Huff honored as Most Valuable Oriole
After rocky offseason, designated hitter comes through at plate
BALTIMORE -- On Opening Day, he was showered with boos by the Orioles faithful, but on Sunday afternoon, Aubrey Huff walked out to the mound to a warm reception from that same crowd as he accepted the award for Most Valuable Oriole from team president of baseball operations Andy MacPhail.
It's safe to say that Huff, who received that early season reaction from the fans due to some controversial comments he made about the city of Baltimore in the offseason, has fully redeemed himself.
"I always have confidence in my ability," Huff said prior to Sunday's season finale with the Blue Jays. "I go into Spring Training every year wanting to hit around .300, 30 [homers] and 100 [RBIs]. That's normally the goal I shoot for.
"I was fortunate enough to get those numbers this year, and it makes it a little bit sweeter, [knowing] what I did go through in the offseason with the fans and everything. Hopefully all is forgotten and we can go into next year and try to do it all over again. ... If you hit, everybody forgets. That seemed to be the case this year."
Huff certainly did that, having a phenomenal season at the plate for the Orioles while doing most of his damage in the cleanup spot in the lineup. Huff, who entered Sunday's season finale leading the American League with 82 extra-base hits, set career highs with 48 doubles and 96 runs scored while posting a .306 average with 32 homers and 108 RBIs.
"Maybe it motivated him," said manager Dave Trembley of the offseason turmoil that also included a sports hernia operation. "Maybe this was his way of trying to do things a little bit better. Maybe this was his way of trying to undo some of the things that he probably wished he could have taken back. That's how I look at it. He certainly didn't let anything bother him."
Without question, Huff was an indispensable part of the Orioles offense, an offense that powered Baltimore to many wins this season when the struggles on the mound began to pile up. Huff was the only Orioles player named on all 27 ballots for the award, which is named after Louis M. Hatter and voted on by members of the local media who cover the team regularly.
Nick Markakis, Brian Roberts, Melvin Mora, George Sherrill and Jeremy Guthrie all received votes for the honor, with Markakis and Roberts finishing second and third, respectively.
In addition to the categories he led the league in, Huff was also among the league's top 10 in total bases (330), doubles (48), slugging percentage (.555), RBIs, home runs and hits (182).
"It was right up there," Huff said when asked if this was the best of his nine professional seasons. "If you look at the '03 numbers and the numbers this year, they are across the board pretty much identical. I would say '03 and this year are the kind of seasons, in career years, I could put up. ... This is the type of season, when I am at my best, I can do."
All of this coming after an offseason where Huff wasn't able to participate in any baseball activities as he healed from the sports hernia operation. The lack of offseason work is likely something the 31-year-old will continue this winter, seeing how well it worked out for him this season.
"I am not going to do a thing," Huff said. "The first eight years of starting really slow and basically busting my butt off out there everyday in the offseason, whether I started earlier in December, later in December, lifting harder, running harder -- nothing ever worked.
"This year, I did absolutely nothing except for maybe stretching and cardio. I didn't pick up a bat or baseball until Spring Training. And I guarantee that's what I'll do again this year."
Huff became the first Orioles player since 2004 to hit at least 30 home runs, but the style in which he hit them was even more impressive. Of his 32 home runs this season, 14 either tied the game or put the Orioles ahead. He was named the AL Player of the Week twice, on July 6 and August 31, and put together hitting streaks of 14 and a career-high 19 games.
"He should be in the [American League] MVP votes," said first baseman Kevin Millar. "The guy has had an unbelievable season."
Amanda Comak is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.