Here at Baseball America, we dive deeper into the game—and our annual awards are no exception.
Because while we do give out standard year-end awards honoring top players, in grand BA tradition, we also use award season to tell the stories about the personalities, organizations and institutions shaping the future of this great game.
Before we unveil our 2022 honorees — starting with Organization of the Year this Thursday at 1 p.m. Eastern! — here are 14 spoiler-free tidbits about our annual awards, spanning five decades of Baseball America history.
This is the 42nd year that Baseball America has handed out annual awards. The complete list of winners is available here.
1. Organization of the Year proved to be most difficult and divisive award for the BA editorial staff to select this year. The World Series-champion Astros seem like a strong contender, but they parted with general manager James Click immediately after the World Series and lack the overall front office continuity and stability associated with this award. And of course the sign-stealing scandal of 2017 lingers.
The Dodgers were a serious contender following a 111-win season, but a Division Series exit led president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman to remark that “this was an organizational failure in the postseason.” In other words, not even the Dodgers would pick the Dodgers as Organization of the Year.
The upstart Mariners and Guardians were also very much a part of our spirited debate. In the end, after much discussion, we went with . . . well, come back Thursday to find out!
2. Did you know that our Organization of the Year pick this year had never before won the award in the 40 seasons since BA debuted the honor in 1982?
But the club with the most Organization of the Year wins may surprise you, because it has never won a World Series.
The Brewers have won Org of the Year four times, including a three-peat from 1985 to 1987—on the strength of a farm system that yielded Gary Sheffield, B.J. Surhoff and Chris Bosio, among others.
Milwaukee won a fourth Org of the Year in 2018, when Corbin Burnes, Brandon Woodruff and Josh Hader were all getting established, and Christian Yelich had joined the team after being acquired from the Marlins for four prospects.
We’re proud to be named @BaseballAmerica‘s 2018 Organization of the Year.
“It recognizes the efforts that everyone puts forth daily to create a championship-caliber organization. We’re proud of what we have here & look forward to building on the 2018 season.” -GM David Stearns pic.twitter.com/5UTBLmQiDJ
— Milwaukee Brewers (@Brewers) November 26, 2018
3. We view our Organization of the Year award as one of our most prestigious. Aside from our Player of the Year awards for the minor leagues and college baseball, it is our oldest award.
The Milwaukee Brewers’ run from 1985 to 1987 is the only three-peat in the history of the award, and the 1983-84 New York Mets have the only other repeat. The Mets won again in 1995. The Atlanta Braves (1991, 1996, 2005), Los Angeles Dodgers (2006, 2017, 2020) and Tampa Bay Rays (2008, 2019, 2021) are the other organizations that have been honored three times.
4. The Oakland Athletics won the first Organization of the Year award in 1982. Sandy Alderson served as general counsel for that club before taking over as general manager in 1983.
Alderson was an early adopter of Baseball America prospect rankings and used them to inform his trade negotiations. When he traded A’s franchise icon Rickey Henderson to the Yankees in December 1984, he acquired four of New York’s top five prospects, as ranked by BA: Jose Rijo (No. 1), Stan Javier (2), Tim Birtsas (3) and Eric Plunk (5).
A’s and Yankees making a trade reminds me of Sandy Alderson’s amazing quote from Baseball Maverick on 1984 Rickey Henderson trade to Yankees pic.twitter.com/0fryQWbdDJ
— JJ Cooper (@jjcoop36) July 31, 2017
5. Tony Gwynn and Cal Ripken Jr. were the first two prospects Baseball America covered in our rookie season of 1981 who would go on to be elected to the Hall of Fame. Both were enshrined in 2007. After Gwynn died in 2014, we introduced our annual Tony Gwynn Award, meant to honor a lifetime in baseball. Our first honoree in 2015? Cal Ripken Jr.
— JJ Cooper (@jjcoop36) December 9, 2015
6. Cal Ripken Jr. is a monumental figure in baseball, but subsequent Gwynn Award winners have shined a light on significant, but lesser-known, figures in the industry. Those lifetime achievement recipients include Augie Garrido, who retired with the most wins ever for a college coach; Tom Kotchman; a tireless area scout and minor league manager who signed dozens of players, including Howie Kendrick, Patrick Corbin and Jeff Mathis for the Angels; and Jerry Weinstein, a longtime college coach, minor league manager and catching instructor.
7. A reminder that hope springs eternal in baseball: The team led by our 2022 Major League Manager of the Year lost 108 games in 2019 and 110 more in 2021 under his leadership.
8. Buck Showalter, who led the Mets to 101 wins this season and won his fourth Manager of the Year award in BBWAA voting, has two previous wins for Major League Manager of the Year, in 2012 and 2014 with the Orioles. Equally notable is that he was the first-ever Minor League Manager of the Year in 1989, when he led the Double-A Albany-Colonie Yankees of the Eastern League. Showalter would ascend to Yankees big league manager in 1992.
9. Grady Little is another Minor League Manager of the Year success story. His 1992 Greenville Braves are the last minor league team to win 100 games, and the Double-A affiliate won with prospects like Chipper Jones, Javy Lopez and Mike Kelly, who was a former College Player of the Year and the No. 2 overall pick in 1991. Little went on to manage MLB postseason teams for the Red Sox (2003) and Dodgers (2006).
Tonight we recognize the 30-year anniversary of the 1992 100-win Greenville Braves!
No team, Double-A, or above had done it since 1960, and no team has done it since. pic.twitter.com/B4su0Vv4Yj
— Mississippi Braves (@mbraves) June 17, 2022
10. Proof that BA is always looking to the future: The Braves were our 1991 Organization of the Year, the year they won the first of a record 14 consecutive division titles. Atlanta was flush with young talent at this time, with Tom Glavine, John Smoltz and David Justice all in their mid 20s. The Braves had drafted Chipper Jones first overall just the year before.
11. As representation grows for women in baseball, our Minor League Executive of the Year is a woman—but not the first to be honored with this award. Naomi Silver, the CEO and chair of the Rochester Red Wings, won the award in 2008.
12. Mini spoiler alert: This is the second year in a row and the third time in the past four years that a Rays affiliate has won Minor League Team of the Year. (Check back Monday to find out who won!) Tampa Bay has had the winningest collection of domestic minor league affiliates in each of the past four seasons, excluding the lost 2020.
13. Our annual Freitas Awards debuted in 1989 and are named after longtime Minor League Baseball ambassador Bob Freitas. The awards seek to annually honor franchises at Triple-A, Double-A and Class A that have demonstrated long-term success and sustained excellence in the field of minor league operations. The Double-A Tulsa Drillers have won the Freitas Award four times—1992, 2005, 2013 and 2019—more than any other team.
14. For the majority of its first 20 years, Baseball America focused its awards on minor league, college and high school excellence. That changed in 1998, when we unveiled a series of MLB awards.
Mark McGwire, our first Major League Player of the Year, reveals the reason why. Big Mac and Sammy Sosa were engaged in a 1998 home run chase that captivated the nation as they pursued Roger Maris’ record of 61 homers.
McGwire finished with 70 homers but lost out to Sosa and his 66 bombs for National League MVP honors. But McGwire’s exploits helped mark a turning point in BA awards history, while also helping erase some of the bad taste left from the 1994 players’ strike and canceled World Series.
OK, enough of the walk down memory lane. Let the show begin!
We’ll see you back here on Thursday at 1 p.m. Eastern for the announcement of our Organization of the Year, with a dozen more awards coming in the next week.