Nothing like waiting until the last day. Takes me back to college and starting papers about 5 hours ahead of a midnight deadline. Good times.
Luckily, I enjoy writing about the Cardinals alot more than Impressionism in Modern Society.
So without further ado, here are my picks on the Blogger Award ballot.
I dug into all the nominees, looking for a reason to be swayed from the obvious choice.
However, none of them could challenge the clear favorite. Carpenter was a Top 10 finisher in the MVP (9th) and one of just 2 Cardinals players to cross the 5 fWAR threshold in the last 3 seasons. Unfortunately, his season feels incomplete, with a ton of bad luck early on and a power outage late. He entered September as a virtual lock for the NL Home Run crown at 35, only to smack just 1 in the month to finish tied for 3rd and 2 behind Nolan Arenado. But I’m picking nits.
Carpenter became just the 3rd Cardinal in the Post-Pujols Era to top 30 HR’s (Beltan ’12, Gyorko ’16). During the year, Carpenter surpassed Hall-of-Famer Chick Hafey and Cardinals Great Willie McGee to take sole possession of 20th place in Cardinals History for most Doubles. Carpenter twice had 5 hits in a game in 2018. The first occurrence made him the first Cardinal with 5 hits and 5 runs scored in the same game. The second time made him the first Cardinal, and 2nd Major Leaguer, ever, with 3 HR’s and 2 2B’s in a single game. This season he broke Lou Brock’s franchise record for leadoff HR’s (1st batter of game), smoking 8 of them to put him at 23 for his career.
It’s hard to deny a man that finished in the Top 10 of a major award (he finished 6th in Cy Young).
A lot of people didn’t like this signing. They thought it was another attempt at “low-hanging fruit” by the front office. Those that dug into his numbers in Japan and listened/read reports on him could see the potential for a very strong season. Adam Butler and myself discussed as much during multiple episodes of the Bird Law podcast last winter.
Mikolas ended up with a pretty 18-4 record for the baseball card and a sterling 2.83 ERA. It was the first sub-3 ERA by a Cardinals starter since 2015 when John Lackey and Jaime Garcia both managed the feat during a historically good pitching season. Although wins and losses are team driven, it was still impressive that Mikolas went a full season without a losing decision on the road, going 10-0 in 16 starts. He had the lowest Walk-Rate (3.6%) among the 57 qualified MLB starters.
Award 3: Game of the Year (Non-Walkoff Division)
Nominees: June 3 vs. Pirates (Michael Wacha’s almost no-hitter), June 22 at Brewers (Flaherty 1 hit, 13 K), July 15 vs. Reds (Mike Shildt’s first game), July 20 at Cubs (Carpenter five hits, 3 HR), September 16 vs. Dodgers (Adam Wainwright six scoreless innings)
My pick: July 20th at Cubs
I love a great pitching performance as much as the next guy, and I’m really hoping Wacha finally breaks through one of these days after coming close to a no-no about 4 times in his career.
But this one goes to the Carpenter game.
First, it was an absolute beat down of the Cubs, which is never a bad a thing. Second, as mentioned earlier, that was just the 2nd MLB game ever to see a hitter rock 3 HR’s and 2 2B’s. He very well could have earned a cheap 4th HR off of a position player late in the game to really make the stat line special. However, the fact that he achieved, in just 6 innings, something that only one other player ever had, makes it even more incredible.
Award 4: Game of the Year (Walkoff Division)
Nominees: April 26th vs. Mets (run off Familia in 10th, Dexter Fowler single in 13th), May 5 vs. Cubs (Kolten Wong HR in 10th), May 6 vs. Cubs (Fowler HR in 14th), August 2 vs. Rockies(Martinez single in 9th), August 13 vs. Nationals (Paul DeJong HR in 9th)
My pick: August 2 vs. Rockies
All walk-offs are awesome, period. The Fowler walk-off, considering how he was lucky to find a hit, it completed a sweep of the Cubs, and it went out just over the glove of Jason Heyward made it a tough game to not pick.
But it wasn’t the best. A walk-off single takes the day. This one was as much for the walk-off hit itself as it was the plays preceding it. Against Wade Davis, the underappreciated Greg Garcia got a hit. Then Harrison Bader followed by going with the pitch and not doing too much, as he is sometimes apt to do. Then came the gutsty call. Shildt went for the win, sending Bader with one out. Martinez promptly delivered a 2-RBI single.
The game stands out because winning that series against the Rockies made the Cardinals actual contenders. The gutsy steal call by Shildt stood out as a contrast to the station-to-station tendencies under Mike Matheny.
Of these four, I expected plenty from Mikolas and we had always seen flashes with Wong defensively. With Bud Norris, he had a very good first half in 2017 with the Angels before knee issues (and likely fatigue) caused his performance to taper, so his big first half wasn’t a shock.
With Bader, the expectations were being set as a 4th OF. His brief showing in 2017 had done nothing to dispel that projection, either. Somehow, those that cover the minors missed on his defense, pegging him as a corner OF that would run through walls for you, but didn’t belong in CF. All he did was wow us with the glove, playing a quality of CF that we haven’t seen regularly in a long, long time. Offensively, he has some limitations, but the full body of work is more than enough to imagine a full-time major league player. Considering that I was expecting Tyler O’Neill, Jose Adolis Garcia, and possibly Randy Arozarena to leapfrog him in the system and for him to be traded as an add-on player by year’s end, Bader definitely surprised me. And now I can’t get enough.
It came down to a close call between Fowler and Holland. I wanted to pick Fowler, because he endured one of the worst seasons possible. With the expectations that he could be a middle order bat following a career year (from a power standpoint) in 2017, he was a massive letdown.
Still, I ultimately had to choose Holland. After digging through his much-talked-about “2nd half collapse” from 2017, I was convinced that the bad 3 weeks that skewed his numbers could be traced directly to a finger laceration. He was set to be a dominant force. A good Holland means Bud Norris is a lights out 7-8th inning pitcher for you for most of the year. A good Holland means Jordan Hicks isn’t getting overused. A good Holland lets the entire bullpen fall into place and probably makes it a strength of the team. Instead he was complete garbage. A 7.92 ERA, 22 K’s and 22 BB’s and 4 games in which he didn’t record an out. His good games came in low-leverage, his bad games cost the team wins.
Finally, what broke the tie between him and Fowler for this category was how he performed in Washington after the Cardinals released him. A 0.89 ERA, 25 K’s to just 10 BB’s. It wasn’t a case where his talent was gone. In fact, I was on the right track with my expectations. He just flat out did not perform for the Cardinals.
This one was a slam dunk. Flaherty made the jump from touted prospect to the top of the rotation and barely broke a sweat. Although he tailed off in September, he still posted a 3.34 ERA and 182 strikeouts in 151 innings. Any other year, he is a serious ROY contender, but he was competing in a loaded class. The future is very bright for Flaherty, who will be just 23 entering 2019.
Bud Norris was an incredible value, Muñoz was a pleasant surprise, and Ozuna was solid.
But Miles Mikolas was arguably the best dollar-for-dollar free agent signing in all of baseball for 2018, let alone the Cardinals. See above for the reasons why.
I’m going a different direction here. Carlson and Gorman are both super young still and a few years down the road. I’m excited, but I’m not letting that get out of hand. Arozarena seems to be blocked and was maybe not as exciting in 2018 as he was in 2017. Maybe just because the new wore off. Helsley, thanks to shoulder fatigue, was a tease in 2018. I almost wrote-in Giovanny Gallegos here, because he is going to be awesome.
However, I’m rolling with Cabrera, who brings the raw power pitching that we have grown semi-accustomed to seeing from RHP in the Cardinals system, to the Left Side of the mound. He has upside as a legit MLB starter, but he could be a dynamic LH reliever as soon as 2019 for a team that sorely needs quality LH relief. Additionally, for those that continue to rip the Cardinals for trading Tommy Pham, I anticipate Cabrera shutting them up.
Award 10: Best Individual Blog
Nominees: Baseball Geek in Galveston, C70 At The Bat, Cardinal Red Baseball, CardinalsGM, MLB Voice, RetroSimba, View from the Cheap Seats, Women Who Love Cardinal Baseball
My pick: C70 At the Bat
It’s so hard to pick from a great group of bloggers. However, I know how much effort Daniel puts into his blog. He is always quick with, at least, a press release when news breaks and is steadfast with quality game recaps that are more than just play-by-play or quick hits. Also, the work he puts in on series projects is second-to-none. From his annual Exit Interviews, Best Cards on Twitter, Blogger Awards, to the Marking McGwire series (which I felt deserved more aplomb), he never stops.
I’m not about to be the guy that votes for himself, so Bird Law is out. Really, in 2018, BOTB was THE Cardinals blog. The Cards Twitter bubble was already its own little makeshift community, and they took it to another level. Not only is the content of extremely high quality, but the social media interaction makes it more than just words on a screen.
Award 12: Best Media Coverage
Nominees: Derrick Goold, Benjamin Hochman, Jenifer Langosch, Bernie Miklasz, Rob Rains, Mark Saxon, Joe Trezza
My pick: Derrick Goold
Derrick catches a lot of grief on twitter for replies such as “this has been reported,” but he’s not wrong. For whatever reason, a big populace of Cardinals fans has been turned off to the Post-Dispatch (I know, the website was ROUGH), but you simply aren’t going to find more tuned-in coverage. Derrick is leading that charge. In the early goings of this offseason, he is already reporting information not just hours, but days ahead of other writers. Read the paper. Be informed.
Award 13: Post of the Year
Nominees: “Hey ESPN, Why Won’t You Talk About the Cards?“, Diane Schultz, Women Who Love Cardinal Baseball; “Hometown Jerry Reuss Dreams of MLB“, Joe McBrayer, Cardinal Red Baseball; “The NL Central Road No Longer Goes Through St. Louis“, Daniel Shoptaw, C70 At The Bat; “Red Schoendienst: The Consummate Cardinal“, Brian Swope, STL Hat Trick; “A Tribute to a Cardinal Legend“, Chuck Brownson, Me and Willie McGee
My pick (write-in): “Red” by StlCardsCards
You think CardsCards is all about the laughs and the satire. And then something real happens, and he can pen a piece like no other. He did that with “Red” following the passing of Red Schoendienst.
What set this piece apart for me was the way he painted Red. He was Cardinals baseball. He was tied into the fabric of everything we’ve known. I’ll let you read it, but for me, it reminds me of why baseball means so much to me. The same way the Red ties together generations of Cardinals baseball, Cardinals baseball has tied together generations of my family. Red was a lot more than just a player.
Award 14: Best UCB Podcast
Nominees: 11th Inning Stretch, Bird Law, Bird Seeds (video), Cardinals Nation 24/7, Gateway to Baseball Heaven, Meet Me at Musial, Prospect to be Named Later
My pick: Meet Me at Musial
I wish that Adam and I would have had the time to make Bird Law into a podcast worthy of this award. Unfortunately, life got busy for both of us. Maybe next year.
This year, I’ve got to go with Meet Me at Musial. The conversation is always good and they almost always have a weekly episode for me to enjoy while mowing the lawn on Saturday morning.
Award 15: Best Non-UCB Podcast
Nominees: 243 Podcast, Best Podcast in Baseball, Cubs Cards Cast, Seeing Red, Scoops with Danny Mac, St. Louis Cardinals Extras (MLB.com), Team of Rivals Podcast, Two Birds on a Bat, Viva El Birdos
My pick: Best Podcast in Baseball
Man, tough call here. Scoops with Danny Mac was an incredible addition to the podcasting realm.
However, I’m still a sucker for the long-form analysis that comes from Derrick Goold on the BPIB. It takes the great coverage that Goold gives in the paper and expands it, along with high quality co-hosts (both with and without Cardinals ties).
Award 16: Best Podcaster
Nominees: None (write-in only)
My pick: Dan McLaughlin
Here’s where I get to give Scoops some love. The Monday’s with Mo episodes are indispensable, and his weekly spots with BenFred and Brian Walton also enhance the Cardinals coverage. The man that never stops working hit a home run with this endeavor.
For me, I loved the insight Jeff was able to bring from the press box this season, combined with a no-nonsense approach to writing and Twitter, while still maintaining the feeling that he’s “one of us.” Just really good stuff all year from Jeff.
Award 18: Best Social Media Game
Nominees: #bombsaway, The Cardinal Six
My pick (write-in): #SitBackAndWatchItBurn
I didn’t participate in any games this year, but did watch the nominees unfold on my timeline.
However, for the heck of it, I’m throwing Kyle Reis’s #SitBackAndWatchItBurn into the ring. It was short lived, but man, the takes were hot.
And there you have it. Thanks for reading.