For any serious baseball Hot Stover (no relation to Smokey Stover), the biggest highlight of the offseason's rubber chicken circuit is undoubtedly the annual dinner held by the New York chapter of the Baseball Writers Association of America. It's here that each year's Most Valuable Players, Rookies of the Year, Managers of the Year and Cy Young winners officially receive their awards, and while it's not quite like the Oscars (no relation to Gamble) in that everyone in attendance at the grand ballroom of the New York Hilton this past Saturday night already knew who won, the evening's festivities invariably included a few surprises. After all, gather this much talent and testosterone together at one head table - or, as the seating booklet so nicely misspelled it, "DIAS" (that's an "E-printer," for those keeping score) - and you never know what might just, pardon the expression, pop up.
Take Alex Rodriguez, for example, the recipient of the Babe Ruth Postseason MVP Award for his hitting exploits throughout the 2009 playoffs. Sure, the first thing he did was stand up, stare at the plaque for a little too long and say exactly the same thing he did in 2007 when he received the AL MVP Award: "Wow!" But this time he was able to wait a good thirty seconds longer than '07 before the inevitable lip-biting choke-up. Good to know that finally getting the no-championship monkey off his back has humbled him so much. After all, there's no "I" in "team" - and apparently no Kate Hudson anymore, either.
Of course, from hearing the acceptance speeches from the likes of Albert Pujols (NL MVP), Chris Coghlan (NL Rookie of the Year), Jeff Francoeur (NY Good Guy Award) and Mariano Rivera (Reliever of the Year), there is, apparently, a lot of "g-o-d" in team. And while it's never been fully explained to me just how god makes up his mind to root for one player to succeed and for another to fail thousands of times each and every day of the baseball season, and doesn't seem to mind switching allegiances from one ballclub to another throughout a game at the drop of an "amen," at least Rivera provided a window into the ballplayer's mindset about such things. While saying that he knew that many people might be praying for the Yankees to not repeat as World Series champs in 2010, Rivera warned that "I'm going to be praying, too." Implying, I guess, that whoever prays best, wins. Now that's something to think about.
Speaking of Rivera's non-theological side, though, perhaps the single most interesting thing I heard at the Writer's Dinner this year - other than Mets manager Jerry Manuel acknowledging his club's propensity for injuries by confessing that he's spent the winter faithfully watching the Dr. Oz Show every day, and comedian Bill Scheft revealing that Manny Ramirez missed three games last season because he was lactating - came courtesy of ex-Yankee Bernie Williams as he described his clubhouse memories of Mariano Rivera making a sandwich. "He looks at the whole loaf of bread and picks out the two best pieces," said Williams." "Then he picks out the best-looking meat, and then the lettuce and everything else, and then he puts it all together on the plate just so. It takes Mo five minutes to make a sandwich - and then he eats it in ten seconds." As they say: preparation and execution.