Blue Jays' Semien, Ray recognized by peers with Players Choice Awards

Blue Jays general manager Ross Atkins joins Stephen Brunt to discuss the Atlanta Braves' run in the postseason and how it relates to Toronto, the missing elements for the Jays this past season, and the team's priorities heading into free agency.

TORONTO – The performances of pending Toronto Blue Jays free agents Marcus Semien and Robbie Ray are being recognized by their peers with 2021 Players Choice Awards, the star infielder as Marvin Miller Man of the Year and ace lefty as the AL’s Outstanding Pitcher.

Vladimir Guerrero Jr., a finalist for both Player of the Year and AL Outstanding Player, finished second to two-way sensation Shohei Ohtani of the Los Angeles Angels for the honours, which are presented by the players association.

Semien, an alternate representative on the union’s influential executive subcommittee, was selected over St. Louis Cardinals lefty Andrew Miller and Los Angeles Dodgers ace Max Scherzer for man of the year, given to a player who inspires others to higher levels of achievement.

The 31-year-old established new career bests with 45 home runs – a single-season record for a second baseman – 102 RBIs, 15 stolen bases and a .538 slugging percentage, all while helping to mentor young teammates like Guerrero and Bo Bichette.

“I'm just happy for the young guys, the routines that everybody built behind the scenes in the weight room, in the cage,” Semien said on the final day of the season when asked what he was most proud of.

“You look at the finished product this year and it's not even close to what it was at the beginning. Guys learned routines, what they need to do every day to excel at this level. Going into the year, you kind of just want to feel it out, see where you're at, get you hits, play well, but you start to understand that there's a process to it. That's something I learned in Oakland, something I tried to show the guys, that this is what we need to do every single day to get better.”

His impact was undeniable.

At season’s end, Bichette became emotional when asked what Semien’s presence meant to him, replying: “Everything. He's meant a lot to me.”

Ray, a leading candidate for the American League Cy Young Award, beat out Gerrit Cole of the New York Yankees and Chicago White Sox righty Lance Lynn. The 30-year-old led the American League with a 2.84 earned-run average, 32 starts, 193.1 innings, 248 strikeouts and a 1.045 WHIP, all career-bests, serving as the bedrock for the Blue Jays pitching staff.

It was also a spectacular rebound from a difficult 2020, in which he walked 45 batters in 51.2 innings and allowed a career-high 2.3 homers per nine innings.

“I was finally doing what I felt like I was capable of,” Ray said on the final day of the season. “Everybody kind of always talked about would it ever come out. And this year, the walks were down, the strikeouts were still up, everything was still good, it just kind of all came together and it was really fun.”

Ray and Cole are also vying for the AL Cy Young Award and the award shows whom the majority of players feel is most deserving.

The same applies to Guerrero in the AL MVP race.

Under normal circumstances, his 48 homers, 111 RBIs and .311/.401/.601 batting line would have easily made him the top player. But Ohtani hit 46 homers with 100 RBIs while also logging a 3.18 ERA in 130.1 innings over 23 starts, a unicorn season already recognized with the Commissioner’s Historic Achievement Award.

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