Strange Brew

Over the next few days bloggers far and near are going to be offering up their opinions on the MLS Year End Awards nominations.

The main reason for this isn't that they honestly care that much. Almost no one really does.

But for a blogger - and I know whereof I speak - this provides one of the "automatic topics", like the traditional six part "Preseason Preview" or more recent "Playoff Preview", whose main value is to relieve the author of the nerve wracking chore of coming up with something to write about.

(And only guys which bloggers in Canada would call "pedants" like Andy Mead have the stones to critique the HoF Veterans ballot, since it requires that you actually know something: "Linda Hamilton? Wasn't she Sarah Connor?)

I myself don't do any of those, mostly because, well, everyone else does them and it feels silly. (Plus, let's be honest: as with Buzz Carrick's "Draft Preview" pieces, everyone looks up Kyle McCarthy's column and then cribs it anyway.)

However, I'm going to comment on two of the categories, just in passing, which comments will not include how badly Robert Warzycha's chances look today with everyone questioning not just his judgment but his sanity. He never had much of a shot anyway; in that group he was always a distant third. Ballot filler if you will.

I'm also not going to complain about the "Newcomer" category where all three nominees are from Seattle.

For one thing, they were a new team and so they had a lot of new guys. For another, the biggest omission might be Jhon Kennedy Hurtado, another Seattle guy.

In any case, it's unfortunate but true that this year there was a fairly shallow pool of successful "newcomers" and the Seattle guys are probably as good as you were going to do without having to actually pay attention to something other than the headlines, and that's asking too much, apparently.

In case you weren't aware, the league sends around a ballot which lists every eligible candidate for every award, which requires you to scroll past a long list of wildly inappropriate but tempting names for awards like MVP, since you can just see them looking over the printout: "Aaron Hohlbein??? Is he even a real player?".

And since they cast a pretty wide net during the nominating process, it's understandable that some of the candidates seem to be the result of people voting mostly for names they vaguely recognize.

Which is fine with me, but it results in some very odd finalists, and here are two examples:

Fair Play:

Kasey Keller – Seattle Sounders
Pat Onstad – Houston Dynamo
Steve Ralston – New England Revolution

First:

Bluntly put, keepers shouldn't even be eligible for this award.

These are guys who are trained to come bull rushing out of the goal like a deadheading freight train, leap high in the air while raising one knee so that anyone in their way gets whacked in the junk and then knock down anyone between them and the ball.

And referees, in turn, are trained to let them do it.

What's more, God forbid you should lay a finger on their precious little selves; their righteous indignation as they scream in your face is not an act; they are genuinely outraged. Fortunately for them, officials are told that keepers are "defenseless" when going for the ball and need "protection".

On the other hand there are 20 other guys on the field who spend 90 minutes getting grabbed, kicked, held, poked, elbowed, spiked and otherwise assaulted. Go watch the tape of Chris Wingert yanking Steven Lenhart to the ground by his hair last Saturday and ask yourself what YOU would do in that situation. Big Bird deserves the award for that one play more than Keller and Onstad for a whole season of incidental contact.

Players - like Ralston - who can take that kind of abuse game in and game out and never get fed up enough to haul off and lay five to somebodys' jaw are the guys this kind of award is for.

Second:

Excuse me, but would nominee #2 be the same Pat Onstad who just last Thursday came running out of the goal - like, you know, a keeper - and threw a shoulder into Fredy Montero for which he could arguably have been ejected? Perfect choice.

As for Ralston, who has won this award twice before, that's nice and all, but he only started 17 games. His 0.233 fouls per 90 minutes does lead the league, but if that's the criteria then why aren't Jacob Peterson (0.239) and Justin Mapp (,267) in the running instead of a couple of elderly goalhangers?

In any case, of course keepers don't commit many fouls. It's not because they're such swell guys, it's because usually it means giving up a PK. Isn't that kind of obvious?

Badly done, nominators. Badly done.

Comeback Player:

Brian McBride – Chicago Fire
Ben Olsen – D.C. United
Zach Thornton – Chivas USA

Danny likes to play "One of these things is not like the other" so let's go with that here:

Zach Thornton: came back from the career junk heap and had a superb season.

Ben Olsen: came back from what everyone assured us was a career-ending injury - some said he'd never even walk very well again - and was a solid contributor on a team that desperately needed him.

Brian McBride: missed 8 games with a shoulder injury

Of course, maybe I'm misinterpreting the thinking here. Maybe voters felt that in this case "comeback" meant, like, "He went to England and then he came back", which would at least make some sense, although I'd hasten to point out that he [i]came back[/i[] from Fulham last year. Maybe they didn't notice.

But we all know - hope? - they didn't do that. Thus, we can only conclude that people felt McHead having successfully rehabbed career injury # 2,327 was deserving of a sort of Lifetime Achievement award, like when they gave John Wayne an Oscar for True Grit.

I mean, this is a guy who's seen more knives than Benihana. Legions of Orthopods are running around today with trophy wives and cigarette boats paid for from the bills this guy has run up while having his body reassembled.

Hell, one time, when he had a FOOT LONG BLOOD CLOT FOUR INCHES FROM HIS HEART he was reportedly mere minutes from death. If you're giving out "Comeback" awards, I'd say "coming back" from death was a more significant achievement than this season, when all that happened was they did a little arthroscopic nipping and tucking inside one of his shoulders, meaning someone else was going to have to do throwins.

Which is OK because he never takes them.

His recovery was so arduous that the guy only missed eight games, "coming back" in time for the last six regular season matches and scoring a grand total of one goal.

I'm sorry fellas; I take a back seat to no one in my admiration for BMB but this one is way, way off base.