Annual honor goes to best offensive player in each league
By Mark Newman
"As a ballplayer, I always figured that I had a bat and all the pitcher had was a little ball, and as long as I kept swinging that bat, I'd be all right."
-- Hank Aaron, from his autobiography "I Had A Hammer"
Voting is underway through Friday to help decide who wins the 2017 Hank Aaron Awards, recognizing two Major League Baseball players who kept swinging on their way to the title of most outstanding offensive performance in each league.
Winners will be announced during the 113th World Series.
"It is an honor that the awards, which distinguish the top offensive performers in baseball, have my name on it," Aaron said at last year's presentation to David Ortiz and Kris Bryant.
Aaron faithfully shows up for each year's ceremony, adding to the weight of this honor.
Considering that more home runs (6,105) were hit this regular season than in any other, the obvious question is whether these awards -- named for a slugger so synonymous with power -- will go to two of the biggest bashers.
Or will other elements like on-base percentage, speed and clutch hits influence the vote? Will voters reward batting titles, or perhaps high rankings in Statcast™ exit velocity?
Fifteen finalists were named All-Stars this year, and overall the 30 finalists combined to have been named All-Stars 65 times. The group of nominees also features 19 players under the age of 30, with eight aged 25 or younger.
It is the eighth year in a row that fans have a say in the voting process. In addition, a special panel of Hall of Fame players, led by Aaron himself, will vote on the winners. The panel includes Roberto Alomar, Johnny Bench, Craig Biggio, Ken Griffey Jr., Eddie Murray and Robin Yount. These Hall of Famers -- who combined for 17,010 hits, 8,844 RBIs and 2,275 home runs -- have all been personally selected by Aaron to lend their expertise.
Aaron's career stats over 23 seasons bear repeating here, just in case they aren't cited often enough: 3,771 hits (3rd), 755 homers (2nd), 142.6 WAR/position players (5th), 6,856 total bases (1st), 3,298 games (3rd), 2,174 runs (fourth), 2,297 RBIs (1st). He averaged only 60 strikeouts a season, never hitting triple digits in any year.
There was also an element no statistic could measure: courage and resolve. In breaking Babe Ruth's longstanding record of 714 home runs for the Braves in 1974, The Hammer withstood relentless racial taunts and death threats. His award carries on that legacy of strength.
Six former Aaron Award winners are amongst the finalists. Here are the previous winners:
Bryant and Ortiz (2016); Donaldson and Bryce Harper (2015); Stanton and Trout (2014); Miguel Cabrera and Goldschmidt (2013); Cabrera and Posey (2012); Jose Bautista and Matt Kemp (2011); Bautista and Votto (2010); Derek Jeter and Albert Pujols (2009); Aramis Ramirez and Kevin Youkilis (2008); Alex Rodriguez and Prince Fielder (2007); Jeter and Ryan Howard (2006); Ortiz and Andruw Jones (2005); Manny Ramirez and Barry Bonds (2004); Rodriguez and Pujols (2003); Rodriguez and Bonds (2001-02); Carlos Delgado and Todd Helton (2000) and Manny Ramirez and Sammy Sosa (1999).
The Hank Aaron Award was introduced in 1999 to honor the 25th anniversary of Aaron breaking Ruth's all-time home run record. At that time, it was the first major award introduced by MLB in more than 25 years. Fan voting now is conducted exclusively on MLB.com and club sites.
Mark Newman is enterprise editor of MLB.com and a baseball writer since 1990. Follow him on Twitter @Marathoner and read and join other baseball fans on his MLB.com/blogs hub. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.