Seven years ago, when I initially formed the United Cardinal Bloggers, we tried to decide on what sort of projects we’d do. A few of those, like the Progressive Game Blog, are still going strong. However, the first thing we agreed on doing was handing out awards. We’d been doing something similar to this at CardsClubhouse for a number of years and it seemed tailor-made for this group.
So here we go for year number seven. The voters have changed. The awards have changed. But at the end of November, one thing you can count on is that we’ll be talking about the best of the best. Let’s get to it!
1) Cardinal Player of the Year–Yadier Molina
This really was a tough one to select. The other nominees were Matt Carpenter and Allen Craig, so you couldn’t go wrong either way. Molina ever-so-slightly edged them out, though, because of the work he did with handling this rookie pitching staff and getting the best out of them, while still providing a ton of offense and his normal defensive flair. The most symbolic moment of that leadership had to come when Carlos Martinez was on the mound on September 20, looking for his first save after the Cards got a lead in extra innings in Milwaukee. Martinez goes 2-0 on the first batter, forcing Molina to go out to the mound and give him the Molina treatment. A groundout-strikeout-groundout followed and the Cardinals were out of it. That moment crystallizes what Molina brought to this team.
2) Cardinal Pitcher of the Year–Adam Wainwright
Even if it was a close contest, my affection for Number 50 would probably break any ties. (Unless he went up against Number 70, of course.) That said, there really wasn’t any significant competition. There were a number of pitchers that had stellar seasons, but Wainwright was head and shoulders above them all. Save for the two clunkers against the Reds at the end of the season (and Game 1 of the World Series), Wainwright proved that he was one of the elite pitchers in the league and solidified that with his second runner-up status in the Cy Young voting.
3) Game of the Year–September 4 versus Cincinnati
This was incredibly hard to decide upon. The games listed were all worthy of selection. When Wainwright goes seven-plus hitless and it’s third on just the pitching performances of the season, you know it’s been a spectacular year. Shelby Miller‘s 27 straight was extremely impressive and we all hung on every pitch Michael Wacha threw in that no-hitter attempt.
As much as I love pitching (and I really, really love pitching), I have to go with the game against the Reds. Not only was it against a rival and in the heat of a pennant race, but it had everything. Craig going out with an injury. Extra innings. Back and forth. The bullpen holding the line. Over it all, though, stands Matt Adams and his extra-inning heroics. The first time anyone’s ever hit two home runs after the 14th inning and one of the rare times someone’s gone deep twice after nine. For an all-around game, this one take my vote.
4) Surprise Player of the Year–Matt Carpenter
Going into the spring, most of us were hoping that Carpenter wouldn’t have to be pulled in late innings. There wasn’t an expectation of outstanding play nor of any sort of offensive explosion. He was likely to give the team more than Daniel Descalso and others had at second last year, but how much more?
Instead, Carpenter rewrote the team record book, played more than adequate defense, and came in fourth in MVP voting. If you’d said half of that before the season started, MLB drug testers would have shown up at your door. Carpenter has gone from a stopgap until Kolten Wong is ready to perhaps making Wong or David Freese expendable. That’s a pretty surprising turn of events, don’t you think?
5) Disappointing Player of the Year–David Freese
Thankfully, there weren’t just a ton of players that didn’t live up to our expectations. Some folks had injury issues, which didn’t seem right to hold against them, and some like Edward Mujica had a great 5/6ths of a year and fell apart at the end. Then you had Pete Kozma, who may have raised expectations for some with his end of 2012, but most of us really weren’t surprised by the numbers (or lack thereof) he put up this season.
That leaves Mr. Freese. A 20-homer guy the year before, Freese never really got on track save for that nice hitting streak early in the season. When you are a local hero and the offseason already has talk about whether you’ll be traded, you know it’s been a rough year. It’s well possible that Freese wasn’t completely healthy this year–he did have back trouble in spring training–but without a stint on the DL or any official word, it’s tough to credit that to his problems this season.
6) Rookie of the Year–Shelby Miller
There were a lot of options to choose from here as well and if Michael Wacha had been around longer, I’d have probably gone with him. Matt Adams brought pop in his limited time and Carlos Martinez shined as well, but I’ll go with the guy that was there all year long, until he wasn’t in October. Miller probably would have won the Rookie of the Year if the voting had been done in June and even though he faded a bit down the stretch, he still put up numbers that will have every GM in baseball calling John Mozeliak to see if his lack of postseason usage will mean they can get a high talent for cheap. Spoiler alert: they can’t.
7) Acquisition of the Year–Randy Choate
Not a lot to choose from here. John Axford had a nice month and the less said about Ty Wigginton the better. Choate’s contract still seems elaborate, but after his spring struggles he got into the groove and provided pretty much what the Cardinals paid for. It’s not a bad thing that he’ll be back next year to help out from the left side.
8) Most Anticipated Cardinal–Oscar Taveras
While a lot of the Cardinal minor league talent made their debut this season, there are still some names that we’ve not seen and are excited about perhaps seeing them in 2014. Stephen Piscotty had a great season and played well in the Arizona Fall League, but he still doesn’t knock off Taveras from the “when is he coming up” excitement. It’s rare when the Cardinals develop a top hitting talent and it looks like Taveras will be that guy. Hopefully we’ll see him from Opening Day next season!
Now we turn our attention to those in the blogging game. It’s our chance to recognize those that have put in the hard work during this season trying to elevate your knowledge of the game or at least give you something to read about your favorite team. As is standard procedure at this blog, I won’t be voting for anything that I’m personally involved with, save one exception that you’ll see below.
9) Best Individual Cardinal Blog–stlcupofjoe’s Sports Page
We are blessed with a ton of great blogs in the Cardinal blogosphere and the additions seem to come in waves. This year we had a number of solid, active blogs join our ranks and we’ll get to that more in the rookie blog award. The field for this award tends to ebb and flow with the new people coming in and the veterans perhaps taking some time away. Personally, I’ve been surprised at how many of our tentpole blogs have been relatively quiet this year, but that’s a digression.
What I’m trying to say is that it was really hard to make this pick. I usually select Fungoes here and you couldn’t go wrong if you went back to that well. Pip always brings the knowledge and he often goes and proves my thinking wrong, like with the recent MVP voting. Without digging, I was a little offended Molina didn’t beat out Paul Goldschmidt–Pip argues the Arizona hitter should have won it all.
By the slimmest of margins, though, I’m going with Joe this year. He comes from a similar statistical focus as Pip does, but also adds in a little more pitching chart, including charting some games by hand. Both of them write their points incredibly well and back them up with solid data, so you flip the coin and either way would work out. This year I went with Joe. I could easily be back to Pip next year. Whichever, it’s good to have them both writing regularly for our edification.
10) Best Cardinal Team Blog–Aaron Miles’ Fastball
For a while there, it seemed like we were getting overrun with team blogs and there were very few people hanging out their individual shingle. Now, the team blogs (and the Conclave doesn’t count as one) are few in number.
That said, it really wouldn’t matter much if there were two team blogs or twenty. Christine and Tara put out unique, interesting content on a daily basis, something that’s really tough to do. I count them both as good friends and am honored to do so given the quality they write regularly.
11) Best Media Coverage–Derrick Goold
In the past, this has been “best professional blog” but the pros are so varied in their coverage. You have their regular stories on whatever site they are employed by, you have their radio and TV apperances, you have their blogs, you have their Twitter feed, you might even have them putting pictures up on Instagram or opining on Facebook pages. Blogging is nice, but it seemed time to get a feel for the entire picture.
Of course, when you open it up, you still get the same answer. Goold’s Bird Land has won this award every year we’ve had it and it seems likely he’ll continue the streak even with the broadening of the things to consider. A few years ago, I said Goold was the King of All Multi-Media and he truly has mastered just about everything social media-y. He even added regular chats on the Post-Dispatch site this year. There’s a ton of good Cardinal coverage in St. Louis, but it’s very tough to top Mr. Goold.
12) Best Rookie Cardinal Blog–Cardinals Farm
As I said above, there were a ton of great Cardinal blogs that got started this year. I’m always going to be a bit partial to The View From Here, because Ben started out as a commentor here before branching out into writing his own stuff full-time. Dan does an outstanding job covering the Cardinals as well as other topics (most notably film) over at Dose of Buffa. And I’ve already talked about Joe at stlcupofjoe’s Sports Page.
John and Cardinals Farm, though, have put together a must-visit site in less than a year. It was a gap that, in my mind, hasn’t been filled since Future Redbirds moved under the Viva El Birdos header (though, to be fair, my work firewall keeps me from reading over there much) and John’s site is a one-stop shop for minor league information. It’s incredible to believe that it’s been less than a year since he put fingers to keyboard and he deserves the hat tip.
I read all the posts that were up for this award. All of them were quality posts, taking different angles and different styles at different topics. In retrospect, it’s a little surprising more of us (myself included) didn’t submit our posts on the passing of Stan Musial. Only Diane over at Women Who Love Cardinal Baseball did that and it was a very nice tribute to The Man.
All of the posts were great from their point of view, but Christine’s resonated a bit with me. Like Dan Buffa, hers dealt with the end of the season and the heartache that comes with missing out on the ultimate goal. Both of them also found joy from the season, though, and I enjoyed Christine’s discussion of the St. Louis newspapers, reading the articles and columns from the high point of the Series in knowledge of how it ended.
2013 was a good season with a bad ending and Christine’s post does a great job of highlighting that. I don’t think anyone could go wrong with any of the choices (save maybe that jersey one, pure bunk) but that’s where my dart landed.
14) Best UCB Project–Cardinal HOF Inductees
With the coming of the Cardinal Hall of Fame inside Ballpark Village, the UCB was kind enough to give the organization a helping hand on who to put into the Hall to begin with. While there’s no indication that the Cards are going to follow those recommendations, it gave us a chance to look back on history, decide which non-retired numbers needed their time in the spotlight, and vote accordingly. I expect that this is going to become one of our regular projects and I look forward to seeing how it goes in the coming years.
15) Best UCB Podcast–UCB Radio Hour
When you look at the nominees for best podcast, it becomes difficult to select one that I’m not a part of. Conversations With C70 is all me, while Tara and I do Gateway To Baseball Heaven most every week (though not this week, nor again until December 8). UCB Radio, however, is the one that has the least of my fingerprints and, as such, is the best one out there.
It’s been a good year for the show. We’ve had a regular rotation of hosts, which means that you get different perspectives throughout the season and it allows the same topic to be tackled differently on multiple weeks. Now we have Bill Ivie and Dan Buffa doing the first week, Dathan Brooks and Chris Mallonee the second, Tara Wellman and Matt Whitener the third, and Jon Doble and Kevin Reynolds the fourth. (I fill in whenever needed.) The dual host system and regular participation by those hosts have made for a great regular broadcast and if you aren’t listening or downloading, you are missing out.
16) Best UCB Twitterer–@gr33nazn
Twitter is one of the lifebloods of this organization. Most everyone is on there and most everyone is at least semi-active. It helps to get you through the winter and there’s nothing like watching a game with your friends on there (unless it’s on Bonfyre, of course, but you knew that from the Exit Interviews).
So narrowing down who is the “best” is basically impossible. @CardinalTales is going to get a lot of support and well he should because he’s mastered the medium, especially with the Twitter Tales. He’s technically just a friend of the UCB, but @MattSebek usually has great Photoshops or cutting remarks to make on the news of the day. Even though she and I have almost nothing in common save the Cards, I tend to like what Eliza from @BlogofTheirOwn puts down on the Twitter. Just go through the UCB roster, close your eyes, stick out your finger, and you’ll find a good person to follow.
That said, I’m going with Dennis again this year because he regularly brings the heat and the funny. He’s a regular Twitterer and, while he doesn’t typically suffer fools regularly, watching him interact with them can lighten your day as well. It’s also possible that he likes bacon and tends not to wear pants when he’s working from home, but the data is a bit inconclusive.
You’ll want to check out the official site for links to all of the different ballots as well as finding out who the winners are. Winners should be announced next week, perhaps on a special UCB Radio. So stay tuned!