Bauxites have spoken and the Andujar torch passes from ex-Jay Esteban Loaiza to Tribe All-Star Ronnie Belliard. Details follow.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Dec. 26-31, 2004
Batter's Box: Baseball From a Toronto Perspective
Contact: Kent Williams [email@example.com]
INDIANS ALL-STAR 2B RON BELLIARD
WINS SECOND ANNUAL BOX "YOUNEVERKNOW"
Annual Andujar Award Recognizes MLB's
Most Surprising, Rewarding Offseason Free Agent Acquisition
TORONTO -- Nearly 200 fans of "baseball from a Canadian perspective" cast their votes and spoke clearly -- the best low-risk, high-reward free agent acquisition of last off-season was Cleveland Indians 2B Ronnie Belliard.
Belliard, who hit .270 with career highs of 12 homers and 70 RBI in 2004, represented the Indians in the All-Star Game in July, and now in December earns the annual Andujar Award presented by Batter's Box, a popular Web log dedicated to baseball from a Canadian perspective.
Belliard easily lapped Cardinals pitcher Jeff Suppan and Cub hurler Glendon Rusch, among other candidates, by capturing 42 percent of the votes cast for the '04 Andujar, 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. "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.'"
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."
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 agents from foreign professional leagues are also ineligible.
The annual Andujar selection process begins each February 2 (Groundhog Day, to pay homage to the "here we go again" theme of the movie of the same name) as contributors to Batter's Box post early nominations as spring training looms. Early favorites included Suppan, Thomson and Giants hurler Brett Tomko, while Belliard, like Loaiza in 2003, did not receive a mention.
Belliard first appeared on the "YouNeverKnow" radar in May when an early non-binding update vote placed him seventh overall, behind early learder Marlon Anderson, who ended April hitting .345 with an OPS of .999 but quickly lost his job to Tony Womack and finished at .237 and .649. Anderson did at least make the list of 20 Andujar semi-finalists.
In the mid-season update (again, a non-binding vote), Belliard moved to third behind Texas catcher Rod Barajas and New York Mets closer Braden Looper, neither of who sustained momentum onto the list of six 2004 finalists.
But the announcement of those mid-season results carried with it this predictive nugget: "If you're looking for an omen about the eventual winner, last year just one Andujar candidate made it to the 2003 All-Star game -- eventual Andujar recipient Esteban Loaiza. This year, just one Andujar candidate -- Ronnie Belliard -- is headed to the mid-season classic in Houston. "
A list of 20 semi-finalists is determined by the members of the Batter's Box "roster," (management) at the close of the regular season -- then following the playoffs, a list of six finalists, selected through secret ballot by the roster, is posted. At that point, all contributors to Batter's Box are invited to vote on the winner.
In 2004, more than 170 Batter's Box contributors voted in the Andujar sweepstakes. They were provided with a brief biographical summary of each candidate with an emphasis on the players' salaries (low risk) and "Win Shares," a sabermetric method of measuring production (high reward).
"But it's not just a mathematical formula that determines the Andujar winner," said Furlong, noting that a simple division of dollars by Win Shares would have made Barajas and Colorado shortstop Royce Clayton clear leaders. "This is like Hall of Fame voting, in a way -- we trust the eyes and the instincts of our sophisticated readership to vote for the player who contributed the most according to Andujar guidelines."
Not coincidentally, though, Belliard did lead all Andujar candidates with 17 Win Shares, more than the 16 combined posted by Suppan and Rusch. The second-most Win Shares accumulated by an Andujar-eligible player was the 14 from Jose Cruz, Jr., who did not advance to the list of six finalists. "Cruz may have been hurt by hometown bias," admitted Furlong. "Blue Jay fans-- and many of our voters are -- never really warmed up to Jose." Cruz spent parts of six seasons with Toronto.
"We initially announce this award on Dec. 26 because it's Boxing Day, of course," said Williams. "And we hope baseball fans of all teams will visit the Box at some point in the coming year. The 2005 pre-season Andujar nominees will be announced in early February, and hey -- youneverknow." Early nominations are already underway, with Red Sox lefty John Halama a pre-season Andujar candidate for the third consecutive year.
In the final 2004 balloting, Belliard's 42 percent of the vote bested the combined totals of runners up Suppan and Rusch, who earned 21 percent and 16 percent, respectively. Thomson, Looper and Tomko each grabbed between six and eight percent of the voters' support.
Other semi-finalists who did not advance to the final ballot included, alphabetically, Anderson; Tampa closer Danys Baez; Barajas; Blue Jay Miguel Batista; Minnesota backstop Henry Blanco; Clayton; Cruz; Texas DH Brad Fullmer; Colorado catcher Todd Greene; Halama, Yankee repatriate Orlando Hernandez, Looper; Jay Payton, Matt Stairs and Todd Walker
Belliard overcame a late-season slump which saw him hit just .141 in September and rode his incredibly hot start -- in April, he actually had more hits than eventual single-season hit king Ichiro, 35-26 -- to the Andujar victory.
The 2003 Andujar recipient was former Blue Jay Loaiza, then with the White Sox, who finished runner-up to Toronto's Roy Halladay in the '03 Cy Young voting.
Batter's Box is a non-profit Web log founded in October 2002. Though its primary focus has been Toronto Blue Jays baseball, Batter's Box has more than a dozen contributing authors from both Canada and the United States, from Toronto and New York to Texas and Washington state, and hundreds of regular contributors.
For more information, visit Batter's Box at http://www.battersbox.ca.