Originally created 11/09/99

Wilson loses NL rookie award



The word came from a couple of friends early Monday afternoon, moments after Preston Wilson of the Florida Marlins had finished his daily off-season workout at Pro Player Stadium.

The voting had just been announced, and Cincinnati Reds reliever Scott Williamson -- not Wilson -- had been selected as the National League Rookie of the Year.

Sure, Wilson said, there was a bit of a letdown at first upon learning the news. But at the same time, Wilson emphasized, he never allowed a feeling of disappointment to enter his mind.

"It would have been nice to get the award, but the voting can't take away from what I did on the field this season," Wilson said from his home in South Florida.

"It's not something to be disappointed over, not at all," said Wilson, who grew up in Bamberg, S.C., and played his high school ball at Bamberg-Erhardt. "I think my numbers compared well with his and that I deserved to be in the position to win.

"But the voters voted the way they did, and that's how it goes. I'm not going to worry about something I have no control of."

Williamson captured the award with 118 points, which included 17 first-place votes, while Wilson was second with 88 points, including nine first-place votes. Pittsburgh Pirates second baseman Warren Morris finished third with 69 points.

Wilson led all major league rookies with 26 home runs and hit .280 with 71 RBI. Moreover, he improved markedly as a defensive center fielder, considered a weakness coming out of the spring, and led all rookies with 10 assists.

"You can't take away from what Scott did," said Wilson, who had been selected as The Sporting News Rookie of the Year, and was chosen as the NL's Outstanding Rookie by his peers at the MLB Players Choice Awards last week.

"Scott had a great year. Everyone knows he pitched well in a lot of big situations," Wilson said. "The numbers he put up speak for themselves."

Williamson, who surprised many by making the big-league club out of spring training, went 12-7 with a 2.41 ERA, solidifying a bullpen that helped the Reds come within one game of reaching the NL playoffs.

"I achieved a lot of goals this year that I though would be way down they road," Williamson said.

"I think my mom is the happiest right now," Williamson said from Houston during a telephone conference call.

Six Cincinnati players previously won the award: Frank Robinson (1956), Pete Rose (1963), Tommy Helms (1966), Johnny Bench (1968) and Chris Sabo (1988) won outright and pitcher Pat Zachary was co-winner in 1976, tying San Diego's Butch Metzger.

Williamson, a starter in his first two pro seasons, was impressive in relief during spring games and survived one cut after another. The 23-year-old right-hander throws a fastball in the upper 90s and a nasty split-finger fastball.

"My biggest goal at that time was to just make the big league team .ƒ.ƒ. coming in there, with no chance at all," Williamson said.

He made the club as a setup man and did so well he soon became the closer. He wound up leading NL rookie pitchers in wins, saves and winning percentage. He led NL relievers in ERA and strikeouts (107 in 93 1-3 innings).

"I always was a starter," Williamson said. "Growing up, I was a starter. Throughout the minor leagues, I was a starter. I want to benefit the team the best I can. If it's relieving, I want to relieve. If it's starting, I'll start."

Morris, remembered for his walk-off home run that gave LSU the 1996 College World Series title over Miami, hit .288 with 15 homers to go with his solid glove up the middle.

The voting, which was completed before the start of the postseason, was the responsibility of the Baseball Writers Association of America.

Two writers from each of the 16 National League cities voted, listing their top three candidates in order on their ballot. Five points were awarded for a first-place vote, three for a second-place vote and one for a third-place vote.

Former Clemson right-hander Kris Benson, the Pirates' No. 1 pick in the 1996 draft, was fourth in the voting with five points.

Reach Mike Garbett at (706) 823-3349