It's Nov. 4, 2008, time once again to cast your ballot—for Major League Baseball's "This Year In Baseball Awards". It may not have as much long-term impact as that other election, but it's way more interesting.
Here's my official list of endorsements.
I'm going with Josh Hamilton on this on. Aside from his numbers (.304 BA, .901 OPS, 98 runs, 32 HR, 130 RBI), you have to love the whole story with this guy. Plus, one of the most memorable moments of the entire season had to do with this man at the plate, but more on that later.
Runner Up: Manny Ramirez. As much as it pains me to even type his name, and despite the fact that his numbers could have been way better if he wasn't such an ass, he's still one of the best.
As in starting pitcher, you know? CC Sabathia was the man this season. 17 wins, 251 K's, that remarkable stretch of innings with the Brewers and his workhorse stuff to end the season stand out. I looked at the list and thought, "If I had to win one game, who would I want to start?"
Runner Up: Mike Mussina. Again, painful to admit, but this year's 20 wins was a major comeback for this guy.
If anyone votes for anyone other than Evan Longoria, they need to look again. 27 homers and a .272 BA are great, but keep in mind that this guy was out of the lineup for a good portion of the season and still managed to have a noticeable impact on a team full of impact guys.
Runner Up: Joey Votto
You can give credit to the GM if you want, but the guy who turned a team of what-his-names like the Spring Training version of the Rays into the team that ran amok through the A.L. East and beyond is Joe Maddon. That "9=8" stuff seemed like total crap to me when I first heard it.
But guess what? It worked. Maddon also proved to be a pretty good in-game manager over the course of the season, despite the arguable mistakes he made in the World Series.
Runner Up: Joe Torre. The last team anyone thought would be in the postseason was the Rays. Another long shot was the Dodgers. More proof that "Steinbrenner" is not Pennsylvania Dutch for "genius."
You have to go with Brad Lidge. He was perfect in the first championship season in any sport to hit Philly since '83. I know that K-Rod will get a lot of votes. Hell, he may even win. But to put it simply, Francisco Rodriguez is a big game CHOKER! He racked up a record number of saves in the weakest division in all of baseball. It's why the Angels got knocked out in the first round, and it is why K-Rod isn't even runner up.
Runner Up: Jonathan Papelbon. This is the last guy batters want to face in the ninth inning. Period. He is intimidation.
This is a much-less heralded category, but a very important one (just ask the Red Sox!) Speaking of less heralded, the Colorado Rockies' Taylor Buchholz very quietly amassed 21 holds, a 2.17 ERA, and a .95 WHIP.
Runner Up: Grant Balfour. Another intimidating guy, but his intimidation has to do with his apparent conversations with the voices in his head.
Again, a seeming no-brainer to choose Dustin Pedroia. Simply stated, the man is the second base version of a black hole.
Runner Up: Brian Roberts. 110 double-plays turned and a .989 fielding PCT.
As in "single-game performance". This is where the choices got more interesting and where I really began to watch the videos. This is also my only tie. There were two no-hitters this season, one by Jon Lester and one by Carlos Zambrano. There are lot's of games where guys had great days at the plate, only two near perfect games on the mound.
Runner Up: Johnny Damon went 6-for-6 on June 7, with four RBI and a walk-off hit.
I don't even know how you put together a list of 10 plays over the course of a season with so many great highlights, but I picked one of those offered. On July 7, the Rangers' catcher Max Ramirez got slammed in a home plate collision and not only managed to remain conscious and hold onto the ball, he had the presence of mind to fire a throw to third to pick-off the advancing runner. You have to see it to believe it.
Runner Up: Jack Hannahan of the Athletics made a catch in foul territory that had a follow-up move that looked like Mitch Gaylord was playing third that day. Another must see.
There are three things that I will always associate with the 2008 season. Jon Lester's no-no (because it was the first one I ever actually watched). The second is Josh Hamilton in the Home Run Derby. His 28 opening round jacks beat the previous Bobby Abreau record of 24.
Runner Up: Ryan Zimmerman's walk-off hit in the official MLB opening day game is the third.
I wanted to have a tie here between Grant Balfour (for his craziness) and Joba Chamberlain (who is just plain odd), but neither was a choice. After reviewing the video, I chose Johnny Damon's play in Boston on the fourth of July when he missed a flyball that proceeded to hang out on the top of the wall for a moment before falling in front of the dazed Yankee outfielder. The shot of the guys on the other side of the wall trying to clue him in is priceless!
Runner Up: I'm going with May 21, when Victor Martinez of the Indians kicked a bucket in the dugout and got it stuck on his foot. Not only odd, but great karma for acting like a child in the first place.
I suppose when a team goes from worst to first you have to choose their GM...So I won't. I don't think that Andrew Friedman had nearly as much to do with the Rays current dominance as do luck and Joe Maddon.
I'm picking Pat Gillick of the Phillies. He's got the great combo of hot farm-system players and excellent trades...Who thought Joe Blanton was going to be THE move of the season?
Runner Up: Yeah, OK...Andrew Friedman.
In Game Five of the World Series, Chase Utley made on of the best plays in baseball history, let alone the 2008 postseason. With Jason Bartlett on second and Iwamura hitting a shot to him, Utley knows he can't get the speedy Iwamura. He instead fakes a throw to first, which baits Bartlett into rounding third and heading home. Utley then makes the throw to Ruiz the catcher in plenty of time to rod the Rays of a run. Unbelievable!
Runner Up: In Game Two of the ALDS, J.D. Drew sent a K-Rod offering into the cheap seats to give the Red Sox the lead and eventual win. It was the second year in a row that Rodriguez gave up a game winner to a Boston hitter in the divisional series (see CLOSER above).
Be sure to stop by the MLB site to see all the nominees and vote for your favorites. It's a great way to remember the 2008 season.