A's Bailey hopes to pull ROY upset
Award would cap storybook season for emerging closer
OAKLAND -- Andrew Bailey's rise from Minor League obscurity to Major League limelight is a story that won't soon be forgotten.
It'll turn historic if Bailey upsets Rangers shortstop Elvis Andrus when the American League Rookie of the Year Award is handed out Monday at 11 a.m. PT. But even if the announcement plays out as expected -- Andrus is the clear favorite -- it will do nothing to diminish Bailey's fairy-tale of a season.
Strikingly similar to that of fellow A's reliever Brad Ziegler, who took the baseball world by storm in 2008, Bailey's rags-to-riches story was among the feel-good highlights of 2009 -- and not just for A's fans.
So compelling was Bailey's ascent -- from struggling Double-A starter to Arizona Fall League phenom to Spring Training sensation to All-Star big league closer -- that even President Barack Obama took notice.
Sweeping through the AL clubhouse this July before the Midsummer Classic at Busch Stadium in St. Louis, President Obama stopped at the locker of Bailey, the only first-year player named to either team, and smiled.
"Hey," President Obama said. "You're the rookie, right?"
Bailey, 25, was blown away.
"Come on," he said. "The president of the United States knows who I am? That's ridiculous."
You could say the same about Bailey's stats. Moved from the starting rotation to the bullpen at midseason 2008 while with the Midland RockHounds of the Texas League, Bailey didn't just make a successful transition to relief work.
He made the transition look like a breeze. Like he was born for relief work.
"This is, I think, what Andrew was kind of meant to do," said A's pitching coach Curt Young. "His makeup, his demeanor, his stuff ... he's meant for this."
Bailey, who dominated during the second half of the 2008 season at Midland, followed suit in the prestigious Arizona Fall League and did the same in his first trip to big league Spring Training to make the A's roster, posted an Oakland rookie-record 26 saves (in 30 chances) and a 6-3 record with a 1.84 ERA, a 0.88 WHIP (walks and hits per inning pitched) and 91 strikeouts against 24 walks in 83 1/3 innings over 68 appearances.
"Andrew," said A's catcher Kurt Suzuki, "was amazing."
Amazing enough to earn the AL ROY? Bailey hasn't given it much thought.
"If it happens, it happens," Bailey told MLB.com. "But I don't have any control over that kind of stuff. I'm pretty busy planning our wedding and working out, so that takes up most of my time."
A's teammate Brett Anderson, a lefty starter, infielder Gordon Beckham of the White Sox, catcher Matt Wieters of the Orioles and righty starters Rick Porcello of the Tigers and Jeff Niemann of the Rays also are among the candidates.
"There were a lot of good rookies in the league this year," Bailey said. "But to be mentioned as one of them is pretty cool."
In the event that Bailey upsets Andrus, a 21-year-old acrobat who emerged as one of the best defensive shortstops in the league and posted a .267 batting average with six homers, 40 RBIs and 33 stolen bases, he'll travel to the Bay Area for a formal news conference and related media appearances.
"The A's told me they want to fly me out for a couple of days," Bailey said. "It'd be crazy ... obviously, it'd be awesome to win it."
Mychael Urban is a national writer for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.