ST. LOUIS -- It's been a long season for the Cardinals, but it's easy to imagine how things could have gone much, much worse.
Just think for a moment about where the Redbirds would be without the crackerjack work of their exceptional bullpen, and especially the man at the back end of that 'pen -- Jason Isringhausen. The Cards closer has rebounded from a miserable individual campaign in 2006 to put up one of his best seasons in '07.
As a result, Isringhausen is one of 10 finalists for the DHL Delivery Man of the Year Award. He's blown only two saves all year, helping make sure that when St. Louis does have a lead in the late innings, the Cards are able to bring the victory home.
"I'm happy with the way things went, and I proved to myself that I can still get people out," said Isringhausen, who underwent season-ending hip surgery in September 2006. "That's all I was wanting to do when I came back."
Other finalists are: Jonathan Papelbon (Red Sox), Joe Nathan (Twins), J.J. Putz (Mariners), Francisco Cordero (Brewers), Jose Valverde (Diamondbacks), Francisco Rodriguez (Angels), Takashi Saito (Dodgers), Bobby Jenks (White Sox) and Trevor Hoffman (Padres).
The "DHL Presents the Major League Baseball Delivery Man of the Month Award" winner is selected by a special Major League Baseball "yellow-ribbon" panel that includes Mike Bauman, national columnist for MLB.com; Rich "Goose" Gossage, the nine-time All-Star pitcher; Darryl Hamilton, former Major League outfielder and a member of the MLB On-Field Operations staff; Jerome Holtzman, the official MLB Historian and a member of the writer's wing of the Hall of Fame; and Bob Watson, Vice President, On-Field Operations, Major League Baseball.
At the conclusion of the season, Major League Baseball fans have the opportunity to determine which relief pitcher had the best overall season and deserves the third-annual "DHL Presents the Major League Baseball Delivery Man of the Year Award." A list of finalists will be selected based on statistical qualifiers, and fans will be able to vote for the winner online at MLB.com, the official Web site of Major League Baseball. The "DHL Presents the Major League Baseball Delivery Man of the Year Award" will be presented during the Major League Baseball postseason.
The Cardinals wish Isringhausen could enjoy a greater honor this year -- something like what Adam Wainwright got to do in 2006, when he recorded the final out of the World Series. But any recognition for the St. Louis closer is well-received in the clubhouse, where Isringhausen has earned tremendous admiration.
"You think about the pain and the seriousness of the procedure he had last year, and how hard he had to rehab it," said manager Tony La Russa. "He's a big, strong guy, so he puts a lot of stress on that operated area. I think it's major. He's had a [great] year."
Matthew Leach is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.