Boston Red Sox: The 5 Top Contenders for the 10th Player Award

Briggs Seekins@BriggsfighttalkFeatured ColumnistAugust 27, 2011

Boston Red Sox: The 5 Top Contenders for the 10th Player Award

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    The Boston Red Sox 10th Player Award was first established in 1975 by the WSBK,TV-38 television station. Channel 38 was a longtime broadcaster of Red Sox baseball.

    The criteria for the award is that it should go to the player who has "gone above and beyond" and "most exceeded expectations." The very fact that it is called the "10th Player Award" would seem to indicate that it should probably go to somebody outside of the official starting nine, somebody who has produced nicely in the pinch, filling in for an injured starter or shuffling between positions as needed.

    Other good candidates are middle relievers and set-up men, or else pitchers who have moved back and forth between the rotation and bullpen, helping the team win games in both roles; I think Tim Wakefield should receive a special "Lifetime 10th Player Award" when he retires.

    Dave Stapleton won the award in 1980, when he stepped in for the injured Jerry Remy at second, batted over .300 and finished runner-up for the rookie of the year. Marty Barret won it in 1985, after also breaking into the line up at second base. Joe Hesketh won the award in 1991, when he shuffled between the rotation and bullpen, leading the league with a .750 winning percentage as he went 12-4 with a 3.29 ERA. 

    Steve Lyons won the award in 1985 and Bob Zupcic in 1991, while putting up fairly mediocre offensive numbers but also playing exceptional defense in the outfield as emergency starters.

    But it is a fan voted award, and sometimes the selections have simply been popular stars. Roger Clemens won the award in 1986, the very same year he won the league MVP and his first Cy Young. Clemens had exploded onto the scene that year, so it could be argued that he "exceeded expectations" despite being a prized prospect.

    Dwight Evans won the award in 1987, for the second time, after a year when he was among the most productive offensive players in the league and well after he had established himself as a star. In Dewey's case, it was almost as if he won the award due to the fact that Sox fans felt like the rest of the world didn't appreciate him enough. He took home the award again in 1988 and remains the only three-time winner. 

Jacoby Ellsbury

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    If I were going to place a bet for who will ultimately win the 10th Player Award this year, I believe Ells would be my man. I wouldn't vote for him myself. He entered the season as the starter, has shown tremendous promise in the past and a lot was expected of him coming into this year.

    Nevertheless, you can't deny that he has exceeded expectations for at least most Red Sox fans.

    A .300 average seemed reasonable to hope for, but a possible 30/30 season? Maybe even an MVP? 100 RBIs out of the lead off spot? I didn't see any of this coming. If you did, I expect you might be a 14-year-old girl (or maybe my Grammy Bea). 

    It's hard for me to see the 10th Player Award going to a a guy who has become a legitimate big time star. I like to see it go to a guy who has been critical to the team in a role that just doesn't get a lot of glory. But it is ultimately a fan's award, and if a majority of the fans want to give it to Ellsbury than I'm willing to say "Good for him!"

Jarrod Saltalamacchia

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    Coming into this year, catcher was the position that kept the most of us up at night. A fan base that grew accustomed to the stability and leadership of Jason Varitek understands only too well how important it is to have a steady hand behind the plate. And last winter and early spring there was a lot of trepidation about how prepared Salty was to take over the role. 

    Saltalamacchia started slow, like the entire team, but his offensive numbers have been respectable: a .251 average with a .309 on base and .473 slugging average. With 13 home runs, he's shown a little bit of pop.

    These are not All-Star numbers, but that's not the point. The important thing is that Salty has held down the fort at the most important defensive position on the field. Try to imagine the Red Sox climbing out of that terrible early season hole if the backstop position had remained an especially weak link.

Daniel Bard

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    Daniel Bard has had a terrific season: He leads the league with 30 hold. He has a 2.10 ERA and a microscopic WHIP of .82. He has 9.3 strikeouts per nine innings and a dominating strikeout to walk ratio of over four to one.

    Of course, this is pretty much what we expected from him. Everybody knows he has nasty stuff and most Sox fans already regard him as the closer of the future.

    But set up man is one of those spots on the roster that is crucial yet unheralded. Bard would be a deserving winner of the award.

Josh Reddick

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    Josh Reddick has emerged as a solid starting player this year, capably handling right field in replacement of J.D. Drew.

    Reddick has contributed well offensively with a .292 batting average and a very respectable .825 OPS. He has been dependable from a number of spots in the batting order.

    Overall Reddick has been the epitome of a hustling, scrappy dirt dog. He has the potential to develop into a very nice everyday player and would be  a deserving winner of the 10th Player Award this year.

Alfredo Aceves

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    Ultimately, Double-A gets my 10th Player Award vote.

    Aceves has done everything asked of him this year, and done it all very well. He has taken turns in the starting rotation and and pitched long and middle relief while compiling a sensational 8-1 record with two saves, a 2.96 ERA and WHIP of 1.14. Left handed batters hit only .200 against him, making him a particularly valuable relief pitcher for late inning match ups.

    When I imagine this season without him, I see the Red Sox struggling to beat Tampa Bay for the Wild Card. As it is, I expect his versatility to make him a substantial contributor to Boston's postseason success.