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Jonny Venters should be the Comeback Player of the Year (and now he is)

No one deserved it more.

Tampa Bay Rays v Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim Photo by Jayne Kamin-Oncea/Getty Images

Update 11/20/18: Venters has won the NL Comeback Player of the Year award.

On Tuesday, the MLB Players Association announced the shortlist of candidates for the Comeback Player of the Year award. Now, I don’t mean to besmirch the MLBPA and how their players opted to vote this year, and I don’t mean to be cliched with defining “comeback,” but since we’re here, let’s do the latter.

A comeback is “a return by a well-known person, especially an entertainer or sports player, to the activity in which they have formerly been successful.” According to the voting results, that includes Michael Brantley in Cleveland, Edwin Jackson in Oakland, and David Price.

Yes, you read that right.

Does the 2018 season of David Price, an American League contender for the award, count as a comeback? His ERA went from 3.38 in 2017 to... 3.58 in 2018. Yes, he went up from 100 innings of work and generally looked good, but by all other metrics he was not a wildly improved pitcher.

Other finalist names out there like Matt Kemp for the Dodgers would be certainly deserving of his nod. But there is one player, one name, that has been so grossly overlooked, we need to draw attention to it.


Who, more than Jonny Venters, deserves to win this award in 2018? He should win it for both leagues. The award, quite frankly, should be henceforth known as the “Jonny Venters Award.”

Venters, who underwent three (and a half) Tommy John surgeries.

Venters, who did not play professional baseball since 2012, before the Rays took a chance on him, and kept taking chances on him.

Venters, who returned in 2018 and had a 3.67 ERA, a 3.45 FIP, and a 1.223 WHIP pitching in high leverage. And while those numbers may not reflect the glory of his 2011 All-Star season with the Braves, they do show a healthy relief pitcher back on the mound after a six year absence.

What is that performance, if not the greatest comeback story of the season? And Venters, ever soft-spoken and humble, wouldn’t be the one to tell you he deserves it.

“I’m just grateful to be here,” he told us back in May, ahead of a game against the Orioles. He praised the team and said he was just going to enjoy the ride as long as he could.

Before the end of the season, the Rays had sent him back to the Braves, in a move that can only be seen as the team just being nice, and saying good-bye to the player they had helped return to the game by returning him to the team of his glory days for a playoff push was, simply put, classy.

By the end of the season, Venters had appeared in 50 games between the two clubs, had three saves, and had proven that he was back.

He had made one of the most cinematic comebacks in baseball.

There is no one who deserves the Comeback of the Year award more than Jonny Venters.