McGehee, Young win Comeback Player of the Year Awards
Casey McGehee finished fifth in the National League Rookie of the Year Award voting for the Brewers in 2009. Three years later, after batting .217 while splitting time between the Pirates and Yankees, he found himself playing for the Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles in Japan.
Chris Young, a 2007 All-Star for the Padres, didn't pitch in the big leagues at all in 2013 as he continued to battle a string of injuries and surgeries that dated back to 2009. At the end of this year's Spring Training, he opted out of his Nationals contract after being informed he wouldn't make the Opening Day roster.
Both players rebounded strongly this season, and as a result, they were named the National and American League Comeback Players of the Year on Friday by Major League Baseball. The Comeback Player of the Year Awards are sanctioned by Major League Baseball and presented annually to one player in each League who has re-emerged on the field during the season. The 30 club beat reporters from MLB.com selected the winners from an original list of 30 candidates -- one per club.
Given an opportunity by the Marlins this season, McGehee not only batted .287 with 76 RBIs but provided valuable protection for NL Most Valuable Player Award finalist Giancarlo Stanton in Miami's lineup.
Signed by the Mariners two days after being cut loose, Young went 12-9 with a 3.65 ERA in 30 games (29 starts).
Young, 35, reached double figures in wins for the first time since 2006, going eight years between 12-win seasons. He yielded 70 runs on 143 hits in 165 innings while holding opposing hitters to a .234 batting average, which ranked eighth in the AL. Young recorded double digits in wins for the first time since 2006, when he won 11 games for the Padres, and he tied for the Major League lead with eight starts in which he allowed three or fewer hits and pitched at least six innings.
The Mariners signed Young because they were in need of a fifth starter and the move quickly paid big dividends.
"The medical came back that he was fine," general manager Jack Zduriencik told reporters at the time. "Our park is a good fit for him. All those things said and done, there's a degree of a gamble. No question about it. We were looking for a veteran type of guy to come in and help with the young group of kids we have. I think he fits."
Young was convinced he could contribute.
"I've battled shoulder stuff, really, for the last five years," he told The Washington Post in the spring. "And last year, when they finally said this is a nerve issue ... my shoulder feels like it did five, six years ago. I'm really excited about it. I expect it to stay that way. It's the best it's felt in a long time. I want to get back to being the pitcher I can be."
Partly as a result of adding McGehee, Miami made a dramatic jump in the offensive rankings. In 2013, the Marlins were not only a distant last in the Majors in runs scored with 513, they were 85 behind the next team. This past season, they scored 645 runs, seventh most in the NL.
McGehee's RBI total was the highest in Marlins history by a player with four or fewer home runs, besting the previous mark held by Edgar Renteria, who had four home runs and 52 RBIs in 1997. In addition, McGehee's RBI total was the highest in the Majors by any player with four or fewer home runs since Willie McGee recorded three home runs and 77 RBIs for the Cardinals and A's in 1990, when he was the NL batting champion.
The 32-year-old McGehee reached base safely in 31 consecutive games from June 4-July 7, and his 115 hits during the first half of the season tied him with Andrew McCutchen of the Pirates for the most in the NL.
"It was a weird, strange trip, going over to Japan," McGehee recently told MLB.com. "I didn't know if I was ever going to get a chance to come back and play in the big leagues. Last offseason, when Miami called, it was a no-brainer for me. They said they were going to give me a chance to play every day, and to reprove to myself and to the organization that I could do it on a daily basis."
Said Marlins general manager Dan Jennings: "In getting Casey, we knew we had hole at third base and no one to fill it right now. We used some contacts we had to look at what he'd done in Japan. And the two things that jumped out right away were that he had hired a nutritionist and that he had really geared his swing back toward the middle of the field. Gap to gap. Not turning and trying to pull everything.
"In doing the background check, we heard all these things about this guy in the clubhouse with his makeup and team-first mentality, it seemed like the perfect fit for what we needed and where we were."
McGehee and Young both got second chances. And both took full advantage.