Monday, October 08, 2007

My Slightly Warped 2007 Baseball Awards

Some 2007 awards from the Baseball Academy of Arts & Sciences -- if a) such an academy existed; and b) if it was populated by warped, mildly inebriated individuals.

Best Performance By An Ex-Tiger Who Played Himself Off The Team (On the field)
Carlos Pena, Tampa Bay. He hit 46 home runs, in a year in which he showed up to spring training just trying to make the team. And he wouldn't even have done that, but there was an injury to Greg Norton, so Pena made it after all.

Best Performance By An Ex-Tiger Who Played Himself Off The Team (Off the field)
Dmitri Young, Washington. He was named NL Comeback Player of the Year (Pena was the AL's version), a year after being unceremoniously dumped by the Tigers, mostly for his off-the-field behavioral problems.

Best Re-creation Of The Famous Billy Martin-Reggie Jackson Dugout Confrontation
Michael Barrett and Carlos Zambrano, Cubs. The catcher Barrett and pitcher Zambrano jawed at each other in the dugout at Wrigley, reminiscent of Martin and Jackson in Boston in 1977 -- an incident also recreated on the ESPN series "The Bronx Is Burning." But the Cubs players went Martin/Jackson one better -- actually trading punches before being separated. Barrett soon became an ex-Cub.

Best Re-creation Of The Famous 1964 Phillies Collapse
The New York Mets. Like the '64 Phils, who blew a six-game lead with ten games to play, the '07 Mets sunk faster than a hot air balloon made of lead and piloted by Shaun Rogers. They had a seven-game lead as late as September 12 over the (ironically) Phillies, before going down the tubes. And you thought the Tigers late season slump was bad!

Best Comeback By A Player Who Never Really Left
Roger Clemens, Yankees. The Rocket pulled his usual "I'm not sure I'm going to pitch again" act during the off-season, and this time it lasted well into May before Clemens finally announced, in dramatic fashion (over the PA system at Yankee Stadium during a game), that he was pitching for the Yankees in 2007. Even his rehab stints in the minors were shown on ESPN.

Best 180 Act
Ozzie Guillen, manager, White Sox. Less than a year after dissing Magglio Ordonez, who he once managed, Guillen had nothing but lovely things to say about his fellow countryman after Maggs won the 2007 batting crown.

Best Impersonation Of The 1927 Yankees
(tie) Chicago White Sox and Kansas City Royals -- whenever they played the Tigers. Had Guillen's Chisox or Buddy Bell's Royals had the Tigers on their schedule more often, we may have been looking at a five-way battle for supremacy in the AL Central. Oh, how those teams were thorns in the Tigers' sides in 2007.

Best Job At Remaining Faithful To A Baseball Adage
Tigers broadcasters Mario Impemba and Rod Allen never used the term "no-hitter" during Justin Verlander's gem in June -- at least not on the air. Their omission -- true to the baseball adage that says you don't mention the possibility while it's occurring -- sparked a mini-controversy, namely: how much responsibility do the broadcasters shoulder to let their viewers/listeners know that history might be in the making?

Biggest Trade Deadline Flop
Eric Gagne, Red Sox. It didn't harm their playoff hopes as it turned out, but closer Gagne was simply awful after being acquired from Texas. He was so bad that he was banished to set up man for the set up man.

Biggest Mystery
The White Sox extending manager Guillen's contract for several years. After winning the World Series in 2005, the White Sox have been nosediving. They were tied for last with Kansas City in the season's final weeks.

Best Example Of Cooler Heads Prevailing
The Mets and GM Omar Minaya, who didn't act on a knee-jerk reaction and fire manager Willie Randolph in the wake of the team's collapse. After a day of reflection, Minaya announced randolph would return, admitting in the presser that he needed that day to take a step back and look at things rationally. Good for him.

Best Way To Hit Your 500th HR
Jim Thome, White Sox. Thome hit no. 500 in walk-off fashion. Doesn't get any better than that.

Saddest New Sight
Base coaches wearing batting helmets, in the wake of the tragic death of minor league first base coach Mike Coolbaugh, who was hit in the head by a batted ball and died shortly thereafter.

Better Late Than Never
MLB's suspension of umpire Mike Winters, for baiting Padres OF Milton Bradley with profanity. The incident led to Bradley's ejection and a season-ending knee injury after he was restrained by his manager. It's about time the men in blue were reeled in a bit.

Best New Addition -- For Half A Season
Prior to injuring his shoulder just after the All-Star break, new Tigers DH Gary Sheffield was every bit the catalyst that was expected, and then some, for the team's offense. With Sheffield at full strength, the Tigers were 57-36 and their lineup fed off each other -- and Sheff. After he got hurt and was far less than 100%, the Tigers finished 31-38, and struggled to score runs consistently.

Worst Stadium
The Metrodome, Minnesota -- 26 seasons and counting.


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