Since it seems like the odds of an Angels player winning of the traditional awards this season are longshots (Trumbo and Walden have outside shot at Rookie of the Year), now seems like a perfect time for me to hand out the annual Monkey Awards, celebrating a year of excellence and a deriding a year in disappointment all at the same time. Let's get right to it!
These aren't your daddy's annual blog awards... unless your daddy is a primate.
The Ugly Monkey (Most Disappointing Surprise) - Hank Conger: This is kind of a weird one. The reason Conger was so disappointing was that it was such a pleasant surprise that he spent so much time on the big league roster. Had he just spent the first three or four months at Salt Lake, then it wouldn't have antagonized the fans so much to see him spending so much time wasting away on the bench and then struggling whenever he did get a chance to play. It was just a season-long tease that Conger might both fulfill his promise and end Jeff Mathis' reign of terror but now it looks like he has a lot of fighting to do just to make the roster again next season.
The Funky Monkey (Most Pleasant Surprise) - Jerome Williams: Literally nobody saw this coming, not even Jerome. Considering how many things went wrong for the Angels this season, it was like manna from heaven to be gifted a guy who could step in and become a very nice mid-rotation starter next year and beyond.
The Baby Monkey (Rookie of the Year) - Mark Trumbo: Walden may have been an All-Star, but Trumbo gets bonus points for stepping up to fill the offensive void. Plus, I can't possibly vote for Walden after his choke job in the final week of the season. Trumbo has his flaws when it comes to plate discipline and it will almost certainly cost him the AL Rookie of the Year, but he wins Angels ROY in a landslide.
The New Monkey (Best Newcomer) - Scott Downs: Well, at least Reagins did something write this last season. Downs was a welcome signing in the off-season, but nobody expected him to be this good. He didn't strike out a ton of batters, but he was so stingy with hits and walks that he allowed just EIGHT earned runs all season long.
The Outcast Monkey (Worst Newcomer) - Vernon Wells: Vernon didn't have a chance, really. Fans hated his trade so much that he was public enemy #1 in Anaheim before he ever put on the uniform. He was never going to be loved, but when he came out of the gate and performed so poorly, it was over. The real killer though was that Mike Scioscia kept trying to salvage his confidence by keeping him in the middle of the order, even though it was doing irreparable damage.
Crouching Tiger, Hidden Monkey (Most Under-appreciated) - Ervin Santana: I fail to understand the lack of appreciation for Ervin Santana. Even with his no-hitter this season, I still see a lot of references to him being a league average pitcher who is perfectly dispensable. I'm not saying that he's an ace or anything, but he is a very good player and fans need to realize that. As the no-hitter demonstrated, he can be absolutely dominant and do so for weeks at a time. Yes, he can also hit rough patches, but he has been steadily smoothing those rough patches out as he matures. If this team had made the post-season, the Angels would've been in great position to win and a big part of that would have been because Ervin Santana is a fantastic #3 starter.
The Overgrown Ape (Most Overrated) - Howie Kendrick: This was a tough one. Nobody on the roster really jumped out as me as being wildly overrated on this year's roster, which isn't a good thing, by the way. As a result, I have to give it to All-Star Howie Kendrick. It isn't that Howie isn't good, I just think that his career season this year was more a result of good luck than an actual improvement in physical or mental skill. His peripherals are largely the same as previous seasons, but because he lucked into a handful of extra home runs this year (which you can see by his 16.5% HR/FB which is almost twice his career rate), he suddenly seems like he was having his big breakthrough season. Maybe he is, maybe he isn't, but I think it best that everyone maintain realistic expectations for Howie in 2012.
The Chimp in Space (Best Decision) - Releasing Scott Kazmir: It may have been overlooked, but cutting Scott Kazmir loose after just one start was one of the smartest things management did all season. Instead of sticking with Kazmir in some bizarre sense of false hope that he would suddenly remember how to pitch, they cut their losses so that he didn't have to give away a game every five days. Sure, Tyler Chatwood wasn't very good, but he at least had some decent stretches and gave the Angels a fighting chance or better in most of his starts.
The Stoopid Monkey (Worst Decision) - The Vernon Wells trade: Look, we all know how bad this was. We have been reminded of the stupidity involved here on an almost daily basis, so I'm not going to rehash it. Just take solace that Reagins has been fired.
The Evil Monkey That Lives in My Closet (Most Despised) - Tony Reagins: This award might have been the most hotly contested, which really says something about this year's team. Vernon Wells, Jeff Mathis, Bobby Abreu and Fernando Rodney all had legitimate claims to this award, but it has to be Reagins. He just screwed this roster over every single chance he got. The Crawford catastrophe, the Beltre Blunder, the Wells wreck, the lack of moves during the season. It all just stacked up to make Reagins the most-hated man in Angel Land. I'm surprised there wasn't dancing in the streets and effigies of him being burnt when his "resignation" was announced.
The Pet Monkey (Fan Favorite) - Jered Weaver: His performance was well deserving of this award and more, but he really locked it up when he shoved aside Scott Boras and signed a long-term extension to stay with the Halos. I think the fans have always loved Jered, but they were afraid to commit to much to him because of the assumption that he was gone after 2012. Now, finally, we are free to love him with all our hearts. (I apologize for that last paragraph. That got really weird and slightly homoerotic really fast.)
The Helper Monkey (Leadership Award) - Mike Scioscia: Normally, this is a player award (that usually goes to Torii Hunter), but given how this season went, I think Mike Scioscia deserves a little extra credit for keeping this clubhouse from imploding. The players were showered with vitriol from fans from the start of the season. Most of it was aimed at Wells, Mathis, Rodney and Kazmir, but that kind of hate from your supposed supporters can have a negative effect on everyone around them. Aside from Scioscia's lingering issues with filling out a decent batting order, he did a fine job of working the young players into the lineup and managing the infield logjam so that everyone felt like they were getting a chance to play and succeed. I don't know if this was Scioscia's best managing season ever, but it is definitely up there.
The Poop Flinging Monkey (Least Valuable Player) - Jeff Mathis: All apologies to Lyle Spencer, but Jeff Mathis blew worse than he has ever blown. As bas as he was with the bat last year (.497 OPS), he was even worse this year (.484 OPS). You can give me all the touchy-feely anecdotal evidence about how good his defense is but every single advanced metric that measures catcher defense suggests that he is, at best, an above average backstop and certainly not good enough to justify keeping the worst bat in the majors in the lineup so often. And just to hammer my point home, he was had the sixth-worst WAR in the majors out of all position players with 250+ plate appearances.
The Alpha Monkey Award (Most Valuable Player) - Peter Bourjos: This may come as a surprise to any new readers, but my loyal following knows that I actually tried to make a case for Bourjos as the AL MVP back during the season. Maybe this is my unhealthy man-crush on Speedy Petey talking, but I don't think this team finished over .500 without him. As great as Weaver and Haren were, they would have looked much worse if not for Bourjos' superlative defense in center field. His offense was up and down throughout the season, but the same could be said of any Angel. But when his offense was good, he was multi-talented threat that could create chaos on the opposition with his blend of speed and power. Considering that we were all crossing our fingers hoping the kid would "hit enough" to justify keeping his glove in the lineup, it was a huge bonus for the club that he became an actual offensive asset rather than a liability like some expected.
Bourjos work was remarkable. I said before the season that if he hit .220 he'd still help the team with his defense but every time his average started to decline he was able to make some adjustment and keep raising it higher. An amazing feat for a kid like that. And I'm pretty sure we have to give credit to the kid. It couldn't have been anything Mickey Hatcher did, right?