As the season winds down, it's time to start thinking about the upcoming awards. The Yankees have a couple of players that should be considered for American League Comeback Player of the Year, which takes into consideration both: 1) what kind of season the player is having and 2) what they're coming back from. How do Alex Rodriguez and Mark Teixeira compare to the other possible candidates?
Following the 2012 season, Alex Rodriguez had surgery to repair a tear in his left hip labrum, along with a bone impingement. He started the 2013 season on the 60-day disabled list, with the expectation that he would be ready to rejoin the team around the halfway point in the season. While rehabbing his hip, the Biogenesis investigation heated up, and A-Rod was at the forefront. He finally joined the team in August, on the same day that MLB announced he would be suspended for 211 games for his involvement with Biogenesis. Rodriguez filed an appeal, and was able to continue playing the rest of the season. Eventually, MLB enforced a 162-game suspension and A-Rod missed the entire 2014 season. His return to spring training garnered a lot of attention as the media, fans, and the Yankees organization wondered if Rodriguez would have anything left in the tank. Considering that he missed an entire year of professional baseball, following a 2013-season shortened by injury, and is 40 years old, his 2015 campaign has surprised everyone. Slugging-wise, this is the best season A-Rod's had since 2010, and he's managed to stay healthy in the DH role. He hit .278/.382/.515 with 18 home runs in the first half of the season, but he fell into a slump in August (.153/.273/.259) likely due to the long season catching up with him. He's off to a better September so far, and if he can finish the season strong, he'll be one of the most compelling candidates for the award.
In March of 2013, Mark Teixeira was a member of Team USA in the World Baseball Classic, and he suffered a right tendon wrist injury while taking swings in batting practice. He started the season on the disabled list, and didn't make his season debut until the end of May. Two weeks later, he re-aggravated his wrist and returned to the DL before he ultimately cut his season short to have wrist surgery. 2014 was a rough one for Tex. Before the season even started he announced that he expected his wrist to bother him all season, and he was correct. He suffered from wrist tightness and soreness all year, and before the season ended he had received three cortisone shots to help with the pain. 2014 ended up being the worst season of his career and during the offseason he blamed it on his weak wrist and inability to do his normal strength training routine prior to last season. Who knows how much his diet changes and offseason workout plan have actually impacted his 2015 season, but this year has been one of Teixiera's best with the Yankees. Unfortunately for him, Teixeira was hit in the shin with a pitch a few weeks ago, and the lingering bone bruise has resulted in him being placed on the disabled list. He's hopeful that he'll return before the season ends, and if he can play like he did for the first few months, he might even be more deserving of the award than A-Rod.
Kendrys Morales was a free agent in 2014, and he experienced a situation very similar to Stephen Drew's. He did not sign with a team prior to spring training, and did not even ink a deal until June 8th with the Twins. Missing the first few months of the season probably contributed to the fact that Morales had the worst season of his career since becoming a full-time player. He was batting just .234/.259/.325 before the Twins traded him back to the Mariners. He hit free agency again when the season ended, and signed a two-year deal with the Royals. 2015 has been a much better season for Morales, who is hitting like he did back in 2009/2010 with the Angels before his unfortunate ankle-breaking incident. He might not have the strongest case for Comeback Player of the Year, but it's worth acknowledging that he's greatly improved since his partial 2014 season (unlike someone we know).
Prior to the start of the 2014 season, the Tigers traded Prince Fielder to the Rangers in exchange for Ian Kinsler. Fielder's tenure with the Rangers did not get off to the best start as he suffered from a herniated disk in his neck and had to undergo season-ending cervical fusion surgery at the end of May. He reportedly had been suffering from arm weakness that can be attributed to the neck injury for several weeks before the surgery, and that likely led to his decrease in power. Now that he's healthy again, Fielder is back to hitting like his old self and has the fourth highest batting average in the American League.
In April 2014, Jason Kipnis suffered from a right oblique injury and landed on the disabled list for a month. He returned to the Indians at the end of May, but the oblique injury nagged him for the remainder of the season. When asked about the injury last year, Kipnis acknowledged that he had to make adjustments to his swing because of it. The injury finally healed over the offseason, and his 2015 season has been one of the best in his career so far.
The 2013 season was undoubtedly a breakout one for Chris Davis, who finished the season with 53 home runs. However, he was not able to duplicate those results in 2014 and finished the season hovering under the Mendoza Line. He missed some time with a left oblique strain, and was suspended 25 games during the end of the season after testing positive for amphetamine, which he attributed to his Adderall prescription. He had a therapeutic use exemption the previous season, but not in 2014. It's worth noting that he has a therapeutic use exemption again this year. There was some doubt whether he could hit for power like he did in 2013, but his 2015 season has been a step in that direction. As of September 5th, he has hit the most home runs in all of baseball.
During the 2013 season, Jose Inglesias was traded from the Red Sox to the Tigers, where he earned regular playing time after Jhonny Peralta was suspended 50 games, but his luck ran out the next season. He did not play a single game in 2014 due to stress fractures in both of his shins. Inglesias reportedly suffered from shin issues with the Red Sox as well, but not to the same extent. After a year of rehab and rest, Inglesias returned to the Tigers in 2015 and pretty much picked up where he left off with a triple slash nearly identical to his 2013 numbers.
Ryan Madson was drafted by the Phillies back in 1998, and finally broke into the majors and stayed there in 2004. He was very successful during his time in Philly, working both as a starter and a reliever, set-up man and closer. When he hit free agency at the end of 2011, he signed a contract one-year deal with the Reds, but tore his UCL ligament during spring training and had to have Tommy John surgery. Heading into the 2013 season, the Angels signed him to a one-year deal, though he was still rehabbing, and was eventually released without having pitched in a game for them. It ultimately took him three years to work his way back from the Tommy John surgery, and the Royals signed him to a minor league contract in 2015. After such a long break, he's been fantastic out of the bullpen this season. However, he hasn't pitched since August 22nd due to a case of dead arm. Based on the amount of time he missed, and how well he's pitched this year, Madson might be the clear-cut winner for Comeback Player of the Year.
Joe Blanton struggled immensely during his 2013 season in the Angels' rotation. He made 20 starts and had a record of 2-14, while giving up a ton of home runs. Prior to the start of the 2014 season, he was granted an unconditional release from the Angels and signed a minor league contract with the Athletics. He made exactly two starts in the minors before he announced his retirement from baseball. That seemed like the end of his career, but Blanton decided to make a comeback for the 2015 season and he's done exactly that. He signed a minor league deal with the Royals, and made it to the majors by mid-May where he mostly worked as a long-man out of the bullpen, though he started four games for them. He ended up being traded to the Pirates for cash at the end of July. Since he switched from the AL to the NL, it's hard to say which league he would hypothetically earn the award in, but while working mostly in long relief, Blanton has put up some of the best numbers of his career.
Who do you think should win AL Comeback Player of the Year? Let us know in the comments and vote in the poll below.