If you are new to my writing or to BCB, each year I hand out awards to the forgotten, the maligned, the worst of the worst in baseball.
Why? Because everyone should get his due. They are named after various mediocre and poor performers of past seasons, or players (like Bob Buhl, who holds the record for most AB in a season with no hits, 70) who hold an impressive negative record.
NICE GUYS FINISH LAST AWARD
NATIONAL LEAGUE: Colorado/Pittsburgh 67-95
AMERICAN LEAGUE: Kansas City 56-106
The Rockies and Pirates were bad, but these records don't indicate that both clubs have some decent young players (Clint Barmes, Brad Eldred among them), and I would not be at all surprised if one of these clubs came out of the pack in the next year or two.
Kansas City's historically bad season (two games worse than 2004, believe it or not) can be summed up in one game - their August 10 loss to the Indians, when they entered the ninth inning with a 7-2 lead, and even though they'd given up some runs, still had a 7-6 lead with two out. They dropped no fewer than two easy fly balls which would have ended the game and wound up allowing seven more runs, for an 11-run Cleveland ninth inning and 13-7 loss. The loss was their 11th in a row; they wound up losing eight more before they won.
Any more of this and this is going to become the "Nice Royals Finish Last" Award.
DAL MAXVILL MEMORIAL BATTING AWARD
(Lowest Batting Average, Minimum 502 Plate Appearances)
NATIONAL LEAGUE: Mike Lowell, Florida, 118-for-500, .236
AMERICAN LEAGUE: Nick Swisher, Oakland, 109-for-462, .236
Lowell - wow. He had a bad year. There's no other way around it. Sometimes very good players do.
Swisher (who had enough walks to qualify under the 502 PA rule) is also a very good player, and he'll be just fine. He already has more career homers (23) than his dad, ex-Cub catcher Steve, hit. Steve had three times as many AB in his career than Nick has so far, with 20 lifetime HR. But Steve has one thing that Nick doesn't have, not yet, anyway - an All-Star selection. In a year in which he hit .236 with five home runs.
Why was this done? They needed a Cub, and a backup catcher. Rick Monday, who had 20 HR at the break, would have been the logical selection, but there were already too many OF on the roster, so Swisher got chosen. Naturally, he didn't get into the game.
I expect Nick Swisher will have many All-Star selections, and playing time in the games too, before he's done.
RICK STELMASZEK MEMORIAL BATTING AWARD
(Lowest Batting Average, Minimum 50 At-Bats)
NATIONAL LEAGUE: Andy Marte, Atlanta, 8-for-57, 140
AMERICAN LEAGUE: Donnie Murphy, Kansas City, 12-for-77, .156
AL Nice Try: Scott Spiezio, Seattle, 3-for-47, .064
Wow. Spiezio was once a decent third baseman with mid-range power. At 32 his career is pretty well done, and he also was involved in an incident with a taxi driver in Chicago in October, when he and his female companion refused to pay a fare, then stole the driver's cellphone and denied having it. When police called the number, the phone rang in the girlfriend's purse.
I think you could safely say this wasn't Spiezio's best year.
BOB BUHL MEMORIAL BATTING AWARD
(Most At-Bats, No Hits, Excluding Pitchers)
NATIONAL LEAGUE: Anderson Machado, Colorado, 0-for-12
AMERICAN LEAGUE: Kelly Shoppach, Boston, 0-for-15
Both of these guys are (or were) top prospects - Machado with the Reds, and Shoppach with the Red Sox, where he is still the heir apparent to Jason Varitek.
Whatever they wind up doing in their careers, they'll always have the Buhl Award to take home (If there were an actual trophy, it'd be a bent-up bat with a large hole in the barrel).
DOOLEY WOMACK MEMORIAL PITCHING AWARD
(Highest ERA, Minimum 162 Innings Pitched)
NATIONAL LEAGUE: Eric Milton, Cincinnati, 186.1 IP, 134 ER, 6.47
AMERICAN LEAGUE: Jose Lima, Kansas City, 168.2 IP, 131 ER, 6.99
Eric Milton: dumbest free-agent signing ever. What were the Reds thinking? Milton gave up 43 HR last year, and the Reds play in a launching pad. OK, so he only gave up 40 HR this year, but also allowed an amazingly bad total of 237 hits in those 186 IP, his strikeouts were down, and he was pretty much horrendous from day one.
To attempt to make up for the 40 HR allowed, he hit two as a batter in 2005.
Jose Lima nearly made this a clean sweep this year. We're going to have to start thinking about naming one of these awards after him.
THE TICKET BACK TO WICHITA AWARD
(Highest ERA, No Minimum Innings Pitched)
NATIONAL LEAGUE: Edgar Gonzalez, Arizona, 0.1 IP, 4 ER, 108.00
AMERICAN LEAGUE: Cla Meredith, Boston, 2.1 IP, 7 ER, 27.00 (but see below!)
Gonzalez is 22, which is probably why the Diamondbacks keep giving him chances (he's now pitched in parts of three seasons, going 2-10 in 65 IP, with 102 H and 27 BB allowed, and an 8.58 career ERA). At 22, I suppose it's still possible for him to improve.
Meredith is one of the Red Sox' better pitching prospects, and there were actually two other pitchers who had higher AL ERAs - but both pitched in the NL as well in 2005, so they're excluded. Oddly, both pitched for the Padres: Tim Redding, who gave up six runs in 1 IP (54.00) for the Yankees after going 0-5, 9.10 (28.2 IP, 30 ER) for San Diego, and Scott Cassidy (0.2 IP, 3 ER, 40.50 for Boston, 1-1, 12.1 IP, 9 ER, 6.51 ERA for San Diego).
And here you thought Petco Park was a pitcher's park.
ROGER CRAIG MEMORIAL PITCHING AWARD
(Most Losses, 17 or More Decisions)
NATIONAL LEAGUE: Kip Wells, Pittsburgh, 8-18
AMERICAN LEAGUE: Zack Greinke, Kansas City, 5-17
AL Nice Try: Jose Lima, Kansas City, 5-16
The Royals went 56-106, fifty games under .500. Nearly half of that deficit (23 under, 10-33) was provided by Greinke and Lima. Lima's a headcase, so I'm sure you understand. Greinke spent most of this season at age 21 (and if you've ever seen him, he looks like he's about 14), turning 22 in October, and the Royals still have hopes he'll become a star. Most likely he'll have one good year for them and then get a big free-agent contract from the Braves. Or Yankees.
MATT KEOUGH MEMORIAL PITCHING AWARD
(Fewest Wins, 17 or More Decisions)
NATIONAL LEAGUE: Victor Santos, Milwaukee, 4-13
AMERICAN LEAGUE: Zack Greinke, Kansas City, 5-17
Jose Lima, Kansas City, 5-16
Greinke and Lima? Again?
COMEDOWN PLAYER OF THE YEAR AWARD
NATIONAL LEAGUE: Corey Patterson, Chicago (2005: 13 HR, 35 RBI, .215)
(2004: 24 HR, 72 RBI, .266)
AMERICAN LEAGUE: Bret Boone, Seattle-Minnesota (2005: 7 HR, 37 RBI, .221)
(2004: 24 HR, 83 RBI, .251)
Nuff said, I think you'll agree.
THE LEAST VALUABLE PLAYER
NATIONAL LEAGUE: Corey Patterson, Chicago
AMERICAN LEAGUE: Juan Gonzalez, Cleveland
Some might say that another Cub, Enrique Wilson (yes, Enrique Wilson was a Cub for twenty days), ought to win this award. The Cubs were 5-5 in the ten games in which he appeared, and the five losses were by scores of 9-1, 15-5, 9-6, 9-4, and 12-2, so I think we can say it wasn't Wilson's fault!
Patterson's year wasn't just bad, it was historically bad. Example: He compiled a .182 BA and .502 OPS in September. In fact, Patterson hit .167 in 246 AB from June 1 to September 30 -- pathetic. You have to go back 37 years -- to 1968 -- to find players (Jake Gibbs, Tom Tresh, Hal Lanier, and Mark Belanger) who have had as horrid an offensive season as Corey has had in 2005. And keep in mind that 1968 was known as "The Year of the Pitcher" -- the AL batting title that year, for example, was won with a .301 average, the lowest ever.
He was completely clueless at the plate, flailing wildly at pitches way over his head, resisting coaching tips; he also learned nothing from a month-long trip to Triple-A, and refused to play winter ball.
Here's what I wrote last year about Gonzalez, when he won this award:
Ever since then, his baseball playing has, well, sucked, and his total salaries since then have totalled $38 million, not chump change, to be sure, but his arrogance cost him $100 million. After playing a mediocre 33 games with the Royals this year, he vanished with another injury, and having just turned 35 shortly after the 2004 season ended, I doubt you'll see him again. At one point he seemed a lock to hit 500, or maybe even 600 career homers. If he doesn't play again he finishes with 434, and leaves a legacy of selfishness.
You can add this stupidity to the above: Gonzalez re-signed with one of his old teams, Cleveland, and spent the first two months of the season on the DL. Activated on May 31, his season lasted exactly three pitches, as he strained a hamstring trying to beat out a ground ball in his first at-bat of the year.
Man, what an idiot. The only bigger ones are the ones who keep taking a chance on this guy, who's wasted more talent than most players have used.
LARRY BIITTNER MEMORIAL NON-PIITCHERS AWARD
After a beehive of activity in 2004 - no fewer than four position players threw six innings that year - only one position player took up the banner in 2005, former Little League World Series hero Sean Burroughs of the Padres.
As his team was fighting for a playoff spot (they got it, and with it the right to be annihilated by the Cardinals), on September 20 they were being blown out 17-1 by the Rockies in Denver.
Burroughs had started the game at third base, but bravely took the mound for the bottom of the eighth. The first three batters he faced - well, let's say it wasn't so great. He allowed two singles and a three-run homer to Matt Holliday, and then got out of the inning.
Frankly, maybe he ought to consider doing more of this. He was once a #1 draft pick (9th overall pick), but now he is 25 and the Little League WS fame has faded, as has his potential. Despite his 6-2, 200-pound size, he hit only one home run in 2005 and lost his starting 3B job.
But now he's got this award. Hey, it might be the only baseball award he ever wins. Enjoy, Sean.