Midseason Awards

By Chris Rewers on Thursday, July 15, 2010

As a kid, whenever I had a bad day, my father would remind me that "the sun will come up tomorrow."

It was a reminder for me to not dwell in the past and to focus on living in the moment.

There is nothing that the Cubs can do about their sorry first half.

It is the job of the players, as it should always be, on giving their best effort to win today. And the duty of the front office to put the team in the best position possible to succeed in the future.

Big changes are likely in store, especially with the non-waiver trade deadline a little over two weeks away, but for now Carlos Zambrano is still on the restricted list, Ted Lilly and Derrek Lee remain members of the team, and Lou Piniella continues to be the manager.

Before we thankfully move forward, let's take this opportunity to take one last look at the Cubs' most disappointing first half in at least four years. And to remind ourselves that there were some instances of excellence among the ruins.

Without further adieu, we present our midseason awards. The envelopes, please . . .

Ernie Banks Award (MVP): Marlon Byrd

I consider myself to be a knowledgeable baseball fan. For years, I have subscribed to the MLB Extra Innings package on DirecTV and have been able to listen to any major league game in my car thanks to XM satelitte radio. In spite of all of the baseball I watch and listen to, however, I was never able to appreciate what a wonderful player Marlon Byrd is until I began to watch him on a daily basis.

Byrd ranks fourth in the National League with a .317 average, he is tied with Philadelphia's Jayson Werth for the NL lead in doubles (27), has some pop in his bat with nine homers, is an outstanding defensive center fielder, and always busts his hump. It's obvious that Byrd enjoys playing the game, and his enthusiasm and effort are great examples for the younger players on the Cubs' roster.

"Marlon's done a nice job for us," Piniella said. "He plays hard, he's got some energy to him, he does a nice job out in center field. It was a good signing by Jim Hendry. He's been a good positive for us."

Byrd was a deserving All-Star and it was wonderful to see him contribute so much to the National League's 3-1 victory over the American League on Tuesday - the senior circuit's first All-Star Game win since 1996. Byrd drew a two-out walk from the White Sox's Matt Thornton in the seventh inning and came around all the way from first on Brian McCann's three-run double.

Byrd, who played right field, also made a head's-up play in the ninth on a John Buck blooper. With David Ortiz on first, Byrd allowed the fly ball to drop in front of him instead of attempting a risky shoestring catch. He then picked up the ball and threw to second to force out Ortiz.

Three-Finger Brown Award (Outstanding Pitcher): Carlos Silva

Let's forget about his start in Los Angeles on Sunday. In a little over three months, Carlos Silva has far exceeded expectations. He is the product of Hendry's best trade since he acquired Mark Grudzielanek and Eric Karros from the Dodgers in exchange for Todd Hundley in 2002.

While Silva went 9-3 with a 3.45 ERA in 17 starts, Milton Bradley was a disruptive presence in the Mariners clubhouse while hitting just .210.

Silva, who went just 5-18 with a 6.81 ERA in his two seasons with the Mariners, won his first eight decisions this season. He has walked just 19 and struck out 72 in 101 2/3 innings.

Larry Rothschild deserves some credit for Silva's turnaround. The Cubs pitching coach made some adjustments to Silva's mechanics and convinced the right-hander to rely more on his offspeed stuff - particularly his change-up.

"I think it's because his (offspeed) stuff is worth using," Cubs catcher Koyie Hill recently told the Seattle Times. "I don't know what it was like in Seattle. I didn't see him pitch. All I know is that this year, when I ask him to throw a pitch to a certain spot, he executes it beautifully. To me, it would seem like a waste of his stuff if we weren't using it."

Billy Williams Award (Top Rookie): Tyler Colvin

Steady wins the race.

Starlin Castro made quite a splash with a major league record six RBI in his major league debut, but Tyler Colvin has been the most consistent rookie for the Cubs so far in 2010.

Colvin hit his way onto the team in spring training and continued to hit until Uncle Lou finally made him the team's starting right-fielder late in the first half.

The 24-year-old former first-round pick (2006) is second on the team with 12 homers and has driven in 32 runs in just 179 at-bats.

''From Day 1, (Colvin) has prepared as well as any young guy I've been around,'' pitcher Ryan Dempster recently said. ''He is a big piece of our puzzle, for sure.''

Todd Hundley Award (Least Valuable Player): Aramis Ramirez

When Aramis Ramirez got off to a slow start, we assumed that he would heat up with the weather. His walk-off homer against Colorado on May 17, we hoped, would be the icebreaker.

But he was still hitting just .158 by June 4 - the worst first-half performance by a Cubs third baseman since Gary Scott in 1992. Of course, Scott was playing the hot corner at Iowa by the time June rolled around.

"I think the only way you can get out of a slump is by playing," Ramirez said after coming off a stint on the disabled list because of a sore left hand on June 25. "By sitting, you're not helping yourself. It's a long season, and the only way to get back is by playing the game."

But by playing, he was only helping opposing pitchers.

Ramirez closed the first half with a big road trip to raise his average to .207, with a .268 on-base percentage, .380 slugging percentage, and .648 OPS. According to ESPN's Jayson Stark, those rival the worst numbers ever posted by a player with that many at-bats. Jim Levey of the 1933 St. Louis Browns had a stat line of .195/.237/.240/.477.

It's an amazing drop-off for a player who up in until this year had been a reliable presence in the middle of the Cubs lineup with six straight seasons posting a slugging percentage over .500.

Danny Jackson Award (Worst Pitcher): Carlos Zambrano

Carlos Zambrano - who is earning $17 million this season in the middle of a five-year, $91.5 million contract - has not pitched since being placed on the restricted list on June 25th after he threw an ugly temper tantrum in the Cubs dugout in a game against the White Sox.

Zambrano, who was sent home from that game after pitching just one inning in his third starts since returning to the starting rotation, spent most of the first half as a set-up man. The bullpen experiment was a colossal failure as opposing batters hit .302 against him in his 13 appearances as a reliever.

He has done no better as a starter and is just 3-6 with a 5.66 ERA in 22 appearances. When it was announced last month that Zambrano was returning to the rotation, Hendry acknowledged that the former ace's velocity has tailed off considerably over the last two years.

Big Z won 91 games for the Cubs between 2003 and 2008. His career now hangs in limbo.

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