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Mariano Rivera, Francisco Liriano win 2013 Comeback Player of the Year Awards

Nov 5, 2013, 7:01 AM EDT

Mariano Rivera Getty Images

The Comeback Player of the Year: an award you never want to be a candidate for, but one which, if you win, represents a triumph. It’s gotta feel pretty good overall. And Mariano Rivera and Francisco Liriano are probably feeling pretty good today, because won the Comeback Player of the Year Awards for the AL and NL, respectively, last night.

The award, voted on by writers, is presented annually to one player in each league who has re-emerged on the field during the season. Often the award is given to a player who missed a season or a large part of a season due to injury or illness. But, as is the case with Liriano, it can go to a guy who simply bounced back from ineffectiveness.

And Liriano was in the competitive wilderness for a while. He posted ERAs of 5.34 and 5.09 in 2012 and 2011, with a combined record of 15-22 bouncing from the Twins to the White Sox. This season he put it altogether, though, going 16-8 with a 3.02 ERA in 26 starts for the Pirates. This after breaking his arm in the offseason. He was a key part to the Pirates improbable playoff run.

As for Mariano Rivera: the fact that I forgot he was injured and missed most of 2012 with that ACL injury until I saw the announcement probably tells you that it was a pretty good and thorough comeback. Indeed, he didn’t miss a beat in his final year, saving 44 games while compiling a 6-2 record with a 2.11 ERA and 54 strikeouts and nine walks. All at age 43.

  1. Old Gator - Nov 5, 2013 at 7:14 AM

    Good for them both but I’m still trying to imagine all the baseball seasons to come without Mariano Rivera. I’m not having much success at it, but then, I doubt if I really want to manage.

  2. Jason Lukehart - Nov 5, 2013 at 7:16 AM

    Rivera winning was predictable, but Scott Kazmir should have been the AL’s Comeback Player of the Year.

    • philliesblow - Nov 5, 2013 at 7:34 AM

      A very strong case could also be made for Victor Martinez.

      • dapperdan50 - Nov 5, 2013 at 8:23 AM

        And a strong case for John Lackey as well.

        But Mariano is a very poor choice. Yes, I love Mariano. He’ll go immediately into the HoF (immediately after 5 years, that is) and deserves every bit of praise he’s gotten all year and all of his (truly legendary) career. But he’s not much of a “comeback” player at all. His injury was one that players routinely recover from and, like so many others, he fully returned to form. The fact that his “form” is higher than everyone else’s does not make him a notable comeback player. His choice renders the whole “comeback” idea meaningless.

        OTOH, Lackey (to choose one candidate) toughed it out throughout 2011 having a truly bad year, both on and off the field. He wasn’t so terrific in 2010, his first year in Boston, and got a really nasty rep among fans, fairly or unfairly. He turned everything around in 2012 when no one knew what he’d be like. Turns out he was a major reason why the Sox went all the way.

      • churchoftheperpetuallyoutraged - Nov 5, 2013 at 8:52 AM

        Let’s not mince words here:

        OTOH, Lackey (to choose one candidate) toughed it out throughout 2011 having a truly bad year, both on and off the field.

        He was awful this year, often giving the “I can’t believe you didn’t make that play face” throughout the year whenever a fielder made an error. Never mind the absolute crap pitching he put up.

        And oh yeah, he divorced his wife while she was dealing with cancer. Let’s not just say that “he had off-field problems” when he created them.

        He wasn’t so terrific in 2010, his first year in Boston, and got a really nasty rep among fans, fairly or unfairly.

        He actually pitched better than his ERA would indicate (3.85 FIP); however, the rep was fairly earned among fans because of his reactions noted above.

      • dapperdan50 - Nov 5, 2013 at 9:33 AM


        If you asked me who I’d rather spend an evening with between Rivera and Lackey, it’d be no contest—Rivera strikes me as intelligent, decent, and having a tremendously admirable character. Lackey…let’s just say he does not impress me that way.

        But the fact is that neither of us is in a position to truly judge the character of these people. Lackey’s divorcing his wife sure looks bad, but I’m not privy to the details and I can’t and won’t judge. To his credit, he pretty much stopped making the awful faces at his fellow players. And, FWIW, everything said about Lackey by his teammates, this year and in previous years, adds up to him being a terrific teammate—though again, that doesn’t mean he is a man of character.

        I think (and most would agree) that the award should focus on on-field performance. I brought up the off-the-field stuff because he clearly turned around a really bad public image (without hiring a PR firm) and that enhances, but doesn’t make the case for his comeback.

      • Kevin Gillman - Nov 5, 2013 at 11:40 AM

        Victor should have been in top 3, but the case for Kazmir is this, the guy wasn’t even in baseball for the last what 3 seasons? When the Indians signed him, there were jokes being made on this board about how he couldn’t cut it in independent ball in 2012, he had no chance of succeeding this season. He proved them wrong. Victor and Mo both were still being paid by MLB despite both being injured. Scott is a great story, and should have won the award. But I get it, Mo came back from injury, and I will miss him in this game, but didn’t he already receive his watch?

    • pastabelly - Nov 5, 2013 at 8:12 AM

      I would have no issue with John Lackey, Kazmir, or Rivera. All are deserving.

    • stex52 - Nov 5, 2013 at 8:45 AM

      I think Kazmir’s comeback has to be the most spectacular. He was pitching for the Sugarland Skeeters last year. I agree that everyone knew Rivera would be back.

      • cur68 - Nov 5, 2013 at 12:19 PM

        Yep. Kazmir. All season I kept waiting for him to vanish back into the shell of a pitcher he’d become. He didn’t. A hat tip to him.

      • stex52 - Nov 5, 2013 at 1:05 PM

        If you actually watched the Skeeters game that Roger Clemens pitched in 2012 (God help me, I did) you got treated to the sight of Clemens holding up a ball and lecturing Kazmir on what appeared to be the secrets of his curve ball. Kazmir was all ears and eyes.

        I would hazard a guess that Clemens actually helped him.

      • moogro - Nov 5, 2013 at 8:35 PM

        I agree. Mariano was injured last year. Kazmir came back. From a long ways away. If a pitcher like Kazmir can’t br comeback of the year, I guess I just don’t understand what comeback means.

    • Matthew Pouliot - Nov 5, 2013 at 10:03 AM

      Kazmir would have been fine. I like Neal Cotts as a candidate as well. Hadn’t pitched in the majors since 2009, thought his career was over because of a hip injury. Ended up pitching 57 innings for the Rangers with a 1.11 ERA, 8-3 record and 65 strikeouts.

      • eightyraw - Nov 5, 2013 at 1:08 PM

        12th highest RE24 among relievers in MLB, t-1 ERA- (with Koji Uehara)

        It is hard to really care about this award, but statistically there is really no case for Mo over Cotts.

  3. redsoxchamp11 - Nov 5, 2013 at 8:39 AM

    +1 to dapperdan.

  4. pastabelly - Nov 5, 2013 at 8:44 AM

    John Lackey will be hard pressed to win any award voted on by the media. Lackey may yet warm up to Boston fans, but may never warm up to the Boston media.

  5. sdelmonte - Nov 5, 2013 at 9:05 AM

    Great. Another award to Mo. You’d think the guy was good or something. (Not really sure that “comeback from injury” and “comeback from mediocrity” are the same thing, but it’s not like there is a textbook definition for this or any other MLB award, is there?)

  6. RickyB - Nov 5, 2013 at 10:12 AM

    The most impressive fact about these two awards is that this is the second time Liriano has won it. First time that’s happened …

  7. tn16 - Nov 5, 2013 at 10:15 AM

    Mo will also be the 2014 Please come back player of the year…..
    Had to be said

  8. joergen12 - Nov 5, 2013 at 12:41 PM

    Mariano deserves but probably won’t win.

  9. jt2663 - Nov 5, 2013 at 6:46 PM

    Where would the Yankees be without Rivera this year vs Boston without Lackey?

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