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Brian Walton's news and commentary on the St. Louis Cardinals (TM) and their minor league system

Can the Cardinals sweep 2009 NL individual awards?

With the considerable success of the St. Louis Cardinals team in 2009, it only stands to reason that a number of their players are in contention for individual National League awards. Let’s take a quick look at some of the most prominent ones and where the Cardinals players stand.

Most Valuable Player: Albert Pujols seems to have a comfortable lead in the public opinion vote at least, to take home his second consecutive award and third overall.

Cy Young Award: ESPN’s Cy Young Award Predictor has two Cardinals in the top three and three in the top five. Adam Wainwright, Chris Carpenter and Ryan Franklin are currently running numbers one, three and five. San Francisco’s Tim Lincecum is in second, just an eyelash ahead of Carp, the 2005 winner.

Rookie of the Year: Colby Rasmus seemed to have the lead at one point earlier in the season but has fallen back. Philadelphia’s J.A. Happ may have taken over as favorite along with Chicago’s Randy Wells, Atlanta’s Tommy Hanson and late-breaking Andrew McCutchen of Pittsburgh.

Rolaids Relief Man Award: Ryan Franklin is currently first, ahead of Heath Bell, Huston Street and Jonathan Broxton. I find it interesting that the Cy Young Predictor has Broxton fourth, yet he is only fourth in the relief category here.

Manager of the Year: It is easy to look at the five post-season contenders as the pool for this award. While Tony La Russa is deserving of his second NL manager nod, if the Colorado Rockies take the wild card for which they are leading today, Jim Tracy should win. After all, the former Dodgers and Pirates skipper took over a Rockies club left for dead and led them into contention.

Comeback Player of the Year: He won it in 2004. Is there any reason Carpenter can’t win it again? If so, he would join former Cardinals first baseman Andres Galarraga (1993 and 2000) as a two-time winner. (Unfortunately, in 1993, Galarraga was in Colorado, coming back from his only season with St. Louis. It was that bad.)

So, there you have it. If the season ended today, Cardinals would seemingly take four of these individual awards with Rasmus and La Russa remaining strong competitors for their respective honors, too.

That conclusion leaves me with questions, however. “Is that reasonable? Has one team ever taken so many of these awards in one season?”

That takes me to part two of this article.

A look back

Of these awards, the Rolaids Relief Man of the Year is the newest, having been established in 1983. So I went back and collected the National League winners in each of these six categories over the last 26 years and put them in the following table.

Here are some conclusions to be drawn from the data:

  • Never in one season has representatives from one NL team taken even five of these awards, let alone all six.
  • Only twice has members of a single team won four of the honors and neither time was recent. The 1991 Atlanta Braves took MVP, Comeback (former Cardinal Terry Pendleton), Cy Young (Tom Glavine) and Manager (Bobby Cox). It also occurred in 1988 with Los Angeles Dodgers winning the same four.
  • No NL team has ever won the combination of the four awards in which the Cardinals apparently currently lead: MVP, Cy Young, Rolaids and Comeback.
  • It is a bit sobering to note that since 1992, no single club has won more than two of the six awards in any given year and five times, six different teams were represented by the six winners.

Major individual awards, National League, 1983-2008 (team-leading totals on right)

NL MVP NL Cy Young NL Rookie NL Reliever NL Manager NL Comeback Total
2008 Albert Pujols STL Tim Lincecum SF Geovany Soto CHC Brad Lidge PHI Lou Piniella CHC Brad Lidge PHI 2008 CHC/PHI 2
2007 Jimmy Rollins PHI Jake Peavy SD Ryan Braun MIL Jose Valverde ARI Bob Melvin ARI Dmitri Young WAS 2007 ARI 2
2006 Ryan Howard PHI Brandon Webb ARI Hanley Ramirez FLA Trevor Hoffman SD Joe Girardi FLA Nomar Garciaparra LAD 2006
2005 Albert Pujols STL Chris Carpenter STL Ryan Howard PHI Chad Cordero WAS Bobby Cox ATL Ken Griffey Jr. CIN 2005 STL 2
2004 Barry Bonds SF Roger Clemens HOU Jason Bay PIT Eric Gagné LAD Bobby Cox ATL Chris Carpenter STL 2004
2003 Barry Bonds SF Éric Gagné LAD Dontrelle Willis FLA Eric Gagné LAD Jack McKeon FLA Javy López ATL 2003 FLA 2
2002 Barry Bonds SF Randy Johnson ARI Jason Jennings COL John Smoltz ATL Tony La Russa STL Mike Lieberthal PHI 2002
2001 Barry Bonds SF Randy Johnson ARI Albert Pujols STL Armando Benítez NYM Larry Bowa PHI Matt Morris STL 2001 STL 2
2000 Jeff Kent SF Randy Johnson ARI Rafael Furcal ATL Antonio Alfonseca FLA Dusty Baker SF Andrés Galarraga ATL 2000 ATL 2
1999 Chipper Jones ATL Randy Johnson ARI Scott Williamson CIN Billy Wagner HOU Jack McKeon CIN Rickey Henderson NYM 1999
1998 Sammy Sosa CHC Tom Glavine ATL Kerry Wood CHC Trevor Hoffman SD Larry Dierker HOU Greg Vaughn SD 1998 CHC/SD 2
1997 Larry Walker COL Pedro Martínez MON Scott Rolen PHI Jeff Shaw CIN Dusty Baker SF Darren Daulton PHI/FLA 1997 PHI 1.5
1996 Ken Caminiti SD John Smoltz ATL Todd Hollandsworth LAD Jeff Brantley CIN Bruce Bochy SD Eric Davis CIN 1996 SD/CIN 2
1995 Barry Larkin CIN Greg Maddux ATL Hideo Nomo LAD Tom Henke STL Don Baylor COL Ron Gant CIN 1995 CIN 2
1994 Jeff Bagwell HOU Greg Maddux ATL Raúl Mondesí LAD Rod Beck SF Felipe Alou MON Tim Wallach LAD 1994 LAD 2
1993 Barry Bonds SF Greg Maddux ATL Mike Piazza LAD Brett Myers CHC Dusty Baker SF Andrés Galarraga COL 1993
1992 Barry Bonds PIT Greg Maddux CHC Eric Karros LAD Lee Smith STL Jim Leyland PIT Gary Sheffield SD 1992 PIT 2
1991 Terry Pendleton ATL Tom Glavine ATL Jeff Bagwell HOU Lee Smith STL Bobby Cox ATL Terry Pendleton ATL 1991 ATL 4
1990 Barry Bonds PIT Doug Drabek PIT David Justice ATL John Franco NYM Jim Leyland PIT John Tudor STL 1990 PIT 3
1989 Kevin Mitchell SF Mark Davis SD Jerome Walton CHC Mark Davis SD Don Zimmer CHC Lonnie Smith ATL 1989 SD 2
1988 Kirk Gibson LAD Orel Hershiser LAD Chris Sabo CIN John Franco CIN Tommy Lasorda LAD Tim Leary LAD 1988 LAD 4+1
1987 Andre Dawson CHC Steve Bedrosian PHI Benito Santiago SD Steve Bedrosian PHI Buck Rodgers MON Rick Sutcliffe CHC 1987 CHC 2
1986 Mike Schmidt PHI Mike Scott HOU Todd Worrell STL Todd Worrell STL Hal Lanier HOU Ray Knight NYM 1986 STL 2
1985 Willie McGee STL Dwight Gooden NYM Vince Coleman STL Jeff Reardon MON Whitey Herzog STL Rick Reuschel PIT 1985 STL 3
1984 Ryne Sandberg CHC Rick Sutcliffe CHC Dwight Gooden NYM Bruce Sutter STL Jim Frey CHC Joaquín Andújar STL 1984 CHC 3+1
1983 Dale Murphy ATL John Denny PHI Darryl Strawberry NYM Al Holland PHI Tommy Lasorda LAD John Denny PHI 1983 PHI 3

There is a seventh award, Executive of the Year, for which Cardinals general manager John Mozeliak must be considered. However, because this award is given across Major League Baseball instead of just the National League, I did not list its winners above.

But in a way I did include them. Note the plus (+1) signs for 1988 and 1984. In those two years, those clubs’ executives also took the MLB award.

Therefore, the champion to date with four plus one major individual awards is the 1988 Dodgers with MVP Kirk Gibson, Cy Young Award winner Orel Hershiser, Manager Tommy Lasorda, Comeback Player Tim Leary and Executive Fred Claire.

MLB Executives of the Year, 1983-2008

MLB Executive
2008 Andrew Friedman TB AL
2007 Mark Shapiro CLE AL
2006 Terry Ryan MIN AL
2005 Mark Shapiro CLE AL
2004 Walt Jocketty STL NL
2003 Brian Sabean SF NL
2002 Terry Ryan MIN AL
2001 Pat Gillick SEA AL
2000 Walt Jocketty STL NL
1999 Jim Bowden CIN NL
1998 Gerry Hunsicker HOU NL
1997 Cam Bonifay PIT NL
1996 Doug Melvin TEX AL
1995 John Hart CLE AL
1994 John Hart CLE AL
1993 Lee Thomas PHI NL
1992 Dan Duquette MON NL
1991 Andy MacPhail MIN AL
1990 Bob Quinn CIN NL
1989 Roland Hemond BAL AL
1988 Fred Claire LAD NL
1987 Al Rosen SF NL
1986 Frank Cashen NYM NL
1985 John Schuerholz KC AL
1984 Dallas Green CHC NL
1983 Hank Peters BAL AL

We will know by November whether or not the 2009 St. Louis Cardinals can meet or exceed that 1988 Los Angeles club – both in terms of these individual awards as well as by their results on the field.

As baseball historians know, in the 1988 World Series, the Dodgers defeated the 104-win Oakland A’s four games to one. The losing club’s manager was none other than Tony La Russa.

It only seems right that if the 1988 Dodgers’ record is broken, La Russa and his men should be the ones to do it.

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Brian Walton

Brian Walton runs The Cardinal Nation and The Cardinal Nation Blog, covering the St. Louis Cardinals and minor league system.
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