please click here.
THE TWENTY-EIGHTH ANNUAL MAJOR LEAGUE BASEBALL BOTTOM-OF-THE HEAP AWARDS
© Al Yellon, 2004
NICE GUYS FINISH LAST AWARD
NATIONAL LEAGUE: Arizona 51-111
AMERICAN LEAUE: Kansas City 58-104
Whoo, boy, the Diamondbacks were terrible this year. They had to win two of their last three games at
home against a contender, the Padres, to avoid becoming only the second team since the 1962 Mets
(last year's Tigers) to not win even fifty games during the year.
They had a fourteen-game losing streak just before and after the All-Star break. Then they won four of
their next nine games, not so great, and after that lost nine more in a row.
When they fired Bob Brenly they were 29-50. After they lost on September 9 they were 42-101, a record
of 13-51 under Al Pedrique. Gee, that managerial change worked wonders, didn't it? Pedrique wound
up with a record of 22-61 (.265), one of the worst managerial percentages ever for someone who
managed that many games.
The Diamondbacks think they can contend in 2005. Good luck.
The Royals became only the second team, after the 1985-86-87 Cleveland Indians, to lose 100 games,
have a winning record the following year, and then lose 100 games in the year after that. This doesn't
bode well for Kansas City, either. It took that Indians team seven more years before they had another
DAL MAXVILL MEMORIAL BATTING AWARD
(Lowest Batting Average, Minimum 502 Plate Appearances)
NATIONAL LEAGUE: Mike Cameron, New York, 114-for-493, .231
AMERICAN LEAGUE: Bobby Crosby, Oakland, 130-for-545, .239
Life After The Heap: Last year's NL winner, Pat Burrell, had a decent comeback year, raising his average
from .209 to .257 and his RBI count from 64 to 84.
Cameron never did hit much for average, and Shea Stadium is a lousy ballpark for batting average, so
this might have been expected. He did hit 30 homers, 26.3% of all his hits.
Bobby Crosby, you lucky guy. You can add this award to Bob Buhl Award you won last year for going
0-for-12, and the AL Rookie-of-the-Year Award you're probably going to win sometime in November. Now
seriously, which awards carry more prestige?
RICK STELMASZEK MEMORIAL BATTING AWARD
(Lowest Batting Average, Minimum 50 At-Bats)
NATIONAL LEAGUE: John Vander Wal, Cincinnati, 6-for-51, .118 (20 strikeouts)
AMERICAN LEAGUE: Ken Huckaby, Texas, 7-for-50, .140
Vander Wal was once one of the best pinch-hitters in baseball, and the Reds signed him in the off-season, hoping he'd do the same. But Vander Wal had a bizarre snow-shoveling injury (why are guys
like this out shoveling snow in the winter anyway), and didn't play till mid-July, and then, not very well.
Huckaby's main claim to fame in his baseball career is that his knee was the one that was in the way of
Derek Jeter's face on Opening Day in Toronto in 2003, on a tag play at third base, causing Jeter to miss
about forty games last season. Nice going.
BOB BUHL MEMORIAL BATTING AWARD
(Most At-Bats, No Hits, Excluding Pitchers)
NATIONAL LEAGUE: Josh Labandeira, Montreal, 0-for-14
AMERICAN LEAGUE: Felix Escalona, New York, 0-for-8
The only regret we have about Labandeira's career is that it won't be in Montreal, where the PA
announcer could have had great fun with his name (that's the guy who used to yell, "John BOCCA-BELLLLLLLLLA", when that catcher from the early 70's came up to bat).
This just wasn't the Yankees' year. In addition to Escalona, Homer Bush went 0-for-7 for New York this
DOOLEY WOMACK MEMORIAL PITCHING AWARD
(Highest ERA, Minimum 162 Innings Pitched)
NATIONAL LEAGUE: Shawn Estes, Colorado, 202 IP, 131 ER, 5.84
NL, Nice Try: Jose Acevedo, Cincinnati, 157.2 IP, 104 ER, 5.94
AMERICAN LEAGUE: Sidney Ponson, Baltimore, 215.2 IP, 5.30
The NL award was a lock before the season even started. Estes, who built a palatial house in Paradise
Valley, Arizona that was featured in the local paper's real estate section during spring training, had had
ERA's over 5.00 three times in his career before 2004, including the last two seasons. So put a guy like
this in the thin air in Denver, and what else would you expect? Sure, he won 15 games -- how could you
not, for a team that scored 833 runs, fourth in the league. If Estes remains with the Rockies, I'd expect
him to win this award again next year.
Acevedo -- this guy couldn't get anyone out most of the season, though he fell 4.1 IP short of qualifying
for this award. But on September 29 and 30, he threw three shutout innings combined against the Cubs,
sealing their doom. And no, that's not the same Acevedo who gave up the famous home run to Eric
Karros for the Cubs against the Yankees on June 7, 2003. That was JUAN Acevedo, who was quickly
released by King George after that, and was out of baseball this year.
Sidney Ponson is a knight in his home country of Aruba. That probably explains how he could finesse
the one good year of his career, a combined 17-12 with a 3.75 ERA split between Baltimore and San
Francisco, into a 3-year, $22.5 million contract.
And this 5.30 ERA reflects a pretty GOOD second half. As late as July 19, his ERA was 6.13.
THE TICKET BACK TO WICHITA AWARD
(Highest ERA, No Minimum Innings Pitched)
AMERICAN LEAGUE: Dave Maurer, Toronto, 1.1 IP, 8 ER, 54.00
NATIONAL LEAGUE: Jared Fernandez, Houston, 1 IP, 6 ER, 45.00
Mike Bynum, San Diego, 0.2 IP, 4 ER, 45.00
There is one line in Maurer's stat page that explains why he is still in the major leagues after pitching in
22 games for three different teams (San Diego, Cleveland, Toronto) in four different seasons with a
career ERA of 8.87:
Fernandez throws knuckleballs, and sometimes knuckleballers do things like this. Without another
chance to show what he could do, this sort of stat line results. He walked five in his inning. Not to be
outdone, Bynum was this bad in two separate appearances for the Padres. All four baserunners (one
hit, three walks) he allowed, scored.
ROGER CRAIG MEMORIAL PITCHING AWARD
(Most Losses, 17 or More Decisions)
NATIONAL LEAGUE: Darrell May, Kansas City, 9-19
AMERICAN LEAGUE: Brandon Webb, Arizona, 7-16
May's manager gets the Chicken-of-the-Year award for pulling him from the rotation and not letting him
start the last game of the season, which would have been his turn.
Webb set the Diamondbacks club record for losses, and yes, it's a bit surprising that sixteen losses led
the D'backs, who lost 111 games. That is, until you learn that Arizona used twenty-five different pitchers
in 2004, including the execrable Edgar Gonzalez, who allowed 72 hits and 18 walks in 49 IP, and went
0-9 with an ERA of 9.32, and that includes a game against the Reds on August 29 in which he took a
perfect game into the seventh inning, only to see it blow up in his face with a walk, a single, a double play
and then a two-run homer, and Arizona lost 6-2, perhaps a microcosm of their season.
More Diamondback fun, incidentally: Randy Johnson won his 16th game of the year on the second-to-last
day of the season. That is the most wins ever for a team that lost 110 or more games.
MATT KEOUGH MEMORIAL PITCHING AWARD
(Fewest Wins, 17 or More Decisions)
NATIONAL LEAGUE: Jose Acevedo, Cincinnati, 5-12
AMERICAN LEAGUE: Ryan Franklin, Seattle, 4-16
This is the second consecutive year that a Reds pitcher has won this award; Danny Graves won it last
year and was rewarded by being made the Reds closer, saving 33 games before the All-Star break,
before running out of gas and finishing with 41, and also ending the year being shut down due to strep
COMEDOWN PLAYER OF THE YEAR AWARD
NATIONAL LEAGUE: Juan Encarnacion, Los Angeles-Florida (2004: 16 HR, 62 RBI, .236)
(2003: 19 HR, 94 RBI, .270)
AMERICAN LEAGUE: Ryan Franklin, Seattle (2004: 4-16, 4.90 ERA)
(2003: 11-13, 3.57 ERA)
Seattle's kind of the forgotten bad team this year, with the historic bad performances of the
Diamondbacks and Royals, and Seattle could have gone from a 90-win season to a 100-loss season,
but missed by one game. A main contributor was Franklin, whose .200 winning percentage was by far
the worst in baseball.
Encarnacion was a key player for the 2003 World Champion Marlins. But in a salary dump, they sent him
to the Dodgers for a PTBNL, who turned out to be a minor leaguer. He quickly went into the dumper for
the Dodgers, hitting .235. So, back to Florida it was, where he was even worse: .238 with only 3 homers
in 49 games.
THE LEAST VALUABLE PLAYER
NATIONAL LEAGUE: Kyle Farnsworth, Chicago
AMERICAN LEAGUE: Juan Gonzalez, Kansas City
Repeat after me.
Why is Kyle Farnsworth still in the major leagues, after the implosions he had again last year?
The answer is obvious.
Because he can throw a baseball 100 MPH.
Farnsworth's season was a major contributor to the Cubs' collapse. However, I note that his bad years
seem to come in even-numbered years:
2000: 2-9, 6.43 ERA
2001: 4-6, 2.74 ERA
2002: 4-6, 7.33 ERA
2003: 3-2, 3.30 ERA
2004: 4-5, 4.72 ERA
So maybe the Cubs ought to hold on to him for one more year. If it's a good one, THEN trade him.
Juan Gonzalez, if nothing else, has to be the dumbest player in baseball history. No, I'm not insulting his
ability, just his judgment. He left the Rangers after the 1999 season, hoping for a huge-money deal, and
wound up signing with Detroit. Early in 2000, the Tigers reportedly offered him an 8-year, $140-million
extension. He turned it down.
Ever since then, his baseball playing has, well, sucked, and his total salaries since then have totalled $38
million, not chump change, to be sure, but his arrogance cost him $100 million. After playing a mediocre
33 games with the Royals this year, he vanished with another injury, and having just turned 35 shortly
after the 2004 season ended, I doubt you'll see him again. At one point he seemed a lock to hit 500, or
maybe even 600 career homers. If he doesn't play again he finishes with 434, and leaves a legacy of
LARRY BIITTNER MEMORIAL NON-PIITCHERS AWARD
Last year, only one non-piitcher took up the banner, Wiki Gonzalez of the Padres.
Major leaguers said, this will not stand, and so no fewer than four position players took to the mound this
year, with the following combined pitching line:
IP H R ER BB SO ERA
6 9 6 6 3 5 9.00
Roll call: Dave McCarty (Boston), Robin Ventura (Los Angeles), Todd Zeile (NY Mets), Frank Menechino
McCarty's an interesting case. He came to spring training this year intent on trying out as a pitcher, a la
Brooks Kieschnick. The Red Sox didn't use him in that way, except on three occasions, one of which was
the last day of the season, where he threw two shutout innings and struck out three.
Personally, I think players like this who have both these abilities ought to be used in that way. Kieschnick
is the prime example -- he was primarily a pitcher at the University of Texas, but didn't have another
fielding position, hitting mostly as a DH. When drafted by the Cubs, of course they tried to make him into
an outfielder, a position he was about as well-suited for as Wendell Kim is as a third-base coach.
The Cubs should have tried him as a pitcher. As a pitcher/pinch-hitter for the Brewers the last two years,
he has thrown fairly well (2004, a 3.77 ERA in 43 IP), and contributed as a hitter (2003, .969 OPS in 70
at-bats). In an era of specialization, why not have a guy who can do two things, which helps in keeping
your bench flexible?
OK, sermon over.
Todd Zeile had a perfect ERA before this year, having thrown a scoreless inning for the Rockies in 2002.
This year, the Mets put him into a game they were losing 14-8 after John Franco had been ejected, and
he promptly made it a 19-8 game. Zeile also was a Double-Duty Radcliffe of sorts this year, also catching