November 17, 2009
ANDREW BAILEY SAVORS AL ROOKIE OF THE YEAR AWARD
By JIM WAGGONER
Wagner College product Andrew Bailey yesterday was named the American League Rookie of the Year, setting off a celebration in the Grymes Hill athletic offices.
“We’ve traded a couple text messages,” said Kevin Ross, the school’s sports information director for baseball. “Needless to say, he’s pretty pumped.”
The 25-year-old right-handed closer for the Oakland Athletics rushed from his Hamden, Conn., apartment to a nearby airport upon hearing the news. He spent the day traveling to California, where a press conference was scheduled for today at 1 p.m. EST.
“It’s kind of hard to believe still. It’s crazy,” Bailey told MLB.com. “There’s about 100 people trying to get through on my phone, so everyone’s pretty excited about it. I really tried not to think too much about it after the season because it was out of my hands.
“All you can do is put up your numbers and hope that’s good enough. I guess this means it was. It’s incredible. I’m still shaking.”
Bailey’s rise from obscure minor-league pitcher to the major-league spotlight was a remarkable journey. He defied long odds by making Oakland’s roster out of spring training, then recorded 26 saves with a 6-3 record and 1.84 ERA. He held opponents to a .167 batting average, striking out 91 and walking 24 in 83 1/3 innings.
“Certainly the first credit goes to Andrew. It’s also a credit to our staff and the people who saw the change to the bullpen being a good step,” Oakland general manager Billy Beane told the Associated Press. “He had always been a prospect, but as a starter he hit the wall. Since he made the switch to the bullpen he’s been dominant.”
Bailey was selected first on 13 of 28 ballots submitted by selected members of the Baseball Writers’ Association of America. He finished with 88 points, while Texas shortstop Elvis Andrus was the runner-up with 65 points, one more than Detroit pitcher Rick Porcello.
Bailey posted his first save in early May and eventually earned the role of full-time closer. He converted 21 straight save opportunities from June 17 to the end of the season.
The Voorhees, N.J., native arrived at Wagner College in 2003 from Paul VI High School in south Jersey. He was drafted by the Milwaukee Brewers in the 16th round of the 2005 MLB draft, but didn’t sign and sat out his junior season following Tommy John surgery on his right elbow.
Bailey was selected by Oakland in the sixth round of the 2006 draft after returning to the mound that spring. He had a school-record 237 strikeouts during his three seasons at Wagner.
“It’s a great thing for the baseball program and the school,” said Wagner head coach Joe Litterio. “Andrew seems to be taking it all in stride, but it’s big getting the college out there and letting people know what we’ve been doing the past 10 years.”
Bailey is the third Oakland player to receive the award in the past six seasons. Bobby Crosby won in 2004 and A’s closer Houston Street in 2005.
Detroit’s Justin Verlander (2006), Boston’s Dustin Pedroia (2207) and Tampa Bay’s Evan Longoria (2208) were the previous three Rookie of the Year winners.
Bailey was Oakland’s lone representative to the All-Star Game last summer.
Wagner College has now produced two Major League Baseball players and both have been A.L. Rookie of the Year recipients.
Baltimore outfielder Curt Blefary won the award in 1965.
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AFTER REMARKABLE JOURNEY, BAILEY GETS HIS DUE
By CORMAC GORDON
Andrew Bailey spent yesterday afternoon at home in Hamden, Conn., waiting for his fiance and fellow Wagner College alum Amanda Scalzo to finish her grad school classes for the day.
With time on his hands, he lounged around answering congratulatory messages from his buddies on winning American League Rookie of the Year honors.
It was a laid-back scenario for a laid-back guy.
Then he jumped on a plane for the coast.
No rush. No big deal.
“That’s just the way he is,” Wagner baseball coach Joe Litterio was saying when he heard the news yesterday. “Andrew was here a couple of weeks ago, and he said it would be great if it happened. But he’s not the type to get all excited.”
There’s already been enough excitement in Bailey’s life for one year.
When he showed up at Oakland spring training last February there wasn’t an organization depth chart anywhere in camp that had the minor leaguer’s name penciled on it for major league duty.
That was before he allowed just one run in 12 appearances, however.
With that effort, the big right-hander, who was a starter in Double-A for most of last season, forced his way on to the opening day roster.
But he was figured as a mop-up guy, really. That was about it. Bailey didn’t register his first save until the season was already six weeks old.
But the 25-year-old did possess this 97-mph heater that jumped in the strike zone and was by even the quickest bats in a flash.
And the New Jersey native’s curveball was tight, and tough on batters from both sides of the plate.
And now Bailey had a cutter.
A pitch he developed working the previous season with A’s minor league pitching instructor Gil Patterson. It was the semi-fastball with the late movement that had catapulted Bailey from so-so Double-A starter to the bigs.
And now it was going to make him the closer for the Oakland A’s.
Over the next two months, Bailey was extraordinary.
And, oh yes, he was named as the A’s lone representative to the All Star game.
It just got better after that. Bailey was lights-out for the A’s the rest of the way. He dominated hitters. In his final 10 appearances of the season he did not allow a run.
Bailey struck out 14, walked two and allowed two hits in 10 innings.
The figures remind you of anyone?
Say, someone who wears the number 42 and dresses in pinstripes?
You’re not alone.
“A poor man’s Mariano Rivera,” Patterson said of his prize pupil.
While that may be overdoing things a bit, you get the idea.
Bailey’s final numbers were impressive.
In 68 appearances he produced 6-3 record with 26 saves in 83 1/3 innings pitched. Bailey struck out 91 and walked just 24 in his first year in the big leagues, allowing 49 hits and finishing the season with an ERA of 1.84 and a WHIP of 0.88.
And remember, that was after the first six weeks without a save.
The eye-popping figures are the reason the Wagner grad beat out Rangers shortstop Elvis Andrus and Tigers pitcher Rick Porcello for Rookie of the Year laurels.
And in an odd circumstance, the second Seahawk to play in the big leagues at all is also the second Wagner grad to be named the American League Rookie of the Year.
In 1965, hard-hitting left-handed outfielder Curt Blefary hit .260 for the Baltimore Orioles with 22 home runs and 70 RBI, and was named Rookie of the Year.
Blefary’s career ended in 1972 with the San Diego Padres. He died in Pompano Beach, Fla.,in 2001.
Litterio, for one, couldn’t be happier with his former player’s success.
“He’s a different pitcher now than he was back then,” the Seahawk coach said. “He has better stuff. More of it. And his command is much better.”
But some things don’t change.
“He’s got the same attitude,” said Litterio. “The same toughness when he gets between the lines. And he’s the same quality person when he’s not.”
Alum Andrew Bailey ’06 named 2009 American League Rookie of the YearNovember 16, 2009