NEW YORK — Ben Grieve couldn't have faced much loftier expectations as a rookie.
A former first-round draft pick and minor league player of the year, Grieve was counted on to deliver immediately for the Oakland Athletics, especially after he hit major league pitching with such ease in September 1997.
And deliver he did. Grieve met all of the expectations this year and was rewarded Tuesday by easily winning the American League rookie-of-the-year award.
"I was hoping I would get it the whole year," Grieve said. "I tried not to think of it too much. But it got kind of old listening to all the talk."
The 22-year-old right fielder was the only candidate named on all 28 ballots. He received 23 first-place votes and five seconds to finish with 130 points in balloting by the Baseball Writers' Assn. of America.
Grieve, whose father Tom played in the major leagues and was the former general manager of the Texas Rangers, led AL rookies with 168 hits, 18 home runs, 94 runs, 41 doubles and 89 RBIs. He led the club in on-base percentage, at-bats, hits, doubles, walks and was second in runs. He batted .288 and made only two errors.
Grieve is the fifth Athletic to win the award, joining Walt Weiss (1988), Mark McGwire (1987), Jose Canseco (1986) and Harry Byrd (1952).
"It means a lot after a long season to get recognition like this," Grieve said. "But at the same time it doesn't change anything. It's just an award. I can't get too much of a big head next year."
Tampa Bay pitcher Rolando Arrojo earned four first-place votes and 61 points. Chicago shortstop Mike Caruso was third with 34 points, followed by New York's Orlando "El Duque" Hernandez, who finished with 25 points and the other first-place vote.
Grieve faced the added pressure of being one of the only stars on a mostly nondescript Oakland team. Grieve hit .312 with three homers and 24 RBIs as a September call-up in 1997.
"That gave me extra confidence, knowing I could succeed against big league-level pitching," he said. "I knew I could hit, but that month gave me the confidence this year that I could do it day in and day out."
(BEGIN TEXT OF INFOBOX / INFOGRAPHIC)
1998 Rookie of the Year
American League Rookies of the Year
New York: 8
St. Louis/Balt.: 7
*Teams with three or more
Researched by HOUSTON MITCHELL / Los Angeles Times
A's Grieve AL Top Rookie: Ben Grieve did more than live up to his 1997 hype with Oakland and was voted the 1998 rookie of the year, becoming the fifth Athletic to win the award.