Since none of the Angels are going to be taking home any hardware this season, now seems like a perfect time for me to hand out the annual Monkey Awards, celebrating a year of excellence and a deriding a year in disappointment all at the same time. Let’s get right to it!
These aren’t your daddy’s annual blog awards… unless your daddy is a primate.
The Ugly Monkey (Most Disappointing Surprise) – Erick Aybar: Erick Aybar the Franchise Cornerstone? Yeah, not so much. Care to take that one back, Arte? Poor Erick was put into a position to lead the Angel offense into the next decade, but wound up steering them off the road and into a raw sewage-filled ditch. It turns out that Aybar just couldn’t adjust to hitting leadoff and it ended screwing with his head the entire season. Not only did he fall flat at the plate, he even regressed in the field, falling back into his old habits of losing focus and making repeated mental miscues. It is really too bad too, Aybar was the one guy who could have given the Halos the speedy, aggressive spark at the top of the batting order to ignite their offense, something they still need rather badly.
The Funky Monkey (Most Pleasant Surprise) – Joel Pineiro: I admit it, I totally thought Pineiro was going to be a free agent bust. It turns out that his sinker worked just as well in the AL as it did in the NL, even without the guidance of Jedi Master Dave Duncan. While Joel was never really dominant, he was almost always good and helped stabilize the middle of the rotation with his consistent pitching and ability to go deep into games. If you really think about it, Pineiro had become so integral to the rotation that his late-July injury essentially proved to be the deathblow to the Halos’ fading post-season aspirations.
The Baby Monkey (Rookie of the Year) – Peter Bourjos: Yeah, that’s right, I picked the kid who barely hit above .200 instead of the flame-throwing closer of the future. Jordan Walden may have had all the flash and flair when lighting up the radar gun, but Peter Bourjos was just as flashy in the field, if not more so. After all, we are talking about a kid good enough defensively to force the great and mighty Torii Hunter over to right field. Even though Bourjos struggled at the plate, his prowess with the glove was invaluable, not only because it shored up a dreadful Halo defense (especially in the outfield), but because his fine work reminded Angel management that catching the ball is still important and that the team should get back to focusing on the things that once made them so formidable, with excellent glovework being chief amongst them.
The New Monkey (Best Newcomer) – Dan Haren: I think he was easily the best newcomer for the Halos, though I don’t think he has been as well received by the positional players since they practically refused to score any runs for him. All joking aside, Haren turned out to be the ace-caliber starter that he was billed to be, more than justifying Tony Reagins’ two-year quest to bring Danny to Anaheim. The added bonus of Haren is that he replace Joe Saunders, thus saving us from more of his mediocre pitching and all the ridiculous talk about how he actually is good because “he just wins games.”
The Outcast Monkey (Worst Newcomer) – Fernando Rodney: I warned you, didn’t I? I warned you that the Fraudney signing was going to end up being wildly regrettable and Fernando certainly did a fantastic job of making me look like a genius (emphatically so the last two months of the season). Fraudney was mostly bad as the primary setup man, but he was a living nightmare once he was promoted to closer, pulling off the impossible by making people actually wish that Brian Fuentes was still around. One could even make a convincing case that the Angels would have finished over .500 if Rodney had been replaced by a replacement level reliever or just demoted to mere middle relief.
Crouching Tiger, Hidden Monkey (Most Underappreciated) – Ervin Santana: Can we please give Ervin a little love? Lost amidst Jered Weaver’s breakout season and the acquisition of Dan Haren was the fact that Ervin Santana actually had a pretty good year. Gone were the wild swings in consistency, the troubles with the longball and newly present was a better command of the strike zone and more mature approach to the game. Ervin may not have rivaled his fantastic 2008 season, but he should have at least made everyone forget about his ugly 2009 campaign.
The Overgrown Ape (Most Overrated) – Mike Napoli: I don’t hate Mike Napoli, I just think that it is time everyone admit that he isn’t the slugging savant we all badly want to believe him to be. Yes, he hit 26 homers this season, a very impressive number for a catcher, although he didn’t actually play catcher all that much. Power is great and all, but you have to put it to good use, which Napoli didn’t really do all that often. Everyone wants him to play more, but there is a reason he doesn’t get much love from Scioscia, and that is because he is a horrid situational hitter with how much he either strikes out (137 Ks) or hits into double plays (15 GIDP). Combine that with his general failure to become even passable defensively at either catcher or first base, and Napoli has shown that he really deserves to be little more than a platoon-mate catcher or part-time DH, no matter how highly the fans regard him.
The Chimp in Space (Best Decision) – Tony Reagins: Sometimes the best move you can make is the move you don’t make and that is something Tony Reagins should be commended for. This team actually hung around on the fringes of the AL West longer than expected and that very easily could have fooled a lesser GM into making short-sighted trades to make a fruitless run at the division crown. But Reagins didn’t give up the farm for Adam Dunn or sacrifice assets to rent Manny Ramirez or even waste time on a lesser player like Jorge Cantu. No, Tony the Trader was smarter than that and made only moves that help the Angels in the long-term.
The Stoopid Monkey (Worst Decision) – Kendry Morales: Does this one even really need an explanation? Moving on.
The Evil Monkey That Lives in My Closet (Most Despised) – Scott Kazmir: I don’t know if Kaz is really the most despised player by the fan base, but he is definitely my personal nemesis. Call me harsh, but I just have zero tolerance for guys who don’t do their job and keep coming up with different excuses for why they are such massive failures. First it was problems trusting his slider, then it was his arm slot, then his shoulder suddenly started hurting and then he just “needed to work on some things.” Here’s a thought, maybe you just stink at baseball?
The Pet Monkey (Fan Favorite) – Jordan Walden: There are two great ways to win over a baseball fan base: 1) Throw 100+ miles per hour (oooh, shiny!) 2) Be the closer in waiting on a team with a horrid closer. Walden absolutely nailed both of those criteria and won the hearts of Angel fans in the process, which is why you can expect a winter filled with reporters and bloggers pining for the Halos to wise up and hand Jordan the closer gig, even if he may not be ready for it.
The Helper Monkey (Leadership Award) – Torii Hunter: Not only did Torii have a fine season statistically, he did an excellent job of leading the team. Hunter constantly put the team first, first be wearing himself out serving as ambassador during All-Star Weekend while also doing everything just this side of tampering with Carl Crawford whenever he got the chance. He even made the biggest sacrifice of his career by willingly stepping aside and moving to right field to make room for Peter Bourjos. What I really loved about Hunter’s leadership this year is that he wore his commitment to the team on his sleeve. No player looked more pained and exhausted every time the Angels lost. That alone showed all of the youngsters on the roster how to keep caring and keep busting their ass even when the Angels had nothing left to play for.
The Poop Flinging Monkey (Least Valuable Player) – Brandon Wood: This might have been the most agonizing decision to make. Wood or Kazmir? Kazmir or Wood? Ultimately, the deciding factor was that Kazmir was not awful every once in awhile. Wood, however, was abysmal from start to finish (save for one game-winning homer in a game that was already meaningless anyway), posting one of the worst offensive seasons by any player ever. EVER! When you make Jeff Mathis look like an offensive asset, the rules dictate you be named the LVP.
The Alpha Monkey Award (Most Valuable Player) – Jered Weaver: Most people would probably go with Torii Hunter here, but I’m not going to argue with WAR (Weaver = 5.9, Hunter = 3.4). I’m also not about to give my top award to anybody prominently involved with the Halos’ pathetic offense, even if Hunter was pretty good. All the old-timers out there are bound to point to Weaver’s 13-12 record as a reason for him NOT to win MVP, but what that record doesn’t show is how amazingly consistent Weaver was. Did you know that he only failed to pitch six or more innings three times? Or that he only twice posted consecutive non-quality starts? And let’s not forget about that little MLB strikeout crown. More importantly, the Angels needed someone to step up and become the ace of their rotation and Weaver couldn’t possibly have done a better job, pitching his ass off all season long, giving the team a chance to win almost every time out (it isn’t his fault he didn’t get any run support).