The real Comeback Player of the Year

Sorry, but if you were a first-round pick who went bust because your team doctor discovered you were missing a ligament in your pitching arm, and then, 14 years later at 35 years old, you post a sub-3.00 ERA and become perhaps the only feel-good story on an otherwise moribund team, how are you not the Comeback Player of the Year? Tim Hudson and his precious Tommy-John-surgery-rebuilt arm can go blow (as nice as I’m sure Mr. Hudson is). R.A. Dickey of the Mets was the real Comeback Player of the Year 2010 in the National League.

Yeah, I know the argument goes that Dickey was never good before this season, so what, exactly, is he coming back from? Um, how about unfulfilled promise? How about that quintessentially American story of pulling yourself up by your bootstraps and persevering over adversity to achieve a measure of success? If that’s not a comeback story in sports, let alone America, I don’t know what is.

This is not to demean what Tim Hudson has accomplished. And this may come across as callous or as diminishing rehabilitation from dramatic surgery as something that most non-baseball-playing mortals could possibly comprehend or undertake. But lots of professional ballplayers come back from injuries, even (in this day and age) from Tommy John surgery — that is, coming back from a repaired ligament. Not a lot of them have come back from not having a ligament at all, to say nothing of coming back from 14 years of life as a journeyman to discovering a magic and should-be impossible-to-control knuckleball while throwing the seventh best ERA in the league (albeit 1/100ths of an average earned run behind the guy you lost the award to).

“The 30 Club beat reporters from MLB.com, the official web site of Major League Baseball, selected the winners for the 2010 Major League Baseball Comeback Player of the Year Award,” reads the press release from Major League baseball announcing this year’s awards. I’d say the 30 club beat reporters wouldn’t know a good comeback story if it bit them on their collective online ulnar collateral ligaments.

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