09/22/08 12:00 AM ET
Big year nets Huff Aaron consideration
Renaissance season has O's vet battling game's top sluggers
By Spencer Fordin / MLB.com
Huff has already set career highs in runs and doubles and is within striking distance in both home runs and RBIs. He leads his team in both of the latter categories and entering Monday ranked in the top 10 among American League hitters in RBIs, home runs, doubles and total bases, becoming a prominent candidate for the award, named after the former career home run king.
The coveted honor is awarded annually to the best overall offensive performer in each league, with each club having a nominee. Fans can vote on MLB.com until Sunday, Oct. 12, to select the winner in each league. The winners will be announced prior to Game 4 of the World Series on Sunday, Oct. 26.
Last year's winners were Yankees third baseman Alex Rodriguez and Brewers first baseman Prince Fielder. Originally introduced in 1999 to honor the 25th anniversary of Hank Aaron breaking Babe Ruth's all-time home run record, the Hank Aaron Award was the first major award to be introduced in 30 years.
Huff, acquired by Baltimore before the 2007 season as a free agent, has enjoyed a career renaissance.
"I think he's been one of the better offensive players in the league," said Orioles manager Dave Trembley earlier in September. "He's been a legitimate middle-of-the-lineup guy -- hit for average, extra-base hits, power, good runner. He has had a big, big, big season, and he's not done yet. I would expect that he would tack on numbers before the year is out and leave at the end of the year with maybe the best year of his career, to be honest with you. I think he's got a chance to do that."
All of that has happened in a tumultuous year for Huff. The veteran was bothered by a sports hernia injury during the winter that kept him from doing his usual prep work before Spring Training, and he also had to deal with the untimely passing of close friend and former teammate Joe Kennedy last Nov. 23. Huff also recently became a father, adding more joy to his big season.
"I feel good about saying I know I'm going to have a little one, and it changes my perspective on baseball," said Huff earlier in the year of impending fatherhood. "When I was going good in 2003 and '04, I came to the field and thought, 'If I get some hits, great. If I don't, I'm not going to let it bother me.' I was coming in here, working hard early and thinking about my swing too much, studying more video. And I never used to do that. I kind of got back to that this year, where I'm not studying too much video and not doing too much early work. I'm just taking my batting practice and trying to make things as simple as possible. The fact that I'm going to have a little one on the way has made it much less stressful at the ballpark."
Spencer Fordin is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.