The plan was to cut the field in half, bring the competition down to the final two and have some sort of Bachelor-style rose ceremony to name our third James Mungro Memorial Award sponsored by Sony’s MLB The Show 13.*
But we’re all veterans of competition. We know the JMMA isn’t simply handed out when it’s convenient. It’s earned. And players don’t wait around to take it at the last minute. When Christopher Brandon Bootcheck grabbed the first ever JMMA he snatched it from a field of six remaining contestants with two weeks remaining in Spring Training. Now, we have another following in his footsteps, yanking the award away before the scheduled announcement.
This third edition of the award lived in the shadow of Bootcheck. It was a search to replace him and all his quirky ways. But as time went on I think we all realized there is no replacing Christopher Brandon Bootcheck, inaugural winner of the JMMA. (Who, by the way, is in minor league camp with the Yankees.) No one could be as weird, as entertaining, as strange as Bootcheck. No, while the main criteria remained the same, all the minutia Bootcheck brought to the award didn’t have to be replicated. We had to go the other way. We had to find someone who could create his own niche in JMMA lore.
Trevor Bell wasn’t that guy. The candidate most like Bootcheck seems like a good guy. The problem is he sucked this year: Six games played, 6.2 IP, 4 earned runs for an ERA of 5.40. He was the first to go.
Dixon Machado just wasn’t ready. As much as I loved him and his name and that’s he’s been forced to sit in the corner as the evil Eugenio Suarez receives alll the attention I’ve been blind to the fact that a 21-year-old who hasn’t even reached AA yet has no chance in making the team. He was sent to AA Erie last week. He’s The Detroit Hustle’s Prospect At-Large, but that means nothing. I just made it up now.
I want to like Kevin Russo, I really do. The phantom JMMA winner in his career with the Yankees added some experience to the field. He slightly outperformed Machado this Spring and, in a tighter race, would have been a finalist. But I know just enough about Kevin Russo to be bored with him.
Which means your third James Mungro Memorial Award Winner is Jose Ricardo Alvarez.
WOOOOO! POP THE CHAMPAGNE! LET’S GET DRUNK!
The 23-year-old pitcher has put on a Bootcheck-esque performance in Spring Training, pitching seven innings and posting a 1.29 ERA. His eight hits allowed were a little high and at age 23 with no AAA ball under his belt you could make the case that he doesn’t stand much better chance than Machado of making the team. But there’s a major difference be Alvarez and Machado.
We know nothing about Alvarez. NOTHING! And it is liberating.
OK, we know some things.
We know he started in the Red Sox organization and found his way into the Marlins organization in 2010 by way of the trade that sent the immortal Jeremy Hermida to Boston in 2009. We know everything I wrote about him in my profile, including that he signed with the Tigers last November and owns two Marlins Organization Changeup of the Year Awards. (Or whatever they’re called.)
But the facts still remain hazy. When a guy hails from Venezuela (not the most forthcoming of nations) and has a name like Jose Alvarez finding anything concrete about him is difficult.
Did he have this shoulder surgery MLive.com’s James Schmehl speaks of or not? (Schemehl continues to refuse comment) And if he did, how the hell did he pitch in 100+ innings after getting the surgery? What is he doing with all those equipment bags in the picture at the top of this post? Is he angry at them? Is he trying to figure out which one is his? Is he guarding them from some monster inside his head?
Alvarez is the anti-Bootcheck. He is a man whose career is far from determined, whose role is far from defined and whose life is far from known. Jose Ricardo Alvarez may not be his real name. He may not be 23 years old. His changeup may not be that good. You could tell me almost anything about Jose Alvarez and I would believe it.
There’s just one thing I know: He’s your James Mungro Memorial Award winner.
*(Just kidding, they didn’t really sponsor it, but they should. Write them. Or your Congressmen. Just write somebody.)