Cliff Lee ... earns more honors.
Perseverance and dedication took center stage as Major League players named Indians pitcher Cliff Lee and New York Mets outfielder Fernando Tatis the top comeback players for the 2008 season. Lee was named AL pitcher of the month in both April and August. Earlier this week, the MLB players also named him AL Pitcher of the Year. Lee also won both those categories from The Sporting News.
Lee also is a finalist for the player of the year award to be presented Friday by the MLBPA.
The 2008 Players Choice Awards finalists and winners:
Outstanding Player: Josh Hamilton (Texas), Justin Morneau (Minnesota), Dustin Pedroia (Boston).
WINNER: Josh Hamilton.
Outstanding Pitcher: Roy Halladay (Toronto), Cliff Lee (Cleveland), Francisco Rodriguez (LA Angels of Anaheim)
WINNER: Cliff Lee.
Outstanding Rookie: Mike Aviles (Kansas City), Evan Longoria (Tampa Bay), Alexei Ramirez (Chicago).
WINNER: Evan Longoria.
Comeback Player of the Year: Josh Hamilton (Texas), Cliff Lee (Cleveland), Troy Percival (Tampa Bay).
WINNER: Cliff Lee.
Outstanding Player: Ryan Howard (Philadelphia), Chipper Jones (Atlanta), Albert Pujols (St. Louis).
WINNER: Albert Pujols.
Outstanding Pitcher: Tim Lincecum (San Francisco), CC Sabathia (Milwaukee), Brandon Webb (Arizona).
WINNER: Tim Lincecum.
Outstanding Rookie: Geovany Soto (Chicago), Jair Jurrjens (Atlanta), Joey Votto (Cincinnati).
WINNER: Geovany Soto.
Comeback Player of the Year: Jorge Cantu (Florida), Fernando Tatis (New York), Kerry Wood (Chicago).
WINNER: Fernando Tatis.
EITHER LEAGUE (named Friday)
Player of the Year: Cliff Lee (Cleveland), Albert Pujols (St. Louis), Manny Ramirez (Los Angeles Dodgers).
Marvin Miller Man of the Year: Derek Jeter (New York Yankees), Albert Pujols (St. Louis), Michael Young (Texas).
Lee’s 2007 season was one to forget. After struggling through an early-season injury to his abdomen, he was unable to regain the form that had helped him win 56 games over the previous three seasons and was sent down to Triple-A Buffalo.
Lee focused his off-season regimen on making sure he returned to spring training fully healthy. The result: He led the AL with 22 victories – the most by an AL 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.
Lee also totaled career-bests in strikeouts (170) and innings pitched (223.1) and was selected to the All-Star game for the first time, starting for the AL in July.
“He’s always had the stuff, but this year he coupled that stuff with the ability to locate and trust his pitches,” Cleveland catcher Kelly Shoppach told The Sporting News. “He had zero fear of throwing to either side of the plate, no matter who the hitter was.”
After not playing professionally in 2004 and 2005, Tatis was motivated to attempt a 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, getting 21 homers, 137 hits and 90 runs scored in 131 games.
That earned 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. After just 37 games in New Orleans, he was summoned by the Mets in May, and hit .297 with 11 homers, 47 RBI and 33 runs scored in 92 games.