10/23/2008 12:08 PM ET
Major Leaguers honor top Comeback Players
NEW YORK -- Perseverance and dedication took center stage today as Major League baseball players named Cleveland Indians pitcher Cliff Lee and New York Mets outfielder Fernando Tatis this season's top comeback players. The Major League Baseball Players Trust and Yahoo! Sports today announced the American League and National League winners of the 2008 Players Choice Awards for Comeback Player in an Internet webisode highlighting the on-field performances and community leadership of Major League players. The 2008 Players Choice Awards, presented by Playstation ®, benefit the Major League Baseball Players Trust. Additional support for the Players Choice Awards is provided by The Topps Company and The Upper Deck Company. [See webcast schedule below for more Players Choice Awards announcements.]
Cliff Lee’s 2007 season was one the seven-year veteran would like to forget. After struggling through an early-season injury to his abdomen he was unable to regain form and was sent down to the Indians’ class AAA affiliate in Buffalo. Determined to prove he belonged in the Majors, Lee focused his off-season training on making sure he returned to spring training fully healthy. The result: He led the AL with 22 victories – the most by an American League pitcher since Roy Halladay’s 22 for Toronto in 2003 – against just three losses. He also led the AL with a 2.54 ERA and a winning percentage of .880. This is Lee’s second Players Choice Award, as he was named the 2008 AL Outstanding Pitcher earlier this week, and he is a finalist for 2008 Player of the Year, scheduled to be announced on Friday, October 24.
After not playing professionally in 2004 and 2005, Tatis was motivated to attempt a big league comeback by his desire to earn enough money to build a church in his hometown of San Pedro de Macoris, D.R. The road back was a bumpy one as he played in just 28 games with Baltimore in 2006, and found himself in Triple-A New Orleans for all of 2007. Not to be deterred, he excelled in New Orleans, and finished the season with 21 homers, 137 hits and 90 runs scored in 131 games. His 2007 performance was good enough to earn him a trip to spring training with the New York Mets, but he fell just short of making the big league roster out of camp, winding up back in the Big Easy. However, after just 37 games in New Orleans, he was summoned to the Big Apple in May, and helped the Mets contend for the NL East title by hitting .297, with 11 homers, 47 RBI and 33 runs scored in 92 games.
Players Choice Awards annually recognize the best player, pitcher, rookie and comeback player in each league. The Player of the Year and Man of the Year awards bestow top honors without regard to league. Balloting of all Major League players for the Players Choice Awards was conducted in September under the supervision of accounting firm KPMG.
Each 2008 Players Choice Award 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 $3.25 million dollars to charities around the world in honor of Players Choice Award winners.
The 2008 Players Choice Awards finalists are:
Outstanding Player: Josh Hamilton (Texas), Justin Morneau (Minnesota), Dustin Pedroia (Boston)
Outstanding Pitcher: Roy Halladay (Toronto), Cliff Lee (Cleveland), Francisco Rodriguez (LA Angels of Anaheim)
Outstanding Rookie: Mike Aviles (Kansas City), Evan Longoria (Tampa Bay), Alexei Ramirez (Chicago)
Comeback Player of the Year: Josh Hamilton (Texas), Cliff Lee (Cleveland), Troy Percival (Tampa Bay)
Outstanding Player: Ryan Howard (Philadelphia), Chipper Jones (Atlanta), Albert Pujols (St. Louis)
Outstanding Pitcher: Tim Lincecum (San Francisco), CC Sabathia (Milwaukee), Brandon Webb (Arizona)
Outstanding Rookie: Geovany Soto (Chicago), Jair Jurrjens (Atlanta), Joey Voto (Cincinnati)
Comeback Player of the Year: Jorge Cantu (Florida), Fernando Tatis (NY Mets), Kerry Wood (Chicago)
Player of the Year: Cliff Lee (Cleveland), Albert Pujols (St. Louis), Manny Ramirez (LA Dodgers)
Marvin Miller Man of the Year: Derek Jeter (NY Yankees), Albert Pujols (St. Louis), Michael Young (Texas)
Yahoo! Sports webcast schedule of the 2008 Players Choice Awards:
Monday, Oct. 20 – AL & NL Outstanding Pitchers - Winners: Cliff Lee (AL)/Tim Lincecum (NL)
Tuesday, Oct. 21 – AL & NL Outstanding Players - Winners: Josh Hamilton (AL)/Albert Pujols (NL)
Wednesday, Oct. 22 – AL & NL Outstanding Rookies - Winners: Evan Longoria (AL)/Geovany Soto (NL)
Thursday, Oct. 23 – AL & NL Comeback Players - Winners: Cliff Lee (AL)/Fernando Tatis (NL)
Friday, Oct. 24 – Player of the Year/Marvin Miller Man of the Year