Peers choose Dye as AL's best
Sox outfielder wins Players Choice Award as Most Outstanding
CHICAGO -- During a brief conversation at the end of the 2006 regular season, Jermaine Dye proved he's far too honest and forthright to ever think about a career in politics.
Dye was asked about his chances for winning the American League Most Valuable Player award as he was preparing for the final series against Minnesota at the Metrodome. Without hesitation, Dye stated that not only would some other player win the award but he no longer deserved it.
"No, I didn't make the playoffs," said Dye when asked if he should receive MVP support back in late September. "[It's] whatever guy helps their team to the playoffs. That leaves two guys, [Derek] Jeter and [Justin] Morneau."
Luckily for Dye, his peers don't quite agree with this particular set of award criteria. Dye was named the AL's Outstanding Player amongst the Player's Choice Awards on Wednesday, the equivalent of the AL MVP for this set of postseason honors, beating out the Yankees' Jeter and Boston's David Ortiz in the final three. Philadelphia's Ryan Howard won the same top prize for the National League, while also being selected as baseball's overall Player of the Year.
The voters stand as the primary difference between the AL MVP and this Outstanding Player award, with the media casting their ballots for the first and the players selecting the second by secret ballot. Dye figures to finish in the top five in the MVP voting, behind Jeter and Minnesota's Morneau, as he predicted, and along with Ortiz and Oakland's Frank Thomas.
But Dye's spectacular 2006 effort certainly deserved to be recognized as one of the best in baseball. It's strange to characterize this past year as a breakout performance for Dye, especially for an 11-year veteran who topped 200 home runs and 800 RBIs for his career with his 2006 effort.
Then again, this performance just might have started Dye's climb from a rock-solid, very good player to one of baseball's elite.
"Jermaine is doing things now where he is just coming into his own, that's all," said White Sox general manager Ken Williams of Dye. "Sometimes it takes a while. He's a consummate professional, both on and off the field, and the type of guy you hope you know for a lifetime"
"He's a guy that has 10 years in the big leagues, but at the same time, he plays like he's a kid," White Sox center fielder Brian Anderson. "He doesn't take anything too serious. He doesn't get caught up in bad games. It's fun to play next to him. He's established, but he treats you like another one of the guys."
Williams signed Dye to a two-year, $9 million deal as a free agent prior to the beginning of the 2005 campaign. The White Sox also held a $6 million club option for 2007 or could have used a $1.15 million buyout.
Since Dye came aboard, the right fielder helped the White Sox end a championship drought lasting close to nine decades in 2005, earning the World Series MVP in the process, and produced monstrous offensive numbers and steady defensive play last season. The decision to pick up Dye's option was fairly simple for the White Sox.
Over 146 games covering 539 at-bats, Dye finished with a career-high 44 home runs and 120 RBIs. The 44 long balls were the second most in a single season for the White Sox franchise, trailing only Albert Belle's 49 in 1998. Dye became the fourth player in franchise history to reach 40 home runs, joining Belle, Paul Konerko and Thomas.
These impressive statistics also ranked Dye near the top in numerous AL categories on offense. Dye finished second in the American League in home runs, third in slugging percentage (.622) and in the top five in RBIs, OPS (1.006) and extra-base hits (74). He hit .329 with 19 doubles, 24 home runs and 66 RBIs in his last 81 games and finished with 52 RBIs over his last 57 games.
Dye also hit .351 with runners in scoring position and earned his second career All-Star selection. But it was a two-out, ninth-inning at-bat against Minnesota closer Joe Nathan on Aug. 26 that truly summed up Dye's season.
With the White Sox trailing by two and Tadahito Iguchi on first base, Dye just missed evening the score by pulling Nathan's first pitch foul down the left-field line. After carefully laying off a nasty Nathan slider on a 1-2 offering, Dye launched a game-tying blast like a laser into the left field stands off arguably baseball's best closer.
Minnesota claimed an 8-7 victory in 11 innings. But Dye had firmly established himself as one of the AL's top players.
Wednesday's announcement leaves Dye in select White Sox company where the Players Choice Awards are concerned.
Esteban Loaiza won the American League Comeback Player of the Award in 2003, after winning 21 games, while Thomas was named the 2000 AL Comeback Player and the 1993 and 1994 AL Outstanding Player. Thomas once again was chosen as AL Comeback Player of the Year this season, edging out former White Sox outfielder Magglio Ordonez and Jim Thome, the team's current designated hitter. Thome also was in the final three for the Marvin Miller Man of the Year award, given to St. Louis' Albert Pujols.
Along with these postseason individual accolades, Dye joined Iguchi on the Major League Baseball tour of Japan as part of the MLB All-Star team taking on the Nippon Professional Baseball All-Stars. Both White Sox players contributed to MLB's five-game sweep.
Scott Merkin is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.