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MLB 2006 Midseason Awards
by James Deaux (MLB)
Posted on July 7, 2006, 11:04 PM

MLB 2006 Midseason Awards—The Delightful and the Dubious Distinctions

Even though it's past the real midway point of each team's season, I'll go ahead and give out my midseason awards for various things. I shall not do many common awards like MVP's of the first half (Pujols and Mauer, for the record), because everyone does those. Rather, I'll delve out some less commonly given awards and some of my own award creations. Let's start with a positive award first. (Why commence this thing with negativity, right?)

Best "Feel-Good" Story
--Winner: Detroit Tigers

Coming into this season, if you had told me that a team in the AL Central would be 30 games over .500 at the All-Star Break, I would have said, "Well, it's got to be the White Sox or the Indians." If you had then replied by saying, "Well, actually it's the Tigers", then I would have walked away and sat in silence for a good couple of hours just to try and absorb what you just told me. The once-great, and now currently great, Detroit franchise has a big reason to be celebrating. Jim Leyland is easily the front-runner for Manager of the Year in the American League the way he has this team playing right now. No other team in baseball is even close to the Tigers' 11 shutouts or their team 3.52 ERA. They have allowed only 324 runs all season so far (as of this writing). The fact that Kenny Rogers will be the only Detroit starter at the All-Star Game is an absolute travesty. Will this team be able to keep this kind of pace up in the second half? I'm still not entirely certain that they can, but if they can land another proven starter (John Smoltz?) then this team might warrant consideration as the favorite to win the World Series.

Runner-up: Colorado Rockies

Biggest Disappointment
--Winner: Atlanta Braves

Guess I couldn't keep the negativity bottled up for very long. The winners of 14 consecutive division titles are looking like anything but a playoff-bound team. They concluded June with a 5-21 record, which, oh by the way, wound up being the Atlanta franchise's worst month in history. Things have gotten so bad that Jorge Sosa (2-10 and 3 for 5 in save opportunities) is now the closer. The bullpen as a whole has been atrocious, blowing 19 save opportunities and sporting a hideous 4.86 ERA while allowing more walks (138) than any other bullpen in all of baseball. When you're doing something worse than the Kansas City and Milwaukee bullpens, that's saying something right there. There is still time for this team to come back and make the playoffs yet again; and to be fair, they are playing much better baseball of late. (It's hard to play much worse than they did in June, after all.) However, the hole into which they've dug themselves is not one that will be easily erased. Such is the case when you're looking at over half of the National League above you in the standings.

--Runner-up: Chicago Cubs

Best Offseason Signing or Trade
--Winner: Bronson Arroyo

Reds general manager, Wayne Krivsky, looks like an utter genius trading Wily Mo Pena to the Red Sox for Bronson Arroyo. He has stabilized a heretofore floundering pitching staff and helped them stay in the lead in the Wild Card and only three games behind the struggling Cardinals. In 18 games this season, Arroyo is 9-5 with a 2.79 ERA and 95 strikeouts. He is also among the league leaders in nearly every conceivable pitching statistic:

4th in wins
10th in strikeouts
4th in WHIP (1.12)
2nd in IP (125.2)
3rd in ERA
6th in winning percentage (.643)
7th in BAA (.237)

Pena, despite some decent stats, is currently on the disabled list.

--Runner-up: (3-way tie) Edgar Renteria (boy, Boston sure knows how to wheel and deal, don't they?) Jim Thome, and BJ Ryan

Worst/Most Disappointing Offseason Signing or Trade
--Winner: Jeromy Burnitz

I really wanted to put the Diamondbacks' signing of Russ Ortiz here, just because it actually was THAT BAD of a signing; but since he was signed in 2005, I logistically cannot. (Hey, wait a second--he was just picked up by Baltimore, wasn't he? Hmm...) In all seriousness though, Jeromy Burnitz represents, on a small scale, exactly what Pittsburgh's season has been—a complete and utter disappointment. Nobody expected Pittsburgh to contend for the NL Central title this year, but just about everyone could agree that they would at least make some noise and maybe finish at .500 if everything went their way. Needless to say, just about everything has gone wrong for this team. As for the 37-year-old Burnitz, he has been horrible at the plate (.229/12/37) this season and has scored a meager 28 runs despite being in the clean-up spot for a good portion of the season, and now sports a dreadful .278 OBP. All of that for only $6,000,000? Fantastic. The funniest part of all? According to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Burnitz is "open to being traded to a contender". Maybe I chose the next award too prematurely...

--Runner-up: Esteban Loaiza

Best Moment of Unintentional Comedy
--Winner: Delmon Young

In a world where people overreact to damn-near everything to fit in with the crowd, I seem to be one of the few people who will come out and admit that the Delmon Young bat-flipping incident was one of the most hysterical videos I have seen in years. Firstly, it's because it was so random. Some "shocking" moments aren't funny in and of themselves unless they have the element of surprise to go along with them. When Young sauntered away from the plate, not paying any attention to the umpire that tossed him from the game, he walks off of the view of the camera. Then, out of nowhere, a baseball bat flies from off camera and plunks the umpire right in the shoulder. You couldn't see an inch of Young's body. The ump didn't even look like he was fazed; only bewildered that a bat just hit him. But the other reason the incident was so funny is because every single TV program that showed the video replayed it roughly 78,337 times on loop. Several times they even put it in slow motion! Look, if this umpire had been seriously hurt, then I could fully understand the general hatred for Delmon Young right now. But the reality is he wasn't hurt badly. If these writers and broadcasters were so up in arms about it, then why would they show it so many times in a row nonstop? It couldn't be because they, too, thought it was rather amusing, could it?

--Runner-up: Ozzie Guillen (just pick a day off the top of your head because there are simply too many from which to choose)

The "Who Are You and What Have You Done With the Real [insert name here]?" Award
--Winner: Corey Patterson

I think Chicago Cubs fans everywhere have, at some point this season, looked over Corey Patterson's numbers this year with Baltimore and asked a collective "Huh???" Last year, Corey Patterson couldn't hit a baseball if it was the size of a watermelon. This year, he has busted out of the gates for a .283/10/34 clip with 31 stolen bases. He is also striking out a great deal less (only 46 through 75 games). Is this a sign of the Corey Patterson everyone has been waiting to emerge for so long now? I'd say that's a likely possibility with his much-improved plate discipline. Meanwhile, Cubs fans can only sit back and watch as their beleaguered team fades further and further into an intense battle with Pittsburgh for fifth place.

Runner-up: Horacio Ramirez

The "Well, It Was Bound to Happen Sooner or Later" Award
--Winner: Kerry Wood

Kerry Wood could also win the award for "Most Overrated Pitcher of the Last 15 Years", but that's not one of my special awards in this piece. Wood has pitched in exactly four games this year and has been on the DL three times, ensuring us of yet more "Wood to test shoulder in Iowa" headlines every four or five days. Each and every year I wonder to myself why the media even bothers with Kerry Wood anymore. He is never going to be the elite pitcher everyone thought he would be. The guy has pitched all of two injury-free seasons for the Cubs since they brought him to the majors in 1998. And even on those rare occasions when he is healthy, he hasn't won more than 14 games in a season and walks close to 85 batters a year. I think it's high time for the Cubs to just cut their losses with Wood (and probably Mark Prior, as well), ship him (them) off to some other team that wants to deal with the headaches, get some good prospects, and start all over again. This team really has nowhere to go but up the way they've played this year, so the sooner they get started, the better off they will be.

--Runner-up: Eric Gagne

Biggest All-Star Snub
--Winner: Mike Mussina

So, let me get this straight. Mark Buehrle—who has given up 15 ER in his last two starts, who has a higher WHIP than Chan Ho Park, who has pitched only 10 quality starts out of 18 so far—is on the AL team instead of Mike Mussina? Time for a little comparison:

Wins: Mussina –10, Buehrle – 9
Losses: Mussina – 3, Buehrle - 6
Strikeouts: Mussina – 108, Buehrle – 104
ERA: Mussina – 3.24, Buehrle – 4.02
WHIP: Mussina – 1.04, Buehrle – 1.32
BAA: Mussina - .225, Buehrle - .278
Hits allowed: Mussina – 104, Buehrle - 143

Now, maybe I'm just a little nuts, but I happen to think Mussina is pretty darn deserving of that roster spot. Unfortunately, when myopic (and borderline insane) managers make the calls, sometimes the more justifiable picks get left off.

--Runner-up: (massive tie) Francisco Liriano and every Detroit starter not named "Kenny Rogers"

Most Horrendous All-Star Selection
--Winner: Mark Redman

It seems like every year, everyone and their brother complains about the "Every team must be represented rule", and yet, no one in any position of authority ever feels like doing anything about it. The fact that Mark Redman, with that lovely 6-4 record and 5.27 ERA, is the best that Kansas City could produce for this exhibition game is yet another testament to just how pathetic this rule is. Kansas City has no business sending anyone to the ASG this year unless they have a ticket to go through one of the many fine PNC Park turnstiles. When you have Francisco Liriano, Justin Verlander, Mike Mussina, and Curt Schilling (among pretty much any other non-KC starter in the AL) not on this team, and Mark Redman wasting a roster spot, something needs to be done. Redman is by far the worst All-Star selection since Mike Williams (6.29 ERA) was the lone Pittsburgh representative on the 2003 NL team. And the thing is if I were Redman right now, I would be utterly embarrassed that I was a merely a default All-Star and not a player who got there through actual accomplishments. Why is it that Major League Baseball has to hang on to archaic concepts like this ridiculous farce of forced equality? Is it too much to ask that the people who actually deserve to go to the game go?

Runner-up: Mark Buehrle

The Exercise in Futility Award
--Winner: The National League

I think it's getting to the point where each year we mindlessly wonder to ourselves, "Okay, which AL team will have home field advantage in the World Series this year?" The way the American League just absolutely brutalized the National League this year is almost stand-up comedy routine-worthy. The Junior Circuit had a .611 winning percentage in interleague play this season, which obliterated the previous record (.571) held by the Senior Circuit from the first year of interleague play. Only Colorado, San Francisco and Florida finished with .500 or better records against AL teams this year. Boston and Minnesota alone accounted for 32 wins and only 4 losses against the NL. What's especially scary is that the American League's winning percentage in interleague play has increased every year for the last four years. If it goes up again next year, then I think the National League might have to be revoked by the end of 2007.

--Runner-up: Anyone who is trying to get the idiotic home field advantage stipulation removed from the All-Star Game

= = =

I am dedicating this column to my late friend, T.J. Newton. Rest in peace, TJ. You were one of the greatest and funniest people I ever knew, and you never failed to put a smile on my face.


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