Major League Baseball just announced that Lance Berkman and Jacoby Ellsbury have won the Comeback Player of the Year Awards. Obviously they both had great years after (a) a lost year for Ellsbury due to injury; and (b) a mostly lost year for Berkman which, due to a trade that didn’t work out well and general ineffectiveness, had people thinking his career was over or at least in steep decline. Instead, each of them will get a lot of MVP votes this year.
But I can’t say I agree with the pick of Ellsbury. The award, voted on by the MLB.com beat writers, is “presented annually to one player in each League who has re-emerged on the baseball field during the season.” Yes, Ellsbury re-emerged after a season on the disabled list. But Bartolo Colon re-emrged from the freaking dead, didn’t he? I’m rather shocked he didn’t win.
It’s not about who had the better season. Ellsbury obviously did. But with his age and his pre-injury track record, it shouldn’t be at all surprising that Ellsbury was productive this year. Indeed, it would have been a bigger story if, at age 27, he had yet another injury-marred season and was nearing the end of his career. That he bounced back with health is awesome — and that he performed at such a high level is surprising — but is his story one of a promising player having a breakout year or the story of a true comeback?
Meanwhile, yes, Colon’s second half fade and injuries certainly put a damper on the enthusiasm for his comeback. But what a freaking comeback it was! Given his age, conditioning, the nature of his injury and the fact that he dropped off the face of the Earth for the 2010 season, I’d say that it was more likely that we’d see him elected Speaker of the Legislative Assembly of Puerto Rico than we would to see him in the rotation of a playoff contender, let alone an effective member of that rotation for much of the year.
No, this isn’t important. Yes, it’s totally subjective. But they pay me to argue about unimportant and subjective crap all the time, so here we are. And I can’t shake the notion that while Jacoby Ellsbury came back nicely, Bartolo Colon was more or less resurrected. Shoulda been him.
After 18 years, 12 winning seasons, seven postseason runs and three World Championships, Dave Righetti is no longer a pitching coach for the Giants. He was removed from his post on Saturday, when the team announced a few reassignments as they shake up their coaching staff. Heading into the 2018 season, Righetti will serve as special assistant to general manager Bobby Evans, former bullpen coach Mark Gardner will step into a similar special assistant role to “assist in pitching evaluations,” and former assistant hitting coach Steve Decker will take a special assistant role in baseball operations.
According to MLB.com’s Chris Haft, Righetti was the longest-tenured pitching coach in the big leagues. He helped shape the careers of notable Giants’ aces like Madison Bumgarner, Tim Lincecum and Matt Cain — all Cy Young contenders (and, in Lincecum’s case, a two-time winner) at various points in their careers. He was there to assist Ryan Vogelsong during his stunning mid-career comeback in San Francisco. He helped newcomers like Chris Stratton and Ty Blach flourish even as the team stumbled to the bottom of the division. He was there to take the credit when a sterling rotation clinched the Giants’ 56-year, drought-snapping championship title in 2010 — and, when things went so horribly south in 2017, he took the blame as well.
Hardly anything went right for the Giants’ pitching staff in 2017. Madison Bumgarner was shelved after sustaining a serious shoulder injury in a dirt bike accident, Johnny Cueto couldn’t shake a cluster of blisters on his right hand and Mark Melancon found it difficult to justify a $62 million paycheck after pitching through an arm injury to four blown losses/saves and a 4.50 ERA. It would be a lot for any pitching coach to stay on top of, and given the team’s rapid descent from 2016 postseason contenders to last-place finishers in 2017, it’s not surprising that Evans felt the need to switch things up.
Successors have yet to be named for Righetti, Gardner or Decker, though Murray hears that the Giants could have interest in former major league pitching coach Jim Hickey. NBC Bay Area’s Alex Pavlovic adds that Evans is searching for someone to “put a new voice” on the pitching staff and will likely target someone who, like Righetti, brings considerable experience to the role.