helped the A’s win three consecutive World Series titles from 1972-74.
Hunter finished his career with the New York Yankees, but was forced to retire at the age of 33 due to arm problems and complications with his diabetes. Hunter died in 1999 at the age of 53 due to ALS. His number 27 was retired by the Oakland Athletics in 1991.
Bob Melvin — Bill Rigney Good Guy Award Recipient
On Friday, A’s manager Bob Melvin was awarded the Bill Rigney Good Guy Award by the Bay Area chapter of the Baseball Writers Association of America (BBWAA). The award is presented annually to A’s and Giants players or coaches that show extraordinary cooperation with the local media.
Melvin has managed the A’s since June of 2011, when he took over for Bob Geren. His managerial record with the A’s is 728-661 as of Monday. He has led the A’s to the playoffs in four of his seven full seasons at the helm, and is pushing to make that five out of eight as the 2019 season winds down.
The 57-year-old is a three-time Manager of the Year — once with the Arizona Diamondbacks in 2007 and twice with the A’s in 2012 and 2018. He is one of six managers in MLB history to win the award in both leagues, and one of eight managers to win the award three times. All-time, between stints with the Seattle Mariners, Diamondbacks and A’s, Melvin has a 1,221-1,169 record. He is under contract through the 2021 season.
Previous A’s recipients include Stephen Piscotty (2018), Jed Lowrie (2017) and Marcus Semien (2016). The Giants’ 2019 recipient has not yet been announced.
Bill Rigney began his professional baseball career with the Oakland Oaks in 1938. The infielder then spent eight seasons as a player with the New York Giants from 1946-53. He also spent two stints managing the Giants, from 1956-60 and in 1976. He served as a front office consultant and radio and TV broadaster for the A’s in the 1980s. Rigney died in 2001 at the age of 83.
Congratulations to Liam Hendriks, Marcus Semien and Bob Melvin!