The Idiot Awards

The Major League Baseball regular season is officially over. That means that the day has finally come – yes, the day has arrived where we can finally look back and see how dreadfully wrong I was.

On the eve of the start of the regular season, I wrote my predictions for every team in the league, playoff predictions and MVP and Cy Young thoughts. As expected, and partly because of two of the greatest regular season collapses happening in the same season, I was wrong. So we’re going to title these awards as The Idiot Awards.

Clueless Winner (American League East Winner)

Like many people, I chose the Boston Red Sox to win the division. With an assortment of all-stars across the board, they were predicted to not only win the AL East, but also the pennant. Neither happened. In fact, because of last night’s loss to cap a 7-20 September, they are not even in the playoffs. Instead, the Yankees, whose offense was able to overcome a very shaky back-end of their rotation, end up taking the Clueless Division in 2011. Now even though I picked the Red Sox, my bias toward the Yankees made sure to include a clause for the Yankees to win the division. And I quote myself, “If [Cano and Swisher] can repeat (their 2010 season), and Granderson return to 2009 form, they’ll be in good shape and maybe even edge out Boston for the division.” Whew! Looks like I covered myself! And although Swisher had a slight drop off, Cano and Granderson had magical seasons.

Moron Winner (AL Central Winner)

Like I always do, I picked the Twins, because of Ron Gardenhire always doing the best with what he has to work with.

Oh… that didn’t happen.

Due to injuries to Joe Mauer and Justin Morneau (stunner…), the Twins ended up playing only 162 games for the first time since 2007. Remember – they lost a 163rd game, an AL Central championship game in 2008. Instead the Tigers, backed by an historic season by Justin Verlander, end up taking the Moron. The flaw that I gave them in my preview was that they needed to have a bullpen. Enter Jose Valverde, who did not blow a save this season. So I guess I may have been just a teensy bit incorrect with that guess.

Stupid Winner (AL West Winner)

For the first time here, I can say I was right. I picked the Rangers to win the West, and I was correct from wire to wire. My other predictions, like saying the Angels would not compete for anything, were incorrect. I also predicted Oakland to compete, and perhaps they would have if their offense didn’t take the entire season off.

Dumb Winner (NL East Winner)

Like everyone else on planet Earth, I picked the Phillies to win. I thought the Braves would compete for the Wild Card, and I was right. The Braves competed for the Wild Card up until the final three weeks of the season, when they had a historical collapse, which for about fifteen minutes was the tied for the largest September lead ever blown.

Pants on Head Winner (NL Central Winner)

I picked the Brewers to win the division, although I was hoping the Reds would do better. In fact, I even picked the Reds to win the Wild Card, but nothing ever really happened with them. The Brewers cruised to the division, backed by a amazing August. But the Reds disappointed throughout. The Cardinals ended up proving everyone wrong by overcoming Albert Pujols’ contract distractions and Adam Wainwright’s injury. They also overcame the 8.5 game lead that the Braves had.

Dolt Winner (NL West Winner)

Very surprisingly, we had a Cinderella story with the Diamondbacks winning. I picked the Giants, and their pitching did not have the same season as they did in 2010. But perhaps what killed them was the season-ending injury that Buster Posey obtained at the end of May. Regardless of the reason, the Diamondbacks win the West, backed by Cy Young candidate and 20 game winner, Ian Kennedy. The same Ian Kennedy that could not get a batter out when he was on the Yankees in 2008. I described the Diamondbacks as “poorly developed talent”, because the young, promising team that made the NLCS in 2007 had three straight disappointing seasons. And they weren’t seasons where the just missed the playoffs, or hovered around .500. No, with the exception of an 82-80 season in 2008, these were miserable, 90+ loss seasons with a goldmine of strikeouts on the offensive side of the ball. Manager Kirk Gibson, once again in the year of the improbable, made the impossible happen.

AL MVP

For the first five months of the season, I was adamant that Jacoby Ellsbury was the MVP. We can throw that out the window. No disrespect to Ellsbury, who still had a monumental season, but you can’t give an MVP award to a team that blew a 9 game playoff lead. My vote, and I know it will be controversial, is Justin Verlander. I do not subscribe to the school of thought that the MVP needs to be given to a hitter; not while the award is the MVP and not Best Offensive Player. Justin Verlander’s 24 wins, which accounted for a quarter of all the Tigers’ victories, in unprecedented in this age of pitch counts, innings limits and specialized relief pitchers.

My pre-season prediction was Robinson Cano, who had a very good year. So I wasn’t completely wrong. If conventional wisdom, sadly, holds out, then Cano’s teammate, Curtis Granderson should be the front-runner.

AL Cy Young

It’s a delightful double for Verlander. A 2.40 ERA accompanies his 24 wins, and his MLB leading amount of strikeouts gives him the Pitching triple crown – lead the league in Wins, ERA and K’s. You can’t get better than that.

My pre-season prediction was David Price. Price finished 12-13 with a 3.49 ERA. Hardly stellar. Plus, he nearly cost the Rays a playoff spot with his putrid outing last night, before Joe Girardi and the Scranton-Wilkes Barre Yankees intervened.

AL Rookie of the Year

Perhaps it is Yankee bias or because I have just seen him play more than I’ve seen Peter Bourjos or Jeremy Hellickson. But Nova went 16-4 with a 3.70 ERA, and he missed a month of the season because he was sent down to the minors – not for pitching poorly, but because the Yankees simply had no place for him with their injured pitchers coming off the DL. What was supposed to be a short-term replacement for Phil Hughes ended up being… well, what Phil Hughes should have been! I have no problem if Bourjos or Hellickson win the award, especially Hellickson, who pitched to a 2.95 ERA and played on an offensively inept team.

AL Comeback Player of the Year

Derek Jeter. Yes, the Captain would win the award that, really, no one wants to be in a position to win. Jeter batted .270 in 2010 and got off to a putrid start this season, hitting .250 when he was put on the disabled list in early June. But when he came back, Jeter was a different player, hitting well over .300 the second half of the season. Jeter finished at .297. He had two five-hit games, one coming on the day he picked up his 3000th hit. For his second half alone, he gets this award.

AL Manager of the Year

Joe Maddon lost his entire bullpen, his superstar outfielder, and his number 2 starter. And his team won the American League Wild Card. He managed around the Manny Ramirez retirement that occurred a week into a season. He managed a bullpen with Kyle Farnsworth closing out games. He managed around an injured Evan Longoria in the first month of the season, and an under-producing B.J. Upton. He was able to keep his team playing hard even when they were down 9 games in September. It would be the biggest disgrace to the award if Maddon didn’t win it.

NL MVP

If anyone votes against Ryan Braun, they might just be crazy. With no disrespect for Matt Kemp and his Triple Crown bid, Braun did it all. On one of the best teams in the National League, Braun hit .332, 33 home runs and 111 RBI. He is the face of the franchise and, unlike in 2008 when it was all CC Sabathia’s team, Ryan Braun can make himself a hero with a fine October.

I picked Jay Bruce in my pre-season prediction and Bruce made my look like, well, an idiot. He hit 25 points less than his .281 average from 2010, although his power numbers shot up. But the killer was the Cincinnati Reds finishing under .500 and being out of contention from July onward.

NL Cy Young

Clayton Kershaw was dominant. Flat out, the best. Yes, Roy Halladay was good. Yes, Ian Kennedy was good. But no pitcher did more with less than Clayton Kershaw. He won 21 games and pitched to a 2.28 ERA on a team that won 82 games.

I picked either Halladay or Cliff Lee at the start of the season, both had sensational years.

NL Rookie of the Year

Freddie Freeman batter .282 with 21 home runs for the Atlanta Braves. He should win it, and luckily for him, voters do not look at team performance for this award as much as they do for MVP.

NL Comeback Player of the Year

Ian Kennedy was 9-10 in 2010 with a 3.80 ERA in the offensively challenged NL West. But this year, he won 21 games and finds himself in the Cy Young race as well. Kennedy had a career record of 10-14 coming into this season and all he did was become the true superstar everyone in the Yankee organization thought he could be.

NL Manager of the Year

Kirk Gibson, even in his darkest dreams, does not stand a chance of losing this award. He turned around a team that had underperformed for the past three seasons.

Keep it tuned to NASB for more baseball thoughts this week and throughout the playoffs.

Follow me on Twitter @JustinCirillo

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