Carlos Pena and Dmitri Young, the Players Choice comeback players of 2007, caught the atention of their peers with their dedication and perseverence.
Pena, who played just 18 Major League games and hit just one home run in 2006, joined the Devil Rays and became one of the game's most feared sluggers this season, placing second in the AL with 46 homers and a .627 slugging average. He also finished fourth in the league with 121 RBIs. He set Tampa Bay's single-season records in homers, RBIs and walks, and became just the 11th player in American League history to collect at least 100 walks, 45 homers and 120 RBIs in a single season.
Young, 35, encountered problems on and off the field during the 2006 season, when he was released by the AL champion Tigers after only 48 games and shortly thereafter was diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes. Persuaded by family members not to give up, he accepted the Nationals' 2007 Spring Training invitation as a non-roster player and not only made the club, but earned a spot in the All-Star Game and finished ninth in the NL with a .320 batting average. He also had 74 RBIs and 38 doubles.
The comeback players join Alex Rodriguez and Prince Fielder, the outstanding players in their leagues, and C.C. Sabathia and Jake Peavy, the outstanding pitchers, and Dustin Pedroia and Ryan Braun, the outstanding rookies, on the list of 2007 Players Choice Award winners.
Each winner will recommend the charity of his choice to receive a grant from the Major League Baseball Players Trust. Since 1992, the Players Trust has contributed more than $3 million to charities around the world in honor of Players Choice Award winners.
The Players Choice Awards announcements are being made this week in a series of short-format shows on Yahoo! Sports. The show featuring Sabathia and Peavy and the show featuring Fielder and Rodriguez are available for on-demand play. The Outstanding Rookie Web cast was posted on Thursday.
The shows culiminate this weekend with the announcement of the Player of the Year and the Marvin Miller Man of the Year Award.
Braun, 23, finished ahead of fellow finalists Hunter Pence of the Astros and Troy Tulowitzki of the Rockies in the player balloting, which was conducted in mid-September under the supervision of accounting firm KPMG. He led all Major League rookies in home runs (34), batting average (.324) and slugging percentage (.634), as he helped guide the resurgent Milwaukee Brewers to a second place finish in the NL Central Division.
Drafted fifth overall in the 2005 First-Year Player Draft, Braun made his MLB debut on May 25 and proceeded to give the Brewers a huge lift as they battled for the NL Central title. Braun attended the University of Miami, where he was named First Team Freshman All-America and National Freshman of the Year by Baseball America.
Pedroia, 24, led all AL rookies with a .317 batting average, and his 165 hits were third among all Red Sox players, trailing only Mike Lowell (191) and David Ortiz (182). He also led all Major League rookies in doubles (39), was second in on-base percentage (.380) and third in batting average and hits. Brian Bannister of the Royals and Delmon Young of the Devil Rays were the two other finalists selected by the players.
Drafted in the second round (65th overall) of the 2004 First-Year Player Draft, Pedroia attended Arizona State where he was a three-time First Team All-Pac 10 selection, the 2003 Pac-10 co-Player of the Year and the 2003 National Defensive Player of the Year.
Rodriguez won his Players Choice Award over fellow AL finalists Curtis Granderson and Magglio Ordonez, while Fileder edged out NL finalists Matt Holliday and David Wright.
This year's is a record seventh Players Choice Award for Rodriguez, who helped steer the Yankees to their 12th consecutive postseason appearance. A-Rod led all Major Leaguers in homers (54), RBIs (156), runs (143) and slugging percentage (.645), and finished seventh in on-base percentage (.422).
A certain Hall of Famer, A-Rod became the youngest player in Major League history to reach 500 home runs, when he belted a three-run homer at Yankee Stadium on Aug. 4 against the Kansas City Royals.
In just his second full season, Fielder, 23, led the NL with 50 home runs and .618 slugging percentage, as he helped power the Brewers to a second place finish in the NL Central Division, just two games behind the Cubs.
Fielder, who also placed third in the NL with 119 RBIs, led the Brewers' power surge this season. The club led all NL teams in home runs (231), finished second in total bases (2532) and slugging percentage (.456) and fourth in RBI (774.)
In 2007, Peavy established career highs in wins, innings pitched and strikeouts and finished the season ranked first among all MLB pitchers in ERA and strikeouts and tied for second overall in wins by going 19-6, with a 2.54 ERA and 240 strikeouts.
Sabathia, posted a career-best ERA and also established career highs in wins, innings pitched and strikeouts. He helped lead the Indians to the AL Central Division Championship, by finishing with a record of 19-7, a 3.21 ERA and 209 strikeouts.
Balloting of all Major League players for the Players Choice Awards was conducted in September under the supervision of accounting firm KPMG.
The 2007 Players Choice Awards finalists[winners in bold]:
Player of the Year: Matt Holliday (Colorado), Magglio Ordonez (Detroit), Alex Rodriguez (NY Yankees)
Marvin Miller Man of the Year: Tom Glavine (NY Mets), Torii Hunter (Minnesota), Jake Peavy (San Diego)
Outstanding Player: Curtis Granderson (Detroit), Magglio Ordonez (Detroit), Alex Rodriguez (NY Yankees)
Outstanding Pitcher: Josh Beckett (Boston), C.C. Sabathia (Cleveland), Chien-Ming Wang (NY Yankees)
Outstanding Rookie: Brian Bannister (Kansas City), Dustin Pedroia (Boston), Delmon Young (Tampa Bay)
Comeback Player of the Year: Jon Lester (Boston), Carlos Pena (Tampa Bay), Sammy Sosa (Texas)
Outstanding Player: Prince Fielder (Milwaukee), Matt Holliday (Colorado), David Wright (NY Mets)
Outstanding Pitcher: Jeff Francis (Colorado), Jake Peavy (San Diego), Brandon Webb (Arizona)
Outstanding Rookie: Ryan Braun (Milwaukee), Hunter Pence (Houston), Troy Tulowitzki (Colorado)
Comeback Player of the Year: Rick Ankiel (St. Louis), Josh Hamilton (Cincinnati), Dmitri Young (Washington)
This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.