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2007 Unsung Hero

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I'm back from the BlogWorld Expo in Las Vegas and it was an extremely successful event on the sports blogging side. We had sessions featuring Rob Neyer of ESPN.com, Will Leitch of Deadspin and a cadre of incredibly talented sports bloggers. And the best part? We had some great interaction with aspiring bloggers, which was really the intention of the event. We need to push sports blogging forward and I think the sessions did just that.

Any way, it's officially award season for Major League Baseball and I wanted to do my own little award today. I wanted to name the A's Unsung Hero for the 2007 season. Now it's tough to have an unsung hero since the team didn't wind up being a playoff team in 2007, so really, how much did this player actually help the team be successful? On the contrary, I think the A's might've been ridiculously putrid had it not been for this one particular player's contributions in 07.

There are some qualified candidates on the A's. Mark Ellis would rank right near the top and could be argued as being the true unsung hero for 2007. He not only played some of the most stellar defense second base has ever seen (seriously, outside of Palmeiro getting the gold glove for playing something like 24 games several years back, has there been a bigger injustice than Ellis NOT winning a gold glove yet), but Ellis was a very good offensive player in 2007 as well. Some could argue Jack Cust or even possibly Jack Hannahan.

But I think the biggest unsung hero the A's had in 2007 was Alan Embree. I was not an Embree fan coming into this season. I remember him from his Red Sox days and he seemed such an integral part of that "idiot" team that I couldn't really seem to get past it. I was happy the A's got him because I thought he would be a nice complementary piece to Street, Duchscherer and Calero. Well, Embree wound up being infinitely more valuable than all three because those three all had major injury problems. Embree essentially wound up being the default closer because he was the guy with the most experience. Now, I'm not one of those people who believes that anyone can close because I do think there is a huge mental aspect to being the last guy to secure a win. Embree did the job very well, securing 17 saves out of 21 chances. Street wound up with 16 out of 21.

I know Embree wasn't exactly perfection this year, but he was pretty damn good in a role that no one expected him in. If you remember correctly, the A's tried to go to Duke first and then Calero and finally Embree. His 3.97 ERA wasn't something that would blow anyone away and his allowing a .720 OPS against right-handed batters versus a .578 OPS against lefties tells that he probably is better suited for LOOGY duty, but the A's would not have even won 76 games this year without the services of Embree. I mean, their choices probably would've been Casilla or Lugo or continue to have Calero try and struggle in that role. It would've been disastrous.

And that's the reason that I give my unsung hero of 2007 award to Alan Embree, even over guys like Shannon Stewart and Ellis.

Who is your Unsung Hero for 2007?

Oh and I'm going to be a nag about this, but don't forget to vote for Bill King for the 2008 Ford C. Frick Award.