Last day of the season (for teams that aren’t good enough to be in the playoffs). Time to hand out some awards for accomplishment or lack thereof to deserving Cubs players.
Ryne Sandberg MVP Award: Derrek Lee. Easy call here. He leads the team in batting average, homers, RBI, runs and all those dopey made-up Bill James stats. Sadly, his career year was wasted on a club that was out of the hunt by the beginning of September.
Runner-Up: Ryan Theriot. The Riot ended up only hitting .286 with a .345 on-base, but he was arguably the Cubs’ steadiest bat from the start of the season till nearly the end (Lee didn’t really get it cranked up until close to the All-Star break). In a year filled with disappointment, Theriot gave us few reasons to be mad at him.
Chico Walker Super-Sub: Jake Fox. He played multiple positions, even catcher, making him a sort of poor man’s Mark DeRosa. His stats projected out over a full season are around 20 dings and 80 ribs, quite DeRosa-like. Unfortunately, he still feels like a guy who needs to move to the AL and DH for someone.
Runner-Up: Jeff Baker. Some scoffed when the Cubs traded for this guy, but he ended up swinging a pretty good stick. He’s still not the answer at second.
Greg Maddux Award for Pitching Excellence: A tight race between Randy Wells and Ted Lilly. They have the same number of wins, 12, in the same number of starts, 27. ERAs are basically identical. Lilly has pitched a few more innings and has more strikeouts. A tough call, but in the end I give the award to…
Because Dempster, if he goes 5 in his last start of the year on Sunday, will be the only Cub with 200 innings. That’s reliability homes. And if he gets the win he’ll be tied with Wells and Lilly at 12 victories. His ERA is about half-a-run higher than those other guys, but that’s a quibble.
Runners-Up: (tie) Wells and Lilly.
Lee Smith Award for Relief Pitching Excellence: Carlos Marmol. Despite a frightening walks-to-innings ratio, Marmol ended up being a pretty solid bullpen man, especially after Lou finally relented and let him be the closer. He finished up with 15 saves in a team-high 79 appearances, with a decent 3.41 ERA. I’m fairly confident that the closer issue has been resolved for the next few years.
Runner-up: Angel Guzman
Jerome Walton Memorial Rookie of the Year Award: Randy Wells. Another easy call. Guy isn’t even on the radar screen when the season starts and by the end he’s neck-and-neck with Lilly and Dempster for best starter. His fantastic debut campaign takes some of the pressure off Jim Hendry going into the off-season.
Please don’t trade him Jim. Unless you can get Roy Halladay.
Runner-Up: Jake Fox. Cause creaming over Sam Fuld has evidently gone out of fashion.
Neifi Perez Least Valuable Player Award: This seems like a tough call, considering all the Cubs who had bad seasons, but it’s really not. It’s Milton Bradley in a landslide. He contributed almost nothing on the field, but made up for it by being a disruption in the clubhouse, getting in screaming matches with Lou and forcing Hendry to suspend him. And he threw that ball into the outfield with 2 outs. And he blamed his bad hitting on the umps having a bias against him. And he took himself out of a game just because he didn’t feel like playing anymore.
Bradley was so bad that, henceforth, Neifi Perez’s name shall be taken off this award and replaced with Bradley’s. Matter of fact, it’s an insult to Neifi to even mention him in the same breath with Bradley.
Most Hated 2009 Cub Not Named Milton Bradley: Aaron Miles. A tough call between him and Kevin Gregg. I give it to Miles only because he seems to make it into more Twitter punchlines. “Chicago lost the Olympics. I blame Aaron Miles.” Stuff like that.
Most Disappointing Cub: Now wait a second, what’s the difference between this and Least Valuable Player? Well, it’s possible to be worthless and still not disappointing, if no one expected much of you in the first place. I may have expected something out of Milton Bradley early on – certainly more than we ended up getting – but it became obvious pretty fast that he was not going to deliver. For someone to be truly disappointing, one must think highly enough of them to hold out hope until the bitter end. And by that measure, Alfonso Soriano‘s season was a much greater disappointment than Bradley’s.
As a matter of fact, I think it’s fair to hang a large chunk of the blame for 2009 on Soriano’s shoulders. If he’d hit around 35 homers and driven in something like 90, batting down in the 6 hole where he belonged from the start, would the Cubs have caught the Cardinals or at least gotten the Wild Card? Maybe not. But they would’ve been a whole hell of a lot closer.
Of course you can say the same thing about Geovany Soto and Aramis Ramirez. You can play the “what if” game with Carlos Zambrano and Rich Harden and bunch of other guys. But, had Soriano come through with a big season, it would’ve covered for a lot of that other stuff. It certainly would’ve made it easier to weather that long period without Rammy.
Soriano was brought in to provide superstar performance and he hasn’t delivered. Simple as that.
Craziest Moment of the Year: Oh there were so many. Most involving Milton Bradley. But the craziest still had to be Carlos going all Sopranos on that Gatorade dispenser. Yeah, the dispenser is fine now physically, but that poor bastard is going to be in therapy for years.
Most Awesome Individual Performance: Derrek Lee hitting those two homers in New York right after his kid was born was nice, but for best performance of the year I’m taking Ted Lilly’s start against the Cardinals on July 11th. Lilly was awesome that day, giving up 4 hits and 1 run in 8 innings, and leading the Cubs to a 5-2 victory. The win got the Cubs back to .500 and helped pump up our enthusiasm heading into the break. It was also Lilly’s 100th career win.
Most Awesome Team Performance: Easy call: September 8 vs. the Pirates. The Cubs tie a major league record with 8 straight hits to open a game. Runner-Up: August 14th, also against the Pirates, Cubs put up 17 runs.
Dumbest Injury: It’s sad when you have so many obvious ones to choose from. Carlos Zambrano hurting himself swinging too hard in batting practice. Angel Guzman hurting Derrek Lee during a celebration…
Oh, but the others pale in comparison to Ryan Dempster tripping over the railing while bursting onto the field after a win and peeling back his toenail. That was idiotic.
Fan Madness Moment: Let us not forget the fellow dumping beer on Shane Victorino‘s head. If I remembered his name I would mention it.
The Moment You Knew It Just Wasn’t Going to Happen: Some may have held out hope longer, but for me it more-or-less died after that atrocious series in Colorado in early August. The Cubs dropped 3-of-4 to the Rockies, the final two by identical 11-5 scores. They followed that up with a 3 game sweep at the hands of the Phillies. They ended up going 11-17 in August and…that was all she wrote, folks.
Bonehead Move of the Year: Jim Hendry signing Milton Bradley to a 3-year contract. That’s bonehead move of the decade.
Defensive Highlight: I still can’t find video of it – Andres Blanco‘s insane play in New York, throwing out Jeff Francoeur while rolling across the ground. Runner-Up: Sam Fuld going face-first into the outfield wall.
Defensive Lowlight: Tie – Every time Alfonso Soriano does that stupid hop before catching an easy fly. As if there’s any such thing as an “easy fly” for Soriano.
Guy I Haven’t Mentioned Yet in This Piece Who I Will Now Mention Because I Feel I Need to Mention Him at Least Once: Kosuke Fukudome. He has basically become an afterthought. I don’t care if they keep him or get rid of him. He’s an overpaid fourth outfielder at this point.
One Last Shot at Milton Bradley: You dumped on the organization. You dumped on the fans. You dumped on the umpires. You dumped on your teammates by quitting on them. You are a worthless piece of garbage. Now get out.