In the fall of 2007, as our first project as a group, the United Cardinal Bloggers did their own awards. The various awards have been tinkered with over time (none of us were even dreaming of podcasting at that time, for instance) but the bulk of them have remained the same. It’s our way to honor what happened on the field during the season while also giving credit to those that wrote, spoke, or Tweeted (which really ruins the flow there) about it.
A few years back we incorporated fan voting as a part of this, so I’d encourage you to go vote for your choices in any or all of these categories. If you want to vote for me on some of them, I’d be appreciative, but that’s not at all required. Just get out there and let your voice be heard no matter what your opinions!
Before you go, though, here are my selections for this year. Perhaps it’ll give you something to think about. Please note all awards also have a write-in option if you wish to use it.
This is a pretty tough call, really. Brandon Moss brought power, but pretty much was disqualified with his atrocious slide during August and September. Yadi had a superb second half, but the first half was a little less than that. So, in my mind, it comes down to Carpenter and Diaz.
Fangraphs has Carpenter at 3.2 WAR while Diaz is at 2.7. They were closer than that on Baseball-Reference, which had Diaz at 3.5 and Carpenter at 3.4. When you factor in how much the club needed Diaz, especially after Jhonny Peralta‘s injury, to see him come through was remarkable. I don’t think you could go wrong either way, but I think Diaz exceeded expectations by more and was slightly better than Carpenter for 2016.
In most years, this is a much more difficult decision, with plenty of options and some debate built in. We’ve been spoiled with some remarkable pitching over the last few seasons. This year, not so much. It was a stretch to get three names worth putting on the ballot, actually.
While Reyes had a strong impact on the team, he only threw 46 innings after his call-up in August. He was good, but you’d have to be amazingly dominant to win a pitcher of the year award with that resume. Oh was remarkable out of the bullpen and slid into the closer role without much of a hiccup. He put up a 2.6 Fangraphs WAR and had a 11.64 K/9 and a sub-2.00 ERA. Picking him wouldn’t be a bad choice.
However, if given a choice in a category like this, I’m going to tend to err on the side of a starting pitcher. The influence starters have is different than relievers but I feel, in general, it’s more important. After all, they are throwing roughly three times as many innings. It helps in this case to have Martinez, who took the next step toward being that ace that everyone’s been talking about for a while. Martinez had a 3.04 ERA (the only starter under 4, sadly), struck out eight per nine, kept the ball in the ballpark and, in general, gave the club a strong chance to win every fifth day. He had his occasional rough starts, it’s true, but Martinez is starting to develop into a top-tier starter and it’s likely he’ll be winning plenty of these awards in the years to come.
3) Game of the Year
Nominees: April 8 at Atlanta, April 14 at Milwaukee, July 16 vs. Miami, July 22 vs. Los Angeles Dodgers, July 27 at New York Mets, August 5 vs. Atlanta, August 8 vs. Cincinnati, August 14 at Chicago Cubs, September 9 at Pittsburgh, October 1 vs. Pittsburgh
My pick: August 14 at Chicago
For a fairly disappointing season, especially by Cardinal standards, there was a plethora of interesting and exciting games to put on this ballot. (I’ll admit, I might have gone overboard but it was so hard to choose!) You had a pair of great pitching performances by Jaime Garcia, a vintage Adam Wainwright game, some amazing walkoffs and rallies. Scoring five in the ninth against Cincy (even though much of that was gift-wrapped)? Three homers in the ninth against Pittsburgh after being down to their last strike? Another big Matt Adams homer against the Dodgers? So much goodness to go around and I look forward to seeing some of those games during the Christmas Day marathon on FOX Sports Midwest.
If you are looking for the best overall game, though, it might be the game on August 14 in Wrigley Field on Sunday Night Baseball. Down 3-1 in the eighth inning, at risk of dropping another series to the Cubs and falling even farther out of the race, the Cards strike back for five runs in the eighth, with Stephen Piscotty‘s three-run homer lifting them to the lead and the club tacking on a couple of more after that. Anthony Rizzo homered to give the Cubs another run, but Seung-hwan Oh locked things down and the Cardinals left Wrigley with a split.
In the grand scheme of things, it didn’t matter–St. Louis never threatened the Cubs and wound up out of the playoffs, but at the time, it felt big to rally and get the split.
I imagine I’ll be the only one that selects Bowman here. After all, we didn’t have a whole lot of expectations for Diaz and he wound up as my pick for player of the year. Nobody expected Gyorko to have 30 home runs or Moss to be a huge part of the offense, at least for most of the year. All of these players are fine picks.
I’m going with Bowman because there were chances for everyone else. We at least thought Gyorko would be an asset and there was a line of thought that Moss could prove useful. Diaz had had his strong six weeks at the end of the past minor league season to plant the idea that the talent was there. Bowman, though, never was expected to make the team. His acquisition via the Rule 5 draft from the Mets was a head-scratcher, especially for a team that seemed to have plenty of arms already. The thought that he’d be on the roster Opening Day was fairly ludicrous, that he would be there all year long even more so.
And yet Bowman turned out to be one of the key cogs in a bullpen that went from reliable to crazy and back again. He wasn’t a late inning guy, but he was a guy that could get you out of some jams in the sixth and seventh, plus given that he was a former starter he could go more than one inning at a time as well. You could have told me the season results for these four guys in March and the one I wouldn’t have believed was Bowman, which makes him the biggest surprise to me.
When you don’t make the playoffs in St. Louis, there are probably going to be a lot of folks that you can point a finger at. None of these listed had the year that we expected back in spring training and there are probably others that you can put here.
It’s a tough decision, because I always expect a lot out of Wainwright and I thought Wong might take a step forward in 2016, but I’m going with Rosenthal. If he’s right, the back of that bullpen would have been amazing and, truthfully, the Cardinals probably make the playoffs with a couple fewer blown saves from Rosie. Being able to shorten games with a top-notch Rosenthal, Oh, and Siegrist could have made this team very dangerous in October as well. Alas, we’ll never know.
6) Cardinal Rookie of the Year
Nominees: Aledmys Diaz, Seung-hwan Oh, Alex Reyes, Luke Weaver
My pick: Aledmys Diaz
Reyes and Weaver should get their shot next year, as both come under the rookie limits. Reyes especially was dynamic, as we noted above, but when you have two rookies that did it well all year long, you have to go with one of them. Diaz gets the nod because 1) he impacted more games as a position player and 2) Oh is in that gray area for rookies that you get with players from Korea and Japan. Do you count them as a rookie because they are new to MLB, even though they’ve had a lot of years of professional experience overseas? I think you do, but it can be a losing tiebreaker for them when they are up against an equally impressive performer. Diaz’s bat and the ability to fill a huge hole on this team get him the nod here.
We’ve given some love to Oh already in this ballot and, indeed, he’d be a quality pick here. John Mozeliak and the front office had a good idea of what he could do in the big leagues and signed him, which is to their credit. I’ve got no problems with Oh being the choice here. I’m going with Gyorko because it was another fine move by the front office, plus it took the involvement of another team which added another wrinkle. To be able to get a 30 homer guy for Jon Jay, who was fairly expendable (and someone the fans wanted to see gone), is a nice coup for Mo and his trading abilities.
Every other person listed is much closer to St. Louis than Perez. Gomber, in particular, seems to have had a good Arizona Fall League and could be some pitching depth for the coming season, while a reasonable year at Memphis for Bader should get him into St. Louis by the second half of next year or maybe September. Perez, though, seems to be an exciting talent that could bring top-level offense and defense to the shortstop position. Again, he’s just starting out and could flame out entirely, but the idea of a top 5 draft talent falling to the Cards is exciting and I can’t wait to see how he develops.
9) Best Individual Cardinal Blog
My pick: Redbird Dugout
While the blog ranks seemed to have thinned over the years and a number of blogs are just sporadically updated, there are still some very good ones out there that look at the Cardinals and the issues surrounding them with some great work. I mean, you can’t go wrong with RetroSimba and Mark’s look at the history of the organization. I don’t always agree with Chase’s take on things, but there’s no denying he puts a lot of work and exceptional writing into the topics he tackles at Double Birds. Joe McBrayer always has something new over at Cardinal Red Baseball and Tom Knuppel has been regularly posting at CardinalsGM for years now.
I could have gone with any of those, but I am picking Jon Doble over at Redbird Dugout this year. Jon’s got a good style to him and he doesn’t mind approaching things from the other side of conventional wisdom (or whatever you call the prevailing thought on Twitter). I always enjoy checking out his posts.
10) Best Team Cardinal Blog
My pick: Viva El Birdos
There are a few other team blogs out there–Redbird Rants is a great one, as well as Cardsblog–but it’s very, very tough to go against the behemoth that is VEB. There are a slew of great writers over there, there are multiple posts a day, and its the only blog that I know of that has much of a community in the comment section. Viva El Birdos is the high water mark for Cardinal blogging, pretty much.
11) Best Media Coverage
Nominees: Derrick Goold, Jennifer Langosch, Bernie Miklasz, Jose de Jesus Ortiz, Rob Rains
My pick: Derrick Goold
While Rob Rains may have had the most discussed piece of news this year with his interview with Kolten Wong, it’s hard to go against Derrick Goold when you are looking at the overall picture. Not only is Derrick the beat writer for the Post-Dispatch and files the stories you’d expect there, but he’s active on Twitter, has his own podcast, and has a weekly chat. If there’s something about the Cardinals, most likely Derrick has reported and discussed it in one of those places if not all of them. His tone may not be as chipper as it used to be on Twitter, perhaps from dealing with the people that are on Twitter, but he’s still the one to follow for breaking news and analysis.
12) Post of the Year
Nominees: “Cardinals Find Perfect Timing as Playoff Hopes Crash” (Bill Ivie), “The Kolten Wong Situation” (Daniel Shoptaw), “Lou Brock, the Lucrative Acquisition Fleet Footed All-Star Societal Difference Maker” (Josey Curtis), “Not Our Year” (Diane Schultz), “Worrying What the Flash Means: How We Talk About Race in Baseball” (Chase Woodruff)
My pick: “Cardinals Find Perfect Timing as Playoff Hopes Crash”
Even though I’m fairly proud (and, given by the number of hits the post got in comparison to our usual traffic, perhaps rightfully so) of my post on Kolten Wong, there were a lot of good posts here. Josey did a great job of talking about Lou Brock in this year of “STL is Lou”, Diane wrapped up the season well in her work, and Chase’s post is an in-depth and thought provoking look at things in the wake of some issues around Carlos Martinez. Seriously, if you’ve not read any of these, you owe it to yourself to take a look.
I went with Bill in a coin flip because of the emotions he conveyed about that last day of the season. The chances slipping away but the honoring of Matt Holliday at the end of the game. All that mixed up together in a finale that was not what we are used to as Cardinal fans. Bill doesn’t write often, but there’s a reason we keep him around the UCB and it’s not just because we like his wife.
13) Best UCB Podcast
Nominees: Bird Seeds, Conversations With C70, The Double Birds Podcast, Gateway To Baseball Heaven, Meet Me at Musial, STL CardGals, Talking About Birds, UCB Radio
My pick: Talking About Birds
I’ve gotten to where I listen to podcasts even more than reading blogs and articles, given the ease of listening on my brief commute or when I’m doing yard work. There are so many good ones that I am always excited to listen to when I see a new episode has dropped. While I’m ruling out any show that I do (I’m slightly involved with UCB Radio, which still left it up for consideration, but Conversations, Gateway, and MMM are out) all of the rest are so worthy of this spot that it was tough to choose. I especially love listening to Laura and Holly (and was glad to have them join us on our mid-season All-Star Podcast) and Nate and Ben. Since I gave the nod to the girls last year, I’m going with the guys this year.
Nate and Ben have that obvious rapport that friends have and are unafraid to call each other on things, though it usually resolves amicably. Past items are continually referred to, for example Ben’s distaste for the Leake contract, and all in all they do a great job of reviewing the past week and discussing whatever else might be happening in the world of the Cardinals. (Full disclosure: I have guested on their show a couple of times, but I’d say all this even if I hadn’t.)
14) Best Non-UCB Podcast
Nominees: Best Podcast in Baseball, Cards on Cards, Cubs Cards Cast, St. Louis Cardinals Extra (MLB.com), Two Birds on a Bat, Viva El Birdos
My pick: Two Birds on a Bat
As mentioned above, there are a lot of good shows here. I have only listened to one episode of Cards on Cards, but find its conceit (the show is recorded while friends play poker) quite interesting. My lack of listening to Cubs Cards Cast is not because Dan and John aren’t worth listening to, but because the Cubs have been so good I don’t want to hear about them, even if the idea of a Cardinal fan and a Cub fan doing a show together is quite interesting.
For me, it came down to BPIB, VEB, and Two Birds. BPIB is going to have a lot of great information, for sure, but it seems like when Derrick Goold and Benjamin Hochman get together, rabbit trails spring up. An aside here or there is fine, but it goes on more than that, especially if Hochman is particularly wired. It’s still an enjoyable show, don’t get me wrong, but in a close race it’ll get dinged. VEB is equally as good with solid opinions and thoughts by John and Heather. Sometimes, for me, the statistics can be a bit tough to follow in a listening context, but that’s probably more me than anything else.
That leaves Two Birds on a Bat, which occupies a bit of a different space in the Cardinal podcast realm, I believe. One, it is the most professional-sounding of the podcasts and that includes BPIB. I don’t mean that as the guys are professional–they’ll be the first to admit they are just fans sitting around talking–but they are in a studio so it sounds like an actual radio show. Secondly, these guys are less focused on statistics and “logical” thinking and more about the emotions that come with being a fan. I don’t always agree with them, but I think they approach what’s going on and what they want to happen differently than a lot of us. It’s an enjoyable listen, even if you don’t agree with them, and their idea of bringing on fans every week for a segment is a great one as well. (Full disclosure, again: they had me on recently.)
15) Best Podcaster
My pick: Tara Wellman
I’m a bit biased because I get to work with her regularly on Gateway to Baseball Heaven, but Tara brings enthusiasm and insight to every show that she does, whether it’s Gateway, her regular turn on UCB Radio, or her video blog Bird Seeds. She’s got an edge, of course, because TV and media is her job, but she puts all her skills to work and does so seemingly effortlessly. If you enjoy listening to Gateway, I’m 99% sure it’s because Tara makes it worth listening to.
That said, I really can’t think of anyone that I listen to regularly that I don’t like. Everyone’s different, of course, but seems like everyone that is doing this regularly does it with talent. They all easily clear the entertaining bar!
16) Best UCB Twitterer
My pick: 2xbirds
A lot of the Twitter folks I interact with regularly aren’t part of the UCB (and will show up in the Top Cards on Twitter series that’s coming soon) and when I look at our UCB roster, not all of those folks are on Twitter that regularly. So while this is a good pick on its own, because Chase is an interesting Twitter follow, it’s also a bit of a makeup pick. Chase’s blog and podcast are very interesting and, though I wouldn’t often come to the conclusions he does or necessarily agree with his premise, his thoughts and reasons are good ones and they should be recognized. This is my small way of acknowledging all the good work he’s done this year.
So that’s it. If you’ve made it this far, thanks muchly. Now it’s your turn!