More baseball: The Fisch Fry's 2006 Season Awards -- American League MVP -- Because of the Red Sox collapse, the man who deserves it most, David Ortiz, won't get the award. The Twins have several decent candidates, with Joe Mauer, Justin Morneau, and pitcher Johan Santana. This will probably work against all three. Frank Thomas will get some votes in Oakland, but this would appear to be Derek Jeter's year. Obviously, on numbers alone, there is no way that you can argue that Jeter is the best or most valuable, but Jeter's genius has always transcended his numbers. He'll finally get the recognition with this year's MVP award, virtually punching his ticket to Cooperstown.
American League Cy Young: Johan Santana should get every vote.
In the National League: As a Mets' fan, I'd like to put forward a case for Carlos Beltran. He's certainly been incredibly valuable. Unfortunately, injuries may have cost him some home runs and RBIs, and definitely negatively impacted his batting average down the stretch. There are two players probably more deserving of the award -- Ryan Howard and Albert Pujols.
Howard had an incredible season, falling just short of the 60-home run season that only Ruth and Maris touched before McGwire, Sosa, Bonds and designer-steroids arrived on the scene. And, though the Howard's Phillies did just miss out on a playoff spot, they actually had a better record than Pujols' St. Louis Cardinals. Pujols had a phenomenal year, just missing out on a 50-home run season, even though he missed a bunch of games with an injury just before the All-Star break. Even with that missed time, Pujols finished in the top three for all three Triple Crown categories.
Though the Phillies had a better record, the Cardinals, and not the Philies, are in the playoffs, and that will make all the difference in the MVP voting. Pujols will win the award, though Howard would probably win it, if the two teams' fortunes were reversed. If the Houston Astros had won one more game -- and the N.L. Central division, I think Howard would win this award (especially if the Phillies hadn't faded in the final week). I find it amazing that two players so young are so good. As it is, Albert Pujols should win the MVP this year.
The National League Cy Young -- with no pitcher winning more than 16 games, there is no pitcher in the N.L. that clearly deserves the award -- maybe none that deserve the award, at all. Still, someone has to win the award every year. So, I would go with Brandon Webb, He was the best pitcher in the league from start to finish, tied for the lead in wins and No. 1 in E.R.A.
Notice that I didn't pick winners for Rookie of the Year? It's a very strange award in baseball. Because of the minor league system, baseball has had to develop arbitrary rules for who qualifies as a rookie. Many rookies, probably most rookies, have played in the majors beforethis season, but not enough to lose their eligibilty for the Rookie of the Year award.
Still, there was a bumper crop in the National League, at least. In the N.L., I'm partial to the Nationals' Ryan Zimmerman, who had already convinced me he was going to be a star when he was up with the Nationals last September. The Marlins have four excellent candidates -- Marlins' pitchers Josh Johnson (one of the league's best pitchers this year) and Anibel Sanchez (pitched a no-hitter), and infielders Dan Uggla and Hanley Ramirez. The best rookie pitcher might have been Matt Cain, who was the best pitcher in the National League over the last 6 or 8 weeks. The Dodgers have a fine rookie in Andre Ethier, but I don't see him as a serious candidate for the award, with so many other top contenders. Luke Scott of the Houston Astros and Conor Jackson of the Diamondbacks are also noteworthy rookies (I think Jackson counts as a rookie).
The American League had some good young pitching, though most seemed to end up badly, or on the disabled list. Jered Weaver was unbelievably poised and effective for a real rookie, ringing up a stunning 11-2 record. Detroit's Justin Verlander was also great, and looked like a serious Cy Young candidate, until he struggled down the stretch, in August and September. Another Tiger, Joel Zumaya, was a revelation in Detroit's bullpen, with his 100 mile-an-hour fastballs. All of these fine young hurlers were surpassed by the Twins' rookie thrower, Francisco Liriano, who was a dominating a rookie pitcher as there has ever been. He looks like he might be the second coming of Mariano Rivera with a truly unhittable pitch. Though he pitched 23 innings last year, I believe that Francisco Liriano is eligible for the A.L. Rookie of the Year award, and he will almost certainly win it.
Now, we can put the regular season behind us and enjoy what promises to be a very intriguing postseason. The Yankees may be the early favorites, but the Twins are a very close second in the A.L. If Liriano were healthy, the Twins would probably be the favorite in the American League. Their late-season fade notwithstanding, the Tigers have a really good team, too. The A's seem like the one team that doesn't look like a serious World Series contender in the A.L. -- so, they will probably end up surprising everybody. I'm expecting a great championship series between the Yankees and Twins.
In the National League -- I'm very nervous about the Mets' pitching. They have the best line-up, but their starting pitching just doesn't seem World Series material. That said, if El Duque and Glavine are on their games, the Mets should have enough to get through. Still, the Dodgers have an awfully good team, and will give the Mets all they can handle. The Padres' pitching should be enough to overcome the Cardinals' bats, especially since St. Louis' pitching seems so weak right now. A Mets - Padres series would be an interesting match-up. As a Mets' fan, I'm feeling a little better about the team than I did a couple of days ago, when I gave the Mets little chance of beating both the Dodgers and Padres. Now, I'd give them at least even odds...but, I admit I'm biased.
So, where does that leave us? Another Subway Series? Baseball could do worse. I'd like to think that baseball fans across the country would be more interested this time around, when compared to the 2000 series -- a great, hard-fought series, even though the Yankees won in 5 games. I have to believe that MLB and FOX are hoping for a Yankees - Dodgers match-up -- which would be a ratings bonanza. I think that's a decent possibility -- about as likely as a Mets - Yankees match. And I'm not counting out the Twins, or even the Tigers or Padres. I plan to enjoy it all, regardless. Hope you will, too.
And one last note -- the Federales are saying the L.A. Times got the story 'significantly' wrong -- they aren't saying which of the players named in the article were not fingered in Grimsley's affidavit, but it appears that at least one player has been unfairly maligned.