As winter approaches and the ’09 baseball season fades into memory, we once again recognize/reward some deserving individuals:
*The first annual EARL WEAVER/FULL PACK Award: Chris Ray of the Orioles. Formerly an effective closer, the guy gave up 64 hits and surrendered eight HR’s in just 43 innings this year while pitching to an ERA of 7.27–giving Orioles fans more indigestion than any greasy crab cake you’d find along Baltimore’s Inner Harbor. Yes, Weaver used to call former O’s pitcher Don Stanhouse “Full Pack” due to the number of cigarettes he’d smoke while watching him pitch; I’m convinced that if the “Earl of Baltimore” was still managing, he’d nickname Chris Ray “Carton.”
*The GEORGE BRETT/PETE ROSE HONORARY THROWBACK PLAYER Award: CC Sabathia of the N.Y. Yankees. Though paid gazillions to play a kid’s game, he’s still a “gimme the ball”-type pitcher. And when asked about pitching on just three days rest come playoff time, he downplayed it–saying, “I don’t think it’s that big of a deal….this time of the year, you tend to cut down on bullpens anyway.” Yeah–my kinda guy.
*The LITTLE BUCKS/BIG NUMBERS Award: We’ll give this one to Kendry Morales of the Angels. The man played 152 games–hitting 34 HR’s and driving in 108–and was paid just over $1 million. From now on–whenever I hear that jingle “Don’t You Just Love A Bargain”–I’ll think of Kendry instead of the Christmas Tree Shops. Pablo Sandoval of the Giants finished second followed by the Reds’ Joey Votto.
*The BLACKSTONE/HOUDINI DISAPPEARING ACT Award: Aaron Harang of the Cincinnati Reds. After putting together back-to-back 16 win seasons in ’06 and ’07, he’s won just TWELVE games since then–sporting a combined record of 12-31 over the past two seasons. Garrett Atkins of the Rockies finished a close second as his HR and RBI total decreased for the third consecutive year.
*The ARSONIST OF THE YEAR Award: A ‘no-brainer’ as Phils reliever Brad Lidge pitched to a 7.21 ERA and blew 11 saves; the term “closer” took on a new meaning in the City of Brotherly Love as Philadelphia fans CLOSED their eyes each time Lidge entered a game.
*The BUM OF THE YEAR Award: No one came close to the Cubs’ Milton Bradley. A “cancer” everywhere he’s been, he was suspended in September for the remainder of the season after saying, “You understand why they haven’t won in 100 years here.” This is a guy who signed a three-year, $30 million contract before the season and hit just .257 with 40 RBI’s. Question: Who SHOULD have done the bad-mouthing here–the Cubs GM or Bradley?
*The HIT OR MISS Award: For the second straight year, goes to Mark Reynolds of the D’Backs. Despite hitting 44 home runs, he broke his own MLB strikeout record this season by whiffing a staggering 223 times. Rumor has it that AZ team officials will charge Reynolds for the large amount of grass seed that was needed to constantly repair the path that Reynolds made from home plate to the dugout throughout the season.
*The MAYTAG/DEPENDABILITY Award: Mariners outfielder Ichiro Suzuki is automatically given this award yearly. In ’09, the guy hit .352 with 225 hits–and missed 16 games (he usually plays them all). And yes, folks, three things in life are certain: The New England weather will disappoint, Christie Brinkley will NOT age, and Ichiro will win a Gold Glove; he won his NINTH in a row in ’09.
*The AVERSION TO WALKING Award: Goes to Miguel Tejada of the Houston Astros. With 635 at-bats to his credit, he walked just 19 times. This guy may become the first player to ever swing at a RESIN BAG if a pitcher mistakenly throws it a few feet in front of the mound.
*The GERITOL/AGE DOESN’T MATTER Award: Mariano Rivera of the Yankees. At age 39, the man had his best save total (44) since 2004; in addition, he gave up ONE earned run in 16 postseason innings. Yes, he may be called “Mo,” but I say that “Chateau Margaux” may be more appropriate due to his better-with-aging characteristics.
*The STAY AT FIRST Award: Awarded to Elijah Dukes of the Nationals. The man attempted to steal 13 bases and was thrown out TEN times. With a success rate of 23%, catchers don’t sweat too much when this guy gets on base.
*The TONY BENNETT/BEST YEARS BEHIND HIM Award: Randy Johnson of the S.F. Giants. Gave up 19 HR’s in 96 innings, spent a long stint on the DL, and no longer strikes out a batter per inning. Yes, at age 46, it’s TIME, Big Unit. Ex-teammate Ken Griffey Jr. was a close second.
*The BONNIE AND CLYDE/HIGHWAY ROBBERY Award: I know injuries are part of the game (as well as guaranteed contracts), but this one undoubtedly goes to Jason Schmidt of the Dodgers. He made just FOUR starts due to injury for L.A. in ’09–going 2-2 with a 5.60 ERA–and was paid more than $15 million. In fact, Schmidt has earned about $47 million since signing with the Dodgers before the ’07 season and has won a grand total of just THREE games for the team. Rolaids, Dodger fans? Alfonso Soriano of the Cubs finished a close second.
*The RODNEY DANGERFIELD/LACK OF RESPECT Award: Goes to Ryan Braun of the Milwaukee Brewers. Almost unnoticed was the fact that the guy hit .320 with 114 RBI’s. In addition, he played 158 games, scored well over 100 runs, stole 20 bases, and made just two errors in the outfield. Just goes to show you what happens when you play in the Midwest and your team finishes under .500.
*The PITIFULLY PUNCHLESS Award–for lack of offense: The S.D. Padres nailed this one. As a team, they were last in the majors in hits, RBI’s, total bases, slugging %, AND batting average. Just like the altitude of Colorado results in better offensive production, the constant sunshine in San Diego must dry out bats–leaving them totally useless and ineffective.
*Finally, the DOLLY THE SHEEP/REASON TO CLONE Award: Derek Jeter of the world champion Yankees–with Albert Pujols of St. Louis finishing second. For the sixth straight season, Jeter played in 150 or more games while reaching the 200+ hit plateau for the seventh time. In addition, he won his fourth Gold Glove and added a NEW honor to his impressive resume–The Roberto Clemente Award–which recognizes the player who combines giving back to the community with superlative skill on the field. Quite simply, he’s the ‘Dudley Do-Right’ of modern-day baseball; wish we had more MLB players like Mr. Jeter.
Enjoy the off-season, everyone.