In anticipation of what has the potential -- as do all seasons -- of being truly the greatest season in the history of our sport, it's time for the 1st Annual Pre-Season OTM Awarding of Award Shows Awards Award Show.
Sixth Man – Rick Porcello
While this award normally highlights the best bench player in basketball, given the difference in roster sizes between the NBA and MLB, we’ve decided to hand this out to the sixth best player on the Red Sox. And in this case, we’re betting on Rick Porcello to be – as he has been for his entire career – an important, but in no way crucial, cog in a winning machine.
Sure, he was pretty terrible for much of last year. But, like Jamal Crawford before him, Porcello’s bread and butter is three-point shooting and contributing just enough that people have heard of him and totally think he’s good, but without any of that added pressure to "lead" or "be truly exceptional" for more than one or two games in a season.
Lady Byng – David Ortiz
I’ve been told to stick to sports in the past, but I think it’s high time we talk about what sportsmanship really is: a long-useless vestige of the patriarchy.
Okay, not really.
Sportsmanship is perhaps the most important thing anyone, or at least children -- as no one likes sore losers, and even few people are willing to hire them -- can learn from playing sports.
It’s the rules governing what is and isn’t good sporting behavior, that are the problem. "Treat others as you like to be treated" doesn’t seem hard to follow, until you realize that most professional athletes are sociopaths willing to be stabbed by their own family members to win. And with the book on rules largely unwritten, but consistently enforced through the press (and beanballs, so many beanballs right in the small of someone’s back), it takes someone of stature -- in terms of both talent and respect -- to push back against them.
Papi did that last week -- in case you missed it, I may have talked about it. In doing so, he has likely changed (at least on some level) the unwritten book of baseball rules -- or at least the discussion around it -- by replacing Thou Shalt Not Celebrate with If You Don’t Want Me To Celebrate Thou Shalt Stop Me. And if that’s not worthy of recognition, I don’t know what is.
Best Supporting Actor – Dustin Pedroia
This one is less about Pedroia’s role on the team, then the kind of actors who routinely win awards like that: actors who’ve almost randomly starred in a very good movie well into what should be their twilight years, and actor’s actors.
And Dustin Pedroia is nothing if not a baseball player’s baseball player: the only guy who it’s not actively shameful to call scrappy -- the dude even looks like Scrappy Doo. He’s reached the point in his career where he’s nobody’s choice for MVP, but he’s the MVP of our heart and steals every scene he’s in with that little hop stop of intense joy he makes before every single pitch of every single game he’s ever played.
Comeback Player – Hanley Ramirez
In addition to looking like a reincarnated Doug Mientkiewicz at first, just by virtue of not being Pablo Sandoval, he’ll seem like the best signing in Red Sox history. And if Hanley can play again at the peak of his powers -- which it feels important to note were, like, two years ago, with that 189 (!) OPS+ -- he has sleeper MVP potential. But that’s putting the cart before the horse, the car and the boat. If he can even play at 75 percent of that -- which would be an OPS of 141 -- for an entire season, he’d be an All-Star.
And, quite frankly, that’s all they can really ask for out of Hanley at this point. In his younger days he was on the kind of trajectory you see only generationally, but he has rather obviously dropped off. If not the face of the earth, at the very least the front cover of Sports Illustrated’s baseball preview (which, given their record on predicting baseball’s future, is probably for the best.)
This is all a roundabout way to say while it’s hard to imagine the ever thought he’d become some kind of Mini-Miggy when they signed him. But "Guy who is among the best players at his position, and surprisingly good at playing defense when he can be bothered to care" seems entirely reasonable and, at least for this guy, the kind of thing that would get you an award for in a sport like football if you were terrible the previous season. And you don’t have to eventually die afraid and alone with fuzzy memories of days past.
Which is nice.
OMG Moment - Dingers, So Many Dingers.
There’s very few things that make a guy like me shed a tear -- when Leo died in The West Wing (UGH), when Mr. Turner got into that motorcycle accident on Boy Meets World (2*UGH), Dobby (2UGH^2) -- but, despite what I said in the past, I think I’ll feel at least a pang of sadness over our departing hero, Mr. Ortiz.
He’s the best, most "clutch" athlete of my lifetime, and one of the great showman in the history of the game. A leader in every sense of the word, he’s the defining figure in Red Sox lore for its Silver Age, like so much Spider-Man. It’ll be hard to imagine the team without him, and Boston will be a sadder, darker place without him brightening up several times a week from April-October.
But his departure won’t be the OMG moment for this year. It’ll be every time he moonshots a mistake into the cheap seats and jogs deliberately around the horn, soaking in his well-earned reward for a job well done. And it’ll be in that moment, as he ritualistic high fives one of his teammates as he reaches home that we’ll say "Oh My God, are we going to miss that man."
Record of the Year
And now, it’s time for the most important award of the evening: the prediction for what the team will look like at the end of this season.
Will they somehow figure out the alchemy of 2013’s bizarre title run, or relive the nightmare of 2012? Can they rally around their departing leader and give him a sendoff befitting his place in the team’s pantheon? Will Pablo Sandoval come back to us as a Padre, mostly just thankful that the reporters in San Diego aren’t spending roughly 80 percent of the words they write in spring training trying to make him look like a before model?
The answers to those questions, ultimately, are left to the baseball gods, but if I were to venture a guess they’d go as follow: The closer to the former but with the potential for the latter, kind of but not quite and yes-absolutely yes.
What that means for the Sox this seasons remains to be seen, but uncertainty -- or a fundamental lack of understanding/knowledge -- has never stopped someone from making a prediction before. So, without further ado, here’s the final prediction for 1st Annual Pre-Season Over The Monster Awarding of Award Shows Awards Award Show: Red Sox, 87-75, third place in the AL East, World Series Champions (WILD CARD, HERE WE COME!).