2006 BBWAA Awards Dinner

A holiday present netted me two tickets to the Boston Baseball Writers Association of America Awards Dinner on Thursday. It was an interesting and enjoyable experience, to say the least. The dinner was excellent, one of the best I’ve ever had. The dinner certainly had to have been excellent, when tickets were $125 each. There were 15 awards given out at the dinner, but only 13 were announced at the dinner. The two not announced were Special Achievement awards, which went to Jason Varitek and Mike Lowell for winning Gold Gloves this year.
The Dave O’Hara award went to the Boston Globe’s Bob Ryan. This is an award awarded for “long and meritorious service to the Boston Chapter, Baseball Writers Association of America” and it was great to see him accept this award. I’ve long been a fan of Bob Ryan and Gordon Edes’ writing at the Globe. Here’s hoping that one day soon, Edes gets his due with this award.
The Tommy McCarthy Good Guy Award went to JP Villaman, who as you all may recall, passed away in a car crash in late May. The award was accepted by a good friend of his who had a hard time maintaining composure while delivering the acceptance speech. Another person who had a hard time maintaining composure was former Sox catcher Rich Gedman, who recieved the Former Red Sox Player of the Year award. Gedman was appointed the manager of the inaugural Worcester Tornadoes team which won the Can-Am League Championship this year. Gedman mentioned that it was funny, but even though he used to be a player, he’s back to being a fan and idolizing players half his age.

Josh Beckett, Aaron Cook, Ken Williams
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The Minor League Player of the Year Award went to Jon Lester, who if you haven’t heard his name yet … you will, as many people think Lester will arrive in the majors in July or August. Lester has been compared to Andy Pettite and Mark Mulder, and has a great chance to be a quality lefty starting pitcher for us for years to come, something we have not had for years and years. The Manager of the Year went to Ozzie Guillen, who had the award accepted by Ken Williams. Williams is the General Manager of the White Sox and was able to make it to Boston despite undergoing recent surgery. While in Williams’ acceptance speech, he spoke of how classy Boston fans were. When the White Sox were celebrating at Fenway Park after a sweep in the ALDS, Williams says he recalls there were about 1,000 fans still lingering around when he went to do an interview over near the dugout. The fans were applauding the White Sox, and he really appreciated the gesture.

Ron Jackson
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The New England Player of the Year was Chris Carpenter, and Red Sox Fireman of the Year was (of course) Mike Timlin. The Most Valuable Player of the Red Sox was David Ortiz (and accepted by Ron Jackson, Sox hitting coach). There was also the Judge Emil Fuchs Memorial Award, awarded to soeone for long and meritorious service to baseball, and the winner was Lenny Merullo this year (people such as Bud Selig and Marvin Miller were recent winners). Merullo played baseball for the Chicago Cubs and played in the 1945 World Series against the Tigers. He then spent years as a scout for the Cubs, and stayed as a scout until retiring in 2003. He scouted players such as Rick Asadoorian, who you may recall the Red Sox drafted a while back. He was traded, and has bounced around to several organizations since then, and is currently with the Reds.

Tim Wakefield
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Johnny Damon won the Jackie Jensen award, and that was actually the first award announced. He did something no other non-attendee did, which was give a video speech. He opened the speech asking us what we thought of the new look, then talked about how he enjoyed his time in Boston, thanked the fans, the writers, and whatnot. The response was … let’s just say very tepid. He talked about how we will never forget 2004 and we will always carry that with us. And it’s true. In 2024, will it matter that Mark Bellhorn, Alan Embree, and Johnny Damon went directly from the Red Sox to the Yankees? No, I don’t really think so. But the entire speech sounded forced, sounded as if he was reading a script which didn’t have his heart in it. I think that was more what resulted in the tepid response and catcalling moreso than the words. Tim Wakefield remarked later in his speech (jokingly, of course) how we could let someone wearing a Yankees shirt with “Damon 18” on the back get away with wearing it at the dinner – the guy kept running around screaming and pointing at the shirt. It seemed hardly appropiate at a dress-up dinner such as this.

Tim Wakefield (L) and Terry Francona (R)
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Aaron Cook seemed like a pretty nice guy, as did Mark Loretta who was at the dinner – even though he wasn’t being awarded anything. Mike O’Malley was the master of ceremonies and had people in stitches most of the night, and had a nice introduction of Mark Loretta to the crowd. He warned Loretta that he had no idea what he was in for, and mused that Mike Lowell was going to be popular because people would be like “Oh, you know Mike, from Lowell?” Also, he said that Jim Rice should have made the Hall of Fame, something Ken Williams also endorsed. Terry Francona was very engaging and I just really like Francona as a person and as a manager.

Josh Beckett (check out the bling)
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Josh Beckett was someone who defines the stereotype of “young pitcher with an attitude” you seen in all these movies. He’s a great pitcher, an imposing person in person (tall!) but his attitude conveys that type of brashness you see in all these young pitchers hurtling towards stardom. On one hand it’s a good thing to be arrogant and brash on the mound, but there’s also wrong types of brashness, and he needs to make sure that brashness is because he’s confident in himself, not because he has such a large ego that he thinks he’s better than everyone on every type of level, not just baseball talent. He seems pretty humble and nice in the articles that have been written recently about him but after seeing and meeting him, he fits the profile of “young and brash”. Perhaps all great pitchers are that way – arrogant, sure of himself, and brash. I won’t complain about his brashness if he wins us 20 games.
It was an excellent dinner and a great experience, and I look forward to the rest of you meeting Josh Beckett and Mark Loretta on April 3rd, and renewing acquaintances with Terry Francona, Ron Jackson, and Tim Wakefield.