Beckham will settle for what he has
Team-minded infielder fifth in BBWAA AL rookie voting
CHICAGO -- The true competitor in Gordon Beckham stoked his desire to compete for the 2009 American League Rookie of the Year Award, presented Monday afternoon by the BBWAA, long after the White Sox were eliminated from postseason contention.
Beckham's drive wasn't exactly hurt by the fact his overall statistics were as good, if not better, than any other first-year American League player in the running for this honor.
That hope from the 23-year-old fell a little short of reality, but Beckham still earned some recognition. He placed fifth in a deep crop of AL rookies, receiving two second-place votes and four for third place. Oakland closer Andrew Bailey won the award, followed by Texas shortstop Elvis Andrus and 20-year-old Detroit hurler Rick Porcello.
Beckham will settle for rookie honors from the Sporting News and the Players Choice, as voted on by his peers. Still, Beckham's focus sits far from completely fixated on individual goals fulfilled. In fact, the only way Beckham hopes to win an individual award again, such as Most Valuable Player, is if he's winning it as part of a World Series champion on the South Side of Chicago.
Not only was a rookie sensation born for the White Sox in 2009, but also a young leader.
"I've had a lot of time to think about my role on the team, and I could do better and focus more of my effort on the team instead of myself," Beckham said. "The team comes first, and I guess that really goes for anyone.
"My concern should be for my teammates or how we win. I shouldn't worry about finishing 0-for-3 or 3-for-4, as long as the team prospers."
During a prosperous 2009 campaign, Beckham had his fair share of three-hit games. In fact, Beckham tied for first among AL rookies with 28 multi-hit efforts. He led all AL rookies with 28 doubles, 43 extra-base hits and 63 RBIs in just 103 games, while finishing second in home runs (14), runs scored (58), hits (102), on-base percentage (.347), slugging percentage (.460) and total bases (174).
This eighth pick overall in the 2008 First-Year Player Draft almost won the starting second base job out of Spring Training but eventually was called up to the Majors as a third baseman on June 4. More than five months later, Beckham tried to join Guillen, Luis Aparicio (1956), Gary Peters (1963), Tommie Agee (1966) and Ron Kittle (1983) on this franchise list of all-time top rookies.
"Here's a kid who never had that many at-bats in college or the Minors as he did this season, and the at-bats there are not the same as at the big league level, where the pressure comes every day," said Guillen of Beckham. "You have to make adjustments every day, no matter how good or how bad you are.
"By the end of the season, this kid was playing a lot of games. But he was a true pro who never complained. Beckham has a great future, and not just because of this rookie step."
It's a White Sox future to be played out now at second base, as Beckham was moved from third when the team acquired Mark Teahen in a trade with the Royals for Chris Getz and Josh Fields. So, it's back to learning a new position for Beckham, who will be focused on putting the team's success above his own accomplishments.
"When I'm more worried about the team, I usually play better," Beckham said. "It takes the pressure off of you when you are more concerned about someone other than yourself."
"He wants to be the face of the franchise, and he's a type of player like [Derek] Jeter, who can go out and perform and do it," Guillen said. "We need something like that. You don't see many players who come up and right away feel that way, and with help from us, from [general manager] Kenny [Williams], [White Sox chairman] Jerry [Reinsdorf], the staff and the players around him, we can show him how to grow up the right way and teach him how to be a leader."
Williams, for one, backs up Beckham's team-good-above-all-else sort of attitude.
"There is one award I care about, and that's the World Series trophy at the end of the year," Williams said. "Everything else to me, it's great for the individual accolades that guys get, but that's individual stuff, and I'm all about team."
Scott Merkin is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.