The Cardinal Blogger awards is one of my favorite projects of the United Cardinal Bloggers. Not only do we get one more opportunity to talk about the players and games, it is the one time of the year when we reach out to our peers and pat them on the back for a job well done. This year, the voting is not limited just to the members of the UCB. You can cast your votes here and I encourage anybody reading this to do so.
Here is my ballot for 2011.
1. Cardinals Player of the Year: Lance Berkman
I could certainly make a strong case for Chris Carpenter (not the ace) and Jason Motte (not the closer), but it was Berkman who contributed consistently throughout the entire season. I remember when an oft injured and presumed broken down Roger Maris came to the Cardinals in 1967, we wondered how many games he would play. He surprised us all by playing in nearly every game. Lance Berkman did the exact same thing in 2011. We had hoped to get 120 games, he gave us 145. The most games Berkman missed in a row – 4. Once. One time he missed three. That’s durability.
Berkman got off to a hot start in April and May, but cooled off a bit in the summer months. Still, his production was far above what anybody had a right to expect. It’s what he did in September that still makes me shake my head – .374 / .457 / .484. Let’s take a closer look at that first number, .374 batting average. That is a lot of protection to be behind Albert Pujols. If Berkman doesn’t heat up, they continue pitching around Pujols and the Braves advance to the NLDS.
2. Cardinals Pitcher of the Year: Chris Carpenter
Does this need any explanation ? I didn’t think so. Even with a healthy Adam Wainwright, Chris Carpenter is still the pitcher I want on the mound for a must win game.
3. Regular Season Game of the Year: September 24, Chicago at St. Louis
There were so many, but this game stands out among all of the others because this was the first time that we could really begin to believe the Cardinals were going to win the Wild Card. Kyle Lohse gives up an early run, and then inning after scoreless inning. With the Cubs closer on the mound, the huge Cardinals crowd gets on their feet and screams. I could hear them all the way down here in Dallas. As each Carlos Marmol pitch misses the strike zone, the noise level increases. A bases loaded walk ties the game and a wild pitch gives the Cardinals a win, and it was a must win. If the Cardinals don’t win this game, Kyle Lohse pitches the last game of the season and nobody talks about it again.
4. Postseason Game of the Year: NLDS Game Five
As entertaining as Game Six of the World Series was, the Roy Halladay/Chris Carpenter pitchers duel to end the NLDS was the best baseball game I’ve seen since Bob Gibson faced off against a very young Tom Seaver in May 1968. Two hits in the first inning were the difference between advancing to the NLCS and watching it on TV. This is the kind of baseball game that requires a defibrillator.
5. Surprise Player of the Year: Lance Berkman
145 games played, a .301 batting average (OPS of .959), 31 home runs, 94 RBIs.
Berkman led the Cardinals in on base percentage, slugging (and OPS, duh). Only Yadier Molina had a higher batting average (a story that needs to be told more often). Talk about a player exceeding all expectations, but his biggest contributions might have come off the field. Berkman might have been the guy the Cardinals needed in the clubhouse, that rare combination of keeping things loose until you get on the field and then it’s all business. In the past there were always plenty of one or the other, but Berkman, and later Octavio Dotel and Rafael Furcal, added something to the dugout we had not seen in a long time.
6. Disappointing Player of the Year: Colby Rasmus
It is a shame that a talented young player like Rasmus wasn’t able to put it all together in St. Louis. John Mozeliak made the most out of a bad situation.
7. Rookie of the Year: Allen Craig
And yes, I am sort of back peddling from my UCB roundtable answer. If you take a look at Craig’s production (.315 average, 11 home runs, 40 RBIs) and extrapolate that to a full year, you get production that exceeds that of Lance Berkman, and he is the player of the year. One more thing about Craig, when David Freese was rewriting the postseason offensive history book, a clutch hit from Allen Craig was generally in the neighborhood.
8 Pre-Season Acquisition of the Year: Lance Berkman
The list is rather small: Nick Punto, Gerald Laird, Ryan Theriot and Lance Berkman. Oh, I guess we could throw in Miguel Batista and Brian Tallet, even through most of us have wiped that portion of our memory.
9 Mid-Season Acquisition of the Year: Rafael Furcal
Oh, I would so love to answer (e) All of the above, but if I had to pick just one, it has to be Furcal. The Rasmus deal solved a lot of the Cardinals problems – all but the leaking middle defense. The Cardinals gave up a lot to get Furcal (remember the name Alex Castellanos), but it was worth it when Furcal started making plays we hadn’t seen in a long time. Double plays were being turned, long throws from deep in the hole were beating runners at first base. He went through a couple of rough stretches, and his hitting could have been better, but when we needed the defense in the postseason, it was there.
10 Most Anticipated Cardinal: Matt Adams
There is a good case for Shelby Miller, Carlos Martinez, Adam Reifer, Ryan Jackson and a couple of younger players: Oscar Taveras and Kolten Wong. None of these excite me as much as the thought of Matt Adams in the major leagues. I think this kid will be the next Prince Fielder. He will either replace Albert Pujols or fetch an elite player from another organization. Either way, I look forward to watching this kid play in the major leagues.
Hey Milwaukee Brewers, you want to see some Beast Mode. Wait until you pitch to Matt Adams the first time, he will show you the meaning of that phrase.
Award 11 Best Individual Cardinal Blog: C70 at the Bat (Daniel Shoptaw)
Daniel does such an incredible job with his blog, which is amazing considering how many other projects he has his hands in. There’s solid content nearly every day, and I particularly like his hero and goat of the day, although it saddens me to see Fernando Salas on the goat side more often than as a hero – how ’bout some love to the kid closer :-)
The writing is always fun to read, and I really appreciate how Daniel supports the writing of others by including links in his text.
I would also like to give a special mention to Mark over at RetroSimba. I love Mark’s historical research and am amazed at how he continues to deliver great and timely content. I’ve said this before, and I’ll say it again, if I’d found RetroSimba before starting my own blog, you would not be reading this now.
Award 12 Best Team Cardinal Blog: Pitchers Hit Eighth
As much as I love the work that Bill Ivie has his writers doing over at I-70 baseball, my affiliation disqualifies them as a vote. But I don’t think that matters because Nick, Dennis and Josh (and now Andrew) are a perfect combination of information and fun. I think the addition of Dennis Lawson (who I will mention again later) kicked an already top shelf blog to a new level, and it is one that I read regularly.
Award 13 Best Professional Cardinal Blog: Bird Land/Obviously You’re Not a Golfer
It is a coin flip between Derrick Goold and Matthew Leach, so I have to wimp out here and give them both half a vote. I like the work that both of them do and appreciate how they interact with their readers, either on the blog or through Twitter.
Award 14 Best Rookie Cardinal Blog: Redbird Dugout
This is a hard one as there are many great rookie writers, and I want to give them all a big round of applause. Jon does a very good job of balancing being a fan and having a healthy objectiveness. The writing is easy to read and the blog theme is tastefully done.
Award 15 Post of the Year: Cardinals Nation Penalty Box
I’m going for a write-in on this one. There were a number of great articles listed, but this one from Pitchers Hit Eighth stands out for it’s message and timing. The message was simple – if you thought the last 6 weeks of the season were intense, strap in because you haven’t seen anything yet. The part about simulating the Internet with a Big Chief pad still makes me laugh because my iPhone has been a brick while attending games at Busch Stadium.
Award 16 Best UCB Project: Roundtables
This is the next best thing to a sitting around a table at a sports bar, talking about the Cardinals. I love both sides of the project, being able to ask all of the writers a question, but also the questions the other writers come up with. It’s a fun exchange and I look forward to each one.
17 Most Optimistic Cardinal Blog: Cardinal Diamond Diaries
If you are having a bad day, a quick hop over to the ladies of the Cardinals Diamond Diaries will fix you up. I do miss the frequency of their postings, but each one makes you smile as you read it. My favorite articles are when Erika talks about the minor leagues. There is a genuine fascination with these young players that is infectious and makes you want to run out to a minor league park and watch a game.
Award 18 Best UCB Podcast: Conversations with C70
Who can’t love a podcast that starts off with one of his children saying, “you are listening to my daddy’s show.” What I appreciate most about Daniel’s podcast is the unique format. Instead of trying to create an audio blog, Daniel interviews a different guest and allows the listener to get to know that person. Sometimes it takes a while to get the story out and Daniel allows that to happen. A great concept and it is brilliantly executed.
Award 19 Best UCB Twitterer: Dennis Lawson (@gr33nazn)
Dennis has a brilliant sense of humor and is able to convey that in 140 characters. It’s not that easy to do, certainly with any degree of regularity. Behind each funny quip you can tell that there is an observant person, quickly analyzing the situation, and he could turn all serious, if need be. The best part is that Dennis never offends anybody, unless that person needed to be seriously offended. Here’s to the original manfridge owner, and would-be owners that follow along.
Award 20 Best Fake Cardinal Twitter Account: TortyCraig
I’m not generally a big fan of the fake twitter accounts. There are a few fun ones and the key to success is not overdoing it (Fake Mike Shannon, Fake Hungo, Fake Tony La Russa). TortyCraig is the exception to that and while it lasted, was a genuine treat to follow. I loved the long and winding narratives, including the recurring themes (donuts with sprinkles, LOBster). The stories showed up at just the right time and helped carry us through the bulk of the postseason with a great sense of humor and much needed optimism. This one was incredibly well done. Bravo TortyCraig.
Those are my votes. Agree or disagree, let me know in the comments. And please take a moment and cast your vote for some of these great writers.