Sun-Times presents the major 2016 Cubs awards. No, not those ones
Subscribe for unlimited digital access.
Try one month for $1!
Subscribe for unlimited digital access. Try one month for $1!
Little-known fact: Votes for baseball’s major awards are sent by carrier pigeon.
At least, that’s the only plausible explanation for why the sport’s highest honors — MVP, Cy Young, Rookie of the Year — aren’t revealed until mid-November, despite the fact voters cast their ballots before the start of the playoffs.
Kris Bryant and Anthony Rizzo will wait awhile to see how the National League MVP balloting shakes out. Same for Jon Lester and Kyle Hendricks on the Cy front. The matter of Gold Gloves won’t be settled any time sooner.
Yet we have 10 Cubs team awards right here. Right now. Are they “major”? Perhaps not. Then again …
1. Whatshisface Is Pretty Good award: Kyle Hendricks, take a bow. The artful righthander — a relative afterthought as the team’s No. 5 starter heading into the season — is the first Cubs starting pitcher to lead the N.L. in ERA since Ray Prim in 1945. That’s Ray Prim of 22-career-victory fame. Hendricks is the first Cub since Bill Lee in 1938 to lead all of baseball in ERA. No, not “Spaceman.” Just Bill.
2. Manager of the Year: No, not you, Joe Maddon. This one goes out to Jason Hammel, who won 15 games — only three non-Cubs in the N.L. playoffs won more — yet doesn’t seem to fit into the team’s plans the rest of the way. Despite his production, Hammel was kept on a short leash by Maddon all season. Did he complain? Never publicly. Credit him for managing a difficult situation quite well.
3. Comeback Player of the Year: No one thought Dexter Fowler would be back with the Cubs in 2016, especially not after the Baltimore Orioles were rumored in February to have roped him in. But he signed a one-year deal and surprised teammates at spring training in Mesa, Ariz. — a key feel-good, good-vibes moment.
4. You’ve Been Tagged award: Javier Baez hasn’t blown up into a full-fledged star yet, but the infielder’s lightning-quick tags made defense too-cool-for-school again. Cubdom is rife with nascent ballplayers who want to tag like Javy.
5. Performance Enhancer award: It’s a special one that goes to the Cincinnati Reds, who displayed utmost generosity in surrendering 10 of Bryant’s 39 home runs. Bryant will accept on their behalf.
6. Gone Viral award: No one will ever be able to take away from Justin Grimm the sultry September night in Milwaukee when Maddon pulled the ailing reliever because he “did not want to see him soil his pants.”
7. Sammy Sosa Knock Off Early award: Yeah, you, Tommy La Stella. You don’t have to tell anyone why you’re ditching the premises.
8. I’m Not Telling Him, You Tell Him award: No winner yet. This one will go to whoever has the guts to be the first one to say to Jake Arrieta, “Dude, just relax and get back to your dominant old self already.”
9. Where the Streets Have Names award: With all due respect to 1990s outfielder Dave Clark and pitcher Mark Clark — not to mention 1950s outfielder Bob Addis — no Cub has lived up to his Wrigley billing like shortstop Addison Russell. No word at press time if Bono is a Russell fan, but he probably is.
10. Super Bowl Shuffle award: It seems Binny’s Beverage Depot is the Cubs’ “official champagne provider.” Since when, 1908?
Follow me on Twitter @slgreenberg.