Comeback Player of Year up to fans

Comeback Player of Year up to fans

Winning a Comeback Player of the Year Award is not something anyone sets out to accomplish, because it means that some kind of adversity has befallen them and interrupted a successful Major League career.

But there are a dozen current players who faced such setbacks and have showed remarkable fortitude and resilience in 2005, and fans at now have the exclusive -- and challenging -- privilege of determining which of those 12 most deserve the honor.

Major League Baseball and Viagra, the presenting sponsor, have announced the nominees for the 2005 Comeback Player of the Year Award, and balloting is now under way. Your vote will automatically enter you into a sweepstakes for a chance to win great prizes -- like game-used bases from the All-Star Game or the honor of throwing the ceremonial first pitch at a World Series game this fall.

In the American League, the candidates are Jason Giambi of the Yankees, Roy Halladay of the Blue Jays, Bob Wickman of the Indians, Jay Gibbons of the Orioles, Richie Sexson of the Mariners and Barry Zito of the A's.

In the National League, the choices are Cliff Floyd of the Mets, Brian Fuentes of the Rockies, Troy Glaus of the Diamondbacks, Ken Griffey Jr. of the Reds, Todd Jones of the Marlins and Andy Pettitte of the Astros.

These 12 players all share similar stories. Perhaps their sentiments are best expressed by Griffey, who has looked a lot more like the Junior of old throughout 2005.

"It's easier to give up. I'm not a very vocal player," said Griffey. "I lead by example. I take the attitude that I've got to go out and do it. Because of who I am, I've got to give everything I've got to come back."

All of them have, and now it's up to you to decide a winner in each league. Here is a closer look at your candidates:


Jason Giambi, Yankees: After an eight-year stretch in which he became known as one of the most dominant players in the game, Giambi appeared feeble in only 80 games in 2004. He was out with a pituitary tumor and an intestinal parasite, and then his situation only seemed to worsen when he found himself embroiled in the BALCO steroid controversy that followed him well into this Spring Training. But he's back, and seemingly in good graces with fans again. Through his first 100 games, Giambi had 21 homers and 51 RBIs, lifting his batting average to .274 and his on-base percentage to .442 -- which would be his best since 2001 with Oakland.

Jay Gibbons, Orioles: The outfielder/first baseman drove in 100 runs in 2003, but in 2004 he was able to appear in only 97 games, and hit a career-low 10 homers, because of two trips to the disabled list with injuries to his lower back and hip. Through his first 101 games, Gibbons had 17 homers and 55 RBIs.

Roy Halladay, Blue Jays: It was hard to duplicate a season like the one Toronto's ace had in 2003, when he won the Cy Young Award with a 22-7 record and 204 strikeouts while walking only 32 batters. But the way he fell off in 2004 -- struggling with an uncooperative right shoulder and making two DL trips on the way to an 8-8 season -- makes him a prime comeback candidate. Halladay was 12-4 through his first 19 starts, going the distance five times, and striking out 108 while walking only 18.

Richie Sexson, Mariners: Sexson was limited to 23 games, nine homers and 23 RBIs in 2004 after being traded to Arizona and then being injured. With Seattle, he has earned his keep, notching his third season of at least 30 homers despite learning pitchers in a new league.

Bob Wickman, Indians: Wickman missed the entire 2003 season and the first half of last season because of Tommy John surgery on his right elbow. In 2005, he has been the linchpin of a Cleveland bullpen that has boasted the best ERA in the AL, and he has been leading the league in saves as well. Perhaps no one player deserves more credit for where the Indians are in the Wild Card race than Wickman.

Barry Zito, Athletics: Zito wasn't exactly awful last season for the A's, going 11-11 with 213 innings and twice as many strikeouts as walks. But when you've gone 23-5, as he did in 2002, more is expected. Zito was the only holdover from the Big Three after Tim Hudson and Mark Mulder were traded, and this season the lefty with the big hook has been a comeback within the comeback: 11-9 in his first 26 starts, and probably headed for his most strikeouts since his Cy Young season.


Cliff Floyd, Mets: After missing 49 games and accumulating as many strikeout as hits in 2004, Floyd has had a renaissance. He has been the Mets' MVP, putting up a season filled with critical hits, extraordinary catches and assists, and there is a good chance he will finish around .300 with 30 homers and 100 RBIs.

Brian Fuentes, Rockies: Colorado hasn't gained much attention this year because of its overall play, but Fuentes is a definite dark-horse candidate. He missed 62 games last year because of a strained back. Surgery wasn't an option, so he rehabbed, and this season he has come back as a durable and consistent NL force. Fuentes posted 20 saves in 23 opportunities through Aug. 17, and he ended up the winner after one of his blown saves. He had made 60 appearances, during which he struck out 65 in 57 innings pitched.

Troy Glaus, Diamondbacks: Nothing seemed to go right for Glaus after he won World Series MVP honors with the 2002 Angels. He appeared in only 91 games in 2003, then only 58 last season. In May of last year, he underwent surgery to repair fraying of the labrum and rotator cuff in his right shoulder. Glaus returned to help the Angels to the playoffs last fall, and he has been his more familiar self this season with the Diamondbacks. He had 26 homers and 75 RBIs in his first 112 games, a big reason for the club's return to contention after a disastrous 2004.

Ken Griffey Jr., Reds: Already in 2005, Junior has played in more games than in any season since his first one with the Reds in 2000. His durability, of course, has been his bugaboo -- he appeared in only 83 games in 2004 because of injury. But he had 29 homers, 85 RBIs and a .290 average through 113 games this season. With 124 hits, he was on pace to have his most in any season this decade, and he still runs down balls in center and gives no quarter to baserunners.

Todd Jones, Marlins: Jones was a setup man last season for the Reds and then the Phillies, and for the latter he was 3-3 with a 4.97 ERA in 27 uneventful games. Jones was signed by Florida this spring to a one-year contract, and at the age of 37 was third in line for the closer role. After injuries to Antonio Alfonseca and Guillermo Mota, Jones stepped in and has been nearly automatic: 26-for-28 in save opportunities.

Andy Pettitte, Astros: The lefty was sorely missed by the Astros last season, especially in his customary October role. He was able to pitch in only 15 games, finally undergoing season-ending surgery in August to repair a torn flexor tendon in his left elbow. He has been a quality-start machine again lately, giving the Astros exactly what they wanted. If you had to pinpoint one main reason for Houston's surge from NL Central obscurity during this season, it would be Pettitte.

Mark Newman is enterprise editor for Reporters Anthony Castrovince and Mark Feinsand contributed to this story. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.