originally appearing in the January issue of the SMR column: Smart Talk

It's time for the second annual SMaRty awards! The awards were so popular last year that we were flooded with requests for a repeat. Okay, not exactly flooded. Okay, one letter and one phone call. Regardless of the truth of the matter, it's still time to recognize the best performances in Major League Baseball in 1999 in a broad variety of categories.

1999 SMARTY AWARDS
 
Pete Rose
SMaRty BPUF Award (Best Performance Under Fire)

It goes to Pete Rose for his magnificent performance in the now-famous interview with Jim Gray after game two of the 1999 World Series. In the face of the most obnoxious onslaught in the history of TV journalism, Pete kept his cool and won back the hearts of millions of baseball fans. Way to go, Pete!

 
 
Joe Morgan

Tim McCarver Award (Best Announcer)

This award, named for the inaugural winner, this year goes to Joe Morgan. Though weak on his baseball history (he didn't know who Oscar Charleston was!), his velvety voice and superb analysis combine to make him the best announcer in 1999.
 
Pedro Martinez
Lefty Grove Award -- American League
There are zero dissenting votes from anyone on this choice. Pedro Martinez has proven himself to be the most dominant pitcher since the days of Sandy Koufax. In baseball's greatest power era Martinez makes opposing hitters look almost helpless. A 23-4 record, 2.07 ERA, and 313 strikeouts add up to the pitching Triple Crown! Somehow, he was even better in the postseason, giving up only two hits in his final 141/3 innings of work.
 
 

 

Randy Johnson
Lefty Grove Award -- National League

Randy Johnson, with his 2.48 ERA and 364 strikeouts was dominant once again. His 17-9 record, while excellent, was somewhat misleading as he pitched in terrible luck and could easily have been 25-5.

 
 

Manny Ramirez
BOP Award (Best Overall Performance) -- American League

Perhaps it should belong to Pedro Martinez, but most fans feel that the everyday player should get this award. Fortunately, there's a great alternate choice who's equally deserving in every way, and that's Manny Ramirez. This Cleveland mega-star hit .333, smashed 44 home runs, and drove in an amazing 165 runs in 1999, all while missing 15 games that could have inflated his numbers another 10%. His .663 slugging percentage rounded out a great year.

 
 

 

McGwire, Sosa, Jones, Walker
BOP Award -- National League

The performances of Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa make for a dual award just as there was in 1998. It's miraculous how they were able to come back in 1999 and each hit more than 60 homers AGAIN! Chipper Jones, with his .319 average, 45 homers, 110 RBI, and .633 slugging percentage turned in another performance that was outstanding. Or maybe the award belongs to the great Larry Walker? Any choice will definitely do!

 

Jack McKeon
SMaRty Manager of the Year

Cincinnati was supposed to go nowhere in 1999, but McKeon made the right moves again and again and only missed the playoffs by an eyelash. Meanwhile, Jimy (he spells it with one "m") Williams did a great job in Boston. Could the year 2000 finally be the one for the Red Sox?

Guerrero, Giles, Green
MOP (Most Overlooked Player Award)

You would be surprised (maybe even shocked) to learn how many fans don't know about Vladimir Guerrero (.316, 42 homers, 131 RBI), Brian Giles (.315, 39 homers, 115 RBI), and Shawn Green (.309, 42 homers, 123 RBI). Those are amazing numbers, nearly equal to Chipper Jones's great season across the board. Any of these three is fully deserving of the second annual MOP award.

Cleveland vs. Red Sox
SMaRty Game of the Year

It was the highest of high drama in Cleveland! With the score tied 8-8 and the season on the line, the injured Pedro Martinez came out of the bullpen and pitched six unbelievable hitless and scoreless innings to shut down the mighty Indians' attack and take the Red Sox to the next level. David Cone's perfect game finishes a strong second. What a season!

Tie (once again)

SMaRty Stupidest Rule in Baseball Award

Last year it was tie, and this year, it is again. In All-Star games, let the players who were removed from the game return if they are needed. This is an All-Star game for the fans, and no one (okay, almost no one) really cares who wins. The manager is in a box, wanting to play everyone and yet needing to save pitchers and pinch-hitters in case of extra innings or a strategic situation. Solution? Let the players return to the game! Second solution? Expand the All-Star rosters! Remember a few years ago when a Toronto pitcher ended up being the final out in the game because no one else was left on the bench? Hey, Commissioner, repeat after me: It's for the fans, it's for the fans, it's for the fans...

 

Bruce Amspacher has been a professional writer since the 1950s and a professional numismatist since the 1960s. He won the OIPA sportswriting award in 1958 and again in 1959, then spent eight years in college studying American Literature. This background somehow led him to become a professional numismatist in 1968. Since then he has published hundreds of articles on rare coins in dozens of publications as well as publishing his own newsletter, the “Bruce Amspacher Investment Report,” for more than a decade. His areas of expertise include Liberty Seated dollars, Morgan and Peace dollars, United States gold coins, sports trivia, Western history, modern literature and the poetry of Emily Dickinson. In 1986 he was a co-founder of the Professional Coin Grading Service (PCGS).