- Jayson Stark, Senior Writer, ESPN.com
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And now a salute to those award winners who were trying not to win these awards:
National League Least Valuable Player (LVP)
Cristian Guzman, Nationals: Of all last winter's free-agent contracts, has there been a bigger disaster than this guy? Four years, $16.8 million -- and here's what the Nationals have gotten so far, 442 at-bats into Guzman's tenure: a .217 batting average, .258 on-base percentage, .314 slugging percentage, four homers and five steals.
In the last 70 years, only three players have put up numbers that messy in that many at-bats -- Bob Lillis in 1963, Bob Boone in '84 and Hal Lanier twice ('66 and '67). We don't know what it means that all three went on to become managers. But we do know that usually in Washington, when folks are this derelict in their duty, they get impeached. So we hope the Nationals' new owners have some great connections in Congress.
Sighs of relief for: Corey Patterson, Raul Mondesi, Marquis Grissom, Phil Nevin.
American League LVP
Rafael Palmeiro, Orioles: Speaking of Congress, its favorite witness might never be indicted for perjury. But we can convict him right now of destroying his life, career, reputation, Hall of Fame credentials and Viagra-spokesman gig -- with extra points tossed in for dragging an entire team right down the sinkhole with him.
If time had just stopped the day of Raffy's 3,000th hit, he'd have been a national icon and his team would have been in the playoffs. Unfortunately, the world kept spinning. So since then, the Orioles actually have a worse record than (no kidding) the Royals -- and things haven't gone so hot for Mr. 3,000, either. If this is the end of his career, he'll end it working on funks of 2-for-his-last-26, 0-for-his-last-19 and 0-for-the-last-8-weeks of waiting for a half-decent alibi to explain away this fiasco.
Sighs of relief for: Juan Gonzalez, Tony Womack, Sammy Sosa, Pudge Rodriguez, Bret Boone.
National League Cy Yuk
Eric Milton, Reds: Nobody ever said the Great American Ballpark was an uplifting place to pitch. But remember, Milton volunteered for it. And in the first year of a three-year, $25.5-million deal, at least he's been a thrill a minute.
Heading into his final start of the season, he needed to add four points to his ERA (currently 6.62) to break Jose Lima's NL record for highest ERA by a pitcher who got 30 starts (6.65 in 2000). He also needed to serve up one extra-base hit to join Lima as the only NL pitchers in the last 25 years to give up 100 extra-base hits. And he needed to do nothing more than show up to become the first pitcher to lead his league in gopherballs in back-to-back years for two different teams since Red Powell in 1903-04. Now that's some big-time Cy Yukdom.
Cys of relief for: Jamey Wright, Kip Wells, Russ Ortiz, Kirk Rueter.
American League Cy Yuk
Jose Lima, Royals: Let's start with the good news: Even in the midst of The Worst Season In The History Of Pitching, Lima beat Curt Schilling, Mark Buehrle, C.C. Sabathia, Brad Penny and the Twins. OK, that'll do it for the good news.
What Senor Lima Time 2005 will mostly be remembered for is rolling up the highest ERA in history by a man who got at least 30 starts in a season (6.99). And for becoming the first pitcher ever to have two seasons with an ERA over 6.50. (In fact, with a little cooperation from Milton, he could own the record for worst ERA in the history of each league.) And, finally, for allowing those lucky hitters who got to face him to compile a higher OPS (.931) than Andruw "51-Homer" Jones (.927). This man deserves to have his picture engraved on the Cy Yuk trophy.
Cys of relief for: Sidney Ponson, Hideo Nomo, Dewon Brazelton, Ryan Franklin, Keith Foulke.
Injuries of the Year
Bronze Medal: Twins shortstop Jason Bartlett should have had a contract clause preventing him from watching basketball. While hanging out in his hotel room after a snowout in Detroit, he tried to swivel the TV to watch an NBA game -- and ripped off a fingernail.
Silver Medal: Nobody paid more (ahem) dearly for any injury than Rockies shortstop Clint Barmes. One minute, he was a lock to be the NL Rookie of the Year. The next, he got tired of waiting for an elevator in his apartment building, decided to carry a load of deer meat up the stairs, tripped and broke his collarbone. Could be a long time before this guy orders venison for lunch.
Gold Medal: (Tie) Never has trotting out a home run been more hazardous to a guy's health than this year. On July 5, Blue Jays second baseman Orlando Hudson popped a hamstring on his way around the diamond and parlayed it into a 54-second journey that gave new meaning to the word "trot." But at least Hudson got hurt after his own homer. Red Sox outfielder Gabe Kapler blew out his Achilles stumbling around second after a Sept. 14 Tony Graffanino homer. So that turned Graffanino's trot into a five-minute marathon, complete with a pinch-runner for Kapler (Alejandro Machado) -- and a change of planes at O'Hare.
NL Boxscore Lines of the Year
Bronze Medal: After allowing 30 runs in 19.2 innings in his previous visits to scenic Coors Field, Padres starter Woody Williams managed to dodge pitching there for three straight seasons as a Cardinal. He wasn't so lucky this year, as this Sept. 20 adventure might suggest:
1 IP, 9 H, 9 R, 8 ER, 0 BB, 0 K, 1 HR, 44 pitches, 0 swings that missed.
Fact of the day: If you're calculating along at home, Williams' career ERA at Coors is now 15.75. He has given up 59 hits there in 24 innings. And the Rockies are hitting .447 off him in those games.
Silver Medal: Only in baseball can something this mathematically impossible actually happen. Check out Giants reliever Scott Eyre's line May 2 vs. Arizona:
0 IP, 0 H, 1 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 1 K
If you didn't know better, you'd have sworn this guy allowed no base runners in this game -- but still gave up a run. And you'll also notice he had a strikeout -- but never did get an out.
So how did that happen? Amazingly easily. Mike Matheny neglected to catch a third strike on Shawn Green that would have ended the inning. Green then made it to first on a passed ball -- and, after Eyre departed, scored on a Tony Clark double.
Gotta love baseball.
Gold Medal: Any time a starting pitcher is twisting the shower knobs before he's gotten his first out of the night, it's never a good sign. But it was a really, really bad sign for Reds starter Paul Wilson in this historic May 6 outing against the Dodgers:
0 IP, 5 H, 8 R, 8 ER, 1 BB, 0 K, 2 HBP, 2 HR and the ever-popular tag line: "Wilson pitched to 8 batters in 1st."
Fact of the day: It's tougher than it looks to give up eight runs in the first inning without getting an out. The Elias Sports Bureau reports it has happened only five times in the last 75 years. But only one man has done it twice. Guess who? Yup. Paul Wilson (July 10, 2003, vs. Houston).
AL Boxscore Lines of the Year
Bronze Medal: How can you tell your starting pitcher has been kind of hittable? When he knocks off a line like Seattle's Jamie Moyer's Sept. 14 spectacle against the Angels:
5 IP, 13 H, 7 R, 7 ER, 0 BB, 0 K.
So that's 13 hits allowed -- but no walks and no strikeouts. Which means a whole lot of strikes landed in a whole lot of empty spaces.
Fact of the day: Over the last two decades, according to the Elias Sports Bureau, only one other pitcher managed to toss a 13-hitter that didn't include at least one walk or whiff: the Brewers' Bill Wegman on July 11, 1992.
Silver Medal: Yankee Stadium will never be The House That Ruth Built for Devil Rays reliever Travis Harper. It will be The House Where His ERA Died. Harper marched into one of the most amazing games ever played -- a June 21 loony bin in which Tampa Bay led by eight runs in the fifth inning and somehow wound up losing by nine (20-11) -- and unfurled this line:
2/3 IP, 8 H, 9 R, 9 ER, 1 BB, 0 K, 4 HR.
Fact of the day: It took Harper two months, and 19 appearances, to give up his next nine runs.
Gold Medal: Some day, when we compile our list of the wildest games any pitcher has ever been mixed up in, we're betting a June 10 evening in the life of Kansas City's Zack Greinke will be on it. Here's his fascinating little pitching line in Arizona:
4 1/3 IP, 15 H, 11 R, 11 ER, 2 BB, 2 K, 3 HR allowed -- and 1 HR hit.
But what was the most incredible part of all? That he gave up all those hits and all those runs and didn't even get a loss out of it -- since the Royals somehow roared from nine runs back to get Greinke off the hook (but then lost anyway).
Facts of the day: According to Retrosheet's Dave Smith, Greinke was the first starting pitcher in the last 45 seasons to give up 15 hits and 11 runs in one game without taking a loss. He was also the first starter in the last 45 seasons to give up 11 runs in a game in which he homered. And he was just the second starter in the last 74 years (joining Scott Sanders, in 1998) to give up 15 hits without getting 14 outs. How 'bout that night in the desert?
Special Mystery-Pitcher Boxscore Line of the Year
We almost made it through the entire season without a single position player's making a trip to the mound. But on Sept. 10, Padres infielder Sean Burroughs blew that streak to smithereens -- with his first nationally prominent pitching performance since the 1992 Little League World Series. Here's what his spectacular line looked like:
1 IP, 4 H, 3 R, 3 ER, 0 BB, 0 K, 1 HR (to Colorado's Matt Holliday).
The Padres trailed the Rockies, 17-1, when Burroughs arrived. Three batters later, he'd gone single-single-homer, and it was 20-1.
Quote of the day: "I wish I was a little more warmed up," Burroughs quipped. "If I was loose, I would have had a better release point."
Jayson Stark is a senior writer for ESPN.com.
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