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End-of-the-year baseball awards you’ve never heard of

Published: Saturday, November 17, 2012 at 5:12 p.m.
Last Modified: Saturday, November 17, 2012 at 5:12 p.m.

Congratulations to Buster Posey and Miguel Cabrera for winning baseball’s MVP Awards this past week, and to Bryce Harper and Mike Trout for being named rookies of the year, and here’s a salute to R.A. Dickey and David Price for tallying the most Cy Young Award votes. Oh, and let’s not forget managers of the year — Bob Melvin and Davey Johnson.

OK, now that that’s out of the way, let’s get down to the business of baseball’s unofficial, unauthorized Alternative Awards, a lesser-known but intrinsically more intriguing list of categories and winners.

Biggest Non-Story of the Year: Roger Clemens’ pending return to the big leagues. But only if you count the Houston Astros as a big-league team. After the Rocket was found not guilty in his perjury trial, and after he suited up for the independent Sugarland Skeeters, baseball fans were subject to almost daily stories about the 45-year-old, seven-time Cy Young Award winner’s imminent return to the majors, fueled by gushing quotes from Astros owner Jim Crane. Of course it never happened, and it was highly unlikely to happen, but the idea had such artificially enhanced endurance, it made you wish that baseball tested stories for drugs.

Saddest Story of the Year: Andy Pettitte, despite sworn depositions over the years implicating Clemens in the taking of steroids, finally got on the witness stand at Clemens’ trial, where he quickly caved in while under cross examination by Clemens’ attorney Rusty Hardin.

Dave Kingman Award (sometimes called the Rob Deer Award), to the player who compiles the most productive offensive statistics with the most anemic batting average: Adam Dunn. The Chicago White Sox designated hitter/first baseman hit 41 homers and drove in 96 runs while batting .204 and striking out 222 times.

Invisible Glove Award, to the player whose defensive prowess is most offensive to those of us who remember Brooks Robinson: Pedro Alvarez. The Pittsburgh Pirates third baseman made 27 errors at the too-hot-to-handle corner.

Wild Thing Award: Justin Masterson. The Cleveland Indians right-hander compiled a jaw-dropping HBP+WP (number of hit batters plus wild pitches) of 27, with 14 wild pitches and 13 hit batsmen. Tim Lincecum, who led the majors with 17 wild pitches, filed a protest, saying the Wild Thing Award should be exclusively for wild pitches and there should be a separate award for the most hit batters. But rules are rules, Tim.

Most Curious Hire: Mark McGwire, as hitting coach of the Dodgers, after a successful three-year stint in the same position with the Cardinals. Just curious: How does a .263 lifetime hitter and admitted steroid user known during his career as strictly a home-run hitter get high-profile jobs as batting coach?

Armando Benitez Award, for most blown saves: Heath Bell. The Miami Marlins on-again, off-again closer blew eight out of 27 save opportunities. John Axford of the Milwaukee Brewers filed a protest, saying his nine blown saves led the majors. But Axford also had 44 saves. Clearly, Bell earned this award.

Worst Managers of the Year: Ozzie Guillen in the National League; Bobby Valentine in the American League. Brad Mills filed a protest, but it was determined that the Astros were only a quasi big-league team.

Best Performance in a Supporting Role: Lincecum. He led the National League in losses and in worst ERA, and he was taken out of the Giants’ starting rotation for the postseason and assigned to middle relief. How did he do in that humbling role? Five games, 13 innings, one earned run, three hits, two walks and 17 strikeouts, one win, no losses.

And last but not least ...

Mr. October Award goes to Barry Zito.

With all due respect to Pablo Sandoval's electrifying three-homer performance in Game 1 of the World Series, two of those blasts coming off the supposedly invincible Justin Verlander, and despite the charismatic Panda’s power display evoking autumnal memories of the original Mr. October, it was Zito, perhaps the unlikeliest of Giants heroes, who stepped up in two critical postseason games, pitching like it was 2002.

In Game 5 of the National League championship series, with the Giants facing elimination in St. Louis, Zito pitched 7» innings, holding the Cardinals to no runs and contributing a gutsy bunt single that drove in a run.

In Game 1 of the World Series, in a matchup against the Amazing Verlander that had the so-called experts guffawing over the perceived absurdity of talent differential, Zito outpitched the Tigers ace.

Besides, Panda already got the World Series MVP award, which is real. Don’t begrudge Zito this column’s Mr. October Award, which is, alas, merely fanciful.

Robert Rubino can be reached at robert.rubino@pressdemocrat.com.

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