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10/02/08 2:22 PM ET
Welcome to the Show: Toby Awards
Ex-newbie dishes out hardware after inaugural fantasy campaign
There was no help for those who were depending on a big season from Rays outfielder Carl Crawford. (AP)


Here by semi-lukewarm demand, it's the year-end Toby Awards!

I'm your host, Toby Mergler, and I'm confident that even though this ceremony is not being aired on any broadcast medium of any kind, it will still draw higher ratings then the Emmys.

Speaking of which, I thought it was touching that the hosts honored the writers in this year of the strike by attempting to ad-lib their monologues and failing miserably, thus demonstrating just how necessary the pros really are. I can't believe Heidi Klum didn't fall back on her extensive improv background, though she could have fallen back on her runway background and just sashayed back off stage without speaking.

Wow, shocking how we are way off topic already. Let's get to the Awards:

Pirates Hijacking a Russian Weapons Ship Award for move I wish I could have back

Lost in all the hubbub about the bailout and the pending collapse of the American economy has been the amazing story of the pirates who boarded a large cargo ship only to find out it was carrying a serious arsenal of weapons from the former Soviet Union. They are now surrounded by the United States Navy. Whoops.

Please do yourself a favor and Google this story. Here are my three favorite parts:

1. The pirates have a spokesman (note to self: go back to high school and complain to the guidance counselor who never informed me of this career option).
2. After being surrounded by the most fearsome military force in world history, the pirates had the guts to lower their demand to a "more reasonable" $20 million.
3. Reportedly, rival pirate factions have formed aboard the ship, with the moderate pirates warring with the radical pirates. Moderate pirates? What? Are they fiscally conservative but socially liberal? My head just exploded.

Winner -- Drafting Bonds over Soto: I'm sure the moderate pirates wish they had never gotten on that ship. Likewise, I wish every day that I could have this pick back. I made it in the last round so I could have something to write about. Plus, it prompted me to utter the immortal words: "I've already got J.R. Towles, I don't need another catcher." Soto went on to become a stud while I went through catchers like Spinal Tap went through drummers.

The Jack Bauer Award for punishing those who underestimated him

Every season on "24," Jack Bauer finds a way to strike back at anyone who underestimates him (and by that, I mean anyone who doesn't immediately make him swallow a ticking atomic bomb, which is still only 50 percent likely to finish him off). No matter how hurt he is, Jack always rises to the occasion, often performing superhuman acts.

Winner -- Albert Pujols: Rumors of health problems caused Pujols to drop to No. 16 in our draft this year. Shame on all of us. Like Bauer, the great Pujols is clearly indestructible. I'm never going to let him slide out of the first round again, even if he is legally pronounced dead before the start next season.

Lehman Brothers Award for fastest disappearance

Lehman Brothers used to be a pillar of the financial sector of our great country. Its history and influence were woven into the very fabric of our nation's prosperity over the last century and a half. And it was gone in two weeks. Even Matt Millen had to be impressed with the efficiency the place was run into the ground.

Winner -- Carl Crawford: While Crawford hasn't been around for quite as long as Lehman Brothers, he has been fantasy gold for most of this decade. This year, the speedster's talent all but vanished, devastating the owners who took him with an early pick. Unfortunately, there was no bailout to save them.

Face Divided By Off Award for most perplexing decision

My buddy Glasgow and I were talking about the film "Face/Off" one day (OK, every day), when he pointed out the strange division sign in the title. What were the creators trying to accomplish there? What does Face divided by Off equal? Cartoonish over-acting and a plot that makes "Armageddon" look feasible? It doesn't add anything, only injecting more confusion into an already muddled movie.

Winner -- Every pitch-or-ditch decision regarding Carlos Zambrano: Just like trying to divine the creators' intention in "Face/Off," determining which Zambrano was going to show up each game left me broken and confused (and by that I mean "which Carlos Zambrano," as big brother Victor is nowhere to be found). There was seemingly no rhyme or reason to his gems and meltdowns. It's not just that he was capable of throwing a no-hitter one game and allowing eight runs the next -- he literally accomplished that feat. After suffering through this roller-coaster ride all year (I called it the Zambroni), I'm only sure of one thing -- someone else will be riding it next year.

"Usual Suspects" Award for best ending

This award doesn't really even need an introduction. If you hated the conclusion of this movie, you and I can never be friends.

Winner -- CC Sabathia: Wow. Just wow. My return to baseball fandom brought many joys into my life, but witnessing CC's incredible finish to the regular season might be at the top of the list. Four starts in a dozen days is unthinkable in the modern era. Add in the pressure of the pennant race and his demand that he get the ball with the season on the line, and we have baseball's version of Keyser Soze. As Verbal Kent said, "He showed those men of will what will really was."

As an added bonus, he gave owners the rarest of treats: back-to-back two-start weeks from their best pitcher during the fantasy playoffs. Amazing. I look forward to the Mets giving him $100 million in the offseason to be their ace AND entire bullpen. Word is he'll even throw righty when the situation calls for it.

Mike McD Award for bet I wish I hadn't made

Just like Mike McD in the opening scene of "Rounders," I made a wager early in the season that I wish I could take back. I told my leaguemates that anyone who defeated me for the title would be allowed to give a victory speech in my final column. I'd rather have lost three stacks of high society, but here it is straight from our champion, Sully.

Winner -- Victory speech: "When I received a phone call from Mad Cat (as he would soon become known to the fantasy world) around 5:35 to inform me that I live in the Central Time Zone and was missing the draft, I certainly didn't envision a championship at the end of the year. My draft strategy was out the window, all the research now worthless, and I had drafted three starting pitchers in my first five picks. Hours of researching and color-coordinated highlighting at work turned out to be for nothing, and I'm left wondering if this championship was an accident, or if draft strategies are just overrated and nothing more than a great way to waste company time. A big thanks to Branks for being a believer, and Shmays for being a hater. DDR, BP and now fantasy baseball ... whatcha got, Toby?"

Well, I still have my dignity intact since I didn't just brag to the world about how sweet I am at "Dance Dance Revolution," but other than that ... I got nothing.

Day Man Musical Episode Award for thing I'm most looking forward to

"It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia" -- the funniest show on TV -- is doing an episode this season in which Charlie writes a musical about the Day Man and his battle with the Night Man. While this may sound like gibberish to you (if it does, go out and buy the DVDs immediately -- like, right now ... don't even finish this column), I could not possibly be more excited. It's as if the last day of school fell on Christmas morning, which also happened to be the same day a new puppy delivered me a winning lottery ticket on a flying skateboard. Only better.

Winner -- The 2009 fantasy baseball season: Next season can't get here fast enough. I've got the hunger now, and I'm eager to learn from the many, many mistakes I made during my maiden voyage into the fantasy baseball waters. I won't necessarily have a leg up on the competition, but at least I won't start the race with both feet nailed to the floor.

Rekindling my love for America's pastime allowed me to stir the echoes of my childhood and reminded me of the great pleasures attached to witnessing the same knee-buckling curves and breathtaking displays of speed and power I watched with my father growing up. To me, the baseball experience is basically watching grown men play a kids' game so we can feel like kids again as grown men.

Throw in the challenges, camaraderie and opportunities to make roughly 873 too many "Saved by the Bell" jokes that come with fantasy baseball, and I can't wait to do this again.

Thanks to everyone for reading this year, and if you have a friend who is hesitating to make the plunge into fantasy baseball, give him my e-mail, and I'll talk some sense into him. And if not, I'll talk about my own team so much, he'll agree to play just to make me zip it.

See you next season.

Toby Mergler is a fantasy contributor to This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.