2004 Andujar Ballot Unveiled

Monday, October 04 2004 @ 11:06 AM EDT

Contributed by: Mick Doherty

As one baseball season ends and another (post-)season begins, it's time to look back at the years enjoyed (or ins ome cases endured) by the 20 remaining candidates for the 2004 Batter's Box Andujar Award.

Andu-what? The award is named in honor of the legendary and quotable pitcher Joaquin Andujar, who won 127 games in 13 seasons with the Astros, Cardinals and Athletics -- and who once said, "There is one word in baseball that says it all, and that word is 'youneverknow.'"

"That quote captures the spirit of this award," said Batter's Box founder Kent Williams in the announcement of last year's winner. "We're honoring the players who, looking back, really make fans shake their heads and say 'Wow, in baseball, you really never do know what's going to happen.'"

In that same announcement, Box General Manager Jordan Furlong added, "The Andujar -- we call them the 'youneverknows,' just like the Academy Awards are nicknamed Oscars -- goes to the player who is the epitome, in retrospect, of a low-risk, high-reward transaction.That the first one [went] to an ex-Jay [Esteban Loiaza] demonstrates the sophistication of Batter's Box readers as students of the game. It would have been easy to hold a hometown grudge."

Who's eligible to win an Andujar? Well, to win an Andujar ...
...a player must have signed as a free agent -- either a major or minor league contract is acceptable -- with a new team in the previous off-season. Players acquired via trade are not eligible. Players are also not eligible to win an Andujar if they have ever been named to a Major League All-Star Game roster or if they have never appeared in a major league game. Players signed as free a
gents from foreign professional leagues are also ineligible.

Revisit last year's Andujar winner:

Press Release: Loaiza Wins Inaugural Andujar

And as you review this year's candidates below, consider how to make your best arguements for the candidate(s) you favor; the final ballot will be posted as a poll to Batter's Box in early November (yes, the post-season can and does influence the final vote) with the winner to be announced, as always, on Dec. 26 -- Boxing Day.

Marlon Anderson
2B, St.Louis Cardinals

2004 Salary: $600K
2004 Win Shares: 8
MARLON ANDERSON was the runaway leader in the May 1 Andujar Update Voting, and given that he finished April hitting .345 and an OPS of .999 (yes, you read that right), that vote is understandable. Of course, he finished up at .237 and .649, so even the eight homers and six steals couldn't keep him from losing his starting job to -- gulp -- Tony Womack. Still, Anderson is one of those guys you have to look sideways at and think "would you be totally shocked if he ended up World Series MVP"? Holy Brian Doyle, the answer to that has to be "no," so this thing ain't over yet.

Danys Baez
RP, Tampa Bay Devil Rays

2004 Salary: $1.75M
2004 Win Shares: 8
DANYS BAEZ was a guy the Cleveland Indians once counted as an organizational "crown jewel," who along with Bartolo Colon and C.C. Sabathia, would form the core of a rotation that would lead the Tribe to their first title since Harry Truman was U.S. President. Now he's closing out games for the Tampa Bay Devil Rays -- and frankly, doing it well enough to be one of the reasons Lou Piniella was right to say at season's outset, "We will NOT finish last this season." Baez was 4-4 and converted 30 of 33 save chances to go with his 3.57 ERA. He was 11-for-11 before blowing back-to-back games June 9-11, then didn't tank another save until Sept. 25. After one season, he is third in team history in careersaves and has more than the guys in fourth through 20th combined.

Rod Barajas
Catcher, Texas Rangers
2004 Salary: $500K
2004 Win Shares: 9
ROD BARAJAS, the former Diamondback, was the leader in the non-bindingAndujar Mid-Season Update vote. After an injury to early Rookie of the Year candidate Gerald Laird, one of "Buck's Boys" stepped up to briefly help Ranger fans forget all about that Pudge guy, reaching a career high in homers by the end of July. Though he went into a deep slump shortly thereafter and later struggled in a platoon when Laird returned, Barajas hit .246 overall with 15 dingers and 57 RBI, while cobbling together a not-unsightly OPS of .722 and playing excellent defense.

Miguel Batista
SP/RP, Toronto Blue Jays
2004 Salary: $3.6M
2004 Win Shares: 11
MIGUEL BATISTA is the only Toronto Blue Jay to find his way onto the 2004 Andujar nominee list. The much-maligned "El Artista" was supposed to be the club's #2 starter -- and in fact, finished second on the team in wins at 10-13 -- but ended up the season auditioning for a new role as closer, where he saved all three games he was charged with protecting. His 4.80 ERA didn't thrill Jay loyalists, and he had his worst K/BB ratio (1.05) since knocking around with the Montreal and Kansas City bullpens in the late 20th century.

Ronnie Belliard
2B, Cleveland Indians

2004 Salary: $1.1M
2004 Win Shares: 17
RONNIE BELLIARD was the only Andujar nominee to make it to the 2004 All-Star Game; if history repeats, that's a good omen for the .269 career hitter, who bettered himself all the way to .270 this season, as he could follow in the footsteps of inaugural Andujar winner Esteban Loaiza, who was the only 2003 nominee to appear in that year's mid-summer classic. Belliard also reached career highs in homers and RBI (12 and 70, respectively) -- one season after leaving Coors Field. Following an Ichiro-like .417 for April (when he actually had more hits than the new hit king, 35-26), his best month following was a .308 August; he fell to .141 in September.

Henry Blanco
C, Minnesota Twins

2004 Salary: $750K
2004 Win Shares: 2
HENRY BLANCO?The .206/10/37 Henry Blanco? The one with .628 OPS on the season? That Henry Blanco? Yep, this is a guy who actually squeezed into the Top 10 in the May update voting, but who like Anderson, fell off a cliff -- after a .262 April, he managed to eke his average over .200 for a month only once; but hey, the guy caught 113 games for a division winner and backstopped the majority of the eventual A.L. Cy Young Award winner's starts, so that has to count for something, right? He must "know how to win."

Royce Clayton
SS, Colorado Rockies

2004 Salary: $650K
2004 Win Shares: 11
ROYCE CLAYTON hit .313 in April and .307 in May and looked like hewas in line to make a run at the Andujar while sweeping to the Dante Bichette Memorial "My God, I Love Coors Field" Award. And although he was certainly respectable the rest of the way, his final season totals (.280/6/54 with 10 SB) came with a price -- a significant career high in strikeouts, with 124. Clayton was considered the power-hitting heir at Texas shortstop to the legendary Kevin Elster before Tom Hicks dropped the GNP of Italy on Alex Rodriguez.

Jose Cruz, Jr.
OF, Tampa Bay Devil Rays

2004 Salary: $2.5M
2004 Win Shares: 14
JOSE CRUZ JR.? Could another ex-Jay sneak into Andujar fame from seemingly nowhere? No, even if Cruz wins this award, it won't be from "nowhere." A perennial prospect during his first 23 years with the Mariners, Cruz enjoyed his finest season in the majors since his bellweather .277/34/88 with Toronto in 2001. Was that only three years ago? Though he hit just .237 and struck out 110 times, Cruz managed 21 dingers and 75 RBI while drawing 76 free passes -- the second-most in his career -- and even swiping 11 bags. though that's a comedown for this former 30/30 guy. After homering on Opening Day in Japan, Cruz struggled to reach the Mendoza line in April, finishing at .190; the season average wasn't helped by a .206 July or .216 August, but he rebounded to hit .280 inSeptember.

Brad Fullmer
DH, Texas Rangers

2004 Salary: $1M
2004 Win Shares: 2

BRAD FULLMER was brought to Texas to hit cleanup, and on the days he did that, he wasn't terrible -- .233/11/33, though that career-low .752 OPS probably falls short of what the Rangers had in mind. And Fullmer seemed to be hurt all the time -- only logging between 42 and 81 AB each month. He did not play after July 24 and did not get a base hit after July 11.

Todd Greene
C, Colorado Rockies

2004 Salary: $550K
2004 Win Shares: 4

TODD GREENE is the third and final catcher to appear on the Andujar nominee list for 2004; early in the year, a lot of people saw that big swing, the big fly ball ratio, rememberred the "next Piazza" nonsense when Greene was a young Angel, factored in the new home field in Coors and came up with "big time payoff for both Greene and the Rox." Truth be told, his .282/10/25 numbers are better than they first appear, as he needed just 195 AB to get there, and his OPS of .833 bested his career mark by more than 100 points. He hit .325 after Sept. 1.

John Halama
SP, Tampa Bay Devil Rays

2004 Salary: $600K
2004 Win Shares: 6

JOHN HALAMA is becoming a perennial Andujar cadidate, as he's been on the list both years the award has been offered. In a great Zen moment, the sponsor of his Baseball-Reference.com page writes, 'We all possess, deep inside, something unappreciated, misunderstood, and yet good. That is our inner Halama." The unappreciated lefty won on the final day of the regular season to sneak his record over .500 (7-6, with a 4.78 ERA) It was his 13th start of the year, out of 33 appearances; his best single effort was eight innings of shutout ball in topping Baltimore on July 16.

Orlando Hernandez
SP, New York Yankees

2004 Salary: $500K
2004 Win Shares: 9

ORLANDO HERNANDEZ is a late addition to the Andujar ballot -- thanks to the alertness of the Roster's own Jonny, he was defined as clearly eligible by the award's own guidelines. And what a year he had, especially when you compare him to the Yanks' "marquee" addition on the hill. Kevin Brown cobbled together a 10-6 mak and a 4.09 ERA in 132IP for a mere $15.7M while the Yanks paid Duque about 3.2 percent of that amount for 84 IP, and an 8-2 mark with a 3.30 ERA

Braden Looper
RP, New York Mets

2004 Salary: $2M
2004 Win Shares: 10

BRADEN LOOPER briefly separated himself from the other closer on the Andujar list, Baez, with a strong mid-season surge, but like the Mets team as a whole, fell apart in the late season as his September ERA of 4.61 was close to two full runs higher than his ERA any other month. Still, he saved 29 games in 34 chances, and while that didn't evoke memories of Franco, Myers or McGraw in Flushing, he did post a season ERA of 2.70 in 70 games. Of course, the guy he replaced, Armando Benitez, wrapped up 47 saves and posted an ERA of about halfLooper's -- albeit for about twice the price. If style points count, take appropriate note that Looper has survived a life with the middle name "LaVern."

Jay Payton
OF, San Diego Padres

2004 Salary: $1.5M
2004 Win Shares: 14

JAY PAYTON was this corner's choice as the pre-season Andujar favorite. Though he started 137 games for San Diego, his .260 BA and .699 OPS fell far short even of his own modest career marks of .285 and .780. His 28 homers and 89 RBI in '03 were surely aided by The Coors Factor as he hit .302/.886 for Colorado, but the fall to 8 dingers and 55 RBI and the 44 percent decline in XBH from 65 to 29 was precipitous. Anyway, doesn't "Jay Payton" sound more like a quarterback than a center fielder?

Glendon Rusch
SP/RP, Chicago Cubs

2004 Salary: Not posted
2004 Win Shares: 9

GLENDON RUSCH was not originally a candidate for the Andujar, but as several Rusch fans -- call them dittoeheads -- complained, he probably should have been. So now he is. He made it into 32 gaems for the fall-apart Cubbies, starting half and relieving in half, posting a 6-2 mark with tw savesa and a 3.56 ERA (bettering his career mark by more than a run and a half) in about 130 innings. The Cubbie collapse can't be pinned on Glendon; he had a 2.49 ERA in August and followed that with a 2.63 September mark.

Matt Stairs
1B/OF/DH, KC Royals

2004 Salary: $1M
2004 Win Shares: 10

MATT STAIRS, "professional hitter." That's what they call him when there's dead air on the radio or Joe Morgan is in the TV booth. You have to think the Royals got almost exactly what they expected with Stairs, who played 118 games and hit .267/18/66 with an .811 OPS that fell nearly 50 points below his career mark. But here's a thought ... isn't every non-pitcher on this list a "professional hitter"

Jeff Suppan
SP, St. Louis Cardinals

2004 Salary: $1M
2004 Win Shares: 7

JEFF SUPPAN was one of the five or six luckiest pitchers in the National League in 2004 -- at least according to Baseball Prospectus -- as he managed to cobble together a career-best 16 wins despite a season ERA of 4.16; he was a stellar 10-4 starting July 4 weekend and for the season had a fairly typical 1.69 K/BB ratio; his career mark is 1.72. How will Red Sox fans feel if this former PawSox phenom gets a start in the World Series, especially if it's not at Fenway?

John Thomson
SP, Atlanta Braves

2004 Salary: $2.25M
2004 Win Shares: 11

JOHN THOMSON was 13-14 as an Andujar finalist for the 2003 Texas Rangers. Why is this relevant to the 2004 Andujars? because it seems likely that ifhe had replicated his 2004 (14-8, 3.72) mark for the Rangers, they'd be setting their playoff rotation right now. Instead, he plied his trade under the watchful eye of Leo Mazzone and had an arguably better season than Greg Maddux (16-8, 4+ ERA), the man he replaced in the vaunted Braves pitching lineup. Thomson started strong (2-1, 2.67 in April) but had to bounce back from a 5.06 May and 6.07 June. How about an August ERA of 3.08? Pish-posh. He put together a 1.36 ERA in five September starts as the Braves won their sixtieth consecutive division crown and Thomson landed on the Andujar ballot for the seond straight season.

Brett Tomko
SP, San Francisco Giants

2004 Salary: $1.2M
2004 Win Shares: 8

BRETT TOMKO was one Dustin Hermansen meltdown away from being remembered as the guy who pitched the Giants into the 2004 playoffs. A pre-season Andujar notable, Tomko started slowly and by the time he reached the end of July at 5-6 was completely off the Andujar radar (Radujar?) ... but as Jason Schmidt began to tire, Tomko stepped up to finish 6-1 down the stretch, compiling a season mark of 11-7 with a 4.04 ERA. In back-to-back late September starts, Tomko showed why the Mariners demanded he be part of the Griffey deal with the Reds, posting 17.2 IP, and allowing just eight hits and three runs in two big wins over the Brewers and Astros.

Todd Walker
2B, Chicago Cubs

2004 Salary: $1.75M
2004 Win Shares: 12

TODD WALKER in Wrigley Field -- after stops in the HomerDome, Coors and Fenway, it made a certain amount of sense. And the tin-gloved Walker did manage 15 dingers and 50 RBI in just 353 AB -- when he's surpassed those totals in his career, he's generally had 150-200 more AB to do it. Walker's .823 OPS bested his career mark by more than 40 points; to get there, he put together three very good months (April, June and September) and three mediocre ones (May, July and August ) -- as with the rest of the Cubs, we'll never know what this youneverknow candidate might've done in October.

Thanks for Stopping By the Booth

These players also received mention at some point during the annual Andujar derby:
Ineligible after changing teams in mid-season are Paul Abbott, Dave Burba, Cory Lidle, Shane Spencer, Todd Jones and Ismael Valdez ... Ineligible because Bauxite readers would never take the award seriously otherwise: Kerry Ligtenberg... Todd Hollandsworth spent most of the year on the DL (too bad, if he could've carried that .939 OPS out to 140 games, he would've been a good candidate) ... Pokey Reese, great glove or not, Nomar-to-the-Cubs or not, only played 95 games and had an OPS of just .574 ... Mike Myers was erroneously identified as eligible at season's outset, but was acquired by the Red Sox in trade, not signed as free agent ... Jason Johnson threw six shutout innings to beat the Blue Jays on Opening Day then was 7-15 with an ERA well over 5.00 the rest of the way; for $3M, the Tigers needed better than that ...

Todd Zeile, great story -- especially that "one last game catching" bit, but he hit .233 with an OPS of .675 mostly playing corner infield and pinch-hitting. Ugh ... Lou Merloni may've been "The Governor" in Boston, but he was "The Barely Noticeable Utility Guy Who Played 71 Games" in Cleveland ... Donavan Osborne didn't last the season in the Yankee rotation -- and given recent events, what does that say about him? ...

Zeile was a veritable Mike Schmidt compared to Seattle signee Scott Spiezio, he of the .215 average and .634 OPS... Then there's Chris Stynes and Randall Simon of the poor, beleaguered Pirates; the former hit .216 with and OPS of .562, which matched up well with the latter's .188 and .644. Simon is also ineligible -- liek that matters, frankly -- as he ended up going to the Rays in exchange for nobody, a terrific deal for Pittsburgh ... Sure, Esteban Yan had a relatively respectable 3.83 ERA for the post-43-119 Motor City Kitties, but even with a bogus stat like "saves," you really have to be better than 7-for-17 to merit consideration for an award.

Okay, Boxers ... who's your favorite youneverknow?