(Ed's Note: This week at The Mag, we're looking at all the best, worst and most interesting stories of the regular season, as well as where we were right, and where we were lost. Today, we hand out awards and discuss where Barry shoulda been all year. Tomorrow, it's the season by the numbers, and Jimmy Rollins and Jensen Lewis break down the season.)
You're all familiar with the Cy Young and the MVP. Even Gold Gloves are sort of exciting, if not predictable and seemingly grandfathered. That said, there are plenty of things that go unrecognized, and deserve their own categories. We took a stab.
The Jack Sparrow Award for Most Intriguing Player who Excites Legitimate Pirates
He's a good, young pitcher for the Braves, which is worth something. More, however, is that Jair Jurrjens —say it, Yaaaargh!—not only is 13-10 with a 3.72 ERA at this writing, but his name is unequivocally best said by a pirate! Oh, and he's just 22. This, remember, was the top player the Braves landed in exchange for Edgar Renteria. Incredibly, Jurrjens (YUR-YENS) may have been the most consistent pitcher on the Tigers this season if he hadn't been traded.
The Meryl Streep Award for Peculiar Big-Name Bridesmaid
Streep is up for an Oscar every year, everybody respects her, she's in L.A., and yet someone almost always has a knockout performance and takes her down, and most people seem to see it as justifiable. She was fabulous, just not good enough this one year despite her career body of work (she still wins it here and there). This year, we have to congratulate Mike Mussina (18-9, 3.57) and Dice-K (18-2, 2.80) for great years in huge markets as they continue great careers … aaaand they have no chance to take the Cy Young from Cliff Lee, who plays small-market ball for a dramatically underperforming team.
The Three's Company Award for Seamless Replacement
When Joe Girardi left the Marlins, he had a Manager of the Year award in his pocket after taking the team to a 78-84 record. After a transition year under Fredi Gonzalez and a further loss of a massive talent in Miguel Cabrera, the team is back to .500+ baseball. Meanwhile, the Yankees have no shot at the playoffs with a $200 million payroll. Our thought? Like Don Knotts replacing Norman Fell on Three's Company, the Marlins did fine, and the Yankees have to wonder just how much of a "genius" Girardi was to scratch 78 wins out of what we know was a talented but young Marlins team. Good ol' Knotts. Like a Kramer with a decent new role.
The Romancing the Stone Winner of the Colombian Conflict Award
We told you about this story, how Orlando Cabrera and Edgar Renteria despise each other despite their shared Colombian heritage. Well, Edgar's team was favored this year, but Orlando helped Chicago to a likely division title. Just like when Michael Douglas did over Danny Devito, (including locking down the services of Kathleen Turner, yowsa!), Cabrera takes the latest round.
The Hollywood-Ending Cautionary Tale Award
When Josh Hamilton stole the show at the Home Run Derby, it spawned another round of "comeback from the depths" stories, which are fantastic, buuut… Hamilton is still young, and talented, and at least in a baseball sense, all the way back. In all seriousness, we wonder about the effect this has on a kid who is 18 and doing drugs. Does he think, "Hey, I still got time to hit rock-bottom with this stuff, because look at him!" Bless Hamilton, but sometimes the best examples of what drugs can do to kids are the guys who never make it back. Just saying.
Arrested Development Award for Brilliance Nobody Saw
Tampa Bay is an awesome team, a great story, they have a ton of young talent, are a marketing dream and their fan base, frankly, sucks. They average barely more fans than the Pirates(!), and when you factor in the 10,000 (at least) that the Yankees and Red Sox bring on their trips south, they average probably fewer than Pittsburgh and maybe Kansas City. You heard it here: that's a bigger problem than a crappy stadium. Going to August games in Arlington is a topic for Dante, and they still draw 2,000 more per game than division-leading Tampa.
The Weekly World News Award For Most Believable Rumor
One of the best "tips" we got this year was that Dodgers owner Frank McCourt was looking into filing an actual lawsuit against center-fielder Andruw Jones as a way to recoup some of the $36 million he spent for two years of his "service." McCourt's frustrations made sense—Jones finished the year with a .158 average and just 3 HRs—but it was hard to envision a world where owners were allowed to sue their players basically for "sucking."
The Sammy Sosa Award For Most Hilarious Injury
Tigers catcher Brandon Inge, who ouchied himself onto the 15-day DL with a pulled oblique muscle after "pushing down a pillow" that was behind his 3-year-old son's head. Nothing says toughness like soft, fluffy pillows! Runner-up: Chris Snyder, who fractured a testicle. The only reason this doesn't win is because it's not funny at all! Good news? They both made it back.
The Milli Vanilli Award For Worst New Duo (Or Just Fraudulent)
The two new Mariners pitchers, Erik Bedard and Carlos Silva. Bedard finished with okay numbers (3.67 ERA and 72 strikeouts to 37 walks), but he only started 15 games for the last-place team. Not exactly what the team had in mind when they traded Adam Jones and George Sherrill for him. Silva, meanwhile, made all of his starts, but that was probably a bad thing as he ended up with a 6.46 ERA and a 4-15 record. At least he's only signed for another three more years!
The Crazy Gideon Award For Most Outrageous Fire Sale
Oakland GM Billy Beane. Since the end of last year, Beane has traded away Dan Haren, Nick Swisher, Mark Kotsay, Joe Blanton and Rich Harden to get fresh pieces for his new youth movement as he tries to build the A's back into contention. Currently, the average age of the team is 13.5 years old. Then again, still hard to question the guy.
The Al Gore Award For Most Wind-Powered Energy
Jack Cust, who reached the 30-HR plateau while breaking one of the most prestigious records of all time: Most strikeouts by an American League player, currently at a whopping 188. Cust has to get another 11 Ks by the end of the year to surpass Ryan Howard as the All-Time Whiff King.
The Tim Dwight Award For Deceptive Speed
Jim Thome, who, on May 8th, stole his first base since 2002. Don't expect many more though, since this was a very particular play. Let's set it up for you: Thome is on 2nd, Carlos Quentin is at 1st, and Paul Konerko is at the plate with a full count. Konerko checks his swing on ball four and heads to 1st, forcing the other runners ahead. However, on further appeal, Konerko was not able to check his swing his time, leaving him heading back to the bench with the strikeout. But by that point, the runners had already moved ahead, hence the rare stolen base by "Rocket" Thome. It was his third steal of the new millenium.
The Carrot Top Award For Most Dramatic Transformation
Orioles pitcher Adam Loewen, long a darling in fantasy sleeper columns, who abandoned his career as a pitcher because of a recurring stress fracture in his throwing elbow, and instead choosing to go the Rick Ankiel route of trying his hand in the field. It's a long road ahead, but Loewen has one very important thing going for him: The Orioles are really, really bad.
The Dalai Lama Award For Buddhist-Like Patience
Jamie Moyer, who finally outlasted the never-ending career of Julio Franco to officially become the oldest player in baseball. And as a bonus, he had a pretty fine season to boot: 14-7 with a 3.86 ERA in Citizens Bank, which makes Camden Yards look spacious. If he keeps this up he can play well into his 70s, which is roughly two years away.
The Bugs Bunny Award For Getting A Giant Bullseye Placed On Your Back
To Carlos Quentin, who was welcomed into the league by being hit by pitches 20 times during the year, tied for the league lead with Jason Giambi, whose mustache attracts all forms of leather. Quentin has been hit with a pitch once every 28th time he stepped up to the plate this season, or once every seventh game. It's no wonder he hurts himself. Everybody else is trying to.
The Kraft Macaroni and Cheese Award for Dirt Cheap Perfection
Lincecum and Lee will make less than $4.5 million combined this year, and at this writing are a combined 39-6 with a 2.43 ERA and 405 K's. They may add a couple more wins by season's end. Better yet: Lee's middle name is Phifer and Lincecum's is LeRoy. Filthy.