ORLANDO - Now that it was over, the awards show, the national TV appearance, the announcement that Wil Myers was stamped as, indeed, the top rookie in the American League in 2013, there was only thing left for Myers to do — celebrate.
And how would he do that?
“I’m going to go back home, play ping-pong,” he said.
Myers became the third Tampa Bay Rays player to be named rookie of the year by the Baseball Writers’ Association of America, joining Evan Longoria (2008) and Jeremy Hellickson (2011).
Myers, listed first on 23 of the 30 ballots, finished with 131 points. Detroit Tigers shortstop Jose Inglesias, who began the season with the Boston Red Sox, received five first-place votes and finished second with 80 points. Rays right-hander Chris Archer, who had one first-place vote, was third with 35 points.
“You look at the body of work that Wil provided from the time he was up there, the expectations he had on him when he arrived and how he fulfilled those expectations and just the level that he played at, again, looking at all the competition, I think it’s a really good decision,” Rays manager Joe Maddon said.
Myers, the centerpiece of the December trade that sent pitchers James Shields and Wade Davis to the Kansas City Royals, began the season at Triple-A Durham for more seasoning before joining the Rays on June 18.
The Rays, 36-33 at the time of Myers’ call-up, were 56-38 after he joined the team.
The 22-year-old Myers played 88 games this season, the fewest by a position player to be named rookie of the year.
He batted .293 with 13 home runs and 53 RBIs.
Yet he led the Rays in RBIs, runs (50), on-base percentage (.354) and slugging percentage (.478) from June 18 through he remainder of the season.
“I thought I did well,” Myers said. “I was able to go out and help the team. I thought I was put in some pretty big spots as a rookie. As far as my season went, there’s a lot of things that can improve. But I thought I did pretty well for my first year.”
In addition to the three winners, Archer is the fourth Ray to finish in the top four in voting. Delmon Young was second in 2007. Jeff Niemann (2009) and Wade Davis (2010) were both fourth.
“Going into it, to be honest, I was just happy to be nominated,” Archer said. “I knew I wasn’t going to win. Position players usually get more recognition because they deserve it. They play every day. Unless you have a Jose Fernandez-type season as a pitcher, you’re not going to get that recognition.”
Maddon said much was expected of Myers this season. He was the 2012 minor league player of the year and the Rays parted with Shields to get Myers’ bat to help a sagging offense.
Myers handled the demands well. He said the pressure to perform at the big-league level and help the Rays reach the postseason was far greater than anything he felt because of the trade.
Maddon said winning rookie of the year will serve as motivation for Myers to work toward other loftier goals.
“He’s definitely got other moments within his grasp or his abilities,” Maddon said. “I think he understands how hard he’s going to have to work to do that. I think the one thing he did find out, season in progress, is how difficult it is to sustain really good numbers playing on the major league level and how difficult it is to perform, particularly at the end of the season when you get to that playoff moment when everybody really ratchets things up a bit.”