First, thanks as always to Daniel over at C70 for setting this up, be sure to check in with his Awards post for links to the other tallies.
Without further ado, my ballot for this year’s Cardinals Blogger Awards:
1) Player of the Year
Sure, I could make arguments for Ryan Ludwick’s breakout season being far more valuable to the Cardinals in terms of needing that hitter behind Pujols to make the lineup go. I could make an argument that the Cards will get a *massive* return on their investment long-term in Yadier Molina if he can put together a 2007 defensive season with his outstanding offensive 2008. But that wouldn’t most directly answer the question. The answer is Albert Pujols. How could a guy win so many NL PoY contests, including MVP, and not be the PoY on his own team?
2) Pitcher of the Year
This is one of those questions that depends on how you evaluate unequal bodies of work. Adam Wainwright certainly had the edge in terms of what he was able to accomplish over 20 starts, but Kyle Lohse was there for the long-haul. 33 starts for Lohse, at a performance level he’d not proven capable of before. Here’s hoping that he can carry some of that newfound brilliance into 2009.
Since we weren’t given parameters that said ‘no write-ins,’ I’m going to take liberty on this one. I’m going with August 9 vs. Chicago. Why you ask? At a time when the Cardinals were only six games back of the Cubs in the division, and one game back of the Brewers for the NL Wild Card, the Cards traveled into Wrigley Field on a Game of the Week stage on a Saturday afternoon. Carlos Zambrano was on the mound for the Cubs, presenting another challenge for the Redbirds. That in itself would generally be enough to provide a good stage. I also happened to be with about four or five of my ‘Chicago buddies’ (read: Cubs fans) at the Cubby Bear across the street from Wrigley. Walking in, I was surprised how much red was being worn in the place (likely Cards fans that had traveled north and were unable to get a ticket). Unbeknownst to me, this was to be a different sort of day in Cub-ville. Skip Schumaker led off the game with a double, but that certainly wouldn’t have been my guess as I was fumbling for cash at the bar and not paying attention to the game. I heard a huge roar go up within the bar, and looked up expecting to see the Cubs already on top by a couple runs. Au contraire. The roar was for Schumaker’s double. The rest of the game would go the same way, lots of cheering and bluster from Cardinal fans right across the street from the shrine of the enemy. Loved it.
4) Surprise Player of the Year
Let’s get the two I didn’t choose out of the way first. Skip Schumaker had a great season, but there were those who thought he had that ability all along, just needed a full season of at-bats. Schumaker will never win an MVP, he may never be an All-Star. But he’s bound to continue to be a solid player. Kyle Lohse had not put up such a successful season prior to 2008, but there are those who have always said he had ‘the stuff’ to do it. He’s had a solid arm, and has been able to stay healthy, etc. But I’m choosing Ryan Ludwick almost solely on one reason. For the first month and a half of 2008, this is a guy who was still losing at-bats to Chris Duncan! In the shape that Dunc was in, and the struggles he had at the plate, I think it was pretty clear no one expected Luddy to break out in such fashion. In fact, take away a sub-par June, and Ryan Howard may have been your NL MVP after all, because Ludwick would’ve been sure to steal votes from El Hombre.
5) Disappointing Player of the Year
Don’t feel right at all pinning this one on Chris Duncan. I think it was pretty clear to most from the beginning of the season that he just wasn’t right, between trying to come back from the hernia surgery and then the neck thing compounding on top of that. Instead, I’ll put this on the two guys at the back of the bullpen that brought down the 2008 Cardinals. Enough said, unless you want to throw Tony LaRussa under the bus too for continuing to trot these two out in the ninth inning with a one-run lead for what seemed like an eternity too long.
6) Cardinal Rookie of the Year
Making the assumption that Chris Perez may still be available for this award next season, and again taking into consideration a ‘full’ body of work – I can’t choose anyone but Kyle McClellan here. McClellan was *the* stabilizing figure in the Cardinal bullpen while those around him faltered on a regular basis. He wore down over the course of the season, presumably from overwork, but still managed to hang up some nice numbers for a guy who had not been expected to make the team. Joe Mather’s day may yet come, but it wasn’t this season, as he bounced back and forth between the big club and Memphis, and ultimately had his season cut short by injury.
7) New Cardinal of the Year
Easy choice. John Mozeliak trades a guy who has basically given up on his manager, is sulking around the clubhouse, and as we would find out later, logged another injury-riddled season in 2009 – for Troy Glaus. What’s the downside here? All Glaus did was provide Gold Glove-caliber defense at the hot corner (how much would you bet Glaus will never sign with a turf-based team again?), and .270/27/99? Kyle Lohse had a great season, as did Cesar Izturis in his own right (defense and at least career average offense). But the addition of Glaus coupled with the subtraction it allowed by trading Scott Rolen for him straight up? Priceless.
8) Most Anticipated Cardinal
I’m going to take a different tack here than most. Sure, I’m just as anxious as the next guy to see Rasmus suit up for the big club, but Todd really intrigues me. He has just blown through the minor league levels he’s been at to date with alarming success. He shows very few signs of fatigue and/or injury risk so far. Some of you will know that I’m a big proponent of the Cardinals using a team-building approach of developing young, cheap pitching talent from within – spending the big free agency dollars, when necessary, on position players, where there is less risk of complete breakdown (read: Mark Mulder). Todd represents what could be the first real ‘ace’ to be home-grown by the Cards since who, Matt Morris? (I’m not counting Wainwright (acquired in trade) or Haren (shipped out in a trade).)
9) Best Individual Blog
I’ve gotta go with Fungoes here. Pip routinely has all of the numbers and in-depth analysis that I sometimes wish I could do. I often find myself watching games, thinking “from what I’ve seen, I bet so-and-so is really having struggles with 0-2 counts when facing a left-handed hitter,” only to find that Pip had written about just such a player and his struggles the night before (only my example is poor, his analysis is far beyond what I can usually dream up).
10) Best Team Blog
Real toss-up here between Viva El Birdos and Future Redbirds. Luckily for me, they cover somewhat different topics, so I’ll give it to them both! VEB consistently has the excellent game posts (with colorful commenters in there to boot!), the analysis, the predictive posts, going out on a limb to see what might be around the corner for the Cardinals’ big club. FR shows us what is around the corner at the minor league levels, and the guys we can expect to see (hopefully anyway) in the coming seasons. Kudos to both sites on a job well done.
This is (generally speaking, the blog thing is a different color I reckon) what these guys do for a living, so asking to choose the ‘best’ of the three is like choosing which child to give up. Difficult. I’ll give Derrick Goold the nod for his ‘insider’ posts, taking his readers into Spring Training as if we were there, going the extra step to dive into the minor leagues, etc. All three of these are really excellent supplemental reads to the primary work of their authors.
I wasn’t a part of the Progressive Game Blog, unfortunately – but did take part in the other two choices. The Roundtables, for me, just brought out such a wide array of knowledge from this great group we have not only in the questions asked, but some of the responses. The Roundtables are a very interesting format, allowing everyone to chime in their two cents in a short quip, rather than a full blog post. I think it’d be neat to try and take on a project like this where one question was open to the floor for a week or so, taking on a life of its own in that week, and see what the results would be (hint hint, Daniel).
13) Most Optimistic Blog
I’m going to give you the cop-out answer, and say that we are all Most Optimistic. Every day I read posts that surely started out something along the lines of “I give up, these guys suck, I’m not watching anymore” and almost always wind up “They’re really frustrating me right now, but if x, y, and z can all happen – we still got a shot!” C’mon, admit it – we all want to look on the bright side until the Cards are mathematically eliminated.
14) Funniest Blog
My entry here was pretty lame, but I got a chuckle out of it, so I don’t care what you think! That said, I’m voting for Pip’s WPA analyses and play tracking posts. See above for the reasons why I think Fungoes is the bees knees right now.
Chet over at 4thebirds is a relentless writer and researcher. The guy puts up more posts, on more topics during a day than I have time to keep up with. Today for instance, has information on a catcher signed by the Springfield Cardinals that I defy you to tell me you knew the guy’s name. Chet clearly takes his Cardinal baseball seriously and forces everyone else to do the same by providing us with his writing. I’ve only recently been made aware of Busch Birds but I definitely like what I see from Brett. Catchy site design, better writing. I’d be remiss if I didn’t make a shout-out to one of my favorite readers here, Sarah over at la Beisbolista. I caught onto Sarah’s blog after she appeared here one day in the comments section and I have to say I was blown away by her approach to the Cards and excellent writing style. And if she hasn’t told you before, she’s a girl! A girl that knows and loves baseball! What’s not to like about that?
As always, I have had a wonderful time taking part in this UCB project – I hope you take the time to read my long-winded jabbering here, and then pop over to the other sites to see what they’re saying as well.