Josh Hamilton’s memorable performance at the HR Derby capped his brilliant 2008 and bagged him our Stud of the Year Award.
BY DANIEL OLSON, TIM McLEOD AND ROTOROB
We continue our third annual awards today with the release of the baseball honours. Hockey can be found here, and basketball and football will follow shortly.
Fantasy Stud of the Year
Josh Hamilton, OF, Texas Rangers: Rick James once said “Cocaine is a helluva’ drug.” Nobody knows this better then Hambone. After being selected as the first overall pick by the Tampa Bay Rays, Hamilton struggled with his drug addiction and nearly hit rock bottom while being out of the big leagues. Fortunately for him, he overcame his addiction and made it back to the big leagues in 2007 with the Cincinnati Reds and had a very successful campaign, batting .292 with 19 home runs and 47 RBI in only 90 games. That offseason he was dealt to the Texas Rangers for phenom Edison Volquez in what would prove to be one of the most equal trades in the history of the world. While the pitching-starved Rangers likely could have used Volquez, I’m sure they were plenty satisfied with the Hambino. He batted .304 with 32 home runs and an AL-leading 130 RBI for the GW Bush Rangers last season. You gotta feel bad for the guy being on the Rangers, who haven’t won anything since 1876, but he still had a monster 2008 and all indications are he’s primed for a solid 2009.
Fantasy Dud of the Year
How many of you had September 2 written down for the date of V-Mart’s first dinger? Can you say dud?
Victor Martinez, Cleveland Indians: As the premier catcher in baseball heading into the 2008 campaign (after all, he was coming off of a monster 25-homer, 114-RBI season in 2007), Martinez’s collapse did irreparable damage to many a fantasy team this past season. When one invests early in a catcher in fantasy drafts and he proceeds to hit his first homer of the season on September 2, it is not a good sign. In 2008, V-Mart shattered more fantasy dreams than Freddy Krueger, earning him the distinction of being our Fantasy Dud of the Year.
Honourable mention: J.J. Putz, Chris Young (pick one, they both killed you), Rafael Furcal, Carl Crawford, Eric Byrnes, David Ortiz and Erik Bedard.
Fantasy Rookie of the Year
Geovany Soto, Chicago Cubs: In a year filled with great performances from first-year players, two youngsters stood out above the rest. Soto and Evan Longoria, the respective ROY winners in both the NL and AL in 2008, had truly great first campaigns. Not to take anything away from the great year by Longoria, but we have to toss our support behind Soto for the 2008 RotoRob Rookie of the Year Award. In 2008, he finished tied for first in homers by a catcher with 23, third in RBI with 86, fourth with a .285 BA and second with an OPS of 874. In fact, Soto was one of only three catchers to finish the season with an OPS above 800. Truly outstanding statistics – especially for a young backstop — but the clincher has to be the way he handled himself behind the plate. Soto’s catcher ERA was a solid third overall at 3.82, and his scant five errors contributed to a great .995 fielding percentage. Soto is a truly deserving winner and is a cornerstone of what should be another strong Cubbies team heading into 2009.
Honourable Mentions: Longoria, Joey Votto, Jair Jurrjens, Alexei Ramirez and Jacoby Ellsbury.
Fantasy Comeback Player of the Year
Cliff Lee, SP, Cleveland Indians: Where oh where did Mr. Lee come from? A disappointing 2007 season saw Lee go 5-8 with a 6.29 ERA. Compare that to a 22-3 record with a 2.54 ERA and you might find yourself scratching your head in a bit wishing you had drafted him in your fantasy league. Lee’s incredible season in ‘08 earned him the AL Cy Young Award as well as a shot at a fat new contract. He had shown glimpses of being great, but a dismal ‘07 season left expectations at a minuscule level heading into 2008. He clearly found his inner Ricky “Wild Thing” Vaughn for the Indians this season and didn’t even lose a game until mid May. Even more impressive, Lee struck out 170 batters while only walking 34 throughout the campaign. Pretty damn impressive, if you ask me. While the Indians missed the playoffs last season, if Lee can continue his magic this coming season, he’ll give his Indians a great shot at competing for the AL Central title. Miracles can happen and a change in your routine can help your game, and yes I’m talking to you, Carlos Silva (a winner of a less desired RotoRob Award…see below).
The Anita Ward Award
For some bizarre reason, Mitch “Wild Thing” Williams, the former Phillie closer, was asked to ring the NASDAQ opening bell on August 29. Now the owner of Wild Thing 99 Foods, which manufactures Williams’ own recipes (including his apparently famous salsa), Williams bags the Anita Ward (remember her classic, “You Can Ring My Bell”?) Award for this strange brew of horrible control, high finance and salsa. Mix them all together and you got a disco party ballgame during which the Wild Thing got confused and wound up throwing the bell at the NASDAQ mascot, missing by 30 feet. Fortunately, the financial gurus hit into a double play on the next pitch and Williams held on for the shaky save. Salsa wrestling by disco ball soon ensued and a good time was had by all. Okay, so most of this is completely fabricated, but damn, it’s so weird, I just went with it.
Vendor of the Year
This summer, there was a major outcry at Rogers Centre, home of the Blue Jays, after one of the stadium’s most venerable vendors was fired because he failed to ask for ID when selling beer to a 22-year-old. Wayne McMahon, who is 61, but looks about 81 (clearly, he’s sampled a few of his own products from time to time), was most famous as the dude who would chant “ice cooooooooooooold beeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeer” — a marketing ploy that always seemed to please Jay fans (did I mention how boring Blue Jay games can be?). The whole episode was sting-like in its operation, as Aramark, the company that oversees concessions at the Rogers Centre, had planted a mystery shopper well in the middle of the aisle, and McMahon served him a beer without asking for ID to prove he was of drinking age. (Company policy is to card anyone who appears to be under the age of 30; come to think of it, why haven’t I been carded?) So what do you expect? The dude in question was 16 seats from the aisle and McMahon said that one of the people sitting on the aisle asked him to send along the beers. How do you expect this aging ale hawker to even be able to see that far, never mind actually identify that it was a human he was selling beer to, as opposed to, say, a lemur? The whole episode caused quite a stir in Toronto (I did mention how bored people are there, right?), and McMahon was never able to get his gig back, even though he secured the services of a lawyer. Hell, even a Facebook page was created to draw up support for the cause. At one point, the damn thing had over 23,000 members! That’s more people than are usually in attendance at a Jay game, unless Boston or the Yanks are in town. Well, at least there was some excitement at the Toronto ball park last season.
The Throwing Good Money at Bad Award
Too many burritos and enchilada platters for Carlos Silva led to a disappointing season and the unfortunate distinction of winning (on behalf of the Mariners) the 2008 Throwing Good Money at Bad Award. Silva signed a huge off-season contract with Seattle for four years and $45 million dollars, but this isn’t what the Em City faithful had in mind. April started off well enough for the veteran right hander as he 3-0 with a 2.79 ERA, tricking Mariner GM Bill Bavasi into thinking he was a genius. But then Silva showed his true ugly self for the rest of the season. May saw him go 0-5 with an ERA ballooning to over six. The rest of the season didn’t go any better as Silva must have found himself at the Taco Bell much too often and he finished the season with a pathetic 4-15 record and a 6.46 ERA. For $45 million, maybe the Mariners should let me pitch, as I could probably have comparable stats to those terrible numbers. Beyond Silva’s terrible season (other than April), he began to lash out to the media that his teammates didn’t back him or support him. Um…duh! You throw meatballs to the plate and allowed 20 home runs this season, dude. Silva seems to be another classic case of get a huge contract and get an even larger diet, earning him this dubious distinction for 2008. You Yankee fans better hope C.C. Sabathia’s appetite doesn’t continue to grow and he goes all Carlos Silva on you. (Come to think of it, if Sabathia got any bigger, he could take on Mothra).
Clubhouse Karma Award
Manny Ramirez, Boston Red Sox: You have to be a lock for this award when the whole team pulls a mutiny on you, although it was well deserved. Shoving road secretary Jack McCormick to the ground over a dispute involving free tickets, insulting team ownership through the media, failing to run out ground balls, and even rumours that he was faking a knee injury all led to the players deciding it just wasn’t worth it to be a part of the constant distraction that had come to be known as Manny being Manny.
Honourable Mention: J.P. Ricciardi (for his ongoing support of integrity when dealing with the media).
Best Seat in the House Award
How could we ever deny Madge her rightful spot in our year-end celebration? Who really has the best seat in the house? Madonna, of course! In a summer dominated by the constant rumours surrounding Mad-Rod, she put in an appearance at a Yankee home game, adding more fuel to the fire. Of course, there were the customary denials by all concerned, but in just a bit of a coincidence, six months later they’re both divorced. With Madonna at his side, I’m sure Alex Rodriguez will be getting to first base on a regular basis in 2009!
Pain in the Ass Award
Kaz Matsui, Houston Astros: Okay guys, when I have to head to Web-MD to try to sort this one out, it really is a pain in the butt. When Matsui hit the DL in April with the anal fissure injury it ensured him infamy and a spot in our 2008 rewards. By the way, for those of you who are anal about details, here are some nuggets on what an anal fissure is, courtesy of Wipe-epida (er, I mean Wikipedia): “An anal fissure is an unnatural crack or tear in the skin of the anal canal. Anal fissures may be noticed by bright red anal bleeding on the toilet paper, sometimes in the toilet. If acute they may cause severe periodic pain after defecation.” Kudos to Kaz for bringing the term ‘pain in the ass’ to a whole new level.
You Got Punk’d Award
Kyle Kendrick, Philadelphia Philles: In what had to be one of the best orchestrated gags we’ve seen in a long time, in Spring Training, Brett Myers and half the Phillies organization tricked Kendrick into believing he was traded to a Japanese team. Hell, even the media was in on the gag, as a press conference was held to make the announcement. Of course, if the Phils had any idea how crappy Kendrick would be in 2008, perhaps they would have really gone through with the deal. It was a great practical joke without a doubt, but in a bit of a ‘what goes around comes around’ turn of events, it was Myers who was the one that actually got shipped out, although only to Triple-A to sort out his own crappy game. Looks good on ya, Brett! Let’s hope you didn’t take your anger out on your wife this time.
Take Me Out of the Ball Game Award
When the Jays brought in David Eckstein to make their lineup more dangerous, little did they know the little guy would be this dangerous.
David Eckstein, Toronto Blue Jays: For the paltry sum of $4.5 million, Super-Smurf David Eckstein managed his most solid hit of the season on his own second baseman, Aaron Hill, effectively removing him from the roster for the balance of the season. On the positive side, it was pretty much the only thing he did hit in 2008: One home run, 23 RBI, 27 runs scored and two steals from the man that was supposed to put some spark into the top of the Jays batting order? Finally dispatched to Arizona at the trade deadline, sadly, Eck was one of GM J.P. Ricciardi’s better acquisitions.
Snowblind in the North Award
This is the clumsy fool you take fantasy advice from? Tim coveted our Golden Athletic Supporter Award so much, that he actually took to wearing one. At least his wife makes kick ass cookies.
Tim McLeod, Team RotoRob: Seeing as how I’m doing my best job at dissing any and everyone I can, I’d be very remiss if I didn’t bring up a personal highlight from the 2008 season. To quote yours truly from my pre-season sleeper picks, “Someone is going to win some games in Washington this year and Jason Bergmann could very well be that man.” What in the Sam’s Hell was I thinking? Or rather, what in the hell was I smoking? On the other hand I did mention how much I liked that Cuban middle-infielder Alexei Ramirez, so all was not lost. Hey, .500 may not win you a pennant, but dammit, it will win you a batting title every freaking time!