In honor of the annual ESPY awards being handed out later this evening, we here at Blog Red Machine are going to produce our own version of the “ESPY’s” by taking the categories and applying them to our very own Cincinnati Reds.
You may notice some differences: first being, I am not Drake, as much as I like to rap “5 AM in Toronto” in the shower in the morning. Secondly, Drizzy will hand out some awards tonight that we will not be able to, such as “Best Female Athlete” and “Best Team.” Thirdly, no one actually gets a sweet-looking gold trophy to hold for this, nor will there be any acceptance speeches, so imagine the best you can.
Without further adieu, the honor of Best Breakthrough Athlete goes to…:
Billy Hamilton – CF
Just 12 games into his rookie season, everyone from radio talk show hosts, to season ticket holders, to the mailman, were calling for the innately fast Hamilton to resume his progression down at Triple-A Louisville. Having run into the St. Louis Cardinals all-star pitching staff twice in the first two weeks, Hamilton’s numbers suffered.
Then, his confidence came through. He may not be stealing bases at the rate that many expected, but Hamilton has turned himself into not only an average hitter, but a good one. At the break, Hamilton is hitting an impressive .285, a number that not many could have anticipated just a few months ago.
In addition to the speed, Hamilton is playing arguably the best center field of any player in baseball. Rated as the top centerfielder according to Fangraphs’ run-saved category, Hamilton has outplayed perennial Gold Glove rivals Andrew McCutchen and Carlos Gomez.
Things have gone so well for Hamilton in the first half that he has already had his own bobblehead night. With just 103 Major League games under his belt, Billy the Kid already has a legend running faster than he ever could, making him the obvious choice for Best Breakthrough Athlete.
Next up, will be the award for Best Play thus far in the first half…:
Zack Cozart makes diving grab against St. Louis Cardinals on April 2 to preserve tie game
There is an entire Zack Cozart/Billy Hamilton highlight reel that could make a legitimate case for winning this award, but this play sticks out to due to the significance of the moment. It was against the St. Louis Cardinals in a tie game in the eighth inning. The grab led to the Reds going on to win their first game of the season. Not to mention, it was a sensational catch.
At the break, Zack Cozart is tied with Jason Heyward of the Atlanta Braves for the best defensive WAR in all of Major League Baseball. Heyward’s teammate Andrelton Simmons gets a majority of the national media attention due to his sensational plays, but it would be impossible to argue there is any shortstop more defensively sound than Cozart. His grab on April 2 that had him sprawling into centerfield on a lightly hit ball to preserve a tie against the division rivals serves as his shining moment of the first half.
It was a close call for the Comeback Player of the Year Award, but ultimately the victor was…:
Alfredo Simon – P
While relievers Aroldis Chapman and Jonathan Broxton are coming off legitimate injuries to “comeback” and be two of the most dominant forces in all of baseball, Simon’s story fits the comeback trail too perfectly.
The last time prior to 2014 that Simon had started a baseball game in the Major Leagues was 2011 for the Baltimore Orioles. That went so poorly, that he was a Cincinnati Red in 2012. After two straight years of excellent work in long relief and mop-up situations, Simon earned himself a chance to become a spot starter in 2014.
Due to injuries and a mess of other circumstances, Simon has transformed himself into not only a member of the Reds’ five-man rotation, but a National League All-Star. He has made 18 starts this season, 16 of which have been of the quality variety. Not only has he comeback from the waiver wire and made himself a member of a big league roster, he has aligned himself for a hefty payday.
Due to the fact that Major League rosters are consisted of only male athletes, the winner of Best Athlete goes to…:
Johnny Cueto – P
It has been a Cy Young-worthy season thus far in 2014 for the San Pedro de Macoris native. Outdone in ERA by only Adam Wainwright, Cueto has the second lowest average in the league, and that has only occurred recently.
What “Johnny Beisbol” has meant to this team goes far beyond the statistical significance. For every five days throughout the first 95 games of the season, the Reds have felt supremely confident in winning each and every single time he took to the mound.
In a year where nearly every significant member of the roster has spent time on the disabled list, the oft-injured Cueto has been the backbone. He may find it impossible to nudge out both Wainwright and Los Angeles Dodgers’ pitcher Clayton Kershaw for the Cy Young Award, but that will not stop Cueto from being the Reds’ biggest asset in the first half of this season.
Our final category will be to determine which game was the best of the first half for the Cincinnati Reds. There were brilliant pitching performances, dramatic home runs and flashes of blinding speed, but this comeback wins the award for Best Game…:
July 11, 2014 – Pittsburgh Pirates vs. Cincinnati Reds – Reds score 5 runs in last two at-bats to win
As mentioned above, the list of candidates for this category was profound. This was the selection due in part to the timing of it occurring. Having just come off the news that Brandon Phillips would more than likely be done for the season, there was an uneasy feeling in the air in Cincinnati, having lost their two offensive superstars in Phillips and Joey Votto.
Trailing 5-1 in the bottom of the seventh, the Reds would chip away with two that inning. Still trailing by two in the bottom of the eighth against All-Star-to-be Tony Watson, the bats exploded. Five straight hits came, beginning with a solo home run from Devin Mesoraco. Ramon Santiago and Brayan Pena would deliver the game-tying and go-ahead hits (respectively) en route to raucous crowd going berserk on Fireworks Friday.
After the insane comeback, Aroldis Chapman would enter the game and strikeout the side, putting an exclamation point on the emphatic statement of the season.
Hope that you all enjoyed a bit of a trip down memory lane through the first half of the 2014 Cincinnati Reds. With 67 more games remaining, there are countless memories sure to be made still, regardless of where the team finishes.
Tags: Cincinnati Reds