Baseball’s first individual awards of the offseason were quietly announced yesterday, and it was Rays closer Fernando Rodney who was named both American League Comeback Player of the Year and Delivery Man of the Year.
If the Yankees had their own awards, would they also have one choice for both Comeback Player of the Year and Delivery Man of the Year?
Hard to imagine the Yankees bullpen without Rafael Soriano this year. There was absolute uncertainty on the day Mariano Rivera fell along the warning track in Kansas City. The Yankees stability was gone until Soriano brought it back. He didn’t get his first save until May 10, but Soriano finished with — fittingly — 42 of them. That was the third-most in the American League, and only three away from the number he had to lead the league in 2010.
He was clearly the Yankees Delivery Man of the Year. Was he also their Comeback Player of the Year?
Consider the candidates…
The Yankees replacement closer looked like a bust last year. He got off to a slow start in pinstripes, then he was hurt, and a strong second half wasn’t enough to get his season numbers to the level the Yankees expected when they signed him. He bounced back this year and earned his closer money by filling the closer role.
If not for the second half of last season, Jeter might have been the league’s Comeback Player of the Year, but Jeter’s return to form really began when he came back from that calf injury last season. This was the year that he restablished himself as an elite leadoff hitter, but Jeter really didn’t have a lot to comeback from. He might have defied his age, but he clearly had this in him at the end of last season.
From retirement to a 2.87 ERA, Pettitte’s season was a comeback in every since of the world. He was literally out of the game for a year, then stunned everyone except for Brian Cashman when he announced he was returning to the Yankees rotation. The only downside to his comeback: That broken ankle limited him to 12 starts.
For five straight years, Chavez was never healthy enough to play in 100 games in a season. This year he played in 113 of them, hit 16 home runs and batted .281. Before this year, he’d hit a total of five home runs since the end of 2007. Chavez wasn’t expected to play a significant role this season, but with Alex Rodriguez hurt, the Yankees needed him, and he delivered throughout the regular season.
This sort of comeback isn’t really in the spirit of the Comeback Player award, but it was certainly a career renaissance for Ichiro who hit .272 last year and was hitting .261 this year before a mid-season trade to the Yankees. After coming to the Bronx, Ichiro was like his old self again hitting .322/.340/.454 in 67 games in pinstripes.
Associated Press photos