The Pittsburgh chapter of the Baseball Writers Association of America annually hands out two postseason awards to the Pirates. The Roberto Clemente Award goes to the team MVP. The Chuck Tanner Award is given to the player who best conducts himself in a professional and cooperative manner with the media. Both awards are voted upon by local BBWAA members, about a dozen writers. Each voter selects two players, listed in order of preference, for each award.
In both cases, I had to do a little head scratching before casting my ballot. There were too many candidates for the Tanner Award and not enough for the Clemente.
My two picks for the Tanner Award were 1. Adam LaRoche and 2. Jack Wilson.
LaRoche was easy to deal with from day one, when he called me back twice during a layover at O’Hare Airport as he was on his way to Pittsburgh for the first time after being traded from Atlanta. When he was in a massive offensive slump the first eight weeks of the season, he didn’t duck any interviews or snarl when he got the same questions time and again. Wilson always has been a good guy in the clubhouse and always was accessible — even when he was briefly benched for batting/defensive slumps and when the former GM was trying to trade him.
Masumi Kuwata deserves an honorable mention here. He worked hard to overcome the language barrier with American reporters, and insisted on answering in English. And it’s hard to imagine what his life was like under the microscope of the Japanese press. Yet, I never saw him get agitated or hide out in the nether reaches of the clubhouse.
Plenty of other guys could’ve gotten my vote. Matt Capps, Xavier Nady, Ian Snell, Shane Youman, Zach Duke, Nyjer Morgan, Nate McLouth, Ronny Paulino and even coaches Jeff Manto and Jeff Cox were easy to work with.
My two picks for the Clemente Award were 1. Tom Gorzelanny and 2. Freddy Sanchez.
Gorzelanny was the team’s most effective pitcher. If not for some bullpen blow-ups, the lefty could have won 19 or 20 games. Sanchez’s average was lower than last year, when he was the NL batting champ, but he battled a knee injury from spring training and a sore shoulder that’s been ailing him for more than a year. He’s a clutch hitter and his defense at second base improved noticeably as the season wore on.