|And the winner is ...|
by Adam Geiger
Pseudo-expert's picks for baseball's big prizes
With only a week and change remaining in the 2006 Major League Baseball season, some of the most interesting races won't be found any- where near the league standings.
As teams continue to jockey for a position down the stretch, the same can be said for those in contention for the Cy Young, Rookie of the Year, and Most Valuable Player awards in each league.
Although I won't be given a bal- lot at season's end, that won't stop me from offering up my thoughts on who should take home the hardware.
AL MVP: Derek Jeter, NYY - As well as David Ortiz performed in clutch moments, and Johan Santana kept hitters off balance all season, Jeter deserves the nod over any con- tender for a few key reasons. In Ortiz's case, Jeter has the edge sim- ply because his team will be playing in October. With Santana, the fact that he plays a position that only requires appearing once a week could end up hurting his chances. Jeter has helped his team win with both his bat and glove, and leads the Yankees into the playoffs as World Series favourites.
NL MVP: Ryan Howard, PHI - In only his second year, Howard has vaulted himself into the upper eche- lon of the league's power hitters. At the time of production, Howard leads the Major's in homeruns (57), runs batted in (140), and slugging percent- age (.677). With the Phillies making a late season surge towards the wild- card spot, it will be difficult to deny the sophomore an MVP vote, even if they come up short.
AL Cy Young: Johan Santana, MIN - Before teammate Francisco Liriano went down with a season- ending elbow injury, this may have been a close race. However, with Santana poised to become the first Triple Crown winner since 2002, coupled with the Twins magnificent second half, there doesn't seem to be anyone who can stop a second con- secutive Santana victory.
NL Cy Young: Chris Carpenter, STL - Unlike the American League, this race should be considerably tighter. However, as is the case in the AL, we should see another repeat winner. Chris Carpenter has remained consistent throughout the season, and held his Cardinals on top of the NL Central. With an impressive 2.79 ERA to go along with 15 wins, last year's Cy Young should do it again in 2006, with Brandon Webb coming in at a close second.
AL Rookie of the Year: Justin Verlander, DET - Again, had Liriano not went down with an injury, his name would likely be here. However, it's hard to deny what Verlander has accomplished as a rookie, leading the upstart Tigers to playoff baseball only three seasons after losing 119 games. Although he has slipped a touch late in the season, a 3.42 ERA and 16 wins is still more than deserving of ROY honors.
NL Rookie of the Year: Freddy Sanchez, PIT - Although consistent- ly ending up as one of the worst teams year in and year out, Pittsburgh has become a breeding grounds for talented rookie hitters. After Canadian Jason Bay walked away with the trophy in 2004, Sanchez looks like a lock to do the same in '06, as he leads the National League in batting average (.341), and sits third in hits (182) and doubles (48). While there won't be playoff baseball in Pittsburgh this season, sunny skies may be on the horizon with new play- ers like Sanchez.