In a few hours, we’ll learn the first of this season’s award winners, and since I’ve been lazy and couldn’t come up with a real analysis, here’s the quick version:
I think Barry Bonds will win, yet again. But I think it should be Adrian Beltre. The simple argument/formula is take the player away from his team, and where would they be? Yes, if you take Bonds off the Giants, they’re not good at all. They might be lucky to win 75 games. But the same can be said of Beltre. In 2003, the Dodgers made an unexpected run at the postseason on the strength of their pitching. They couldn’t hit for anything. They needed an offensive upgrade, and their only key offseason acquisition was Juan Encarnacion, until Milton Bradley came over at the end of spring training. But the key to the division title was Beltre, a young player whom the Dodgers expected to become a superstar at least three years ago. He’s been drafted in so many fantasy leagues with those expectations and been dropped y Memorial Day every year. Not this time. Granted, fantasy is far from reality, but Beltre was the most valuable player this year. I’m convinced that if major league managers had some guts and pitched to him more, he wouldn’t have such gaudy numbers. For one, he wouldn’t have a .680 on base percentage. His numbers are tainted in so many ways.
NL Cy Young
For the most part, I’m not a fan of the guy, but how can Roger Clemens not win it? Randy Johnson just didn’t have the won-loss record, Jason Schmidt faded over the season’s final six weeks and Carl Pavano didn’t do enough in the final stretch to seal the award. Clemens, on the other hand, looked like his classic, dominating self for much of the season and led the Astros to the postseason. But the best part, from my perspective, is that if he had remained with the Yankees, they almost certainly would have reached the World Series, probably even won it.
NL Rookie of the Year
This one seems like a two-horse race. Those who dig deeper argue for San Diego shortstop Khalil Greene, whose offensive numbers are solid, but far from spectacular. His defense, however, is stellar and he looks like a veteran already. The other half generally falls in the camp of Pirates outfielder Jason Bay, who has the flashier home run and power numbers that Greene lacks. Bay, however, doesn’t have the advantage of playing on a contender and has less support overall in his lineup. My vote would be for Bay because he seemed, to me, like the most outstanding rookie; I think his offensive numbers were impressive enough to outrank Greene’s defensive contributions, though there is something to be said for a complete, all-around player. I’m talking out of both sides of my mouth here. End of story: I’m picking Bay, but I could see Greene getting it easily and I think it will be this year’s closest award.
NL Manager of the Year
Bobby Cox. Perhaps for the first time since 1991, most pundits expected someone other than the Braves to win the NL East. I’m sure some of the Braves themselves thought so too. But after the games were played, the same team could be found atop the division. Really though, next year is the year for someone else.
This one will probably be close as well, coming down to Vladimir Guerrero, Gary Sheffield and Manny Ramirez. I’m going with Vlad. While Anaheim got a lot of headlines for all its offseason pickups, the strong-armed right fielder became the heart of the team and performed better than what was expected of him. He was arguably the only Angels pickup to do so. Bartolo Colon was dreadful for a good stretch and while Jose Guillen certainly showed he can hit, his end-of-season benching showed he’s also, clearly, a head case. It was Guerrero who performed consistently throughout the season and who picked up the slack for the injured Garret Anderson and Troy Glaus. It’s always tough with the Yankees, because when you apply the “if you take him out of the team’s lineup” test, they usually have enough to compensate for the loss of any one player. Sheffield certainly did a lot for the Yanks, but even without him, they still had Alex Rodriguez, Derek Jeter, Hideki Matsui and Jorge Posada. And for much of the season, their pitching wasn’t as bad as it became in the postseason, so they had the arms to make up for a loss at the plate. As for Manny, he falls into the same predicament Sheffield’s in: a lineup that’s too good.
AL Cy Young
Curt Schilling will be second. Johan Santana had the better numbers overall, and this award is a bit more straightforward. It’s not which pitcher was most valuable to his team, it’s which pitcher was the best. I’m sure Schilling got the hardware he wanted anyway.
AL Rookie of the Year
I think it goes to Bobby Crosby. The A’s let Miguel Tejada leave because they thought Crosby was ready to be a big-league shortstop. Turns out they knew what they were talking about. Whether or not that decision meant the difference between first place and second place is another matter. (I happen to think it wasn’t; thinking Arthur Rhodes could be your closer was much worse.)
AL Manager of the Year
Buck Showalter. How good would the Yankees be next year if they traded Rodriguez this winter? Look at the history: the 2000 Mariners with A-Rod were 91-71 and won the wild card. In 2001 they went 116-46, setting the AL record for most wins in a season, and won the division. In 2003, the Rangers (with A-Rod) went 71-91. This year they wre 89-73 and in the AL West race until the final two weeks, even without anything resembling a competitive pitching rotation. Anyway, Showalter pulled off the managing feat of this millenium so far. And be sure to put those World Series bets down on the Rangers the year after Buck leaves. His previous two jobs ended in 1995 with the Yankees and in 2000 with the Diamondbacks.