With the arrival of the All-Star break, the season has reached its halfway point (number of games played aside). It has been a roller coaster ride for the Red Sox, who struggled through the beginning of the season before staging a furious comeback to come as close to half a game out of first place.
As with every season, 2010 has seen its fair share of heroes, and perhaps even more, disappointments. So to acknowledge the contributions of the former, and vent some anger toward the latter, we present now the First-Half Red Sox Awards:
The Most Valuable Player Award: Kevin Youkilis
I'll say it once again: It is an absolute joke Kevin Youkilis is not in the All-Star Game. One of the American League's most dominant hitters, Youkilis has been the whole package for the Red Sox ever since 2008. Putting up a team-leading .981 OPS while supplying top first-base defense, Youkilis has also managed the difficult task of staying on the field for the entire year, second only to Marco Scutaro in plate appearances.
The Cy Young Award: Jon Lester
Every year, Lester seems to start the season painfully slowly before turning it on after about a month. This year was no exception, as Lester's 4.71 ERA in April makes his 2.78 mark on the season that much more impressive. Lester has been arguably the best pitcher in the league since that first month, allowing more than two earned runs only twice, and recording a loss in only one game--against the Rockies, when he allowed just one run in six innings. With the peripherals to back up his performance-to-date, Jon Lester is the best pitcher on this team. Whether he's the best pitcher in the league is all that remains to be seen.
The Jonathan Papelbon Award: Daniel Bard
Because Jonathan Papelbon certainly isn't himself these days, this award goes decisively to Daniel Bard. An exciting rookie season led into a strong start for Daniel Bard. A few home runs kept his ERA above the three mark, and then there were a few walk issues during May. Since then, "strong" hasn't been the word. Despite throwing triple digit heat, Bard has allowed only one homer since April. He hasn't walked a batter in over a month, he's still striking out over a batter an inning, and oh yeah, his ERA is down under two. Bard has done it at the most important of times, too, despite not being the closer. Bases loaded, one out, one-run game? Bring in Bard. Papelbon can have the ninth.
The Julio Lugo Award: Mike Cameron
It just hasn't been Mike's year. Brought in on a two-year contract to be a reliable presence in the outfield, Cameron has been anything but. Fighting through a long string of injuries, Cameron has actually managed to be worse than the average minimum-salary replacement player so far this year, thanks to a disappointing lack of pop and much diminished defensive abilities. If those kidney stones--or whatever it actually ended up being--had never formed, who knows what Cameron could have done for us? For now, though, he must bear this unenviable title.
The Matt Clement Award: John Lackey
This could have gone to Josh Beckett, but I'm going to give him the benefit of the doubt given his three good years with us, and the fact that he was very definitely hurting.
So that leaves us with--ugh--John Lackey.
It's not as though Lackey was a foolproof signing, to be sure. On the wrong side of 30 with declining numbers and a career against the Mariners and A's? Not exactly a recipe for success. Still, though, what the Red Sox have got is worse than almost anyone could have imagined. At his best, John Lackey is hittable. At his worst, he is wild and hittable. And this is the man they have locked up for big money for the next five years? Can you say albatross? Too bad for Lackey that he doesn't have a Carl Crawford liner to the head to excuse his mediocrity--it's all on him.
The Brock Lesnar Award: Adrian Beltre
Adrian Beltre almost won the MVP award. He has had a remarkable season at the plate, played great--if not as great as usual defense at third--and cracked Jeremy Hermida's ribs, keeping him from taking up valuable at bats that could go to better players like Daniel Nava, Bill Hall, or Darnell McDonald. Unfortunately, though, he also got to Jacoby Ellsbury.
As much flak as Jacoby has taken for discipline and read problems, he was absolutely a valuable leadoff hitter and outfielder, especially given who the Sox have been playing out there (see last paragraph). He's also been seen attempting to take out Victor Martinez and anyone who dares invade his personal space, swinging both fists and helmets with regularity. Truly, Beltre is a monster that is not to be messed with.
The Not-A-Chameleon Award: Bill Hall
For some reason, somewhere along the line, Bill Hall got a reputation as versatile. But he's not, really. Sure, he walks out and stands in center, in left, at second, or at short. He may even put on a catcher's mask or pitch an inning should the situation really call for it, but y'know what? So could everyone else on the team. Bill Hall is an awful outfielder, and doesn't have the range to play a middle infield position well, but sure enough that's where you'll see him because, by God, he's versatile. He has been good enough with the bat to remain useful, but as much as he might try to blend in everywhere, he sticks out like a sore thumb more often than not.
The Next Big Thing Award: Ryan Kalish
The media attention may have been on Felix Doubront these last couple of weeks thanks to his two spot starts, but if you're looking for the real end of the "bridge" period, look no further than outfielder Ryan Kalish. After breaking out last year with big power numbers to complement his on-base abilities (probably due to a wrist injury finally healing completely), the ninth round pick dominated Double-A with a .293/.404/.527 line before being promoted to Triple-A Pawtucket. While his home run swing hasn't quite translated yet, he's hitting .333/.407/.457 so far, despite a short post-promotion slump, and the rust that surrounded a stint on the DL. Even his base stealing has improved, with 22 successes in 23 attempts so far this year. With a dirt dog type of reputation and All-Star type numbers, Ryan Kalish is likely to be the next big thing for the Red Sox in 2011.
The Surprisingly Healthy Award: J.D. Drew
While he hasn't dodged the bug completely, missing a game here or there, in a season where about a third of the Sox' at bats have come from backups, J.D. Drew has been surprisingly durable. Arguments of just how injury prone he is aside, Drew's 78 games played leads the "second tier" of players behind Youk, Beltre and Scutaro (in that category), and has often been due to Terry Francona's reluctance to use him against tough lefties.
The Sticky Spaghetti Award: Nobody, Nobody, Nobody
So before the season started, Sox fans were all wondering who would stick in the bullpen. Theo certainly threw plenty of guys at the wall. Unfortunately, so far, the only one who has stuck has been Scott Atchison, and that's mostly because there's nobody else to fill out that roster space. Clearly this strategy hasn't worked out at all.
The Mark Twain Award: David Ortiz
"Rumors of my death have been greatly exaggerated."
The Better Than Johan Award: Clay Buchholz
So, remember when the Sox could have traded Buchholz for Santana? And then they didn't? And then he sucked? And everyone was annoyed when they wouldn't trade him for guy A, B, or C?
Well, that's turned out pretty OK. Currently just .03 points off the American League ERA lead (David Price), Clay Buchholz has turned it up, on, or even around. His peripherals are off, certainly, but then again, so were Lester's in 2008. Clay has broken out a couple years late, but late is certainly better than never.
Meanwhile, Johan Santana is higher in ERA, FIP, and xFIP despite pitching in the NL, all for millions of dollars.
The Mike Timlin and Jason Varitek Toast Awards: Hideki Okajima and Mike Lowell
For those once impressive and productive veterans who just can't get the job done anymore, and are dragging down the team. Okajima has been figured out by American league hitters to the point where it's basically batting practice these days, and Lowell has wasted away without a position. Now Lowell is on the DL, likely never to return, and Okajima is...well, for some reason, he's still pitching.
It was nice while it lasted, guys, and the Red Sox fans of the world appreciate the good times and good memories, but it's time to move on.
The Yogi Berra Quotability Award: Dustin Pedroia
The sin of being a Yankee aside, Mr. Berra has had a few memorable lines in his time. Pedey is doing his best to catch up though.
- "You're supposed to wear a jersey out there. I don't know how it is in Cuba with Fidel, but I'm running this joint."
- "A couple of years ago, I was hitting .170 and everyone was ready to kill me too. What happened? Laser show so relax."
- "I told Tito he looked like Corrado Soprano, and he benched me."
- "I try not to listen to Tito, DeMarlo, or any of our coaches. I don't want to get dumber."
- "Bomb squad? They're early."
- "I'm going after Joe D. That's two in a row; only 55 more."
The Wendell Kim Arm Waving Award: Tim Bogar
Last, but not least, is Red Sox third base coach, Tim Bogar, who has personally cost the Sox at least a couple of games this season thanks to absolutely insane decisions to send runners home from third. It's been a while since his last gaffe, so maybe he's got all the bad calls worked out of him, but for the first half of the season, Bogar picks up this dubious honor.