By Stephen Cannella
For a few years in the 1960s and '70s players with no shot at the MVP or Cy Young awards could still dream of taking home -- we're not making this up -- the Most Valuable Little Player Award, which was sponsored by Volkswagen and given to an outstanding player "of small stature." The MVLP award has long since gone the way of flannel uniforms and scheduled doubleheaders, but its everyone's-a-winner spirit lives on. Here are SI's unofficial awards for some of the less-heralded accomplishments of 2002.
Can't Sell Soda in the Sahara Award: To the Marlins, who are stuck with thousands of souvenir bobblehead dolls -- hot items in virtually every ballpark. First, Florida traded righthander Ryan Dempster to the Reds, rendering useless the 15,000 dolls the team had ordered in his likeness. Then, on Bobblehead Weekend at Pro Player Stadium earlier this month, crowds were so sparse that the team couldn't unload 22,000 bobblegangers of pitchers Josh Beckett, A.J. Burnett, Brad Penny and Julian Tavarez.
Rawhide Award: To Orioles outfielder Marty Cordova, who sat out a day game in May to protect his face, which had been burned when he dozed off in a tanning booth the day before.
Statistics Don't Lie Award: To volatile Rangers reliever John Rocker, who finished the season with what some would call a fittingly hellish ERA: 6.66.
DeBeers Trophy: To Red Sox outfielder Manny Ramirez, who, while playing in the minors on a June rehab assignment, held up a game for several minutes while he crawled around in the dirt searching for the $15,000 diamond earring he lost on a headfirst dive into third base.
Good Housekeeping Seal of Disapproval: To umpire John Shulock, who refused to clean off home plate after Mariners manager Lou Piniella buried the dish with a dirt-kicking tantrum while arguing balls and strikes. Seattle catcher Dan Wilson had to borrow the ump's broom to give his pitcher a proper target.
Silver Swinger Award: To Brewers shortstop Jose Hernandez, who ended the week with 188 strikeouts, making him a virtual lock to break the major league record of 189 set by Bobby Bonds in 1970. With Milwaukee fans holding up K signs and derisively cheering Hernandez's run at ignominy, manager Jerry Royster benched him for the club's final four home games last week. "He won't be humiliated here," Royster said.
Cheaper by the Dozen Award: To the Indians and the Padres, who each used a major-league-record 59 players this season. The previous high was 56, by the 2000 Padres and the 1915 Philadelphia Athletics.
Mean Streets Medal: To Royals catcher Brent Mayne, who wrenched his back when he turned his head to check for traffic while crossing a street in April. He spent four weeks on the disabled list with back spasms. Honorable mention: Blue Jays catcher Darrin Fletcher, who landed on the DL with a sprained ankle after stepping in a pothole on his way to the ballpark in Seattle in May.
Issue date: September 30, 2002