(Note: You can also read this in the Democrat today. Had to hold off on posting these until the story ran in my paper.)
Another Trenton Thunder season in the books, and another season of Ashmore’s Awards get handed out.
This is my third season of covering the Thunder for the Democrat as a writer, and my fifth overall. In taking a look at these awards, I’ll also provide the history of the players who have won them in seasons past, including when they were handed out by good friend and colleague Scott Stanchak when he was on the beat from 2003-05.
As I said last season, this is some of the most insignificant hardware this team will have won this year, as the Thunder went on to win their second consecutive Eastern League championship.
In any event, drumroll please…
Ashmore’s 2008 Trenton Thunder MVP: P.J. Pilittere
Much of Trenton’s success was attributed to the pitching staff, which led the league in ERA (3.11), fewest hits allowed (1065), shutouts (16) and strikeouts (1122). But largely overlooked was one of the big reasons behind their success, starting catcher P.J. Pilittere.
That all started to change this year, when the backstop played in his first Eastern League All-Star Game and started collecting some clutch hits to give the Thunder some key wins.
With Francisco Cervelli having a spot on the 40-man roster and already having made his big league debut, there are many who feel that Pilittere’s days in the Yankees organization are numbered. But he deserves a chance to start in Triple-A Scranton next year, and shouldn’t be overlooked if the big league club has a need behind the plate.
Scott Stanchak’s Previous Winners: Brian Myrow (2003), Mitch Jones (2004), Shelley Duncan (2005)
Ashmore’s Previous Winners: Randy Ruiz (2006), Noah Hall (2007)
Ashmore’s 2008 Trenton Thunder Cy Young: Jason Jones
For most of the 2008 season, Jason Jones was the best pitcher in the entire Eastern League. He got the start in the league’s annual midsummer classic, and even saw some time in Triple-A Scranton.
But like Pilittere, there are many who feel that Jones doesn’t have a very bright future in the Yankees organization. And just as is the case with Pilittere, the organization would be missing out if they didn’t offer him a legitimate chance at the next level in 2009.
He finished 2008 with a 13-7 record and 3.33 ERA, and appropriately enough was on the mound to record the final out when the Thunder won the championship at home in Waterfront Park.
Scott Stanchak’s Previous Winners: Andy Beal (2003), Dave Shepard (2004), Justin Pope (2005)
Ashmore’s Previous Winner: Phil Hughes (2006), Alan Horne and Scott Patterson (2007)
Ashmore’s 2008 Trenton Thunder Good Guy Award: Tony Franklin
It’s interesting in that if I were to give this award to a player, Pilittere and Jones would probably have ended up splitting it. But it would be hard to find anyone more deserving than manager Tony Franklin.
With my increased involvement with the Thunder this season, I found myself needing to lean on Franklin more for quotes and information about his team’s players. He was always more than accommodating, and would often keep us in his office for well over the time we were supposed to be in there, telling great stories and making us feel like we belonged in there.
Franklin got to spend the last week at Yankee Stadium in uniform, “called up” to the big leagues by the 26-time World Champions as a reward for back-to-back championships. For someone who has helped so many careers over as long of a period of time as he has, it was fitting that the first time he ever stepped foot in “The House That Ruth Built” would be wearing the famous Yankee pinstripes.
Future “Good Guy” awards will be named after the Thunder skipper.
Ashmore’s Previous Winners: Charlie Manning (2006), Jason Brown (2007)