Okay, so it's not exactly headline news. Not on the big newspapers, anyway. But I've got a little beef and there are still a few hours before the next baseball game so ...
All-Star outfielders Lance Berkman of the Cardinals and Jacoby Ellsbury of the Red Sox were named the winners of the 2011 Comeback Player of the Year Awards on Thursday, as the annual rollout of Major League Baseball's individual hardware got under way.
First, I'm not exactly sure what that means ... the annual rollout of Major League Baseball's individual hardware got underway ... Jose Valverde already got some hardware.
What? You missed that story? Yeah. Jose Valverde: Delivery Man of the Year.
No, it's not the most prestigious award. MLB.com didn't mention who does the voting on that one. This article says the award is determined by "an MLB panel"; this one says it's a fan vote. The real message is that nobody really gives a damn. Jayson Stark has proposed that the BBWAA institute an award for relief pitchers and I think it's a good idea, but nothing's happened yet.*
* Jayson wants to call it the Jerome Holtzman Award, which of course is a terrible idea since the vast majority of fans and players have no idea who Jerome Holtzman was. The only appropriate namesake for such an award would be Mariano Rivera.
Anyway, this Comeback Player of the Year is one of those awards that doesn't come with a great deal of legitimacy, because it's a) very young, and it's not administered by the BBWAA.
Does an award have to be administered by the BBWAA to be legitimate? Yeah, sort of. Say what you want about the BBWAA's procedures, they're relatively transparent and of course they've got a long history of doing these things. Also, it doesn't hurt that the BBWAA's voters have traditionally controlled the popular literature.
Anyway, Ellsbury and Berkman are fine choices. Ellsbury, especially, considering that he went from playing 18 games one season to MVP candidate the next. I'm less enthusiastic about Berkman, because he did actually play quite a bit in 2010 and wasn't terrible. But he certainly did enjoy a lovely comeback this season.
All that said, this is a good time to revisit an idea I floated three months ago: the WTF Award. Because shouldn't there be something for guys like Ryan Vogelsong and Bartolo Colon, who were on nobody's radar screen before the season? Ellsbury was still supposed to be good, if he could play. And Berkman got $8 million from the Cardinals last winter. Doesn't it seem just a little odd to give the Comeback Player of the Year Award to a guy who was deemed worthy of an $8 million salary, just before?