September 26, 2012
The Lineup Card
Nine Awards that Should Be Given Out
1. Mike Hargrove Award for the Greatest Amount of Time Spent Between Pitches
2. The Killer Inside Me Award for Belated Return to the Major Leagues
You may have other candidates in mind for the K. I. M. Award—and feel free to stump for them in the comments—but this year it goes to none of the above 2007 vintage bottlings. The hardware belongs to the Tampa Bay Rays’ Rich Thompson, who last appeared in the majors with Kansas City way back in 2004 before his 2012 return to The Show. Thompson gets the nod not only because he outdoes his competitors by three years, but also because his reemergence this season also netted him his first major-league hit. In 2004, he got into six games for the Royals, mostly as a pinch-runner; but in his only plate appearance he grounded into a double play. There’s an extra soupçon of irony there, because Thompson is among the fastest runners in baseball, with 464 career stolen bases in the minors.
Cut to 2012. The Rays lost Sam Fuld early in the year to injury and traded for another speedster after deeming the one they had in Triple-A, Kyle Hudson, unfit to continue the Legend of Sam Fuld (this is sort of like applying to be the next Dread Pirate Roberts and being turned down). Thompson had been a starting outfielder for the Phillies’ Triple-A affiliate for the past four seasons (!) before the Rays acquired him in exchange for Hudson. Tampa Bay immediately added Thompson to the big-league roster, and in his first-ever start in the majors, in his second at-bat, he hit an RBI single.
For what it’s worth, the Rays have another bench player laying the groundwork for a similar, two-presidential-terms feat. Stephen Vogt, seeing the first major-league action of his career this season at age 27, has made 23 plate appearances as a Ray without notching a base hit. He’d have to finish the year hitless, then turn 35 before matching Thompson’s finally-got-a-knock eight-year record, but better late than never, right? That is, after all, the spirit in which the Killer Inside Me Award is given.—Adam Sobsey
3. Jeff Ballard Award for Most Effective Pitcher Who Can't Strike Batters Out
As with any good award, The Ballard is not determined by simply plugging numbers into a formula. There is the matter of interpretation. Do we place more weight on “most effective” or on “can't strike out batters”? Voters historically have fallen into two camps—the Effectivists and the Punchlessies—sometimes with hostility.
While Alvarez better captures the essence of Ballard's punchlessness, he has not been nearly as effective as Diamond. Falling into the Effectivist camp myself, I must vote for Diamond.
Some may advocate Twins right-hander Alex Burnett, who has put up nice numbers out of the bullpen despite fanning fewer than 4 batters per 9 innings. Relievers technically are eligible, although it would take an especially impressive performance to get me to swing that way.
Rick Camp over Larry Gura in 1980? Maybe. Dan Quisenberry over Rick Honeycutt or Scott McGregor in 1983? I could see it. Shigetoshi Hasegawa over Brian Anderson in 2003? Yeah, I'd have to go with Hasegawa.
But to be clear, Burnett is no Hasegawa. So I'm sticking with Diamond. Well done, lad, and be mindful of the cliffs. —Geoff Young
4. Rollie Fingers Award for Best Facial Hair
Nominees were gathered through an extremely scientific process, whereby I asked my Twitter followers for suggestions. Without further adieu...
Clearly the headshots we have of Delmon Young and Brendan Ryan don't do their mustaches justice. Go ahead and search for some recent images and bask in the glory of their decisions to stop shaving. I'll wait here for you.
OK, everyone back? Great.
Deciding between such excellent contenders was tough work. The judges (my 3-year-old twins and I) agonized over the decision, but at long last, we unanimously decided on Jayson Werth. Well, I decided. They wandered off to watch "Pound Puppies."
So congratulations, Jayson Werth. In addition to your millions of dollars and a trip to the playoffs this year, you can proudly say you've been honored for the best facial hair in baseball in 2012. Now go cut your hair, you damn hippie! —Dan Turkenkopf
5. Torii Hunter Award for Unnecessary Jumps at the Wall to Rob Home Run Balls
Instead, the 2012 king of unnecessary wall grabs is Baltimore's Adam Jones. He's a good defensive center fielder and is often quite fun to watch, but every now and then he gets a little too wild at the wall. When Josh Hamilton had his four home-run game in Baltimore, for example, Jones made two different over-enthusiastic wall jumps in hopes of robbing a home run. He even almost injured himself on one.
It's a lesson that might need to be re-learned every now and then: Sometimes you just have to acknowledge that the batter beat you. —Larry Granillo
6. Ben Sheets Award for Best Pitchers with Losing Records
So that means Cliff Lee won't get much consideration. On Sunday, he struck out 11, walked nobody, allowed one earned run but dropped to 6-8 on the year. He leads the NL in strikeout-to-walk ratio. He hasn't walked more than one batter in a game since June, and his WARP this year is tied for second in the National League. He's the National League's Nolan Ryan Award winner.
We're calling it the Nolan Ryan Award in honor of Ryan's 1987 season, in which he won the ERA crown but finished 8-16. We could just as easily call it the Ben Sheets Award, as Sheets in 2004 had the highest ERA+ for a losing pitcher in the post-WWII era. Sheets' season was actually considerably better than Ryan's was, as Sheets struck out 264 batters and walked just 32 in 237 innings. And Sheets' season was actually more badly overlooked than Ryan's, as Ryan finished fifth in Cy Young voting, which is about where he should have finished. But in a few years, nobody will remember who Ben Sheets was. Which, actually, is a shame. People should know who Ben Sheets was! So upon further reflection we're going to name this the Ben Sheets Award after all. Cliff Lee and Jake Peavy, who I didn't talk about but who is also having a fine losing season, are your 2012 Ben Sheets Award winners. —Sam Miller
7. The Mark Fidrych Award for the Greatest Attendance-Boosting Pitcher
However, on a single-season basis, no one has ever done what Mark “The Bird” Fidrych did in his rookie campaign. According to my estimations, roughly 200,000 extra seats were filled in his 29 starts of 1976, only because he was standing on the mound (or kneeling over it). Thus, I propose The Bird Award for the greatest attendance boosting pitcher. Unfortunately I don’t have a nominee for the 2012 recipient, because:
I’ll be back on this during the offseason!
A note for the aspiring candidates: If you want to bring home the Fidrych Award, you have to win a lot of games. If you want to stand head and shoulders over the competition, you also need to perform some kind of odd stuff (talking to the ball doesn’t hurt). —Max Marchi
8. Nomar Garciaparra Award for Most Annoying Between-Pitch Routine
I didn't have anything against Garciaparra as a player, but the routine always drove me nuts, particularly when a slow pitcher was on the mound. The ability to drive a person insane, regardless of the length of a ritual, is a true gift worthy of recognition. That's why, by my completely unscientific poll of myself, I am awarding David Ortiz with the most annoying between-pitch routine. Ortiz doesn't spend nearly as much time adjusting his gloves as his former teammate; instead, he steps out of the box, spits into each hand, then claps before stepping back in. I can't help but cringe each time Ortiz comes to the dish due to his unhygienic routine, which has been called out by health officials, and it launches him to the top of the competition of the non-Hargrove between-pitch annoyances. —Stephani Bee
9. Ryan Theriot Award for TOOTBLAN