At midseason, when we conducted a similar exercise, I said last-place teams don't have MVPs. But the Red Sox played so well from mid-August on, I'm abandoning that position. Here are my end-of-season awards for the Sox:
Most valuable player: Mookie Betts. I was going to take the coward's way out and make co-winners of Betts and Xander Bogaerts, both of whom can make a strong claim. I give the edge to Betts based on his higher WAR (6 to 4.6), OPS (.820 to .776) and greater number of extra-base hits (68 to 45). The defensive metrics also give Betts an edge, although Bogaerts made spectacular strides at an arguably more difficult position. The bottom line is the Red Sox have two very young players who are profiling toward future greatness.
Least valuable player: Hanley Ramirez. The salary. The seeming indifference to putting in the necessary work to become a better outfielder. The shutdown with six weeks left in the season. The .193 batting average with no home runs from July 11 on. It’s easy to pile on Ramirez, and I’ve felt guilty at times for doing exactly that. But it should speak volumes that the organization is frustrated at the thought they might not be able to unload him this winter.
Most surprising player: Travis Shaw. When Shaw began a third season in Double-A Portland in 2014, his career appeared to have hit a plateau. And he wasn’t exactly stirring excitement in Pawtucket this summer. But then he was called up, and a switch was turned on. Shaw had a .674 OPS with five home runs in 289 at-bats in Pawtucket. In Boston, he had 13 home runs in 226 at-bats and an .822 OPS, hit left-handed pitching with authority and fielded his position with no fear. The Sox aren’t ready to hand him the keys to first base -- you don’t base that decision on half a season, and besides, there is The Hanley Problem -- but Shaw will come to camp as a contender to make the club.
Uncommon grace award: Torey Lovullo. Confronted with a situation he’d never faced before, taking over for manager John Farrell when Farrell was diagnosed with cancer, Lovullo rose to the occasion. He embraced the opportunity to manage while never failing to display empathy, respect and support for his good friend, his most touching gesture his refusal to use the manager’s office in Farrell’s absence.