Thursday, January 05, 2012

2011 Boston Blood Sox Awards

It's time for the 6th annual BBS Awards. It was an interesting year in Boston sports. The Bruins won a Cup, the Sox collapsed, there were lockouts, and nobody seems to know if the Patriots are any good. It was a year of pleasant surprises, and bitter disappointments. It was a good year to be a Boston sports blogger.

Here are the Awards I'll be awarding. In parenthesis are last year's winners:

Frazee Award for Goat of the Year (Randy Moss)
Shaughnessy Award for Worst Sportswriter (Ron Borges)
A-Rod Award for Biggest Choke/Disappointment (the '09-'10 Bruins)
Varitek Award for Most Overrated Athlete (Tuukka Rask)
Flutie Award for College Athlete of the Year (Luke Kuechly)
Orr Award for Bruins Player of the Year (Tim Thomas)
Bill Russell Award for Celtics Player of the Year (Rajon Rondo)
Bledsoe Award for Patriots Player of the Year (Tom Brady)
Ted Williams Award for Sox Player of the Year (Clay Buchholz)
Tom Brady Award for Biggest Surprise Out of Nowhere (Danny Woodhead)
Bloody Sock Award for Toughness (Wes Welker)
Game of the Year (Pats beat Ravens 23-20 in OT)
Auerbach Award for Executive/Coach of the Year (Bill Belichick)
Lifetime Achievement Award (Mark Recchi)
Athlete of the Year (Tom Brady)
Team of the Year (BC Hockey)

The winners of awards are determined strictly by me.


BBS Award for Team of the Year

There really can't be any doubt as to who will win this Award. It's the team that ended a 39 year drought. It's the team that might be the most likable in town. It's the 2011 Stanley Cup Champion Boston Bruins.

It might not be a team of superstars. But it is a team of guys who are easy to like. Tim Thomas. Shawn Thornton. Brad Marchand. Milan Lucic. Patrice Bergeron. Tuukka Rask. Zdeno Chara. Adam McQuaid. Dennis Seidenberg. David Krejci. Mark Recchi. Gregory Campbell. Tyler Seguin. Nathan Horton. Andrew Ference. Chris Kelly. Daniel Paille. Johnny Boychuk. Rich Peverley.

This team has character. They fight for each other. They play with effort and determination. They win with effort and determination.

All I need to say about this team is that Bruins fans are in love. They love winning. They love winning the way they've won. If polygamy were legal, B's fans would marry this team.

BBS Award for Athlete of the Year

This might be the most coveted Award an individual athlete can attain. Here are the nominees...

Tom Brady, QB - New England Patriots
Jacoby Ellsbury, CF - Boston Red Sox
Zdeno Chara, D - Boston Bruins
Tim Thomas, G - Boston Bruins
Luke Kuechly, LB - BC Football

The winner is...

Tim Thomas

No disrespect to Tom Brady, but Tim Thomas is the best player at his position in all of sports. I wish the NHL produced a DVD of his 798 saves in the Stanley Cup Playoffs (they could call it "798"). This video will have to suffice:

I love when he took down Burrows. That's another thing about Thomas, he'll stick up for himself and his teammates. He won't shy away from a scrap.

We are privileged to see him play here in Boston.

BBS Lifetime Achievement Award

This goes to someone who has amassed a lifetime of accomplishments. This year I'm giving the Award to someone who is only 46 years old but has already accomplished quite a bit.

Cameron Michael Neely.

Let's talk first about Cam Neely the player. His too short and injury plagued career was brilliant. 395 goals in 726 games. He was a tough, physical forward. Unfortunately for him, he played for a team noted for its careful spending habits (a polite way of saying cheapness). He came close to the Cup a few times, but never won one as a player.

Then he came back to the Bruins as President. It's tough to fully know how much influence he's had on personnel decisions, but it's safe to say that his presence in the front office has influenced the team. The Bruins are tougher than they were before he came. They're more complete and well-rounded. They're a lot more like him.

Auerbach Award for Coach/Executive of the Year

This goes to the off-field person who contributed the most to their team's on-field success. Here are the nominees...

Claude Julien, head coach - Boston Bruins
Peter Chiarelli, GM - Boston Bruins

The winner is...

Claude Julien

This time last year I wanted him fired. Now he's my second favorite Boston coach behind Belichick. He's quieted all his critics. his defensive scheme clearly works. He's developed Seguin into a prime time player. He's balanced Thomas' and Rask's playing time. All the players on the Bruins understand their roles, understand what's expected of them, and do it.

He puts his players in the best position to succeed. What else can you ask from a coach?

BBS Award for Game of the Year

This goes to the most exciting, entertaining, important game of the year in the Boston sports world. There were a number of good candidates for this award, thanks mostly to the Bruins' Stanley Cup run. There are three nominees for this Award:

Bruins vs. Canadiens, Game 7, Bruins win 4-3 in OT
Bruins vs. Lightning, Game 7, Bruins win 1-0
Bruins vs. Canucks, Game 7, Bruins win 4-0

And the winner is...

Game 7 against the Canucks

While the games against Montreal and Tampa Bay were more exciting, I decided that the Cup winning game was the best for two reasons. Firstly, the Bruins won the Cup. Secondly, it was a great example of Bruins hockey. The B's ground the game out, they didn't give the Canucks anything, and Tim Thomas was Tim Thomas. Game 7 was the quintessential Boston Bruins game.

Bloody Sock Award for Toughness

This Award typically goes to an athlete that fought through injuries, or severe adversity. Someone who displayed an almost inhuman ability to tolerate pain. However this year this Award is not going to an athlete. Nor is it going to someone who displayed physical toughness. This is going to someone who demonstrated an uncanny amount of mental toughness and character.

Former Red Sox Manager Terry Francona.

While in Boston, Terry Francona coached such lamentable people as Manny Ramirez and JD Drew. And in 2011, he managed a team that didn't seem to care about winning, a team with jackasses like John Lackey, and spoiled fake-tough-guys like Josh Beckett. And he has NEVER uttered a negative word about these guys to the media. That's saintlike patience and discretion.

Then he had an ownership group that saw fit to dismiss him. And he honorably took responsibility for losing the clubhouse and left Fenway with grace and class.

Then the same ownership group leaked stories about painkiller abuse. Only then did Francona speak up.

We as fans find it hard to tolerate Josh Beckett's tomfoolery. He as manager had to. And he did it as well as anyone can. Beckett had his contract, which was a luxury Francona didn't have in 2011. Beckett and his buddies acted like douchebags. Francona carried himself with class and he still hasn't said a thing about his former players, the guys who essentially cost him his job.

Tom Brady Award for Surprise Athlete of the Year

This goes to someone who wasn't expected to do much, only to do quite a bit. This year's winner is...

Brad Marchand, LW, Boston Bruins

Tyler Seguin was the reason Bruins fans flocked to rookie exhibition games. But it was another rookie that went from relative obscurity in the preseason, developed into a role player in the regular season, then became a household name in the postseason.

Once the calender flipped to 2011, Marchand exploded. He'd scored 5 goals with 8 assists in October, November, and December of 2010. Then in January of '11 he scored 8 more goals. He added 6 in February. He finished his rookie season with 21 goals.

His biggest impact came in the playoffs. He was an antagonizer. He was a pest. He was tough. And he scored. 4 goals in the Philadelphia series. 5 in the Vancouver series. He scored 11 playoff goals, and the Bruins were 11-0 when he scored.

Drew Bledsoe Award for Patriots Player of the Year

This goes to the Patriots best player. The nominees...

Vince Wilfork, DT
Wes Welker, WR
Rob Gronkowski, TE
Tom Brady, QB

And the winner is...

Tom Brady.

While Wilfork, Welker, and Gronk had outstanding years, the key to the Patriots' success has been Tom Brady. As Brady goes, so go the Patriots. The key to beating the Pats' is to take Brady out of the game.

Bobby Orr Award For Bruins Player of the Year

The Bruins won the Cup as a team. They play as a team, fight as a team, score goals through teamwork, play defense in layers. So you'd think that picking out an individual to win this Award might be difficult. And among skaters, that's true. Guys like Chara, Bergeron, Lucic, Krejci, Marchand, Seidenberg, and more all deserve recognition. But it's pretty clear who the best player on this team was in 2011...

Tim Thomas

In 2010-11 he led the NHL in Save Percentage (.938) and GAA (2.00). That .938 SV% was the highest of all-time. He easily won the Vezina. Then he did even better in the playoffs. 16 wins, .940 SV% and a 1.98 GAA. He had 4 shutouts. He easily won the Conn Smythe.

And he's continuing his rampage. This season he's amassed 16 wins, 4 shutouts, a 1.84 GAA and a .943 save percentage. He's the best goalie in the NHL right now.

Watching him is a lesson in the unreal. He defies physics. He's so quick post to post. He's never off balance, even when his legs are fully extended. He reads the play perfectly. And the more pressure-packed the situation is, the better he plays.

Ted Williams Award for Red Sox Player of the Year

I feel like this Award should be sponsored by Popeye's or Miller Lite. Despite the collapse, despite the detestable nature of most of this team, there were some good players who did try. Here are the nominees...

Alex Gonzalez, 1B
Dustin Pedroia, 2B
Jacoby Ellsbury, CF
David Ortiz, DH

The winner is...

Jacoby Ellsbury

With all the end of year turmoil, we've sort of forgotten that Jacoby Ellsbury finally had a breakout year. He was criticized in 2010 for not being tough enough and not playing through injury. He's been criticized in the past for not getting on base enough, and being more of an 8 or 9 hitter than a leadoff hitter.

In 2011 he had a career high OBP of .376, he led the league in total bases with 364. He hit .321, knocked in 105 RBI, hit 32 homeruns, and was the first ever Red Sox player to join the 30/30 club. He was 2nd in MVP voting, won the Gold Glove and Silver Slugger.

If the Red Sox turn things around in 2012, it will be centered on production from guys like Ellsbury.

Bill Russell Award for Celtics Player of the Year

A simple Award. The Celtics' best player in the 2011 calendar year wins this one. With the lockout, this will be a little tricky. The nominees...

Paul Pierce, SF
Rajon Rondo, PG
Kevin Garnett, PF
Ray Allen, SG

And the winner is...

Paul Pierce

The thing that separates Pierce from the rest of the nominees is his reliability and consistency. He's the most dependable. Allen goes through his shooting slumps. Rondo's shortcomings have been well documented. And Garnett disappears for extended periods.

If I were starting an NBA team and could only take one Celtic, I'd take Pierce.

Flutie Award for College Athlete of the Year

This Award goes to the athlete that performed the best, but also did so on the biggest stages. In other words, the Williams soccer team will likely never have a winner of this award, while BC and BU athletes have claimed most of these.

For the second consecutive year, the winner is Luke Kuechly, linebacker, Boston College.

Kuechly won many awards this year, as the lone bright spot on a struggling BC team. He was a consensus All-American. ACC Defensive Player of the Year. He won the Butkus Award (best linebacker in college football), the Lombardi Award (best lineman or linebacker), and the Bronco Nagurski Trophy (best defensive player). If he decides to enter the NFL Draft, he'll likely be a top 15 pick and the first linebacker taken.

Clearly the best college athlete in New England.

Varitek Award for Most Overrated Player of the Year

This goes to the Boston athlete that was praised just a bit too much. Maybe they were good, but folks here thought they were all-time great. Although this year I'm making an exception for an athlete playing outside of Boston.

The winner is...

Tim Tebow

The Tim Tebow story was probably the second biggest sports story behind Joe Paterno and the Penn State molestation scandal. You couldn't just be a casual fan of Tebow without turning into a Tebow defender. You couldn't just think he was overrated without turning into a hater.

The conversations became religious in nature, as if Tebow were a prophet or saint. His fans didn't just like him, they "believed" in him. You could show them stats, talk about how well Denver's defense was playing, and all they'd respond with was "he just wins."

Not anymore. He just sucks.

A-Rod Award for Biggest Choke/Disappointment of the Year

This is one of the most loosely defined BBS Awards. It can go to a player, a coach, a team. It can go to a game, or just one play. It's awarded to the biggest "snatch defeat from the jaws of victory" person/event of the year. But it can also be given to someone or something that just didn't live up to expectations. Here are the nominees...

Patriots vs. Jets in the playoffs
Red Sox in September
Chad Ochocinco

There's really no argument here. The winner is the Red Sox and their epic September swoon.

What happened, on paper, was pretty bad. The Sox just kept losing. Then on the last night of the season, they had a chance to clinch a 163rd game with a win, and clinch the Wild Card with a Tampa Bay loss. The Sox had the lead, then Papelbon blew the game. Then the Rays came from behind and won. The season was over.

That was the heartbreaking, sad part. The blood-pumping, enraging part was how this collapse happened. This team had no character. They spent the year whining about NL rules in interleague play, and official scorers taking hits away from them.

There were a few classes of player in the Sox' clubhouse. There were troublemakers like Beckett and Lackey, who cared only about their paycheck and Popeye's chicken. There were followers like Lester, who went along with the troublemakers. There were introverted types like Ortiz who minded their own business, and Gonzalez who blamed God for anything bad. And there were very few motivated guys like Pedroia, Youkilis, and Papelbon, who were mocked for trying so hard.

The Sox became an out of shape rabble of miscreants who mocked those who actually tried hard. They were painful to watch on the field. And in the dugout, they didn't seem to care that they were failing.

One of the least likeable teams I've ever seen. At least expectations will be low for 2012.

Shaughnessey Award for Worst Sports Media Personality

This goes to the most annoying, condescending, pious, irritating, arrogant, and generally unlikeable sports media personality of the year. It used to just be for sports writers, but there really aren't any "sports writers" anymore. They're all multimedia, multi-platform personalities. And this year, the worst of them was Michael Felger.

I'll admit that I've turned to The Hub for the afternoon show as opposed to WEEI. I'll admit that I think Felger covers hockey very well. I'll admit that I often agree with him. And that's what makes him so irritating. When you find yourself agreeing with Felger, you feel dirty. It just feels wrong.

I think Felger and Tony Massarotti purposely yell dumb things on the radio. I think they know that they make mountains out of mole hills, and that they turn theory into fact, then take an unfounded premise and run with it as far as it will take them. I think they know this. And in a way, that makes it more infuriating to listen.

And when Felger is wrong, he's way wrong. His Tebow loving comes to mind.

He's just an irritant, a nuisance. It's an act. Yet it's still better than listening to Michael Holley ignorantly drone on and on.

Frazee Award for Goat of the Year

This Award is named after former Red Sox owner Harry Frazee, who sold Babe Ruth and many other talented players to the Yankees in order to finance his stupid Broadway plays. Basically, this Award is given to the biggest villain in Boston sports for the year. Here are the nominees:

David Ortiz, DH - Boston Red Sox
Josh Beckett, SP - Boston Red Sox
John Lackey, SP - Boston Red Sox
Jon Lester, SP - Boston Red Sox

Notice a trend?

The winner is...

John Lackey.

Not only does he sound like a drunk Kermit the Frog, he had one of the worst years as a starting pitcher in the history of the game. He was the first player to ever win 12 games with an ERA over 6.00. He allowed 114 earned runs, leading the AL. He also led the AL by hitting 19 batters. his 6.41 ERA and 1.619 WHIPs were jokes.

He was so bad that if the Sox made it to Game #163, there were rumors they'd acquire Bruce Chen to start instead of him. It takes some serious sucking to make Bruce Chen look like a savior.

His true villainy wasn't just on the field. He's a drunk. He, Beckett, and Lester would guzzle beers and devour chicken while their teammates were trying to win ballgames. At least Beckett and Lester weren't as blatantly out of shape as Lackey, though.

Lackey's attitude was obnoxious. He never blamed himself for anything. He called out fielders for missing plays with the bases loaded, seemingly forgetting that he was the one that loaded the bases.

He was one of the least likeable athletes in the world last year, at least among those who didn't commit a crime.

Bruins Too Good

The Bruins played with energy and intensity in the 3rd period in Dallas. They packed that energy up, took it with them to Jersey, and unleashed it on the Devils. The B's demonstrated fully how much better they are than the Devils.

I really don't know how to analyze this game apart from saying that when the Bruins are playing their best, teams like the Devils have no chance. The B's won faceoffs, were more physical than New Jersey, and when the Devils did have opportunities, Tim Thomas shut them down.

The Bruins host the Flames tonight.

Photo Credit:
AP Photo