Rays OF Arozarena, Reds 2B India named Rookies of the Year

Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports
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It didn’t feel like Randy Arozarena was a rookie this season.

Tampa Bay’s speedy and powerful outfielder certainly didn’t play like one, either.

Arozarena won AL Rookie of the Year honors with a superb follow-up to his 2020 postseason heroics while Cincinnati Reds second baseman Jonathan India earned NL Rookie of the Year.

The standout years for Arozarena and India highlight the changing profile of a good MLB leadoff hitter. Both players have speed and a good eye, but also considerable power. It’s the first time since 1953 that the rookie of the year winners were both primarily leadoff hitters. That season, Detroit’s Harvey Kuenn and Brooklyn’s Jim Gilliam won.

If it didn’t seem like this wasn’t Arozarena’s first year, there’s a reason. The 26-year-old Cuban provided a stunning lift for the Rays during the 2020 postseason with 10 homers in 18 games during their run to the World Series.

But Arozarena didn’t play enough during the 2020 regular season to lose his rookie status so he was eligible for the award this year. He followed up his postseason breakout with an excellent season in 2021, finishing with a .274 average, 32 doubles, 20 homers, 20 stolen bases and 69 RBIs while adding excellent defense, helping the Rays return to the postseason.

“I know I was favored to be the rookie of the year,” Arozarena said through a translator. “But for me, my mind wasn’t set on the award or winning the award. My mind and my goal was to have another good season and continue what I had done the year before.”

Arozarena earned 22 of 30 first-place votes in balloting by members of the Baseball Writers’ Association of America, beating out Houston right-hander Luis Garcia and Tampa Bay infielder Wander Franco.

Arozarena is Tampa Bay’s first rookie of the year since outfielder Wil Myers in 2013.

Five AL players received at least one first-place vote in this year’s tally, including Garcia, Franco, Texas outfielder Adolis Garcia and Cleveland pitcher Emmanuel Clase. Garcia hit 31 homers this season while Clase had a 1.29 ERA in Cleveland’s bullpen.

The 20-year-old Franco has the label as one of MLB’s future stars and his performance in 2021 did nothing to discourage that billing. The infielder hit .288 with seven homers and 39 homers while playing less than half the season.

The 24-year-old Garcia was instrumental in the Astros’ run to the World Series this season. He had an 11-8 record with a 3.48 ERA and struck out 167 batters over 155 1/3 innings.

India won the NL award eight months after earning the team’s second base job during spring training and never letting it go during a stellar first season.

The 24-year-old India received 29 of 30 first-place votes, beating out Miami left-handed pitcher Trevor Rogers and St. Louis outfielder Dylan Carlson. Rogers got one first-place vote. India said it’s been an amazing journey from spring training, where he was a longshot to even make the regular-season roster.

“I didn’t really have a role on the team, I was just there to fill in for some guys who weren’t playing,” India said. “I kind of took it personal. I just wanted to be a big leaguer this season and I made it a point to put my head down and grind.”

India was the No. 5 overall pick in the 2018 draft and played third base in college at Florida, but he’s found a home at second base in the big leagues and become a cornerstone for the Reds’ future. His quick impact in the big leagues was somewhat surprising considering he had just 111 at-bats above Single-A before 2021.

He was the Reds’ first rookie of the year winner since pitcher Scott Williamson in 1999.

The 6-foot, 200-pound India was an all-around threat – particularly during the second half of the season – often batting leadoff and finishing with a .269 average, 34 doubles, 21 homers, 69 RBIs and 12 stolen bases. He also showed good discipline in the batter’s box, coaxing 71 walks to finish with a .376 on-base percentage, and scored 98 runs.

The 23-year-old Rogers finished second. He was chosen as an All-Star during an excellent season that included a 7-8 record and 2.64 ERA over 25 starts. The hard-throwing lefty struck out 155 batters over 133 innings.

Carlson was part of a young, talented outfield for a Cardinals team that made a late-season charge to the playoffs. Playing as a 22-year-old, he batted .266 with 18 homers and provided solid defense in all three outfield spots.

UP NEXT

The Managers of the Year will be announced by the BBWAA, followed by the Cy Young Awards, and the MVPs.

The AL finalists for Manager of the Year are Tampa Bay’s Kevin Cash, Seattle’s Scott Servais and Houston’s Dusty Baker. The NL finalists are Milwaukee’s Craig Counsell, St. Louis’ Mike Shildt and San Francisco’s Gabe Kapler.

A’s running out of time to find home in Oakland, Las Vegas

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Brandon Sloter/Getty Images
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LAS VEGAS — The Oakland Athletics have spent years trying to get a new stadium while watching Bay Area neighbors such as the Giants, Warriors, 49ers and Raiders successfully move into state-of-the-art venues, and now time is running short on their efforts.

The A’s lease at RingCentral Coliseum expires after the 2024 season, and though they might be forced to extend the terms, the club and Major League Baseball have deemed the stadium unsuitable for a professional franchise.

They are searching for a new stadium in Oakland or Las Vegas, but they have experienced difficulties in both areas. The A’s missed a major deadline in October to get a deal done in Oakland, and there has been little indication they will receive the kind of funding they want from Las Vegas.

“I think the A’s have to look at it in a couple of ways,” said Brendan Bussmann, managing partner at Las Vegas-based B Global. “Obviously, they have struggled in Oakland to get a deal across the line. It isn’t for a lack of effort. . You have an owner that’s willing to pony up money, you have a club that wants to sit there and figure out a way to make it work, and you keep running into obstacles along the way.

“It’s time to fish or cut bait. Oakland, do you want them or not? And if not, where are the A’s going to get the best deal? Is it Vegas? Is it somewhere else? They’ll have to figure that out.”

What the A’s are thinking is a little bit of a mystery. Team President Dave Kaval was talkative earlier in the process, saying the A’s are pursuing two different tracks with Oakland and Las Vegas. But he went silent on the subject several months ago. A’s spokeswoman Catherine Aker said mostly recently that the club would withhold comment for now.

The A’s have been negotiating with Oakland to build a $1 billion stadium as part of a $12 billion redevelopment deal.

Newly elected Mayor Sheng Thao said reaching a deal is important as long as it makes economic sense to the city. Her predecessor, Libby Schaaf, led prior efforts to reach an agreement, but after the city and the A’s missed that October deadline, MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred expressed reservations a deal will ever get done.

“The pace in Oakland has not been rapid, number one,” Manfred said at the time. “We’re in a stadium situation that’s really not tenable. I mean, we need to do something to alter the situation. So I’m concerned about the lack of pace.”

Recent California history justifies his concerns. SoFi Stadium in Southern California and Chase Center in San Francisco were built with private money, and Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara was 90% privately financed.

“And then I think there was some contagion where around the country people realized these deals could be done well privately and could generate a return on investment to those investors,” said David Carter, a sports business professor at the University of Southern California. “Why are we throwing public money at it at all?”

That’s also a question being asked in Las Vegas, even though the Raiders in 2016 received $750 million from the Nevada Legislature for a stadium. That then was the largest amount of public money for a sports venue, but it was surpassed last March by the $850 million pledged to construct a new stadium for the NFL’s Buffalo Bills.

Another deal like the one for Allegiant Stadium, where the Raiders play, appears unlikely in Nevada. T-Mobile Arena, which opened in 2017, was privately financed. An arena planned for south of the Las Vegas Strip also wouldn’t rely on public funds.

Las Vegas, however, has shown financing creativity. Its Triple-A baseball stadium received $80 million in 2017 for naming rights from the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority. Room taxes fund the authority, so it was public money in a backdoor sort of way.

Clark County Commissioner Michael Naft, who is on the board of the convention authority, has spoken with A’s representatives about their interest in Las Vegas and said he is aware of the club’s talks with other Nevada officials. He said the A’s are taking a much different approach than the Raiders, who identified Las Vegas early as their choice landing spot after many years of failing to get a new stadium in Oakland.

“When the Raiders decided to come to Las Vegas, they had a clear plan,” Naft said. “You had a clear body that was tasked with assessing the worth and the value, and they committed to the destination. I have not seen that from the Oakland A’s at any level, and it’s not really our job to go out and beg them to come here because we have earned the reputation of the greatest arena on Earth. We have put in both the dollars and the labor to make that the case.

“I think I’ve made myself clear, but from conversations with others, I don’t think I’m alone on that.”

New Nevada Gov. Joe Lombardo “will not raise taxes” to attract the A’s or any other team, his spokeswoman, Elizabeth Ray, said in a statement. But she said the club could qualify for other ongoing “economic development programs,” which could mean tax breaks similar to what Tesla received in 2014.

Manfred said in December that the A’s relocation fee would be waived if they move to Las Vegas, a savings to the club reportedly of up to $1 billion.

“We’re past any reasonable timeline for the situation in Oakland to be resolved,” Manfred said then.

Naft said Allegiant Stadium filled a hole that went beyond landing an NFL team. It allowed Las Vegas to attract major sporting events such as the Super Bowl and Final Four and major concerts such as Garth Brooks and Elton John that “in many cases we would not otherwise have.”

He said he doesn’t believe a baseball stadium would accomplish that, and sports economist Victor Matheson agreed.

“I think there’s a real question about how much people are willing to watch baseball in Las Vegas,” said Matheson, a professor at College of the Holy Cross in Worcester, Massachusetts. “It’s not like locals don’t have a huge number of entertainment options right now, and it’s not clear exactly how much people might travel to watch baseball in Vegas, either.”

If the A’s truly want to be in Las Vegas, Naft said they need to make that clear.

“I just believe you can’t play destinations against each other,” Naft said. “If you want to come here and you want to be met with open arms, you’ve got to commit.”

Should the A’s fail to reach an agreement in Oakland or Las Vegas, they could consider other destinations such as Charlotte, North Carolina; Nashville; and Portland, Oregon. Whether they would have the time to explore such options is another question.

Oakland has already shown it will watch the Raiders move to Nevada and the Warriors go across the Bay Bridge to San Francisco.

Las Vegas, Matheson noted, is hardly in a desperate situation. He also expressed caution that Las Vegas could go from being among the largest metropolitan areas without a major professional sports team to among the smallest with three franchises.

“So you’ve gone from kind of being under-sported to being over-sported in a short period of time if the A’s were to go there,” Matheson said.