Cleveland Indians' End of the Year Awards

Nino CollaSenior Writer IOctober 6, 2008

2008 has come and gone for the Cleveland Indians, and it would be safe to say that most of us thought they'd still be playing baseball. However, as baseball always seems to do, we have been humbled.

The division was weak and our biggest opponents were off to one of the worst starts ever from an expected contender. It was there for the taking, but injuries took their toll and high achievers from last year's magical year were no where to be found.

It was a roller-coaster ride to say the least. One experienced all kinds of emotions, which included confidence, pressure, anger, joy, hope, disappointment, and eagerness.

Now we reflect on that season with all the people here on Bleacher Report that went through the ups and downs of the Cleveland Indians' 2008 season.

There were loads more than this that stopped by and contributed throughout the year, and I thank them for all their hard work and hope to see them in 2009.

But much appreciation to fellow community leader Michael Taylor, Samantha Bunten, Jeff Smirnoff, and Chris Davies for taking the time to help me remember 2008, one last time.

For one last time concerning the 2008 season, I shout "Go Tribe!" But, from here on out, the focus shifts to 2009 and all the possibility of great things happening for our beloved Indians.

I asked all to fill out a ballot of awards; you can see all the answers provided. They also summarized their picks below or in paragraph forum. I also asked what the Indians needed to do in the 2008-2009 offseason, and Chris Davies, Michael Taylor, and I all answered.


Samantha Bunten

Team MVP: Cliff Lee

22 wins and the league leader in ERA. The Tribe boasts the AL Cy Young winner again. It just isn't the guy we thought it would be.

Offensive MVP: Grady Sizemore

If he'd kept the average over .300, he would have had a shot at the A.L. MVP, even on a non-contender.

Breakout Performance: Kelly Shoppach

There should be no question as to whom this team's primary catcher will be in 2009.

Starter of the Year: Cliff Lee


Reliever of the Year: Rafael Perez

Maybe we should change this category to "Least Awful Reliever of the Year."

Unsung Hero: Jamey Carroll

Most reliable utility guy we've had in years.

Web Gem: Asdrubal Cabrera Triple Play

With apologies to Sizemore, history demands that this honor go to Cabrera's feat.

Lasting Memory: Fausto Carmona and Gary Sheffield Brawl

Thinking of Fausto popping Sheffield in the nose will never stop being funny.

Biggest Disappointment: Too little, too late

The Tribe's upsurge in August and September made the season even harder to take. It was like a showcase of what could have been if we hadn't spent three months out of the season looking like bush-leaguers.

Best Offseason Move: None

Did I miss something? We made an offseason move?

Minor Leaguer of the Year: Trevor Crowe

2009. Look out.

Biggest Offseason Need: Big bat at corner outfield, Re-sign Casey Blake

'09 Breakout Pitcher: Jeremy Sowers

He certainly struggled, but in the end proved he could handle a back-of-the-rotation starting spot. I expect he will continue to improve.

'09 Breakout Hitter: Shin-Soo Choo

Proved he could hit for power and average. And maybe the only guy on our team with a truly strong finish.

Prospect you want to see in '09: Adam Miller

At this point, I'm not sure I even believe he exists. Let's see it already.


Nino Colla

Team MVP: Cliff Lee

He stopped streaks when we need him the most, and at the end of the year, he continued them when we knew he would. We wouldn’t have even sniffed the .500 mark if he hadn’t saved our bacon.

Offensive MVP: Grady Sizemore

If this whole power surge thing is a product of him entering his prime, I’d expect him to reach the 40-40 mark in the next two seasons. He is consistently getting better and better at the plate every year.

Breakout Performance: Kelly Shoppach

Shin-Soo Choo was great, but Shoppach was one of the top catchers in the American Leagues in home runs. That is very special considering he didn’t play in as many games as others did.

Starter of the Year: Cliff Lee

It seemed redundant to put this up there, but we need to make it official, right?

Reliever of the Year: Jensen Lewis

Rafael Perez was the lone bright spot for most of the year. However, Jensen Lewis opened up the most eyes. He’s shown just how good he can be from here on out.

Unsung Hero: Jamey Carroll

Jamey stepped in for Asdrubal Cabrera and Josh Barfield at second and was an absolute spark. The season might have not meant much, but where would that team have been without him in the two hole for that extended period of time?

Web Gem: Grady’s Auxiliary Dive

I wanted to stray from the triple play, which was great and all, but the one that sticks out the most is Grady’s diving catch in which he bounced off the Auxiliary score board. This was in Kansas City, and I do believe it was late in the game—typical Grady.

Lasting Memory: Jensen Lewis’ emergence

I think we will look back on this season and remember, besides Cliff Lee’s awesomeness, that we witnessed the birth of our new closer.

Biggest Disappointment: Franklin Gutierrez

Because I had so much stock in him having a good year, he was the most disappointing player we had. He never really seemed to get out of that funk either. He had a good end to the season and all, but it just wasn’t what I was expecting, especially after he hit the grand slam on opening day.

I do think next year is a new story though.

Best Offseason Move: Jamey Carroll

It seems kind of stupid of me to put this category up here when we only made two moves. But trading a rather useless minor leaguer for Jamey Carroll was brilliant. He will be a piece in 2009 as well.

Minor Leaguer of the Year: Beau Mills

I was expecting more people to pick Mills, but because they didn’t, so I had to. Mills was by far our minor league of the year with the numbers he put up. I’d also give an honorable mention to Kelvin De La Cruz for his year in Lake County and Kinston. We have another young Fausto Carmona on our hands.

Biggest Offseason Need: Third Baseman

I think a starting pitcher is just as big of a need because there is a lack of third baseman available. But we need to get some bodies in here to at least compete; Marte probably isn’t the answer.

'09 Breakout Pitcher: Tony Sipp

I’m going a little off the radar for this one. Sipp spent this year rehabbing and trying to get back on the track to the big leagues. He could start the year in Columbus but end it in the Cleveland bullpen, a la Rafael Perez, now that he is healthy.

'09 Breakout Hitter: Franklin Gutierrez

I said 2009 would be a different story, and I meant it. Gutierrez went through a maturity year, and I think he’s destined for better things. I also think Ryan Garko will have a “breakout” year, if you could call it that. One that makes us all say, “Wow, I’m glad we didn’t trade him.” Same for Franklin Gutierrez; the Indians' patience will be rewarded.

Prospect you want to see in '09: Jeff Stevens

I thought we would see him this year, and we probably would have if the Olympics didn’t get in the way. I’m eager to see what he has next year, though, and expect him to be a big part of the bullpen.

What the Indians need to do in the offseason: It isn’t so much what the Indians need to make, it’s more about what move that they don’t need to make. I can see one deal going down, I really could. But I wouldn’t dare trade a commodity like Kelly Shoppach, Ryan Garko, Ben Francisco, or Franklin Gutierrez.

Trade a prospect that is perfectly fine if you ask me, but don’t you dare give up on one of these kids right now. Gutierrez or Garko could come back to bite you. The Indians need to stand pat with the kids they’ve got, because they’ve worked too hard to produce this talent, and I would hate to see another team benefit from it.

As far as bringing in someone, it’s quite obvious what needs to be done. Sign a third baseman, or a few, if you can’t find a solid one, to compete with Marte at third and sign another starting pitcher or two. I think the same needs to be done for the closer spot, bring in a reliever of the Jason Isringhausen type, with an incentive-laden deal and let him compete with Jensen Lewis.

Starting pitching is the one slam dunk move that we need to make though; we need an established starter.


Chris Davies

Team MVP: Cliff Lee

Need I say more?

Offensive MVP: Grady Sizemore

Grady went 30-30-30 again; the numbers speak for themselves.

Breakout Performance: Scott Lewis

Lewis pitched 14 scoreless innings to start his career. That is the definition of a breakout.

Starter of the Year: Cliff Lee

Come on, who else was in contention?

Reliever of the Year: Jensen Lewis

With no one else wanting to step up, Lewis took the closers role by the reins at the end of the year and really showed the team that he is a viable candidate for the closer role in the future. Plus, people tell me I look just like him, so he's cool in my book.

Unsung Hero: Jamey Carroll

Carroll filled in for just about everyone on the team at some point and did an awfully good job doing it, too. I wouldn't mind keeping him around for a while.

Web Gem: Grady Sizemore’s catch in the last game

It was Sizemore's home-run robbing grab on Sept. 28 against the Sox. The game meant nothing to the Indians, except to stop the Sox from reaching the playoffs, but still Sizemore gave his all to prevent Pierzynski from hitting a homer.

The man is a gamer, and he will not stop playing his hardest. I'm biased because I was there and it was one of the few things to cheer about that day, but it sure shut up Sox fans.

Lasting Memory: Lee’s 22-Win Season

Lee's wins, who will forget that? It's historic; it will be in books and stuff.

Biggest Disappointment: 81-81

Not winning the division, settling for .500, all that crap.

Best Offseason Move: Jamey Carroll

What else did we even do?

Minor Leaguer of the Year: Scott Lewis

Just because he was so good at the big-league level.

Biggest Offseason Need: Power hitting third baseman

See last question.

'09 Breakout Pitcher: Fausto Carmona

I think that Fausto will find his old stuff and have a year like last year and like Cliff did this year.

'09 Breakout Hitter: Shin-Soo Choo

Based on the month of September, I would say that this kid has the potential to be a big hitter in the lineup next year and provide us with the power we desperately need from that position.

Prospect you want to see in '09: Matt LaPorta

I want to see what we got for CC; he damn well better be worth it.

What the Indians need to do in the offseason: The top need this offseason for the Indians, in my humble opinion, is to acquire a power-hitting third baseman. If 2008 was good for one thing, it was good to show us how worthless Andy Marte really is. If Marte retains a roster spot, I swear I will throw something at Wedge the next game I am at.

Third base is a power position; the kind of position that is supposed to deliver strong power numbers, and with Casey Blake now gone from the team, it seems that there is almost no offense to be found at that position at all.

Several people (myself included) have proposed that Jhonny Peralta should fill that position, but time and time again the club has stated that such a move is not in their plans (even though it makes perfect logistical sense).

Which means that the team needs to go out and find someone via free agency or trade that will represent a viable defensive option as well as a middle-of-the-order type bat to bring in some runs. More than a closer, this is the team's dire need, especially with the bats of Hafner and Garko looming as huge question marks for the 2009 season.


Jeff Smirnoff

Team MVP: Cliff Lee

27 percent of the team's wins and it should have been more. Not just good, not great, but dominant almost every start.

Offensive MVP: Grady Sizemore

Bring those strikeouts down and put the ball in play more and watch that average go up to .290. Then the rest of the nation will realize what Cleveland already knows.

Breakout Performance: Shin-Soo Choo

It takes pitchers two years to recover from TJS. Even Choo says he is not 100 percent healthy.  I want to see what he can do over 162.

Starter of the Year: Cliff Lee

See above.

Reliever of the Year: Rafael Perez

Perez wins the war of attrition. Struggled early but figured it out and then tired at the end of the year. Longevity trumps Jensen Lewis' ending.

Unsung Hero: Kelly Shoppach

Victor Martinez is the emotional leader and best pure hitter on the team. Until Shoppach stepped up, the Indians looked like dead weight. It can not be overlooked what he did with the young pitchers as well.

Web Gem: Asdrubal Cabrera Triple Play

It may not have been the prettiest play of 2008, but the rarity of it makes it special.

Lasting Memory: Cliff Lee’s Dominance

Every fifth day was must-see TV for me, even in a disappointing season. Barely edges Fausto pummeling Gary Sheffield.

Biggest Disappointment: Fausto Carmona

I know he was injured, but he came out pressing from Day One, well before CC was traded. The injury only complicated things, and he never found it.

Best Offseason Move: None

Jamey Carroll or Masa Kobayashi? Carroll was great, but a utility guy doesn’t qualify as a major move. Their failure to make a move came back to haunt them.

Minor Leaguer of the Year: David Huff

Dominated at AA and was a force in AAA. He was more of a factor that Wes Hodges.

Biggest Offseason Need: Established Power bat at 1B, 3B, or OF

Closer and sorting out the bullpen are important, but the Indians need that established, veteran bat that can tie the order together.

'09 Breakout Pitcher: Fausto Carmona

I'm not expecting a Cliff Lee breakout but the return of that sinker and what comes along with it.

'09 Breakout Hitter: Asdrubal Cabrera

The fact that he learned and evolved from his demotion tells me he will figure it out.

Prospect you want to see in '09: Adam Miller

It's about time to see if the hype is true...Or use him as trade bait to land a power bat or closer.


Michael Taylor

Team MVP: Cliff Lee

Offensive MVP: Grady Sizemore

Breakout Performance: Shin-Soo Choo

Starter of the Year: Cliff Lee

Reliever of the Year: Rafael Perez

Unsung Hero: Jamey Carroll

Web Gem: Asdrubal Cabrera Triple Play

Lasting Memory: Not quitting and playing out the season

Biggest Disappointment: Injuries

Best Offseason Move: Not trading Lee/Shoppach

Minor Leaguer of the Year: David Huff

Biggest Offseason Need: Third Baseman

'09 Breakout Pitcher: David Huff

'09 Breakout Hitter: Ben Francisco

Prospect you want to see in '09: David Huff

Wow, what a season that was. We had some low lows just before the All-Star break, when the team was forced to sell off parts after the 10-game losing streak, to the excellent second half of the season that made us begin to wonder if they gave up just a bit too soon (even know it was still the right move for the future).

Cliff Lee was by far the Most Valuable Player on the team, with his amazing comeback season, even though Sizemore had only the second 30-30 performance in team history, making him my offensive MVP.

We saw Shin-Soo Choo breakout beyond any of our wildest dreams and look like a productive All-Star capable outfielder during the last six to eight weeks of the season. There were lots of disappointments, with numerous injuries of top Indians players that initially caused the tailspin, which was then saved by the Tribe's never-say-die attitude and constant drive during the second half of the season, to make a success of what was left, which in my mind will be the lasting memory of the 2008 season.

We witnessed the top Web Gem of  an unassisted triple play by Asdrubal Cabrera during the midst of one of the most memorable stretches of scoreless pitching in MLB history. The bullpen was a disaster from the start, but it was calmed by the duo of Jensen Lewis and the best left-handed relief man I can think of, Rafael Perez.

There is much to look forward to as we enter 2009 as we distance ourselves from a memorable 2008. We just hope that next season will once again bring us that one missing memory, a World Series title.

What the Indians need to do in the offseason: The Indians once again, in my estimation, do not need any drastic makeovers. GM Mark Shapiro has built the foundation to a franchise that will continue to be a contending team in the A.L. Central. There are three areas of need going into 2009, one is a few extra bullpen arms for depth in front of Lewis/Perez, an extra veteran starter, and a third baseman to bridge the gap until Wes Hodges/Beau Mills is ready to take over.

The priority for me is the extra starter, as I am not confident in the rotation as currently set with the exception of Lee. The rest of the rotation has several question marks: Can Carmona rebound? Is Anthony Reyes as good as his brief appearance? Can Laffey/Sowers make it through a season? When will Westbrook be healthy? Is Zach Jackson a major-league starter?

Basically for me, add one more veteran into the mix, along the lines of a Westbrook No. 3-type starter, to give added insurance that the staff will be good enough to compete for 162 games.

The other needed move is to get a stopgap third baseman that plays good defense (Joe Crede maybe).

The Indians don't need big offense from the position, and if they get league average offense, I will be happy. There are two quality prospects on the verge of coming up in the next two years, no need to throw the plan out of whack by making a drastic move to fill the position with a big-time player that would have to be acquired via a trade.