Sunday, January 15, 2017

Red Sox Awards History: Comeback Player of the Year

Major League Baseball started giving out a Comeback Player of the Year Award in 2005 to one player in each league who has had a great season after an injury-plagued or some other down season.  The Sporting News has given out a Comeback Player of the Year Award since 1965, but apparently MLB has not officially recognized it.

Several Red Sox players have won the Comeback Player of the Year Award over the years.  Here are those players:

2016 - RICK PORCELLO (MLB Award)
Porcello is the most recent AL winner of the Comeback Player of the Year Award, though he did not win The Sporting News Award, which went to Mark Trumbo.  Porcello was not hurt in 2015, he just had a bit of a down season, at least for the first half.  He finished the season 9-15 with a 4.92 ERA and a 1.36 WHIP.  He was actually decent down the stretch which was a preview of his 2016 season.  Though no one expected him to come in and win the AL Cy Young Award as he did.  Porcello was 22-4 with a 3.15 ERA, a 1.009 WHIP and 189 strikeouts versus 32 walks in 223 innings.

2011 - JACOBY ELLSBURY (MLB  and TSN Award)
Prone to some bizarre injuries in his career, Ellsbury only played in 18 games in 2010 due to rib injuries, initially sustained in a collision with teammate Adrian Beltre.  He finished second in the AL MVP race in 2011 after hitting .321/.376/.552 with 32 home runs, 105 RBIs, and 39 stolen bases.  He became Boston's first ever 30/30 man and was an All Star and won both the Silver Slugger and Gold Glove Award.  It was far and away his greatest season.

Once one of the greatest pitchers in the game, Saberhagen's career had stalled after a terrific 1994 season with the Mets.  1995 was subpar, particularly after being traded to the Rockies.  He was injured for the entire 1996 season.  The Red Sox took a flier on him for the 1997 season and he made it into six games, though he was 0-1 with a 6.58 ERA.  He went on to have a very good full season in 1998, ending up 15-6 with a 3.96 ERA.  He struck out 100 and walked 29 in 175.  This was the second time Saberhagen won the Comeback Player of the Year Award.

1995 was Tim Wakefield's breakout season.  Sure, he had a great rookie season in 1992, but he really attained national attention in 1995.  Wakefield had struggled in 1993 with the Pirates and spent the entire 1994 season in the minor leagues.  Seeking pitching help, Boston picked Wakefield up off of the scrap heap and he became the team's top starting pitcher, ending up with a 16-8 record and a 2.95 ERA.  He finished third in the Cy Young vote and even picked up some MVP votes.

Luis Tiant had two careers.  In his early years, he was a flamethrowing pitcher with the Indians who struck out 264 with a 1.60 ERA in 1968.  Unfortunately, arm troubles started in and he bounced around for a few years.  In 1971 he was 1-7 with a 4.85 ERA for the Red Sox.  But his second career took off in 1972 when he became a crafty, intelligent pitcher with a number of pitches and different arm angles.  He was 15-6 with a league-leading 1.91 ERA and finished sixth in the Cy Young vote.

After a devastating beaning to the head in 1967, Tony Conigliaro missed the entire 1968 season due to lingering vision problems.  Conigliaro had previously been one of the game's brightest young stars after being the second youngest player in history to make it to 100 home runs.  He made a comeback attempt in 1969 and performed well, hitting .255/.321/.427 with 20 home runs and 82 RBIs.

Harrelson was not hurt in 1967, he just had a bit of a down season, though he did not have a long track record of stardom.  He played with three teams in 1967 and was subject to a controversial release by the Kansas City A's.  Boston picked him up after the Conigliaro beaning.  Harrelson was an All Star for the only time in 1968 and finished third in the MVP race after hitting .275/.356/.518 with 35 home runs and a league-leading 109 RBIs.

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