Back in 2007, the first thing the United Cardinal Bloggers did as a group was the Cardinal Blogger Awards. I’ve talked recently about how the group has shifted and changed, but there are certain tent poles to our year and the CBAs are one of them. While we’ve added a fan portion to the awards, allowing the fans to combine for one ballot to be counted with the rest of the bloggers, there’s still a responsibility for the UCB members to go through the ballot and post our selections. So let’s have at it!
I said it in their Exit Interviews, but if you gave a first half MVP, it probably goes to Peralta and if you gave a second half version, it probably goes to Piscotty. Overall, even with his extended slump, Carpenter was the best player overall in the offense. 28 home runs is hard to ignore, especially with an offense as starved as this one. I don’t think Carpenter was necessarily the all-around force that he’s been in the past, but he was good enough to get the nod here.
When you have a historic pitching staff, it becomes tough to nail down just one to be the best pitcher of the year. Garcia’s year ended on a sour note and he had that groin injury mixed in there, but overall he was outstanding. Lackey was strong enough that people are now wanting to give the 37-year-old a long term deal to stick around. Rosie put up a few more saves, but he did so in such a less stressful way that he deserves some credit for making it easier to watch games in 2015.
However, Martinez shone all the way through and his loss right before the end of the season (which we’ll talk about later on) probably was the difference in making a fifth straight NLDS or going home after a loss to the Cubs. Not only did Martinez put any doubts to rest about whether he could go deep enough into games to make it worth him being in the rotation, he did it while shouldering the burden of losing his best friend. He kept his playfulness as well, stacking cups and getting water/throwing water on Carpenter. Martinez easily could be a face of this team in another year or two and it would make people rethink what they “know” about the Cardinals.
3) Game of the Year
Nominees: May 31 vs. LAD, July 8 vs. CHC, Aug. 31 vs. WAS, Sept. 9 vs. CHC, Sept. 20 vs. CHC, Sept. 28 vs. PIT
My vote: September 28 vs. Pittsburgh
Each of the games above have something to recommend them for this award. The first game was Oscar Taveras Day at Busch Stadium, which wound up to have Martinez pitching it. With all those emotions (Martinez admitted to not being sure he could do it while warming up), Tsunami pitched a gem. July 8 was the Peralta home run that brought the Cards from the brink of losing three of four in Wrigley Field to an (almost) walk-off winner. August 31 was when the Cards scored five runs in one inning to rally against the Nationals.
The games in September against key rivals are always going to be memorable and this year was no exception. September 9 was the game where the Cards got three in the eighth, capped by a Piscotty double and a rare show of emotion from the rookie. September 20 was the Heyward throw game, nailing Anthony Rizzo at the plate to keep the Cards in the lead. Any of these would be worthy selections.
I went with the last game, though, in part because of how good a game it was, in part because of the stakes involved. The Cardinals went into that series knowing that a sweep would have them leaving Pittsburgh tied with just three games left. Lance Lynn wasn’t sharp (eight runners in five innings, which we now know probably was elbow-related) but was able to get the big outs when necessary. For instance, he loaded the bases with one out in the second, but Jason Heyward threw out Starling Marte at home for the final out of the inning. Lynn did the same thing in the third before getting a strikeout and a groundout. Pittsburgh loaded the bases again in the sixth inning, but Seth Maness came in and got the final out. They loaded them yet again in the eighth against Kevin Siegrist, but he got Pedro Alvarez to end the threat. Time after time, Pittsburgh stood at the door and time after time the Cardinals pushed them back.
Finally Jon Jay singled in Matt Carpenter and Mark Reynolds homered to give the Cards a cushion. Trevor Rosenthal then put the first two Pirates on in the bottom of the ninth, but got out of the jam with no damage, putting the Cards in position to clinch if they could win one more game of the series, which they did. It was a stellar game all the way around, in my opinion.
4) Surprise Player of the Year
Nominees: John Lackey, Stephen Piscotty, Trevor Rosenthal
My vote: Stephen Piscotty
All three of those folks have a good case, but I like Piscotty for this one because I honestly didn’t know what to expect. Again, refer back to his Exit Interview, but he’d been in Taveras’s shadow this whole time and I expected he’d be a solid player, but he played like a superstar after his callup and probably is the reason Pittsburgh or Chicago didn’t catch the team. We expected a solid season from Lackey (though perhaps not THIS good) and I still remember asking Jamie Pogue before the season if he thought Rosenthal would have better command and he answered in the affirmative. All Rosie needed to do was throw strikes and we’d have expected this kind of season out of him. That’s what we saw this season and hopefully will in years to come.
I don’t think Moss was quite the disappointment some do, especially not as much as the other two on this list. I’d be fine with Moss coming back if they could figure out a way to do so cheaply. Jay of course will return due to his contract, but he never seemed to recover from offseason wrist surgery. Not that we expected a ton out of him anyway, but the surgery surely didn’t help.
Bourjos gets my pick because he had an opening when Jay went down to claim center field and he wasn’t able to do it. Sure, eventually Randal Grichuk made it impossible to get him into the lineup regularly, but he had chances throughout the year and couldn’t make it happen. Whether that was on him or on Mike Matheny‘s usage of him, that could be debated.
My apologies to the other two, but I don’t think this is even a contest. Harris had some nice games and was a great story, but on the whole was a middling reliever that works because he’s cheap. Pham had some moments and probably should have gotten more playing time than he did, but he was very streaky as well. Piscotty, though, was the second-half MVP. When you do that as a rookie, you are doing something right.
Again, a no-brainer. The biggest tell here is that the Cardinals want to bring Heyward back while the other three very well may be somewhere else next season. John Mozeliak’s trading skills might have been questioned a bit more this year than in previous years, with the return on those mid-season deals being pretty underwhelming, but he still go the big one right.
Unfortunately, it’s going to be a longer wait than we anticipated after Reyes was suspended for marijuana, but the reason that this was such a big story was because of the talent he brings to the mound. He’s a top 10 prospect in baseball and we know what it’s like to see young, exciting pitching. We may be used to it, but we always want to see it again.
It’s a bit of a tossup here between Holliday and Martinez. For how awesome Waino is, the Cards were able to weather his injury pretty well given the depth of the pitching staff. Adams was struggling at the plate a bit anyway, so it is hard to know what St. Louis would have had in him. If it was the power-hitting guy we think of when we think of Adams, that would have been a big blow, but if it was a guy struggling to make contact, they already had one of those in Reynolds and got another one in Moss.
A healthy Holliday could have been the difference between a below-average offense and an average one, but he did only have four homers at the time of his injury in June. I wonder what the season would have been with him fully functional and helping out the offense, but I don’t know how much difference it actually would have made. After all, the club still won 100 games.
I think Martinez’s injury changed the way the NLDS went, though. If C-Mart can go in Game 2, perhaps the Cards win that one and a healthy Garcia then is ready to go in Game 3. If nothing else, you’d think the series might have gone five games and you could easily see another NLCS appearance in that future. It didn’t happen, of course, but that’s why I’m going with Martinez here.
10) Best Cardinal Blog, One Writer
My vote: Jon Doble, Redbird Dugout
Anytime you are picking the best blogs out of this group, it’s difficult. The sole proprietor model of blogging isn’t as popular as it once was, probably because folks are realizing how tough it is to keep content flowing on a regular basis, especially if you care about the quality (which, as you know, isn’t something I’m terribly concerned with). There are a few blogs I considered here, like my compadre Doug from Baseball Geek in Galveston, Diane at Women Who Love Cardinal Baseball, or Kevin who is now writing over at About.com, but I think this year I’ll go with Jon over at Redbird Dugout. Jon’s always got some interesting ideas, even if I don’t always agree with them, and it’s a good read. (Plus Buffa’s already voted for Kevin and I want to keep that UCB Radio team balanced if at all possible.)
11) Best Cardinal Blog, Two or More Writers
My vote: Viva El Birdos
There are a number of good team blogs in the Cardinal blogosphere. You’ve got Dan Buffa and company over at St. Louis Sports Minute and you have Steven and his crew writing at Redbird Rants, not to mention the UCB standby of Bill and the I70 Baseball group. Still, when you talk Cardinal blogs, you can’t get past the 800 lb gorilla named Viva El Birdos. Regular, quality posts by a respected team of writers. Lots of interesting sabermetrically-inclined writing. Even a fun post every once in a while, though those have been few and far between (besides @lil_scooter93‘s link posts).
12) Best Media Coverage
Nominees: Derrick Goold, Jenifer Langosch, Bernie Miklasz, Rob Rains
My Vote: Jenifer Langosch
St. Louis is ridiculously blessed with great baseball coverage. Everywhere you look, there’s talk about the Cardinals and quality talk at that. You can go to any media outlet and get some good writing. For me, I brought this down to Goold vs. Langosch. Bernie’s great, of course, but he’s a columnist that covers all sorts of St. Louis sporting stories, including the new football stadium issue and what’s going on with the Blues. (Plus it seems I’ve seen less of him since his move to ESPN 101.) Rob Rains is the same way, though to a lesser degree. I think Rob really does focus on the Cardinals (as well as writing Cardinal books, with a new one coming soon), with his staff at St. Louis Sports Page getting much of the other sports covered. Good stuff, of course, and you wouldn’t go wrong picking him.
Goold and Langosch are the heavy hitters, though, working for the Post-Dispatch and MLB.com respectively. Both of them are active on Twitter, getting news out there and interacting somewhat with readers/followers (moreso Goold than Langosch). So flip a coin and you are probably right. I went with Jenifer this year for a bit of a change. Derrick’s won this award every year (and probably will win it again this year when the votes are tallied) so I thought I’d mix it up. I also seemed to wind up RT Tweets from Jenifer on moves more than Derrick this season, though I figure that’s more timing/coincidence than anything. Read them both and you’ll be fine.
13) Best Rookie Cardinal Blog
Nominees: Me and Willie McGee, The Redbird Retreat
My Vote: The Redbird Retreat
Chuck has already done some really interesting work over there at Me and Willie McGee and I look forward to seeing what he can do with a full year under his belt. However, given that he just got underway, I’m going to go with the larger body of work that is The Redbird Retreat. Josie’s done a nice job over there with some good posts and she’s been able to expand out to write at St. Louis Sports Minute as well. It’s a very good rookie class!
14) Post of the Year
Nominees: Are The Cardinals Supposed to be Scared? (Kevin Reynolds, About.com); Talking Twitter With the Cards (Daniel Shoptaw, C70 At The Bat); In Defense of Mike Matheny (Dan Buffa, KSDK); Carlos Martinez, Human Tsunami (Josey Curtis, The Redbird Retreat); Why Billy Southworth Managed Cardinals With Heavy Heart (Mark Tomasik, RetroSimba)
My vote: Are The Cardinals Supposed to be Scared?
This was a very tough vote to have to cast. All of these posts (save mine, which I didn’t really consider) were quality and the authors were top notch as well. (Seriously, you could vote Mark Tomasik every year and never get it wrong.) I went with Kevin’s post because I liked the mixture of stats, confidence, and defense against arguments that he put out there. As he says, folks like to say it’s “someone’s turn”, but that’s not the way baseball goes. The Cardinals proved that this year–with it being an odd year, weren’t they supposed to be in the Series?
(As an aside, we could nominate one post for this category and I wasn’t sure which one to choose. This one was our most viewed post of the year, dealing with the hacking scandal. This one I probably put the most time into, though it’s for such a limited audience. The one about my father-in-law’s passing may have been the most personal and it was actually read at his funeral. All in all, though, I think the Twitter one is a great synopsis of what this site is really about.)
15) Best UCB Podcast
Nominees: Best Dans in Baseball, Bird Seeds, Conversations With C70, Gateway To Baseball Heaven, STL CardGals, Talking About Birds, UCB Radio
My vote: STL CardGals
I listened to all of these this year (save the ones that I participated in, because I always find it distressing to listen to my own voice) and I enjoyed them all. What Tara’s doing with Bird Seeds is unique in the Cardinal blogosphere space and she deserves some major props for that. I look forward to one of these days joining Nate and Ben on Talking About Birds. UCB Radio always has a good mixture of hosts for the discussion purposes.
Yet the one I listened to most often this season was probably Laura and Holly at STL CardGals. Whether it’s the short nature of the podcast (just 30 minutes), their voices being easy to listen to, or the unabashed fandom of their discussion, I always enjoyed listening to them, often as I mowed the lawn or did some other task. They do a great job with the show and I look forward to their return in 2016.
16) Best Non-UCB Podcast
Nominees: Best Podcast in Baseball, Cubs Cards Cast, St. Louis Cardinals Extras, Viva El Birdos
My vote: Best Podcast in Baseball
Again, some great podcasts here. I didn’t listen to Extras as often, for one reason or another, but the times I did I thought it was good, though short. VEB is going to get a lot of votes and there’s no doubt they have a lot of great statistical information and reasoned opinions, but I’m not sure it always works for me. That’s more me than them, though, because there’s always good insight there. I enjoy listening to Dan and John banter back and forth as only a Cardinal fan and a Cub fan can do. All very quality outings.
However, when the big boys jump back in the pool, you always sit up and take notice. We knew BPIB from the Bernie/Goold matchup, but it was restarted (after switching its name from As So Often Happens) with Derrick sliding into the hosting chair and Benjamin Hochman being more the color man. There’s no doubt the dynamic of the show is completely different, but it’s a very fun ride, if only to see how Derrick is able to segue from whatever side street Benjamin has wandered down back to the main point.
17) Best Podcaster
My vote: Tara Wellman
This one is really, really hard. It’s sometimes difficult to separate the podcaster from their co-host. Do they work only as a tandem? Would they be good on their own? There were a lot of folks I could have chosen here–and I almost went with Hochman for the absolutely insane energy that he brings to BPIB–but Tara absolutely deserves this award and not because she has to do a show with me every week. When you watch Bird Seeds, you can see all her TV training put to good use, but she also is just as comfortable hosting UCB Radio or answering my questions on Gateway to Baseball Heaven. She really can do it all and do it all well.
18) Best UCB Twitterer
My vote: Wes Keene (KeeneMLB)
It might be a bit of a technicality, as Wes is just really a Friend of the UCB since he’s let his blog here at the Conclave lapse, but the wit that he usually had in his blog posts is still distilled into 140 characters. Between him and StlCardsCards (ineligible because he, like Groucho, doesn’t want to be a part of any group that would have him as a member), my timeline is usually sarcastic, ironic, and extremely worth reading.
There are my votes for the awards this year. We’ll be doing a special UCB Radio next Wednesday (the day before Thanksgiving) where we’ll announce the results (and probably Tweet them out as well). Remember, you can still vote! Head over here and do it now, won’t take you long at all!