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Ferguson: Cabrera worthy of Comeback Player of the Year

Scott Ferguson
6/20/2014 11:27:58 AM
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I was thinking about Melky Cabrera the other day and his odds of being named Comeback Player of the Year. After all, he was a disaster in his first season with the Jays in 2013.

It was only after the fact we learned he needed surgery to have a tumour removed from his back, which seriously impeded his abilities last season to be the player he had been in San Francisco and Kansas City.

Right now Melky is hitting .298 with 11 homers and 37 runs batted, and is playing better defence in left field than at any point last year. He's even beginning to put the PED suspension in the review mirror. Yes, he would be a worthy pick for American League Comeback Player of the year.

This really is a fascinating award. Its often said it is one no player really wants to win because it means at some point your career has gone off the rails or you've suffered a serious, possibly career-threatening injury.

Only one Blue Jays player has even won the award. On May 29 of 2008, second baseman Aaron Hill suffered a concussion when he collided with teammate David Eckstein. Hill missed the remainder of the season.

He came back though with a vengence in 2009, batting .286 and 37 doubles, 36 homers and 108 runs batted in. He went to the All Star Game in St. Louis in July, was named Blue Jays Player of the Year, and ultimately, American League Comeback Player of the year.

It's interesting that there are actually three versions of this award. The original and the one with the most historic cache was established by the Sporting News in 1965. The Players Association created its version in 1992 followed finally by Major League Baseball in 2005.

Two players won it after coming back from heart attacks, Tony Conigliaro of the Red Sox in 1969 and Scarborough's own John Hiller - the Tigers starter turned closer.

In addition to Hiller another Canadian "Hall of Famer" Fergy Jenkins won the award in 1974 with Texas. In 1976, the National League honours went to Tommy John, naturally for the year he had after undergoing the landmark elbow reconstruction surgery that still bears his name.

In the American League, three men have won the award twice - Norm Cash of the Tigers, "Boog" Powell of the Orioles and Royals right hander Bret Saberhagen.

In the National League, the club is even more exclusive. Former Expos first baseman Andres "The Big Cat" Galaragga won in Colorado in 1993 and Atlanta in 2000, while former Blue Jays right hander Chris Carpenter won twice with St. Louis in 2004 and again in 2009.

Former pitcher and current broadcaster Rick Sutcliffe stands alone as the only player to win in both leagues. He did it in 1987 with the Cubs and 1992 with Baltimore.

Talk about impressive runs, from 1977 through 1979, future Hall of Famers won in the National League three years running, with Willie McCovey, Willie Stargell and Lou Brock so honoured.

But the ultimate comeback story is unfolding this season in Cincinnati. Heck this guys entire career has been one gigantic comeback story. Alfredo Simon is a 33 year old right-hander out of the Dominican Republic. He was signed back in 1999 by the Phillies as an amateur free agent. But in those days he went by the name of Carlos Cabrera. He hid his true identity so he could conceal his true age. The Phillies thought he was younger and didn't find out the truth until 2004.

Simon has bounced around a lot and didn't actually crack the Majors until 2008 with Baltimore. He had brief snatches of success with the 0's saving 17 games in 2010 and starting 16 in 2011, but in 2012 he was claimed on waivers by the Reds off the Orioles.

Before this season, Alfredo Simon had a career record in six years of (17-18) with 19 saves. He had been with six organizations, three of them twice. Yet the other night at 33 he become the National League's first 10-game winner this season. In fact he is (10-3) with a 3.05 ERA and he is convinced he can pitch 200 innings this season even though his previous high was 115 2-3 with Baltimore in 2011. A truly amazing story.

All of which brings us to Ricky Romero, who's been slogging it out in Triple-A Buffalo trying to find the old Ricky who used to be the ace of the Blue Jays staff three years ago. We learned Thursday, that Ricky had to undergo surgery on his left knee and is done for the rest of this season. Ricky will be 29 years old next season and in the final guaranteed year of his contract. The Jays will be paying him another $7.5 million dollars.

Maybe the knee surgery will make a difference and Ricky can author the kind of comeback story that Alfredo Simon has. One more thing on Simon. He had to battle back from Tommy John surgery as well after getting injured in just his second start for the Orioles in 2009..

This weekend marks a special anniversary at Rogers Centre. Saturday it will be 14 years since the only no-hitter in the history of the facility was pitched there. Oakland's Dave Stewart accomplishing the feat on June 21, 1990. Ironically later that same night, Fernando Valenzuela no-hit St. Louis. It was the only time in Major League history two no-no's have been thrown on the same day. Three years later Stewart won a World Series with the Jays and later became their assistant General Manager.



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