And The Award Goes To…

Ah, awards season. The time of year where the best of the best gather, celebrate their nominations, anxiously await the announcements, only to stumble up the stairs in their black-tie attire, and bumble their way through an acceptance speech written on a now-wrinkled and barely legible napkin note.

Wait … we don’t get an awards show? But, doesn’t everything have an awards show these days? Huh. Fine. But, Shoptaw, we need to talk about this going forward.

Just use your imagination, as I present my nominations for the 2014 Cardinal Blogger Awards.

TEAM AWARDSAward 1

1) Player of the Year
Nominees: Matt Carpenter, Matt Holliday, Jhonny Peralta

I would like to give Matt Carpenter an award every time it’s even a possibility. But, I can’t quite justify it here.

Despite a painfully slow start (though, to be fair, that could be said of any Cardinal this year), Jhonny Peralta did things we haven’t seen from a Cardinal short stop in ages. He led the team in doubles and home runs, and was significantly more solid defensively than it felt at times.

But, Matt Holliday.

I know he has his moments defensively. But, the guy is a beast. With 20 home runs and 37 doubles, he was second by one to Peralta in both categories, and his 132 wRC+ tops Peralta by 12. He hit .361 with runners in scoring position, and a “high leverage” situational average of .365 proves his Clutch Meter is still plenty high.

In the words of T-Swift (I can’t believe I just said that…), “Haters gonna hate, hate, hate, hate, hate.” But, Matty-Ho keeps proving himself most valuable.

2) Pitcher of the Year
Nominees: Lance Lynn, Pat Neshek, Adam Wainwright

Adam Wainwright’s my guy. Ask me who my favorite current Cardinal is, and I’ll say Waino without even thinking about it. This award, however, isn’t “Tara’s Favorite Player.” It’s the pitcher of the year. As much as Wainwright is the ace of the staff and had a first half that was more than Cy Young worthy, the Cardinals would have been dead in the water without Lance Lynn.

Now, now. Pick your jaws up off the floor. Despite my “reputation” for being critical of Lynn, he stepped up in every way I could have (…and did) ask. Sure, we discovered the reality of the “Lynning.” But then, he fixed it. Yes, I thought I’d finally had it with his excuses. But then, he stopped making them. He learned how to get out of trouble, and he started pitching like the stud we all believed he could be. His complete-game shutout was one of the highlights of the year for me (no lie!).

At the beginning of the year, if you’d have told me Wainwright would struggle to survive the second half, I would have told you there was no way the Birds could mount a second-half comeback. Lance Lynn proved otherwise.

3) Game of the Year
Nominees: May 20, May 31, NLDS Game 1, NLDS Game 4, NLCS Game 2

Okay, now for the Waino love. (You knew it was coming, right?)

Each game on this list was special. Each one deserves to be watched again and again. But seeing Adam Wainwright toss his first one-hit shutout? That was fun. Just reading the game recap has me jittery with excitement all over again!

That night, the closer was unavailable. There was no real backup plan. Waino threw 105 pitches through the first 8 innings. He twisted Mike Matheny’s arm for just 12 more pitches to try to finish it off, and he didn’t even need that many.

The rest of the year might not have followed suit in many ways, but seeing Wainwright at his best will always be one of the best things in baseball. Period.

4) Surprise Player of the Year
Nominees: Jon Jay, Lance Lynn, Pat Neshek

No one saw Pat Neshek coming. Not even Pat Neshek, I’d say. He went to spring training thinking he was applying for a job that didn’t have any openings. And yet, steadily he rolled along, impressing one important person after the next. Soon enough, he was on another Big League roster. And before long, he was the glue that held a sometimes fragile bullpen together.

The All-Star appearance in his hometown is one of the lasting memories of this season. He earned every bit of the praise, and then some.

Posting a sub-two ERA (and a 2.37 FIP) on the year, he became the stability the Cardinals needed. With one 18-game scoreless streak, and another 22-game streak, he was as shutdown as they come. His “funky delivery” and his rediscovered velocity made him one of the best in baseball.

Yeah. No one saw that coming.

5) Disappointing Player of the Year
Nominees: Peter Bourjos, Justin Masterson, Kevin Siegrist

To be disappointed in a particular player or outcome, there have to be expectations. I can’t even pretend I expected much of Masterson, so that narrows the field to two.

I was easily most disappointed for Bourjos. Now, I’m not on the Bourjos For President bandwagon, but I do think he was the unfortunate recipient of this year’s short straw. In an already-crowded outfield, on a team that was sapped of production most of the year, a defensive specialist didn’t quite fit the need at the moment. But that wasn’t so much his fault.

Siegrist, too, was at the mercy of some unforeseen circumstances. Injuries make for a disappointing season for anyone, but after last year’s dominance, the hopes for Siegrist were quite high. Even when healthy, he didn’t quite have the magic that he did a season ago, which became evident when the pieces to replace him in the bullpen didn’t quite match up to those great expectations. For that reason, he’s the biggest disappointment this season.

6) Cardinal Rookie of the Year
Nominees: Marco Gonzales, Randal Grichuk, Oscar Taveras, Kolten Wong

Gonzales was impressive, especially in his second trip to the Big Leages. He had to be, though, to earn a postseason roster spot. The kid looked good, and he earned much respect for his quick learning and developing in a relatively short amount of time.

That said, how can you argue against the guy who finished as a top three Rookie of the Year candidate in all of baseball?

7) Acquisition of the Year
Nominees: John Lackey, Pat Neshek, Jhonny Peralta

A high quality starter for the postseason and for basically pennies the next season? It’s like Mo’s done this before. (Though, the guy who could have been MVP is probably just as deserving. What can I say? I’m all about sharing the love.)

8) Most Anticipated Cardinal
Nominees: Rob Kaminsky, Stephen Piscotty, Luke Weaver

Until the acquisition of Jason Heyward, I’d have had to say Stephen Piscotty. And to some degree, that’s still true, but without a glaring hole in right field, it’s certainly less imminent. I love good pitching prospects as much as anyone, but since Shoptaw bent the rules in this category, I’m going to follow his lead.

Ty Kelly gets my vote, if for no other reason than he’s as interesting a person as a player. Plus, Twitter Game is the equivalent of style points, and, well, he’s got game.

9) Cardinal Moment of the Year
Nominees: Taveras’s first home run as the rains came, “The Big City Leap” in Game 4 of the NLDS, Wong’s walkoff in Game 2 of the NLCS

Perhaps this vote is based on viewing the moment in retrospect, but I’ll never forget jumping off my couch in celebration of Oscar’s rain-bringing home run. That moment now seems even more poignant, because it was a sign of all the greatness yet to come. In my mind, that will forever be how the young superstar will be remembered: full of the kind of promise that ignites a team, as well as its fan base.

BLOG AWARDS

10) Individual Cardinal Blog of the Year

I won’t lie, I may be a touch biased purely because of exposure, since we both write under the Cards Conclave umbrella, but I’m going to steal one of the Rookie nominees for this award.

Cole over at High Sock Sunday is a little like an uber-talented freshman at the end of their first season, or like Kolten Wong after his first full year in the Bigs — he technically still has rookie status, but he’s not playing like one anymore. Cole brings his journalistic training directly to the blogging world by tracking down high-profile interviews to provide substance as well as quantity. There’s always a good blend of personal and opinion pieces, as well as the timely news coverage that we’re all looking for.

Plus, we shared mutual separation anxiety earlier this year over the Craig/Kelly departure, so there’s that.

I see a lot of Cole’s work because I’m at the Conclave often. But, even if I wasn’t, his stuff would top my reading list.

11) Team Cardinal Blog of the Year

No surprise, but I have to give the trophy (wait, no trophies either? Come on!) to Viva El Birdos. Those guys have it down to a science. There’s constantly new information of any and every type. They’ve cornered the market on this kind of blog.

**Honorable Mention to Cardinals Farm. I have a massive respect for their coverage of the Minor League system. I love MiLB ball, and they are a great source for anything and everything you need to know about the Baby Birds.

12) Best Media Coverage
Nominees: Derrick Goold, Jenifer Langosch, Stan McNeal, Bernie Miklasz

Derrick Goold is the MAN in this category. But, for a change of pace, I’m going to give Miklasz the nod this time around. Really, though, the entire St. Louis PD staff should get credit. Cardinals fans are so spoiled when it comes to coverage of our team!

13) Best Rookie Cardinal Blog
Nominees: Baseball Geek in Galveston, Bird Tales, Cajun Cardinal, Gateway Sports Connection, High Sock Sunday, Red Cleat Diaries

Venturing into the world of a solo blog can be daunting. Real life has a way of limiting the content creation at times, but I’m a firm believer in quality over quantity, anyway. AJ at Gateway Sports Connection is always good for a well-thought-out post or two when there’s news to discuss. Plus, anyone brave enough to take on the value (yes, value) of Jon Jay earns a solid pat on the back from me!

14) Post of the Year
Nominees: The Dawn of the Stephen Piscotty Era in Right Field (Daniel Solzman), Doctor’s Prescription: A Daily Dose of Baseball (Doug Vollet), The End of a Love and a Season (Marilyn Green), The Lynning: Fact or Fiction (Daniel Shoptaw), The Outfield Chronicles: A Conversation (Christine Coleman), Thinking of Playoff Baseball (Dan Buffa)

My podcasting partner in crime knows all too well my roller coaster relationship (that is now mostly sunshine and roses!) with Lance Lynn. So, it’s with greatest admiration that he earns my vote for a research-rich project on the reality of the “Lynning.” Also, I’m going to go ahead and credit Daniel with the Lynn turnaround. Obviously, someone — be it Lance himself, Matheny, or John Mozeliak (who, clearly, takes his lead from us) — read the post, discovered the problem, and solved the riddle. Kudos, Blogfather.

15) Best UCB Project
Nominees: Bloggers As Players, Cardinal Hall of Fame Voting, Mailbag, Roundtables

The good old standbys are always fun, but the Bloggers as Players project was different, and led to some interesting conversations. Plus, it gave us all a moment to live out the dream of being on a lineup card … of sorts!

16) Best UCB Podcast
Nominees: Conversations With C70, Gateway to Baseball Heaven, UCB Radio

I enjoy every minute of my participation with both Gateway to Baseball Heaven and UCB Radio. So, many thanks to everyone involved with those podcasts! You all are worthy of this vote, but you’re unfortunately on the show with me. So I’m not going to vote for them. But it’s okay, because Conversations with C70 is also worthy. It may not be weekly like the others, but it’s always enjoyable, both in content and in guest selection!

17) Best Non-UCB Podcast
Nominees: Best Podcast in Baseball, St. Louis Cardinals Extras (MLB.com), Viva El Birdos

Best Podcast in Baseball is a great listen, every time. I’m looking forward to listening more to what the gang at Viva El Birdos has to offer in the podcast department, too, though.

18) Best Twitterer

Another biased selection here, but it’s all Matt Whitener (@CheapSeatFan) here. My UCB Radio partner in crime is always good for some reason and logic … and you all know how rare and refreshing that is in a Twitter timeline!

 

Now, for the real issue: is it spring yet?

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