Saturday, December 18, 2010

Award Season: WTF Award Winners of the MFS Years (or the Worst of the Best)

American League MVP: Willie Hernandez, 1984
Considering that the 1984 were easily one of the most dominant MLB teams of the last 30 years, it's ironic that it was Willie Hernandez that got his name etched in the record books as MVP of that season. I suppose the best of a no-so-great lot, Hernandez and Dan "The Quiz" Quisenberry sandwiched the tubby Kent Hrbek in the upper three of American League MVP voting, in a season where only five AL sluggers topped 30 home runs (Tony Armas led with 43) and only Don Mattingly topped 200 hits. Hernandez remains the only major award winner of the MFS to undergo a name change during his career (he was "reborn" under his birth name Guillermo in the late Eighties).

National League MVP: Ken Caminiti, 1996
The late Ken Caminiti put together a 1996 campaign that was the epitome of a career season... and shockingly, at the on-set of the so-called steroids era. The suddenly bulbous Caminti blasted 40 home runs for the Padres that summer, leading them to the post-season where they were summarily masticated by the St Louis Cardinals in the NLDS. Caminiti never hit even 30 home runs again and was found dead at the age of 41, somewhere in New York City in October 2004. As they say, cocaine is a helluva drug.

American League Cy Young: Steve Stone, 1980
Steve Stone is now best known as a broadcaster but once upon a potty, he twirled an insanely good season for the Baltimore Orioles, tallying 25 wins in 1980--a win total that has only been topped once in the years since (Bob Welch won 27 for the Oakland Athletics in 1990. Stone won an insanely forgettable 4 games the next season and threw in the towards after that strike shortened season, a victim of tendinitis and the 250 innings he hurled in 1980.

National League Cy Young: Mark Davis, 1988
A journeyman strikes gold in southern California and makes millions. A true American triumph of the human spirit... or the career trajectory of that lovable lefthander, Mark Davis. Davis was remarkably unremarkable during his 15 season. Except for 1988 and 1989 with the Padres, season whereby Davis transformed in the short term into the finest lefthanded closer in the land. Good timing since Davis cashed in as a free agent in late 1989 and signed a big money contract with the Kansas City Royal (checked out our Bret Saberhagen Trade Gauge for the fallout from KC's itchy trigger finger). A great example of why MLB closers are often a "right time, right place" proposition. Eric Gagne is the only National League relief pitcher to winner the award in the years since.

American League Rookie of the Year: Joe Charboneau, 1981
Joe Charboneau laid the groundwork for Kevin Maas, Shane Spencer and others who blasted a bunch of home runs early, "lost their smile" and were out of MLB before they began. An eccentric personality with a selfish long swing, Charboneau was primed to be one of the best AL sluggers of the Eighties before effing up him back with an errant headfirst slide in spring training 1981 and being out of the league by the end of 1982. To show you the brutal drop-off in power the Tribe had after Charboneau, back-up catch Bo Diaz paced the team with seven (....yes, seven) home runs in 1981. So pathetic, man!

National League Rookie of the Year: Jerome Walton, 1989
It was surprising to see that Jerome Walton played 10 seasons in MLB. Because seriously, he kinda sucked after that magical summer of 1989 with Cubs. Alongside fellow rookie Dwight Smith, Walton helped bring the post season to Wrigley Field for the first time in five years to close out the Eighties. It appeared the Cubbies had stumbled upon a real sparkplug to ignite their offense. Instead, Walton acted like a burnt-out light bulb for the rest of his career. Lucky for him, he got to play in four post season series for the Cincinatti Reds and Baltimore Orioles in the mid-Nineties... where he promptly went hitless in 14 at-bats. Ouch.

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