Cardinal Player of the Year:
It's really difficult not to choose Lance Berkman for this award. At the All-Star break, all he had done was hit .290, slug over .600, and have an OBP north of .400 (OPS was 1.006). Berkman's 162 total bases, and 54 runs were nice compliments to his 12 doubles, 24 bombs, and 63 RBI. He walked more than he struck out, and was a very minimal contributor to the GIDP machine that defined the Cardinals for most of the 2011 season, hitting into only 5 before the break. I don't think there's anyone in Cardinal nation who would've been disappointed with these numbers, had the Big Puma finished the year with them. All he did after the break was improve on those numbers, by hitting .315, raise his OBP, hit 11 more doubles (in 19 fewer games than the first "half"), draw more IBB (9 after the break, compared to 8 before), and hit into only 2 more double-plays. NOBODY saw this performance coming, and without it, the Cards don't get into the playoffs, they probably don't re-sign him (certainly not for 1 year, $12MM), which changes the Pujols negotiations...etc, etc. Player of the Year? Gotta be Berkman.
Cardinal Pitcher of the Year:
Hard not to choose Carpenter. More than once during the 2011 season, I made comments about how he wasn't the same Carp we'd grown accustomed to seeing, how he seemed to have lost a lot of his "stuff". At one point, I even suggested that if the Cardinals weren't in contention around the deadline, they should consider trying to move Carpenter, primarily for salary purposes. Sure feels good to be wrong sometimes! If you watched Chris Carpenter pitch from about June on, I don't need to explain the reason I'm casting my vote for him as Cards pitcher of the year...especially given his October outings, except for the one.
Regular Season Game of the Year:
It's unfortunate that I didn't do a better job of tracking great games this year, throughout the regular season. There are surely numerous games (I'd guess no fewer than 15 to 20) that I could easily describe here, and cast my vote for, along with several paragraphs as to why that particular one garnered my vote. However, I think I will have to vote for the June 5th game against the cubs.
Click here for the last 30 seconds of that game.
Back-to-back days, Pujols walks off on, of all opponents, the north siders. Oh, and that's how the Cards put an exclamation point on the word "Sweep!" for that weekend series. This happens against any other team, and it probably makes my short list, but beating up on the cubbies propels it to the top. Lots of wonderful regular season moments in 2011, but this one gets my vote.
Postseason Game of the Year:
To say that a perfect game is rare doesn't quite fully capture just how uncommon one is. No hitters are rare. Only 229 no-nos have been thrown since 1900, but there have been far fewer perfect games by more than a ten-to-one margin: a paltry 20 perfect games over that same span. So, for your team to win the World Series by winning game 7, doing so at home, and that not be what you consider the "Postseason game of the year" isn't even in the same universe as "rare". But, kept in perspective of the overall 2011 Cardinals season, would you really expect anything less? (for a great piece on "perspective", read this piece, written the morning of the day game 6 of the World Series was played) Game six of the 2011 World Series gets my vote for Postseason Game of the Year. Without even thinking about it. It certainly gets my vote for best postseason game played in my lifetime, and I'm not alone--many national media writers, journalists, & broadcasters agree: Game six of the 2011 World Series may very well have been the greatest World Series game ever played in the history of baseball. '75 was great, but the Reds came back in Game 7 to beat the Red Sox. '86 was exciting, and yes it propelled the Mets to their franchise's 2nd World Championship. '56 will forever be remembered for the unthinkable performance of Don Larsen. But this game made fans out of people who "aren't even all that into baseball". On the morning of Friday, October 28th, the whole country (not just St. Louis) was talking about David Freese and Game 6.
Surprise Player of the Year:
I have to give this award to Berkman as well, for all the reasons listed above. I don't think any other player performed at a level so far outside of 2011 expectations as did Lance Berkman.
Disappointing Player of the Year:
Ryan Franklin gets my vote here. Most fans felt that his primary weakness was the seeming inability to finish seasons, not necessarily games. August & September hadn't been kind to Franklin in recent years, and that made many Cardinals fans nervous about the prospects of him being able to finish 2011. As it turned out, Franklin wouldn't even finish June with the Cardinals, and for many, even that was too long to wait. An All-Star in 2009, Franklin had closed the door for the Cards with reasonable effectiveness for a few years now. But, 2011 was bad from the word 'go'. On Opening Day, Franklin came into the game against San Diego, and in front of the home crowd blew a save in the 9th inning by surrendering a bomb to Maybin to tie the game at 3. Then he hit the next batter (Hundley) with a pitch, and it was clearly not a retaliatory move. The Cards went on to lose the opener 5-3 in 11 innings. The first couple weeks of his 2011 season included these results in 5 of his first 6 appearances:
- 3.31 vs SDP: 1IP, 5 BF (Batters faced), 1HBP, 0K, 1ER (HR) on 14 pitches-blown save, team loss
- 4.08 @ SFG: 1IP, 6BF, 1BB, 2H, 0K, 1ER on 20 pitches-blown save, team loss
- 4.09 @ SFG: 1IP, 5BF, 1BB, 2H, 0K, 2ER on 20 pitches-blown save, loss
- 4.14 @ LAD: 1IP, 4BF, 0BB, 1H, 0K, 1ER (HR) on 12 pitches-team win (entered w/ 5-run lead)
- 4.17 @ LAD: 0IP, 1BF, 0BB, 1H, 0K, 1ER (HR) on 5 pitches-blown save, loss
To recap: 4IP, 21BF, 3BB, 7H, 3HR, 0K, 6ER on 71 pitches. 4BS, 2L, 1ND, 4 Cardinals Losses
That was our "closer". If that isn't disappointing, I don't know what is.
Cardinals Rookie of the Year:
There are several players who could've gotten this nod. I'm going to go with Allen Craig for my vote here. He brough poise & pop to the plate, even when coming off the bench cold in a pinch-hit situation. He played some 2nd base in Chicago (remember, Albert played 3B to get Craig's bat into the lineup?), and showed he could do ok there...or at least do well enough to get by for a few days. He was solid when needed, and always answered the bell when called upon. Even robbed a homerun in game 7 of the World Series, among other accomplishments. I'm not saying others weren't deserving or couldn't gotten my vote, just saying Allen Craig is the guy who did.
Preseason Acquisition of the Year:
Berkman (see earlier comments)
Midseason Acquisition of the Year:
This was a little tougher for me to narrow in some aspects. You could make the case the the MVP down the stretch was the Cardinals bullpen, lending potential votes to Dotel, Rhodes, and/or Rzepczynski. Even Edwin Jackson could be a strong consideration for this award. But, my choice is Rafael Furcal. I don't need to cite statistics about fielding percentage or UZR at shortstop for comparisons. All you need to know is that you & I probably had the same feeling in our stomachs when we saw a ground ball hit to the left side of the Cards infield when it was Theriot playing 6. When Furcal stepped in, the frequency at which we were regularly seeing high amounts of Maalox, Pepto-Bismol, Alka-Seltzer and fielding errors at short all subsided.
Most Anticipated Cardinal:
I am assuming this question speaks to which player I'm most anxious to see in a Cardinals uniform in 2012. I would also assume the implication is that it has to be an individual who will come up from AAA, so I'll resist the urge to be somewhat of a smartass, and vote for Albert Pujols. (c: I think Shelby Miller is the clear favorite here, and for good reason. We've been hearing his name for a few years now, and he's getting closer to making his major league debut--it may even happen in 2012. The kid has electric stuff, and while Cox, Wong, Martinez, Adams & others are certainly reasons to perk up, Miller is the new Rasmus in terms of highly anticipated players to see playing for the major league club. Let's hope that's where the similarities stop.
Best Individual Cardinals Blog:
"Best", huh? "Best" as in, 'the one I agree with what I read the most', or maybe as in, 'always a place I can find truly thought-provoking pieces to read'? Perhaps it's more of a "Best" in terms of 'funniest humorous take on all things Cardinals', or could even be 'best because I know I have a hard time finding time to devote to writing, and this person seems to always have fresh content on their site' type of best. Let me start by saying, I don't get the chance to read nearly as many of the blogs nearly as frequently as I wish I could. I almost feel like I've not done enough reading to qualify to have a vote on this topic, but alas, here I am. Needless to say, many of the other UCB members are friends of mine--some on more personal levels than others--but, for the most part, I know these people, and they are good people. Not an easy call, for sure, but I'm going to vote for Cards 'N Stuff. Primarily because on two distinct occasions this year, I remember reading Kevin's post, and thinking to myself, "That is EXACTLY what I thought/felt, but the way he put it into words was pretty much perfect." Read other members' answer to this question, and I'm sure you'll find a lot of qualifying verbage--I don't want to hurt anyone's feelings by not voting for them...we're all friends, I wish I could vote for everyone...etc, and I get that. This is another award vote that could've gone a number of different ways for me.
Best Team Cardinals Blog:
I can only speak to what I've seen at i70baseball.com, and openly admit that I do write for Bill over there. But, I really do feel like the group of writers, specifically on the Cardinals side of the house, have such diversity. From Bob to Chris to Greg, there are so many different styles at i70 that I like. Believe me, AMF, PH8 & others certainly get traffic from my browser, and I enjoy the reads other teams put out there. Perhaps it's simply a function of more exposure to i70, and the fact that human nature tends to make us gravitate towards things with which we're familiar, but I'm punching my ticket for i70.
Best Professional Cardinals Blog:
Fewer to choose from than the previous question, no doubt. But if you think the level of difficulty is proportionate, you're wrong. For me, this really came down to Goold's Bird Land, and Leach's Obviously, You're Not A Golfer. I'm a big fan of both of these, and have reasons why I like each of these individuals as people, things that may or may not really be reflected in their blog. My nod goes to Matthew Leach's OYNAG.
Best Rookie Cardinals Blog:
This one was a little easier to choose, and I hope all the blogs that I'm not voting for in the category don't take that the wrong way. But Aaron Miles' Fastball runs away with this award, in my mind. This 100% estrogen zone has been very solid since the debut nearly a year ago. Many blogs start strong, but often fade quickly. Some take a little longer to fade, but many of those eventually sit and collect cyberdust. Not AMF. Fresh content, a good staff, and nearly a year's worth of solid content...Chris & the girls have my vote locked up.
Post of the Year:
I literally went back and read or re-read each nominee before casting my vote for Post of the Year. It's one of the bigger awards on the ballot, in my opinion, and I didn't want to take that lightly. There are eleven posts nominated, and after the first round of reading them all, I narrowed it down to eight. Then I read them all again. Then again, and got down to six. Then four, then two. This was MUCH more difficult than I thought, (and I knew it wouldn't be easy) possibly the hardest vote to cast out of all on this year's ballot. I'm literally thinking about simply not voting for this category, and instead simply telling you that, after nearly an hour of debating with myself, I couldn't choose between C70's "Happily Ever After" and Bill Ivie's "Backyard Dreams", and they're my two finalists. At the risk of drawing similar comments made about the 2002 All-Star Game, I'm gonna say I can't narrow it any further. Maybe each are officially awarded a half point, and that ends up breaking a tie when the votes are tallied. Maybe my vote is DQ'ed, and won't matter at all, since I'm not following the rules. Perhaps the fact that both stories had a foundation based on a child's perspective was what did it for me. Who knows?
Best UCB Project:
The progressive game blog was a pretty cool idea, it just so happened that it came while the Cardinals bats were M.I.A., and they were being no-hit into the 8th after being not collecting a base knock for the last several innings of the game before. For me, the best, and the one that gets my vote is the Get to Know a UCBer project.
Most Optimistic Cardinals Blog:
This HAS to go to the ladies at Diamond Diaries. I dare say that, outside of the Cardinals' clubhouse, these ladies are among the very few who truly, and in all complete honesty, NEVER gave up on this team. All of us were hopeful, and obviously the team was never quite mathematically eliminated. But if we're being honest with ourselves, most of us have to admit that at least once, we figured the Cardinals weren't going to get into the playoffs, let alone win it all. That is, except for the Diamond Diaries writers--good for you, ladies!
Best UCB Podcast:
I'm going with the UCB Radio hour for this one. It's been a consistent staple of Wednesday nights in Cardinal nation. With a variety of hosts, co-hosts & guests, the UCB radio hour podcast gets my vote.
Best UCB Twitterer:
Going with Leach on this one too. Informative, often with information that's not easy to come by for those of us who aren't at a 'travel with the team' level. His commitment to integrity is strong, and though it's easy to for people to sometimes forget, Matthew is "not a fan, he covers the team". Add to that the fact that he's good about tweeting back & interacting with folks, and that's enough to garner my vote.
Best Fake Cardinals Twitter Account:
I got a chuckle or two out of Torty, but that's about the extent of it for me. For me, the funniest follow for a fake Cards account (and let's be honest, that's why we follow fake ones) isn't @FakeMikeShannon (heh heh heh), or even @FakeDanMcLaughl (#OfCarse), though both are worth following. For me, it's @TrollStrauss. The actual Strauss, as most of you may be aware, seems to loathe bloggers, and has a teeny bit of an arrogance aura about him. He hasn't earned the nickname 'El Diablo' for nothing, which is why @TrollStrauss is such a good one in my book--whoever it is, absolutely nails it. The fake account uses the same avatar (with slight text modification), and is so spot on that I literally catch myself often doing double-takes to see if Strauss himself actually said that, or if it's the fake account. Great follow, if you don't, you should.