Buehrle, Wise corral TYIB honors
Performance of the Year, Play of Year recognized by fans
CHICAGO -- With two young children and a big family to celebrate with at the holidays, Mark Buehrle can be excused if he didn't sit down to watch Comcast SportsNet Chicago programming on Thanksgiving night.
And there certainly was reason for the White Sox ace left-hander to turn on the television after devouring turkey and stuffing.
Chicago's Comcast affiliate replayed arguably the greatest pitching effort in White Sox franchise history, Buehrle's perfect game hurled at Tampa Bay in U.S. Cellular Field on July 23, 2009. Twenty-seven up, 27 down, featuring less than a handful of viable opportunities for Rays' hits.
Buehrle became a national sensation, even getting to read a Top 10 list on the Late Show with David Letterman with the assistance of then-teammates Dewayne Wise and Josh Fields. As an unaffected All-Star who would rather hang out with his family and watch football on Thanksgiving than dwell on his accomplishments, Buehrle has never sought out that sort of attention.
Nonetheless, the spotlight always finds you following the 18th perfect game thrown in Major League history. That spotlight this week comes in the form of Buehrle receiving the 2009 This Year in Baseball Performance of the Year. And Buehrle was not alone in receiving a special honor.
Wise's spectacular, leaping catch, to take a home run away from Gabe Kapler leading off the ninth inning of Buehrle's gem earned him the 2009 This Year in Baseball Play of the Year.
Once again, the fans voted in record numbers when given the chance to weigh in on the season's best players, plays and moments in the 2009 This Year in Baseball Awards, as more than 12 million votes were cast on MLB.com. Winners will be presented their trophies on field in 2010.
In the Performance category, Buehrle won top honors via 29.8 percent of the vote. San Francisco's Jonathan Sanchez, who hurled his first career no-hitter behind 11 strikeouts on July 10, finished second at 13.3 percent, followed by Carl Crawford (11 percent), Ian Kinsler (10.7 percent) and Chris Carpenter (9.8 percent). Paul Konerko's three-homer, seven-RBI effort against the Indians on July 7 finished ninth in the Performance of the Year category.
For the Play group, Wise earned the honor by garnering 25 percent of the vote. He edged out Eric Bruntlett's unassisted triple play at 18.4 percent, followed by Daniel Murphy (13.6 percent), Joe Mauer (12.1 percent) and Joba Chamberlain at 9.5 percent to round out the top five.
The second perfect game in White Sox history and Buehrle's second no-hitter produced just five counts worked full by the Rays, including Michel Hernandez's strikeout for the second out in the ninth. Ben Zobrist's slow-roller and Pat Burrell's line shot down the third-base line in the eighth inning both fell foul, Burrell's by mere inches, marking Tampa Bay's greatest chance for a hit until the ninth.
At that point, Wise, who entered as a center-field defensive replacement, made what has been termed the greatest catch in White Sox history -- judged by the context of the situation -- grabbing Kapler's long drive with a running, leaping catch over the left-center-field wall. Wise juggled the ball as he hit the ground but hung on for a bit of extra theatrics.
"It was like everything was slow motion," said Wise during the postgame celebration. "I stuck my hand out so slowly and was able to make the catch."
"You visualize something like that," said Kapler of Wise's catch. "That's the only way you make a play like he made, by seeing it happen before it happens."
The final numbers for Buehrle read six strikeouts and 76 of his 116 pitches thrown for strikes as he improved to 11-3 overall, with backup catcher Ramon Castro putting down the signs behind the plate. It was a special moment involving a phone call from First Fan Barack Obama, but not a moment watched by Buehrle in full during the offseason.
"I have not," said Buehrle, who has a video of the memorable effort. "We've been so busy, hanging out, doing stuff with the family and with [building] the new house. I don't know where the thing is at."
This TYIB Performance and Play of the Year marked two of the 14 awards presented. Top honors also were awarded for Moment, Postseason Moment, Hitter, Rookie, Unsung Star, Manager, Executive, Closer, Setup Man, Starter, Oddity and Defensive Player. Gordon Beckham finished fifth in the Rookie category, and Matt Thornton finished sixth in the Setup group.
Previous TYIB winners for the White Sox are Ozzie Guillen, who captured the 2005 Manager of the Year, and Neal Cotts as 2005's top setup man. Orlando Cabrera was the surprise TYIB winner as the 2008 Defensive Player of the Year.
None of these top prizes, including Wise's catch, have the historical impact as Buehrle's remarkable pitching perfection. Maybe Buehrle will get a chance to see it again in the near future.
"Obviously, any time your name gets up there with some of the greats in the game, it means a lot," said Buehrle, speaking immediately following his perfect game.
A special, first-ever X-Factor of the Year was awarded to former Los Angeles Dodgers outfielder Juan Pierre through a media-only vote by MLB.com editors, reporters and multimedia personnel.
In 2010, this category will be added to the overall voting process. The 2010 This Year in Baseball Awards will include additional exciting enhancements to be unveiled at a later date.
Scott Merkin is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.