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Losers can be winners with baseball 'worst' awards

Could there be a "better" Least Valuable player than Dan Uggla? How about Adam Dunn or Shin-Soo Choo

PITTSBURGH — Baseball's awards races are winding down, and the Baseball Writers Association of America has some difficult choices to make in the four voting categories for each league.

Mike Trout, Clayton Kershaw and Jose Abreu appear to be shoo-ins for American League MVP, National League Cy Young and AL Rookie of the Year, respectively.

But the other categories — including the two Manager of the Year awards — may come down to the final weeks.

On the flip side, there are also some interesting races shaping up for the worst performances of the 2014 season.

Here's how one man's ballot would be shaping up, if these awards actually existed:

Least Valuable Player Award — Dan Uggla, Braves and Giants: Uggla, who earned $13 million in 2014, was released twice in less than one month and wound up hitting .149 with 10 RBIs. That's $1.3 million per RBI, if you're counting.

There were plenty of perennials in this category, including Adam Dunn (.225, 142 strikeouts) and B.J. Upton, who ranks fourth in worst strikeout percentage (30.3 percent) with only 34 RBIs in 542 plate appearances. Dunn's candidacy has taken a blow after performing well for the A's since being acquired for the stretch run.

Also in the running are the Rangers' Shin-Soo Choo, who hit .242 with 40 RBIs after signing a seven-year, $130 million deal, but suffered a season-ending ankle injury, making it tough to overtake Uggla. Another LVP candidate is the Yankees' Brian McCann, hitting .241 with a .292 OBP after signing a five-year, $85 million deal.

Not Cy Young Award — Edwin Jackson, Cubs: Jackson's late August lat injury left him stuck on 14 losses, giving him little chance to match his major league worst 18 losses from 2013. But Jackson's 6.09 ERA — aided by a 7.91 in four second-half starts before heading to the disabled list on a rebuilding team — should be high enough to eke out the triumph. Left-handers batted .341 off him.

He has some stiff competition from stiffs like the Padres' Eric Stults (6-16, 4.55 ERA), the Cardinals' Justin Masterson (6-9, 6.03 ERA) and the Rangers' Colby Lewis (9-13, 5.29 ERA).

Rookie Bust of the Year Award — Xander Boegarts, Red Sox: Boegarts (.238 average, .668 OPS) and teammate Jackie Bradley Jr. (.208 average, .284 OBP, 142 strikeouts) were neck-and-neck all year, but Boegarts gets the nod after coming up in August of 2013 and getting 12 games of postseason experience on a World Series champion.

Several other rookies had worse seasons, but did not meet the necessary hype quotient to qualify. The good part for Boegarts and all other struggling rookies? Mike Trout hit .220 in 40 games with the Angels in his first call-up in 2011, yet won the AL Rookie of the Year award in 2012, finishing second in AL MVP voting in 2012 and 2013.

Overhyped Executive of the Year Award — Jon Daniels, Rangers: The general manager was heralded as one of the best and brightest young executives in the game, at least before acquiring Matt Garza at the July 2013 trade deadline for four minor league prospects, including C.J. Edwards and Neil Ramirez.

Last winter, Daniels signed Choo for $130 million and acquired the Tigers' Prince Fielder, who makes $24 million annually through 2010, for Ian Kinsler. Despite having the eighth-highest payroll at $136 million, the Rangers were the worst team in baseball, giving Daniels a chance to guess wrong on the top draft pick in 2015.

Arsonist of the Year Award — Jim Johnson, A's and Tigers: The opposite of the Fireman of the Year award, Johnson is the overwhelming choice as worst relief pitcher of 2014, despite having only one blown save to his name. He entered the weekend with a 6.89 ERA and 1.95 WHIP with two teams who may meet in the AL wild-card game. The A's released him Aug. 1, eating around $5 million of his $10 million salary. The Tigers then picked him up for their bullpen as their 1.48 WHIP is tied with the White Sox for worst in the majors.

The Rockies' Rex Brothers (six blown saves, 5.71 ERA, 6.6 walks per nine innings) and the White Sox's Ronald Belisario (4-8, 5.57 ERA) deserve dishonorable mentions.

Un-Manager of the Year Award — John Farrell, Red Sox: Another tough call, especially with the Astros' Bo Porter not getting a chance to finish out his embarrassing season. Late-season collapses by the Brewers (Ron Roenicke) and the A's (Bob Melvin) put those two in contention, though both were Manager of the Year candidates in their leagues only weeks ago.

But the winner has to be the Red Sox's Farrell, who earned plaudits leading the World Series champs in 2013 only to watch them helplessly careen into the gutter in 2014.

Drug Suspension of the Year Award — Chris Davis, Orioles: The modern-day answer to the Comeback Player of the Year Award, this one goes to the Orioles' "Crash" Davis for testing positive twice for amphetamine use and being handed a 25-game suspension on Friday. If the Orioles crash-and-burn in the postseason without him, they have a ready-made scapegoat for the offseason.

psullivan@tribune.com

Twitter @PWSullivan

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