"Let's raise our glass and let the hammer fly"
By Anthony Castrovince/MLB.com
Way back in those halcyon days of early April, I matched each member of the Tribe lineup with the Bruce Springsteen song that best captured their outlook for 2010.
It is only fitting, then, that here on the final day of the 2010 season, I am turning to "The Boss" once again, using his song titles to hand out some hardware for the best, worst and everything in-between this year.
THE "PAY ME MY MONEY DOWN" AWARD:
Big raise coming for Shin-Soo Choo, who, some have speculated, could be worth between $3 million and $4 million next year based on his second straight season with a .300 average, 20 homers and 20 stolen bases. The Indians would be wise to try to work out a three-year deal with Choo to give themselves some cost certainties through Choo's arbitration years, before he inevitably bolts as a free agent.
THE "GOOD EYE" AWARD:
An impressive year, all around, for Choo, but his .401 on-base percentage is his most impressive mark of all.
THE "WRECK ON THE HIGHWAY" AWARD:
Grady Sizemore was once billed to be one of the greatest players of his generation. Now, he's played 139 games over the course of two seasons, and he'll be entering 2011 coming off microfracture surgery. Not good.
THE "I'LL WORK FOR YOUR LOVE" AWARD:
Manny Acta has the perfect temperament not only for a manager's job, but for a rebuilding manager's job. He has done a nice job of making pointed remarks about certain players over the course of the season without ever getting to the point of embarrassing them. Ultimately, it will take real contention for Acta to become a true crowd-pleaser, but he has handled a difficult year with class and likely endeared himself to some of the fan base in the process.
THE "REASON TO BELIEVE" AWARD:
Carlos Santana sure looked like the real deal before wrenching his knee. With surgery will come questions about how well-prepared he'll be for 2010 and how much time he'll have to log at first base. But if the kid is healthy, he gives the skeptics a reason to get excited about the future of this club.
THE "SURPRISE, SURPRISE" AWARD:
You might have predicted we'd see Carlos Carrasco or Jeanmar Gomez, but nobody imagined Josh Tomlin would be a regular in the rotation at any point this season. He proved to be a viable option, and his dominant debut against the Yankees was one of the highlights of the season.
THE "CODE OF SILENCE" AWARD:
Congratulations to lefty reliever Rafael Perez, who went an entire season, including Spring Training, without doing a single interview with anybody in the media. I've checked with PR man Bart Swain, and I believe this is a first. Perez has been pretending not to understand English for a while now, and he has successfully turned off every beat reporter enough to avoid any requests altogether. Personally, I gave up trying to talk to him last year. But Plain Dealer scribe Paul Hoynes made one run at him this spring, and Perez told him he was "too tired" to talk after running sprints following a Cactus League appearance.
THE "A GOOD MAN IS HARD TO FIND" AWARD:
Raffy Perez stands in stunning contrast to Chris Perez, who gets this award not only for his approachability and the respect he shows reporters but also for the fact that he is easily the best quote in the clubhouse. These days, it's increasingly rare to find a player genuinely willing to speak his mind about anything related to his team or other teams, so Perez is a gem. And his performance backs up his bravado, which is more than I can say for some others I've encountered.
THE "I'M GOIN' DOWN" AWARD:
Jensen Lewis was optioned out four times this year (and was told he'd be optioned out one other time, only to be recalled the minute his plane landed in Columbus). Now, he's probably entering arbitration-eligibility through "Super 2" status, so he could find himself on the transaction wire yet again this winter.
THE "NO SURRENDER" AWARD:
Dealt at the Trade Deadline, Jake Westbrook hasn't had his name in these parts in a while. But here's to Jake for returning from Tommy John surgery and working more than 200 innings between the Indians and Cardinals this season. A nice achievement for a true class act.
THE "MY BEST WAS NEVER GOOD ENOUGH" AWARD:
This appears to be the end of the Andy Marte era, as he is approaching salary arbitration. Nice guy, Marte. Just couldn't live up to the expectations of being the primary acquisition in a trade that robbed Cleveland of future Hall of Famer Coco Crisp.
THE "SHUT OUT THE LIGHT" AWARD:
Give Marte credit for this, though. On a night in which none of the Indians seemed capable of throwing a strike, he put the Yankees down, 1-2-3. Amazing.
THE "BRILLIANT DISGUISE" AWARD:
I've noted before that Chris Gimenez is a pile-jumper, the kind of guy you want in your clubhouse and dugout. The Indians apparently feel the same way, because Gimenez, despite a .160 career batting average, has compiled well over a year of service time with the Tribe over the last two years. Kudos to him.
THE "SOULS OF THE DEPARTED" AWARD:
Mark Grudzielanek and Mike Redmond, we hardly knew ye.
THE "ALL THE WAY HOME" AWARD:
So much happens over the course of a 162-game season. But please, let's not let lose sight of the fact that Jhonny Peralta, of all people, hit an inside-the-park home run.
THE "TAKE 'EM AS THEY COME" AWARD:
Travis Hafner wasn't physically fit to play seven days a week and his old power stroke was lost to shoulder woes. But Hafner played more than 100 games for the first time in three years and provided a .943 OPS in the second half, so the Indians' investment, while far from money well spent, was not a total loss.
THE "ONE STEP UP" AWARD:
Michael Brantley had a .174 average after 121 at-bats. He entered the final day with a .246 average in 293 at-bats. That's significant improvement, and the Indians have to feel pretty good about penciling him in as their potential leadoff man for next season.
THE "TWO STEPS BACK" AWARD:
After leading the team in wins in 2009, David Huff was 2-11 with a 6.21 ERA in 15 starts this year and wound up in Triple-A, sans September callup. Huff's resilience showed with the way he quickly bounced back from that A-Rod liner to the head, so here's hoping he shows it again and comes back strong in 2011.
THE "YOUR OWN WORST ENEMY" AWARD:
Huff, or somebody with access to his Twitter account, tweeted that he'd be making a spot start for the Indians within 15 minutes of the club giving him the news and asking him to keep the information to himself. Because of this breach, the start instead went to Gomez, who has basically been a regular in the rotation ever since.
THE "STOLEN CAR" AWARD:
No matter what else happens in his career, Jason Donald will always be remembered for being incorrectly called safe by Jim Joyce to break up Armando Galarraga's perfect game with two outs in the ninth at Comerica Park.
THE "SEEDS" AWARD(S):
Big years down on the farm for second baseman Jason Kipnis, who made a successful conversion from the outfield, and right-hander Alex White, who proved to be a viable starting pitching prospect. Honorable mention also goes out to third basemen Lonnie Chisenhall and Jared Goedert, second baseman Cord Phelps, left-hander Matt Packer and right-handers Vinnie Pestano and Bryce Stowell.
THE "NONE BUT THE BRAVE" AWARD:
This one goes out to all you fans out there who stepped through the turnstiles at Progressive Field this season. The Indians had the lowest home attendance in baseball and their lowest season attendance since 1992. But the Tribe showed its appreciation for those who showed up by having players high-five kids as they ran the bases on Sundays, sign autographs near the dugout before weekend games and toss out autographed baseballs after the last home game. These were all nice touches to thank true fans.