Note: this is one side of the argument, making the case for Sean Rash. For the other side, read why Jason Belmonte should win the Player of the Year Award.
Sean Rash, over the course of one tournament (the season-ending Tournament of Champions), changed the debate over who will be PBA Player of the Year. Prior to Rash winning the TOC, most people were discussing whether Jason Belmonte, Mike Fagan or Norm Duke would secure the award. Rash’s name wasn’t absent, but it wasn’t prevalent.
The only reason: Rash hadn’t yet won a title during the season. Every single one of his season stats was at or near the top of the entire PBA roster, but because he hadn’t won, he was being left out.
When Rash won the Tournament of Champions, he not only won an event—he won a major title. Now, at the end of the season, Rash is in a battle with Belmonte that means a lot more than that silly bottle stuff from last summer: who is the best bowler in the world?
Stats Say Rash
If someone were to ask you who led the PBA Tour in earnings, who led the PBA Tour in competition points and who led the PBA Tour in average over the past season, you could answer all three questions with two words: Sean Rash. Nobody was better than Rash statistically. And in a sport like bowling, statistics usually determine the winners.
A Season of Consistency
During the season-opening World Series of Bowling, everyone was talking about Rash. He was dominating the field in every event, making fans, journalists and fellow bowlers wonder if this was the year Rash finally broke through to the potential everyone said he had inside him.
Out of eight events contested and recording during the World Series, Rash made it to the TV finals in five of them. If you count the World Bowling Tour Finals, which were also held during that final weekend of the WSOB, then Rash made it to six of nine.
Only one other bowler made it to TV as often: Belmonte. And yes, it should be noted Belmonte won three events at the World Series to Rash’s zero.
However, as the rest of the season went on, Rash continued to be in legitimate contention for almost every title. He cashed in 12 of 13 events and made it to match play in 10 (nobody else on Tour made it to match play 10 times).
Belmonte also cashed in 12 of 13 events over the course of the season, but he never looked like the force he was at the World Series. Yes, he won three titles—but those were all won over a short period of time in November. As the year went on, Rash got noticeably better, maintaining a high level of bowling from November through April. Rash finished in the top five nine times, while Belmonte managed to finish in the top five seven times.
Performance in Majors
Belmonte definitely did show up in the majors, finishing in the top nine in all four events and making it to the TV finals in three of them. However, he did not win any of them. Rash did.
Plus, in two of the three majors in which Belmonte made it to TV, Rash beat him (Rash finished first in the TOC to Belmonte’s third and Rash was third in the World Championship while Belmonte was fourth).
In all sports with similar tournament structures (golf and tennis, to name two others), major titles are worth far more than a standard title. Rash had one this season. Belmonte had zero.
Consider these three facts:
- Rash led the PBA Tour in earnings ($140,250)
- Rash led the PBA Tour in average (228.13)
- Rash led the PBA Tour in competition points (201,293)
Up until last year, the Player of the Year Award was always awarded to whichever bowler racked up the most competition points. Rash edged Belmonte by more than 13,000 in that category. Nobody earned more money than Rash. Nobody averaged higher than Rash over the course of the entire season.
This is Rash’s Year
Winning the Tournament of Champions solidified Rash’s rightful claim to the Player of the Year Award. He had the stats all along. The only thing that was preventing people from giving him the proper credit was the lack of a title—people didn’t want to name a Player of the Year who hadn’t won. But when Rash blew into the TOC finals as the top seed, then dispensed of Ryan Ciminelli to win the title, his stats could no longer be ignored.
There’s only one way to do justice to a man who won a major title, led the PBA Tour in earnings, points, average, match-play appearances and top-five finishes: being named PBA Player of the Year.
For an opposing argument, read why Jason Belmonte should be Player of the Year.