For the second year, UCB is recognizing Cardinals and Cardinals Bloggers for their hard work and dedication. This year I get to help pick the winners, and I'm very excited!
Alright, here are my votes. I must say, I had no idea how difficult these choices would be. It's like choosing between your children (well, not my children because that's an easy one... but you get the idea). I tried to go with the options provided, but there were a couple cases where I just had to step outside the box a little. Please enjoy! Oh, and as always, feel free to disagree.
(I got a little long-winded, so I separated my votes from my explanations for those who don't care about my reasons. Just click on the category to be magically transported to the section of the page where the rationale for each particular choice appears.)
- 1) Player of the Year
- Ryan Ludwick
- Yadier Molina
- Albert Pujols
- Kyle Lohse
- Braden Looper
- Adam Wainwright
- Todd Wellemeyer?
- July 5 vs. Chicago
- August 22 vs. Atlanta
- August 27 vs. Milwaukee
- September 9 vs. Chicago
- Kyle Lohse
- Ryan Ludwick
- Skip Schumaker
- write-in: Troy Glaus
- 5) Disappointing Player of the Year
- Chris Duncan
- Ryan Franklin
- Jason Isringhausen
- Joe Mather
- Kyle McClellan
- Chris Perez
- Troy Glaus
- Cesar Izturis
- Kyle Lohse
- Bryan Anderson
- Colby Rasmus
- Jess Todd
- C70 at the bat
- Viva el Birdos
- Bernie's Extra Points
- Bird Land
- Obviously, You're Not a Golfer
- Progressive Game Blog
- Roundtables (Example: October's)
- Top 7 Prospects
- Cardinal Nation Globe
- Cardinals Diaspora
- Beer Vendor (Warm and Cold)
- Biggest Plays of 2008 (Sample: Part 4)
- Reading the T-Shirts (here)
- Scott Rolen vs. Eddie Vedder (here)
- Busch Birds
- Pitchers Hit Eighth
1) Player of the Year
I don't care who you are or what team you're on, if Albert's your teammate you'd better learn a little humility 'cause he's going to draw all the attention, all the accolades, and all the glory (although, surprisingly enough, not all the walks). Ludwick and Molina both had great years. Molina is one of the best defensive catchers I can remember, and Ludwick is the definition of a high numbers power hitter, but Albert is, well... he's Albert. There really is no other choice. (And the MVP award he received earlier this week only cements his position as the Most Valuable Cardinal.)
2) Pitcher of the Year
This was a tough one. Tough, tough, tough. Wellemeyer was solid, and basically a workhorse, although Lohse pitched the most innings (200) and had the most wins (15). For as hard as he worked and as many innings as he pitched (199, including a complete game), I just didn't feel Looper was quite on par with the other three. Wellemeyer had the best ratio of strike-outs per 9 innings pitched (6.31) and the most strike-outs overall (134). I guess I could go on and give you piles of statistics that may or may not actually mean anything, but I won't. I'll give you this: If they were playing a game that meant everything--game seven of the NLCS, for example--the guy I would want on the mound over any other pitcher on the staff is...Wainwright. Lohse, Wellemeyer, well they're both awesome. Looper is a good pitcher, too. Piñeiro scares me a little bit. But with all the chips on the table, I think the guy that has shown how good his stuff is and shown how well he can handle the pressure of game seven is Adam. If he hadn't been injured for the time he was, I think the end of the season would have looked a lot different. I also think he's going to be a Cy Young winner one day soon. He embodies the future of Cardinals pitching.
3) Game of the Year
They were all good choices. Sept 9: Jason Motte had all of Cardinal Nation standing in front of their tv sets, arms limp at their sides, mouths open, eyes unblinking... no wait, those were the batters he faced. Sorry.
August 27: A come-from-behind win is always nice. Always. The day after you have your butts handed to you, it's even better.
August 22: 18 runs on 26 hits. And Wainwright got to whoop up on his childhood team, the team that traded him as a minor leaguer.
August 9 (I threw this in because it was also a lot of fun): Troy Glaus decided he was tired of not hitting the Cubs, so he hit them. Three times. For five ribbies. Good times picking on Big Z.
I can't remember the last time the Cardinals have come from behind like that, but I'm glad we were at home because if the Cubs'd had another opportunity, who knows how it would have turned out. Poor Wood.
4) Surprise Player of the Year
Luddy didn't surprise me so much as impress me. The difference is, I knew he had it in him, I just wasn't sure if we were ever going to see it.
Schu had a great season, did much better in center field that I thought he could, and stepped into the lead-off position without any problem (if you just ignore the first two weeks or so of the season).
I also considered Felipe Lopez when I was writing this, because given his record in Washington and fact that he was released by a bad team, you have to see his contribution to the Cardinals as very surprising.
And then of course, there was the other side of Adam Kennedy that we all saw very late in the season, a side that was hitting for extra bases and driving in runs like some sort of machine. It was surprising, to say the least.
But looking back at the entire year, examining all the players and factors we had going into the season, the one thing that stood out to me was the loss of Scott Rolen and the big gap that everybody was afraid we'd have with the new third baseman. Glaus was known in Toronto for a lot of the same things we knew Rolen for here--injuries, inability to get along with the manager, etc.--but without the depth and range that Rolen had. Troy had good career batting numbers, but was known to be a streaky hitter. I for one was very skeptical about what he was going to bring to St Louis. But by the end of the second week, even with a slow start at the plate, he was showing us just how good his defense was and making me question the fact that I had ever questioned him. I was literally scratching my head and silently congratulating Moze on a job well done. And by the end of the year, I was clamoring for a gold glove for the man who didn't just fill Rolen's shoes, but re-soled them and sharpened the cleats. He, to me, was the biggest surprise and made as big a contribution as anyone.
5) Disappointing Player of the Year
I'm going to tell you why I chose Frankie (and no, it's not because Chris and Jason are two of my top three favorite players). True, none of them were what you'd call "effective," but (personal bias aside) Dunc and Izzy were injured. Maybe they shouldn't have tried to hide it. Maybe they could have been getting fixed instead of going out there and making matters (and the games) worse. Maybe some people will never get over this. But Franklin was healthy and still managed to blow saves and give up important runs and ruin the starter's chances of getting the W. He's a good pitcher, but he was not ready for the closer role, and he really mucked things up. To be honest, when I think back about some of the late-inning collapses and ridiculous losses, his stand out more in my mind than any others.
6) Cardinal Rookie of the Year
We did have our share of ML debuts this past season, didn't we? This was another tough choice because Perez made a huge difference in the 'pen, and he really gave fans a sense of hope for not only the immediate future (ie, what are we going to do tomorrow?), but also for the long-term future of the club (ie, he's a guy who could be mentioned leading the league in saves at some point in his career). When we were worried about Izzy's health and the ability of the rest of the relievers to struggle through, he was definitely a bright spot.
Mather, too, was asked to come up (more than once) and fill in when guys were hurt, and besides just being thrown into a situation where he could have easily floundered but didn't, he made some spectacular plays in right field, and contributed right away to the offense. In other words, he didn't just survive, he flourished. And that resilience is exactly what you want from your AAAers when they're asked to come into Busch and "make it or break it." But Mac is special. He started the year with the big club after skipping over AAA, and he eased into his new role with not so much as a hiccup. He dominated lefties, he closed out games. He could come in to get that one guy, or he could go long and eat some innings. He rode around on that motorized cooler like a guy who's been doing this his whole life, and at the same time he was young and fresh and eager to perform. He picked up 30 holds and posted a 4.04 ERA. He pitched 75-2/3 innings, second most after Franklin. He struck-out 59, more than any of the other relievers. Oh, and while this probably shouldn't matter, he is from St Louis, and I have a special place in my heart for local boys who made good.
7) New Cardinal of the Year
Cesar was particularly good defensively, but never really found his rhythm in the batter's box. Troy made a heck of an impression on me and I almost gave him this one as well. In the end though, Lohse's presence on the mound gave me hope every five games (or so). He wasn't perfect and no one expected a Cy Young award or anything, but if the fact that the front office was willing to give him the contract they did isn't enough to convince you of his importance this past season, nothing I say will. And I think he's going to be just as important next year.
8) Most Anticipated Cardinal
I've never been as enthusiastic about the minor leaguers as some other bloggers and fans, but I'd say a person would have to be living under a rock not to have heard a lot about Mr. Rasmus. Yes, I know Anderson has a bright future as a catcher with some other big club, and I've heard that Todd is in fact a pitcher, but to say I'm anticipating either one of them make a difference with this team in the near future would not be accurate. Rasmus, on the other hand, is going to provide fodder for an incredible trade which will make a impact for the Cardinals, hopefully on opening day. If I were to speculate how the rest of Cardinal Nation feels, I would probably go in the direction that there are two schools of thought regarding Colby: (1) he should either be in a Cardinals uniform in 2009 or be traded, and (2) he should be traded.
9) Best Individual Blog
This one was hard because there are so many choices out there and all of them are good. I chose C70 because Daniel's blogs are fun and informative, he always makes good arguments for his opinions, and he stays positive. But beyond all that, he has taken on the task of organizing a blogging group and coming up with projects such as this one to keep the off-season interesting and the Cardinals Bloggers busy.
10) Best Team Blog
You cannot get more detailed information about the 'Birds anywhere. The guys from Viva el Birdos go above and beyond when it comes to analyzing statistics, and despite my glaring deficiencies when it comes to understanding such things, I have a huge deal of respect for the time and effort they put into their posts and into keeping up with the endless specs and stats.
11) Best Professional Blog
Derrick Goold writes excellent articles and an excellent blog. I like his polls, I like his explanations, I like his style. I also like the fact that he doesn't seem to have anything else to do but cover the 'Birds. Thanks DG!
12) Best UCB Project
I loved all the projects, and I loved reading the responses. The Progressive Game Blog was fun, and it gave readers a lot of insight into what's going on in the heads of bloggers while they're watching a game. That was more than interesting!
The Roundtables were a really good project to get bloggers and readers thinking about the issues. I thought the topics and responses from each UCB member were excellent. Getting so many different perspectives on things was neat. They gave the bloggers an opportunity to compare ideas and brainstorm, but they also gave them some direction to really make it feel like a cohesive group.
13) Most Optimistic Blog
Optimistic. That can be difficult when your team suffers the kinds of late-innings losses at the rate we were suffering them. Nobody was over-the-top optimistic, but most bloggers did a good job of keeping their chins up even towards the end of the season. I picked CNG. He stayed positive even longer than I did. (I don't think he officially threw in the towel until September 17.) And that was not an easy thing to do when the season was headed down the toilet and a lot of people were discouraged and frustrated.
14) Funniest Blog
A lot of people think they're funny; Aaron and Ryan think they're funny and they actually are. CD's a little vulgar, a little sarcastic, a little hedonistic. It's a good combination. Actually, there are a lot of funny bloggers out there, and some that can dial it up now and then to put out a funny post. CD stands out to me, though. I really appreciate their sense of humor. (FYI-BertFlex was a close second.)
15) Best Blog Post/Series of the Year
This one was tough, too, because they were all good. Really good. But "T-shirts" was super funny.
Here's one of my favorite parts... all right, it's my favorite. "Brendan Ryan #13: You love the scrappy guy. This is the latest in a long line of shirts for you, starting with Joe McEwing and then Bo Hart, which you still break out occasionally. Whether they have talent or not, it doesn't matter. You also don't feel like it's a good day until you've gotten your clothes dirty in some form of exertion, even if it's just diving off the couch for a loose chip."
16) Rookie Blog of the Year
All the rookie blogs are fun to read and well-written, which made this one a difficult choice, too. I chose PHE. Nick's blog has a very user-friendly layout, a good design, and a mascot that reminds me of #25 (if he hit from the left side). His posts are clever and well-articulated, and he provides good reasoning for his opinions. I feel like he has a very good understanding of the game and the business of the game, and I like that he has stayed a Cards fan even though admittedly living in "the land of the enemy." He also doesn't go overboard with the stats, and that makes me especially grateful. It's a great blog and I always look forward to his latest posts.