Eight years. It’s so hard for me to believe that we’ve–and by we, of course, I mean the United Cardinal Bloggers–have been making our selections for these awards for eight straight years. In fact, it’s the first project the UCB took on in 2007, I think even before we had a formal name. It’s sort of the marker for the beginning of another year with this group and it’s always fun to see who wins and how the ballots look and are explained.
As head of this intrepid band, I’d be remiss if I didn’t cast my ballot in a timely manner. (Not to say it hasn’t happened, of course.) So below are my takes on the award categories. You’ll have to check in December to see who gets the actual prize, but there are no wrong answers here.
Of course, it’s possible you disagree. Or maybe you agree and want to express that. That’s why we have a spot for you to cast your own vote. Click over here and make your picks!
I just said there are no wrong answers and the first question proves it. You could easily select any of these guys and make a compelling case why they were the MVP, as it were, of the 2014 Cardinals. That said, I have to go with Jhonny Peralta. When you set a team record for home runs in a position, that’s one thing, but when you do it at a position that’s been held down by folks like Pete Kozma and Brendan Ryan over the last few years, it makes those 21 long balls seem like 70. Add to that the fact that Peralta played pretty solid defense–better than many of us were expecting–and he’s my pick for Player of the Year.
Again, making these kind of decisions are so tough. Neshek was amazing out of the pen, but when you are looking at the Cy Young of the staff, it’s tough to go with the 8th inning guy. Which brings us to #1 and #2 in the rotation. I loved seeing Lance Lynn turn the corner (right after I wrote my post on The Lynning) and I’m quite intrigued to see what he can do for an encore next year. It was nice not to hold your breath each time he took the mound.
All that is well and good, but I’m hardly ever going to not pick Adam Wainwright for this spot, especially in a season where he finished third in the entire National League for the main pitcher award. Wainwright did have his dead arm period and scuffled a bit in the playoffs, which means that deciding between him and Lynn was agonizing, but I think we forget just how good Waino was in the first half. In a year where he was able to beat Clayton Kershaw to the All-Star starting punch, you gotta go with the ace.
3) Game of the Year
Nominees: May 20, May 31, NLDS Game 1, NLDS Game 4, NLCS Game 2
It’s sometimes tough to single out a game that just is obviously the best game of the year, the game that symbolizes what the season was about. While the game with Mike Matheny continuing to bunt with two strikes and no discernible reason would also count, that’s not really what we are going for here. I liked Wainwright’s one-hit game on May 20 and obviously Oscar Taveras‘s debut on May 31 was memorable (more on that later on). And the playoff games, with what they meant, the stakes that were so high, were incredible games as well.
I’m going with NLDS Game 1, because not only was it huge to win the first game of the playoffs, but to do so in such a fashion, rallying from 6-1 down against the best pitcher in baseball, was so incredible, even if it was a bit out of character for the 2014 squad. Would have fit right in with the 2013 Cardinals, of course, but it was a great game, one that will be remembered for years to come.
4) Surprise Player of the Year
Nominees: Jon Jay, Lance Lynn, Pat Neshek
Each one of these players has a strong case for winning the award. Jay not only overcame the Curse of the Goat, becoming the first player ever to be the Top Goat here to play the next year for the Cardinals, but also a slow beginning of the year and Peter Bourjos being on the roster to become a guy you couldn’t reasonably take out of the lineup down the stretch. Neshek was a minor league invitee that people thought would be pretty good, but nobody expected an All-Star appearance and a dominating season.
Still, I’m going with Lance Lynn. We knew Lynn had talent, but many of us despaired of him ever putting it all together. We had just about resigned ourselves to the fact that he was an inconsistent and middling pitcher when things clicked and he became a dominant force behind Wainwright in the rotation. No more talk of Lynnings, no more worrying if he should get a postseason start. The outlook on Lynn might have changed more than any other player, which is why he’s my pick here.
If we went with players that were Cardinals at the beginning of the year, Allen Craig would probably run away with this reward. Instead, we are focusing on folks that were there at the end. I qualify Bourjos’s season somewhat because I still believe he wasn’t properly used by Matheny and I wonder what he could have been if the beginning of the season had gone differently. I was leaning toward Masterson, but Mo’s comments that he was hurt when they got him definitely put a different spin on his time in St. Louis.
So I’ll guess I’ll go with Kevin Siegrist, even though he has an injury to fall back on as well. You never know quite what you are going to get from relievers from year to year and I hope that Siegrist can rebound, but his work down the stretch was such that he was left off the postseason roster. When he’s right, he’s an amazing weapon. When he’s not, he gets awards like this.
It was a great year for Cardinal rookies, as a bumper crop of players made their major league debut wearing the birds on the bat. There were quality performances from a lot of them and there’s a good chance the Cardinals don’t go as far as they did in October without these guys. Grichuk provided a spark in September with some big hits and a great glove, then homered off of Kershaw to start the playoffs. Taveras, though taken from us too soon, still provided memorable moments in his only year in the bigs. Gonzales’s second stint with the club was so great that he was placed on the postseason roster and performed admirably there as well.
However, there’s really no contest here. Kolten Wong played a majority of the season (save that strange demotion to Memphis at the beginning of the year when he–and the rest of the offense–struggled) and showed power as well as a fine glove. Wong hit some big postseason home runs as well, including the walkoff to win Game 2 of the NLCS. When you come in third in the entire National League in the rookie voting, chances are you were the best freshman on your team.
7) Acquisition of the Year
Nominees: John Lackey, Pat Neshek, Jhonny Peralta
In Mo We Trust took a bit of a hit this year, most notably with the Masterson trade. That said, John Mozeliak is still one of the better GMs out there and proved it with these grabs. Neshek was the lottery ticket that paid off and to be able to get a quality pitcher like Lackey (who, as we all know, is playing for almost nothing next season) for a struggling player like Craig and a mid-range young pitcher like Joe Kelly is a feather in his cap.
That said, the Cards probably don’t make the Lackey trade if they aren’t in contention and they aren’t in contention without the signing of Peralta. There was a lot of blowback on that to start the season, what with his suspension for PEDs (something that has come up a lot in the comments around here all year long) but Peralta rewarded Mo’s faith in him and there’s not been a hint of a relapse at all.
The Cardinal system doesn’t have that one huge prospect to focus on. For a long while, it was Shelby Miller. Then it was Oscar Taveras and Michael Wacha overlapping and intertwining. Now, while there’s still some very interesting talent in the minors, there’s nothing that just attracts everyone’s eye.
Piscotty is likely to be the next man up and he’s going to be worth watching, but I’m a pitching guy most of the time. I hear great things about Kaminsky and Weaver’s got a lot to live up to given the path of the last two first round draft picks, Wacha and Gonzales. They should also be fascinating to watch.
However–and this is strange, given that I actually came up with the ballot–I’m going to call an audible and go with Alexander Reyes. He was quite young for Peoria this last season, but still struck out over a batter an inning and posted an ERA of 3.62. He’s going to have to gain a little more command–his K/BB rate isn’t much over 2, even with 137 K–but he could be the next big thing for the St. Louis rotation.
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
Finding just one solitary moment in an ocean of pitches, hits and plays in a full 162-game season (plus playoffs) is so difficult. It’s like sifting sand on the beach to find that one perfect grain of sand. Still, there were a few that stood out. For the pure cinema, it’s hard to go wrong with Taveras’s home run in his major league debut. The pictures we have, with the rain drops starting to come and the heavens opening up afterwards, are striking. That moment is going to resonate for a long time given his passing this offseason.
However, I think I’m going to go with Matt Adams‘s “Big City Leap” after he connected off of Kershaw in Game 4 of the NLDS, putting the Cardinals ahead, a lead they never relinquished. The unbridled joy of the big man at seeing that home run go out, most likely amplified by it coming off not only a left-hander, but THE left-hander, is something that’s going to be part of the Cardinal postseason highlight reel forever.
10) Individual Cardinal Blog of the Year
This has gotten tougher and tougher as the years have gone on. More and more quality bloggers are joining up and they aren’t doing it in teams. Then it gets even MORE difficult when folks like Christine Coleman and Tara Wellman, both quality folks who I usually voted for as a team blog over at Aaron Miles’ Fastball, go their separate ways and now BOTH are in this category. Even The Cardinal Conclave doesn’t help because all of those are individual blogs in one place, not one team blog. What to do, what to do.
So there are quality folks everywhere and I could pick so many folks here and still be right, but I think I’m going to go with my compatriot here at the Conclave Dan Buffa and his Cardinal Nerve Center. Dan has no problem churning out the content and it’s always an interesting read, even if he’s got so much energy sometimes I feel like I need a nap after reading. Does that count as exercise? Because my wife keeps telling me to exercise.
11) Team Cardinal Blog of the Year
None of these blog awards are limited to the UCB, though most of the selections will likely come from there. There are some quality team blogs in the UCB, folks like I70 Baseball, Cardinals Farm, Redbird Rants, CardsBlog and even those goofballs over at StanGraphs.
But when you think of a Cardinal team blog–heck, when 90% of the people that think of these things think of a Cardinal blog at all–you think of Viva El Birdos. VEB is the gold standard. When you hear Bernie Miklasz or Derrick Goold refer to a blog, it’s Viva El Birdos. Most of our blogs go years not getting the comments VEB gets in a day. The community over there is quite close–as our former colleague Mike Grabowski found out to his detriment–and it’s a wonderful place to smartly discuss Cardinal baseball.
12) Best Media Coverage
Nominees: Derrick Goold, Jenifer Langosch, Stan McNeal, Bernie Miklasz
St. Louis has always been a great place for baseball coverage. Probably it’s an offshoot from the expectations this rabid fan base has for their news and information on the Cardinals. We’ve always been blessed with a great group of writers (no matter what you may think of Joe Strauss, the man does bring it to the page) and people that get what the team means to the city.
So all of these guys are great, but one of these days this award is going to be renamed the Derrick Goold Award. Derrick wins this every year and with good reason–whether it’s great game stories, good analysis pieces, interacting on Twitter, or being part of a podcast, Derrick brings his A game almost every night and even when he doesn’t, his B game blows most people out of the water.
Don’t make me choose. Seriously, this is a ridiculously tough category this year. The UCB was greatly revitalized by the addition of some new blogs (by bloggers both old and new) and selecting just one is like trying to figure out which finger you don’t need anymore. (Hint: as a blogger, you pretty much need all of them.)
In part not to play favorites with my Conclave cohorts, I’m going to select Red Cleat Diaries here. Marilyn and I don’t always completely agree–usually we are probably on the same page, just maybe at the top and bottom–but she brings a perspective on things that we don’t always see in the group. I’m glad she’s out on her own and she’s always a great read.
That said, that’s no slight to Doug, Tara, Harrison, A.J. or Cole. Every one of them was worthy of this and if my coin had landed different when I flipped it, maybe my selection would have been different as well.
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)
An amazing selection of work here. We’ve got the personal stories of Dan and Doug, a great look at the warts at the end of the season by Marilyn, a look at the future by Daniel, and a wonderful potential conversation by Christine. Then there’s my post, but that’s really not worth discussing.
All of them are great, really, but I can’t stop grinning over Christine’s projected discussion between Bourjos and Craig in The Outfield Chronicles: A Conversation. The conversation is great enough, but the still she has from the game broadcast just really puts it over the top. Christine didn’t write as much this year as she has in the past, but this one proved that a drop in quantity in no way indicated a drop in quality.
I really enjoy the monthly projects that we do as a group. It’s great to put out a concept or a theme and see just where everyone goes with it. You can see things that you’d never thought of or find out you agree with someone you might not usually agree with.
This year, I think the Bloggers As Players project might have been the most fun. Putting together a lineup and a rotation using personality traits and posting habits was a unique exercise and one that really got people fired up. We’re not going to take the field anytime soon, but it was enjoyable to play a little what if.
16) Best UCB Podcast
Nominees: Conversations With C70, Gateway to Baseball Heaven, UCB Radio
As always, I have to put in a little clarification when I vote here. I usually try to make sure not to vote for myself in any of these awards. Not only is my stuff usually not worthy, but I’ve always felt it a bit out of character for me to say that my stuff is the best. Other folks might differ in how they approach the voting and that’s completely up to them, but that’s the way I look at it.
That said, here I’m involved with all three of the nominees. My personal podcast, Conversations With C70, is an irregular one, but Tara Wellman and I are on almost every Sunday with Gateway to Baseball Heaven.
As much as I’d like to honor Tara’s work on Gateway, because she gets the save just about every week, I’m going with UCB Radio. I still get to honor Tara, but also the many other voices of the show that airs every Wednesday. We’re mixing some new voices in and I’m looking forward to seeing how that goes in the next year as well. Yes, I’m occasionally sitting in the host chair here as well, but my participation is much more limited and well diffused by the quality that sits behind the mic week after week.
17) Best Non-UCB Podcast
Nominees: Best Podcast in Baseball, St. Louis Cardinals Extras (MLB.com), Viva El Birdos
After having the podcast market mainly to ourselves the past five years or so (yes, UCB Radio really has been around that long–just about to start year six, I believe), 2014 was the year everyone else jumped in the pool. The problem is, everyone else was pretty darn talented at it as well.
I’ve not listed to Jenifer Langosch on the MLB.com podcast much, though I did enjoy the one I dialed up. Viva El Birdos is putting their quality writing into audio form and it’s great to hear these writers talk among themselves. I really like their show and much of the time, they’d get my vote.
However, when you pair Bernie Miklasz and Derrick Goold and let them talk Cardinals, you truly do get the Best Podcast in Baseball. So many times this summer I put in my headphones, fired up the lawnmower, then spent the time cutting grass listening and occasionally discussing things out loud with Bernie and Derrick. (Why they never responded to my points or comments is beyond me. Maybe the mower was too loud.) I never like to mow the grass, but these guys make it almost it a task to look forward to.
18) Best Twitterer
Twitter is such a wonderful thing. We spend so much of the summer talking back and forth with each other, bantering, discussing the latest managerial move and just having a good time. Some folks do it better than others, of course, but it’s usually a great way to kill some time and it can be a lifeline during the long cold offseason.
Picking out just one Twitterer is very, very difficult. I have so many discussions with so many great folks that I can’t really narrow it down. Still, I often have some great conversations with my Gateway co-host, Tara Wellman (@tarawellman). You’ll find her dealing with #TheStruggle and often putting up a great picture of her dog, Louie. If you want Cardinal talk mixed in with her real life, Tara’s a great follow.
However, following any of the UCB bloggers is a great move. You should be doing that. Why aren’t you?
Thanks for checking out the ballot. Again, if you agree or disagree, go vote!