2017 Azocar Awards: And the winners are ...

In honor of Oscars weekend, we celebrate baseball's best and brightest

February 25th, 2017

There are people who noticed that the Oscar Azocar Awards -- the baseball awards we came up with to correlate with the Academy Awards -- seem to be based on a very flimsy coincidence: That "Best Pitcher" sounds a lot like "Best Picture."
I would like to tell you that there was more thought put into the Oscar Azocars.
I really would like to tell you that.
In any case, the results are in -- thank you to all of you who voted. And now, here are your first Oscar Azocar winners. Please remember -- it's not about the winners. It's an honor just to be nominated.
Best Original Score
These are the best team-specific songs played at various ballparks throughout baseball. Numerous people were upset that "Go Cubs Go" was snubbed as a nominee -- well, yes, every year there are worthy candidates that get overlooked.
The nominees:
• "I Love LA," by Randy Newman, played every time the Dodgers win
• "Sweet Caroline," by Neil Diamond, played in the eighth inning of Red Sox games
• "Lazy Mary," by Lou Monte, played during the seventh-inning stretch at Mets games
• "Thank God I'm A Country Boy," by John Denver, played at Orioles games
• "New York, New York," by Frank Sinatra, played when theeeeeee Yankees win
And the Azocar goes to
"New York, New York."
Comment: Close voting between "New York, New York," and "Sweet Caroline," but in the end Sinatra carries the day. One of the coolest experiences of my life was being in Yankee Stadium in 2001, less than two months after 9/11, when Derek Jeter hit the extra-inning home run to win, and they played Sinatra's "New York, New York," over and over and over again because no one wanted to leave.

Best Costume Design
This is best uniform, of course.
The nominees:
• Baltimore Orioles
• Los Angeles Dodgers
• New York Yankees
• Pittsburgh Pirates
• St. Louis Cardinals
And the Azocar goes to
The New York Yankees
Comment: The Dodgers and Cardinals, with their classic looks, garnered significant support. But in the end, the Yankee pinstripes won comfortably.
Best Cinematography
This is for the best ballpark. You could argue that stadiums have nothing whatsoever to do with cinematography and vice versa … and you would be right. Numerous people complained about the snubbing of Camden Yards in Baltimore and Coors Field in Denver.
The nominees:
• AT&T Park in San Francisco
• Fenway Park in Boston
• PNC Park in Pittsburgh
• Wrigley Field on the North Side of Chicago
• Dodger Stadium in L.A.
And the Azocar goes to
Fenway Park
Comment: It was very close -- the closest of all Azocar votes. Fenway's history and Green Monster barely edged the gorgeousness of AT&T Park. Wrigley Field and PNC Park were both very close as well. Dodger Stadium … not so much. Many questioned whether it deserved to be nominated.
Best Visual Effects
This refers to the best in-game tradition around baseball. Yeah, and you thought the cinematography category was a reach.
The nominees:
• The Bleacher Creature Roll Call -- "Derek .. Jeter!" -- at Yankee Stadium
• The Sausage Race in Milwaukee
• Steve Perry of Journey singing "Don't Stop Believin'" at Giants games
• The seventh-inning stretch at Wrigley Field
• The President's Race in Washington
And the Azocar goes to
The seventh-inning stretch at Wrigley.
Comment: No surprise here -- Bill Murray wins an Azocar before he wins an Oscar. There was a strong showing by the Sausage Race.

Best Animated Feature
This is best mascot and, yes, I'm through trying to defend the connections between the Oscar categories and the Azocar categories.
The nominees:
• Bernie Brewer
• Mr. Red
• Mr. Met
• The Phillie Phanatic
• Orbit of the Houston Astros
And the Azocar goes to …
The Phillie Phanatic
Comment: This was a near-lock; the Phanatic is the most famous of the baseball mascots after the San Diego Chicken went solo. Michael Schur, executive producer of "The Good Place," called the Phanatic the Meryl Streep of mascots, so this could be the first of many Azocars to come.
Best Production Design
This is for the best front-office executives, who "design" their teams and, oh yeah, I said I wouldn't try to defend the categories.
The nominees:
• Jon Daniels, Rangers
• Jeff Luhnow, Astros
• Theo Epstein, Cubs
• Dayton Moore, Royals
• John Mozeliak, Cardinals
And the Azocar goes to …
Theo Epstein
Comment: Well, of course he won in a runaway. He came in as the lock, much like Emma Stone is a lock for La La Land. The Academy would also like to apologize to Mozeliak who, for some reason, was referred to as "Jeff" on the ballots. Mozeliak is, in my view, the most underrated GM in sports at the moment.
The award for best manager.
The nominees:
• Bruce Bochy, Giants
• Terry Francona, Indians
• Joe Maddon, Cubs
• Dave Roberts, Dodgers
• Buck Showalter, Orioles
And the Azocar goes to …
Comment: Very close between Maddon and Francona, the managers of last year's World Series.

Best Actor in a Support Role
This is for specialty players -- relievers, bench players, etc. -- who make the biggest impact.
The nominees:
, Cubs
, Yankees
• Zach Britton, Orioles
, Mariners
, Indians
And the Azocar goes to …
Comment: In many ways, what Miller did in the postseason last year felt new -- he was Francona's superweapon to be used in any inning, at any point when it seemed like the game was in the balance. It wasn't exactly new: It borrowed from the 1970s (when relievers were called "firemen" and were often asked to put out fires). Still, it felt new, and now every team would love to have a Miller of their own.
Best Actor in a Leading Role
We are down to the two big awards, this one is for best everyday player. There were some who felt like was snubbed this year.
• The nominees:
, Astros
, Red Sox
• Josh Donaldson, Blue Jays
, Cubs
, Angels
And the Azocar goes to …

Comment: Of course.
Best Pitcher
Was Chris Sale snubbed?
The nominees:
, Giants
, Dodgers
, Indians
, Cubs
• Max Scherzer, Nationals
And the Azocar goes to …
Comment: Of course.
Bill James has suggested we might need an award MVPOT -- Most Valuable Player Other than Trout. We'd also need a CYOK -- Cy Young Other than Kershaw. Bryant received the second-most votes in the Best Actor category and Bumgarner received the second-most votes for Best Pitcher. Maybe next year's Azocars will have a category for second-best player and pitcher.