Throughout the country, people are going to the polls to cast their vote on matters of state, dealing with people and issues on all levels of government. It’s an important right that needs to be exercised on a regular basis.
I’m not here to talk about that, though. Those sort of discussions invariably wind up with both sides spitting fire and declaring that they’ll never talk to those idiots again. Not exactly a fun area to wade into. What is fun? Baseball. And, as you know, we’ve got some baseball awards to vote in as well. If you want to cast your vote (and you aren’t a member of the UCB, who I again HEAVILY ENCOURAGE to get their ballots written or recorded), you can find the ballot here to cast your vote. It seemed like a good day, though, to go ahead and put my votes out there for public consumption. Join me, will you, as we work our way through the ballot.
Matt Carpenter had a terrible start to the season. The last six weeks weren’t all that great either. In between, my goodness. I don’t know if we’ve seen a hitter that hot since Albert Pujols left and even AP might not have reached the concentrated heights Carpenter did during the year. I’m still a little concerned about Carpenter going forward–those off stretches seem to be getting longer and more frequent–but if the Cardinals could get, say, a guy like Bryce Harper to take the focus off of him, that might help a little bit. (What’s that you say, Harper’s available? You’d think I’d have heard something about that by now.) Molina probably would be my runner-up for turning in a season that belied his age, plus doing it after losing a month to one of the most painful injuries imaginable, plus getting another Gold Glove and the Roberto Clemente Award. Molina is a modern miracle, honestly.
There’s no doubt that every one of those pitchers had their moments, but all but Mikolas had some significant drawbacks as well. Norris scuffled in the last couple of months, Flaherty had trouble getting deep into games (and had some of his worst starts in September), and Hicks still needs to have a better idea of the strike zone. Mikolas, though, pretty much was solid from day 1. (Well, his first start against the Brewers was a little shaky, but he did hit a home run in his first game!) While wins aren’t necessarily a great measure, 18 of them is a nice number, especially when paired with a 2.83 ERA and a 1.3 BB/9 rate that led the league. Mikolas proved that the Cardinals have a pretty good handle on the Asian pitching market, especially after the success of Seunghwan Oh, and that may pay off again in the near future.
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: June 3 vs. Pirates
There are some remarkable performances on here. Carpenter’s entire series against the Cubs coming right out of the All-Star Break was impressive, but his July 20 game, where he had five extra-base hits and then sat the last three innings or so, was incredible. Wainwright’s start against the Dodgers was a huge lift to a team that needed it, stopping at least briefly their free fall out of the playoff picture. However, for the best overall game, I think I’ll go with Wacha’s outing against the Pirates, where he took a no-hitter into the ninth before Colin Moran broke it up. It was a sharp, taut game overall. The Cards put up four in the first but then didn’t score again until the eighth. Every pitch meant something. There were a lot of great games this year, but I’ll go with a bid for immortality.
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: May 6 vs. Cubs
My Gateway to Baseball Heaven co-host Tara Wellman probably will scold me for not selecting Wong’s home run and it was difficult to not pick Jose Martinez’s game-winner against Colorado since it was on my birthday, but how do you go against the drama that was Dexter Fowler’s blast? It completed a sweep of the Cubs. It was in the 14th inning–a 14th inning that came after a rain delay. It was on national television. It took the Cards (down one) from defeat to victory. It came against Fowler’s old team and went over the outstretched arm of Jason Heyward, the former Cardinal. The only thing better would have been if it happened with more on the line than a May game, but that was dramatics at its best.
Award 5: Surprise Player of the Year
Nominees: Harrison Bader, Miles Mikolas, Bud Norris, Kolten Wong
My pick: Bud Norris
All of these guys exceeded expectations, but I don’t know if anyone did that more for me than Norris. When he signed, I thought it was a reasonable deal for a guy that would be a seventh-inning option. Instead, the rest of the bullpen crumbled, the Greg Holland Experience was a horror show, and Norris stepped into the gap and became the closer that this team needed. As noted above, the end of the season wasn’t great as he dealt with injuries and other issues, but the Cardinals don’t get to the last week of the season with a playoff spot if Norris hadn’t sealed the wound that was late inning relief.
Award 6: Disappointing Player of the Year
Nominees: Dexter Fowler, Greg Holland, Tommy Pham, Adam Wainwright
My pick: Dexter Fowler
I think all of these folks fell short of the expectations we had for them. Pham looked more like the Pham we expected once he made it to Tampa Bay, but Tommy’s always played his best with a chip on his shoulder. We all wanted Wainwright to get back to form, but injuries kept him from it until the end of the season. While there were many that thought the Cardinals didn’t need Greg Holland, there’s no doubt everyone expected better than a ERA that approached eight. For all of that, though, Fowler might have been the most disappointing. He didn’t quite meet expectations in 2017 but he showed more power than folks thought and, after a slow start, was a pretty solid contributor. This season, though, it never really kicked in. Whether it was feeling the lack of confidence from the past manager or a erosion in skills or some combination of both, seeing Fowler hitting under .200 into August was fairly shocking. There are lot of questions surrounding him for next year and I’m one of those that believes that he can still play a contributing role, but 2018 was pretty much a lost season for Dex (save the addition to his family).
Award 7: Rookie of the Year
Nominees: Harrison Bader, Jack Flaherty, Jordan Hicks, Yairo Munoz, Tyler O’Neill
My pick: Jack Flaherty
There were a lot of first-time players that made some significant impacts this season and I think all of these guys deserve some recognition. That said, it really comes down to Bader and Flaherty for me. Bader locked down center with some amazing catches and contributed a lot offensively, though he still had some holes in his game. Flaherty was dominating most of the year, though he couldn’t get deep enough into games. I’ll go with Flaherty by a hair (ironic, given Bader’s flow) because of his ability to take over a game. Twice he had 13 strikeouts in an outing and it didn’t seem like any opponent flustered him. His September was shaky but that could have easily been a fatigue issue. All in all, a great first full season for young Jack.
Award 8: Acquisition of the Year
Nominees: Miles Mikolas, Yairo Munoz, Bud Norris, Marcell Ozuna, Chasen Shreve
My pick: Miles Mikolas
If things went the way we expected them to, Ozuna should have been the runaway winner here. Bringing in a guy that hit 37 homers the year before should make this a no-brainer. However, Ozuna’s shoulder (we hope, at least) sapped some of that power and while he was still a plus to the club, he wasn’t really what the Cardinals thought they were getting. Mikolas was exactly what they thought they were getting, but they were really the only ones that saw this breakout on the horizon. Snagging your best pitcher–and yes, even with Carlos Martinez on the staff, Mikolas was the best pitcher in St. Louis last year–on a bargain deal from the Japanese leagues is a remarkable bit of scouting and analyzing.
I think Nolan Gorman is probably going to run away with this and I’m very excited to see him regularly as well, but before the season in his Prospect Matchmaker Kyle Reis matched me up with Carlson and he’s done nothing but continue to prove he’ll be in the majors some day. Carlson went into the offense-dampening zone that is Palm Beach and still put up nine homers while keeping his advanced approach at the plate intact. I’m no expert, but even if he does go back to Palm Beach to start the season, I don’t believe it’s very long before he gets to Springfield and we can really see what the Cards have with him.
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: RetroSimba
It’s somewhat tough to pick between blogs, especially when you know all the people involved with them. All of these are great folks that love their Cardinals and you should give them a read. However, Mark Tomasik always brings so much detail, so much research, and so much history to his posts. It’s a great way to stay informed with what happened in the past and see the connections to what is happening now.
I love Rusty and Adam and they’ve done some great writing this year, but it’s so hard to go away from the force of nature that is BOTB. With cardinalsgifs’ visual mastery and the work of Kyle, Tara, Chuck Brownson, Alex Crisafulli, STLCardsCards, and so many more, BOTB is always putting up interesting pieces. Their #YadiWeek focus was outstanding and I don’t think anyone else could have pulled it off the way that they did. Adding the charity component to it was the icing on the cake and what we’ve come to expect from that site, honestly.
Award 12: Best Media Coverage
Nominees: Derrick Goold, Benjamin Hochman, Jenifer Langosch, Bernie Miklasz, Rob Rains, Mark Saxon, Joe Trezza
My pick: Derrick Goold
There’s no doubt that Mark Saxon had the most eventful media year and I’ve enjoyed reading him and Bernie at The Athletic. Joe Trezza did an excellent job filling in while Jenifer Langosch was on maternity leave. St. Louis continues to be blessed with remarkable baseball coverage, which is befitting the baseball town that it is. However, Derrick Goold continues to be the one that everyone reads and everyone comments on. It’s tough to take down a guy that chats, podcasts, Tweets, and writes excellent stories.
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: “For My Father, and Baseball, Happy Father’s Day“, Kyle Reis, Birds on the Black (write-in)
So it’s a little weird for me, the person that made up the ballot, to then select a write-in as my answer. Why didn’t you just put it on there to start with, you might be asking? Well, here’s the thing–I don’t tend to like to take on the responsibility of reading every thing and trying to remember great posts throughout the year, so when it comes to this category, I ask folks to nominate their best post and I put them on the ballot. It’s easy, everyone that wants to have a post considered gets a post considered, and we all go about our lives.
However, as I monitored the fan voting results, I noticed that someone had written in Kyle’s post about his father, stricken with cancer, and their relationship as it revolved around baseball. That post was a remarkable piece, touching and honest and no doubt painful to write. It was a post that stood out this year, so much so that when I saw the title, I immediately remembered it and knew that had to be my selection. Nothing against the other great posts that are nominated here, because there is some excellent work up there, but Kyle’s post was the most memorable for me this year.
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: Bird Seeds
I don’t know if it’s cheating or not, but I’m encompassing all of Tara’s work this year–Bird Seeds, the series previews, About Last Night–into this vote. (Wait, I make the rules for this, so no, it’s not cheating.) Tara did some incredible work this season and her interviews and discussions were outstanding. I know that life kept her from doing as many of them in the second half of the season as she would have liked, but I’m hoping she’ll pick up those threads this winter and go strong again next season.
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: Scoops with Danny Mac
The reason that we separate the podcasts is because when you have heavyweights like Derrick Goold, Dan McLaughlin, and Bernie Miklasz/Will Leitch, it’s hard to imagine anyone else getting any votes. This was a real tough choice before me because I enjoy a lot of the podcasts on here. Danny Mac, though, burst on to the scene and didn’t just put his toes in the water, he cannonballed in. Short shows before every FSMW game. Interviews with players. The man doesn’t rest–he got Greg Garcia into a podcast just hours after Garcia was claimed by the Padres. The show got up before Garcia’s jersey could be marked down at the team store. Not only that, he put out weekly talks with John Mozeliak and then minor league coverage with Brian Walton. It’s Danny Mac’s world, we’re all just living in it.
Award 16: Best Podcaster
Nominees: None (write-in only)
My pick: Jim Hayes
As I went through that last award, I realized that somehow The Cat Chat podcast got left off the voting, which is a shame. Jim Hayes has brought his regional cable journalism talents to the podcast scene and has been able to do some fun interviews with the players, both past and present. His relationships and rapport with those guys really shines through with what he does and I wanted to find some way to give a cap tip to him. This seems to be the best way.
Award 17: Best Fan/Media Hybrid
Nominees: Dan Buffa, Jeff Jones, Brenden Schaeffer, Joe Schwarz
My pick: Joe Schwarz
When I was putting together this ballot, I wanted some way to acknowledge those guys that write for some major outlets but don’t necessarily have this as their full time job. They aren’t really bloggers, they aren’t completely media, but they bring a lot to the table. All of these folks are tremendous, but I’m going with Mr. Schwarz, who parlayed his pitching analytics from helping create Birds on the Black to the St. Louis bureau of The Athletic, getting even more eyes on his outstanding thoughts on pitching. (Always helpfully illustrated by cardinalsgifs, of course.) It feels like Joe’s analysis is going to eventually lead him to even bigger things and we’ll always be able to say we knew him when.
Award 18: Best Social Media Game
Nominees: #bombsaway, The Cardinal Six
My pick: #bombsaway
I never vote for myself, but even without that caveat I think #bombsaway was the better game this year. cardinalsgifs and RFish36 did an incredible job coming up with the idea, promoting it, keeping things updated, and engendering a sense of excitement and buzz around it every single series. Mixing in bonus points and being flexible with how folks put in their picks only helped it become the darling of the masses. I look forward to playing that again next season!
There are my picks. Again, if you want to join in the fun, you can do so right over here!