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I'm sick of everyone searching for reasons not to give the award to Albert Pujols. Yes, the award is for most valuable, not best player, and Pujols is a cleaner pick for the latter distinction. But while I prefer my MVP to at least experience pennant-race pressure if he does not play for a postseason qualifier, the Cardinals contended practically all season, greatly exceeding every expert's (ahem) expectations. Remove Pujols from the equation, and the team would not have been nearly as competitive.

If the award were for second-half MVP, then the cases for Ryan Howard and Carlos Delgado would be much stronger, as would the cases for CC Sabathia and Manny Ramirez. But Howard's batting average/on-base/slugging line on June 12 — with 42 percent of the Phillies' season complete — was .204-.306-.436. Delgado's surge effectively began on June 27, nearly halfway into the Mets' season. Neither is as good a defender nor baserunner as Pujols.

Sabathia and Ramirez? My friend Joel Sherman of the New York Post challenged me about Ramirez in the Mets' clubhouse a few weeks back, saying, "You tell me, how can anyone have been more valuable?" Clearly, the same question applies to Sabathia. But here's the problem: While the MVP ballot states, "There is no clear-cut definition of what Most Valuable means," it also lists five criteria. The first is, "Actual value of a player to his team, that is, strength of offense and defense." The second is, "Number of games played."

Of course, that still doesn't settle it: Pitchers actually won the AL MVP four times in a 12-year span between 1981 and '92. Those pitchers, however, were with their teams for an entire season, and three of them were relievers who appeared in nearly half their team's games. Brad Lidge, to me, is that type of candidate — if you think he isn't valuable, ask where the Mets or Brewers might be if he were on their clubs.

The contributions of Sabathia and Ramirez are too significant to be ignored; that's why I've got them in my top six. Yet, for all that Ramirez has accomplished, he will end up playing in just over 50 games for the Dodgers. C'mon.

The amazing thing about the NL ballot is the number of strong candidates that I failed to include in my top 10. In fact, I can give you, in no particular order, other contenders: Chipper Jones, Prince Fielder, Hanley Ramirez, Carlos Beltran, Ryan Ludwick, Matt Holliday, Adrian Gonzalez, Johan Santana, David Wright.

And I'm probably missing a few more.

AL MVP

My picks

1. Justin Morneau, Twins
2. Dustin Pedroia, Red Sox
3. Joe Mauer, Twins
4. Kevin Youkilis, Red Sox
5. Francisco Rodriguez, Angels
6. Carlos Quentin, White Sox
7. Alex Rodriguez, Yankees
8. Carlos Pena, Rays
9. Grady Sizemore, Indians
10. Josh Hamilton, Rangers

Justin Morneau, a controversial choice over Derek Jeter in 2006, would be a controversial choice over Dustin Pedroia, Joe Mauer and perhaps Kevin Youkilis, too. But as breathtaking as Pedroia's all-around game has become — he improved from 21st last season to fourth this season in the Bill James Online plus-minus ratings for second basemen — Morneau is the Twins' rock. Yes, even more than the incomparable Mauer.

In most cases, I lean toward middle-of-the-diamond players in MVP discussions. Morneau, though, is more of an offensive force than Mauer and Pedroia. He also has appeared in every Twins game this season — and significantly, 17 more games than Mauer, who plays a more physically demanding position. For a young team, Morneau's daily, steadying presence is invaluable, if difficult to quantify.

Francisco Rodriguez was difficult to place. Most sabermetricians would rank him lower, contending that he was not even the best closer in the AL. Still, K-Rod's record should not be dismissed as a mere byproduct of circumstances. Yes, he also set a record for save opportunities, but who can argue with his results? The job is not that easy.

I feel badly for Carlos Quentin, but not too badly. He was the front-runner on Sept. 1, but the injury he suffered that day was self-inflicted, if somewhat flukish. True, his absence only reinforced his value — look where the White Sox are without him! — but that's not how you win the award.

Miguel Cabrera was the one player I wanted to squeeze into my top 10, and Milton Bradley deserves some type of honorable mention, despite playing in fewer than 130 games. Alex Rodriguez and Carlos Pena were the only top 10 finishers from last season to make this list. The ones who didn't: Magglio Ordonez, Vladimir Guerrero, David Ortiz, Mike Lowell, Jorge Posada, Victor Martinez, Ichiro and Curtis Granderson.

NL Cy Young

My picks

1. Tim Lincecum, Giants
2. Brandon Webb, Diamondbacks
3. Johan Santana, Mets

Brandon Webb has won 22 games, five more than Tim Lincecum. But Lincecum's 2.66 ERA is more than a half-run per game lower than Webb's. Lincecum also has allowed fewer baserunners per nine innings, and he leads the league in strikeout rate.

The run support of the two pitchers is about even, but the Giants' bullpen has blown five leads for Lincecum. The award is for best pitcher, and Webb made three straight poor starts in the middle of the pennant race, marring an otherwise terrific season. Johan Santana, 7-0 with a 2.34 ERA in 14 starts since the All-Star break, belongs in the thick of this, too.

AL Cy Young

My picks

1. Cliff Lee, Indians
2. Roy Halladay, Blue Jays
3. Ervin Santana, Angels

Roy Halladay actually has allowed fewer baserunners per nine innings than Cliff Lee, but do you want to argue with Lee's 22-3 record and league-leading 2.54 ERA? Daisuke Matsuzaka's 18-2 record and 2.80 ERA are most impressive, but any pitcher who leads his league in walk rate does not belong in a Cy Young conversation.

I'm not a proponent of relievers winning the Cy Young; that's why I'm excluding K-Rod here and Lidge above. To me, a pitcher who succeeds over 200 innings is more accomplished than a pitcher who works 70. Tear apart that argument if you'd like, but relievers fit better in MVP discussions.

Wish I could justify including Mike Mussina in my top three.

NL Manager

My picks

1. Lou Piniella, Cubs
2. Tony La Russa, Cardinals
3. Joe Torre, Dodgers

Lou Piniella isn't simply managing a baseball team, he's managing the entire Cubs monster — the mood swings among fans and media, the turbulent emotions of Carlos Zambrano, the relentless questions about Alfonso Soriano's hip, Rich Harden's health, etc. For all the money the Cubs have spent, Piniella has done an outstanding job incorporating young talent, from Geovany Soto to Ryan Theriot, Carlos Marmol to Jeff Samardzija.

Tony La Russa did one of his best jobs this season, transforming the injury-depleted, seemingly outmanned Cardinals into a surprise contender. Joe Torre's steady hand had a similar calming effect on the Dodgers as it did on the Yankees, and the Marlins' Fredi Gonzalez should get a few votes — you try finishing above .500 with a $22 million payroll.

AL Manager

My picks

1. Joe Maddon, Rays
2. Ron Gardenhire, Twins
3. Mike Scioscia, Angels

One veteran Ray tells me that Joe Maddon never mentions performance when talking to players. He'll simply tell players to relax and play their game, occasionally suggesting some type of adjustment. Maddon's confidence and communication skills are unusual, particularly for a first-time manager. He made the Rays believe.

Ron Gardenhire lost Torii Hunter, Johan Santana and Carlos Silva in the offseason, then setup man Pat Neshek and right fielder Michael Cuddyer to injuries. Delmon Young underperformed and the left side of the infield is a patch job, but the Twins enter the final weekend in first place. Wow.

AL Rookie

My picks

1. Evan Longoria, Rays
2. Alexei Ramirez, White Sox
3. Armando Galarraga, Tigers

I'm tempted to go with Alexei Ramirez, the Cuban defector who had to adjust to an entirely new culture as well as major-league pitching. Two rival GMs who bid for Ramirez told me in spring training that they considered him too raw for the majors and planned to start him at Class AA. What a waste that would have been.

While Ramirez is worthy, Evan Longoria is otherworldly. The five weeks he missed due to a fractured right wrist is all that prevented him from a 30-homer, 100-RBI season, and his defense at third base has been a revelation. Like all the great ones, he simply slows the game down.

Armando Galarraga, a 12-game winner whom the Tigers acquired from the Rangers, rates a slight edge over Royals shortstop Mike Aviles for the final spot on the ballot.

NL Rookie

My picks

1. Geovany Soto, Cubs
2. Joey Votto, Reds
3. Jair Jurrjens, Braves

Geovany Soto has emerged as a terrific two-way player, capable of separating his defense from his offense when necessary and handling a staff of hard throwers with big movement.

Joey Votto, with 22 homers, 79 RBIs and an .849 OPS, put together a better season than his more celebrated teammate, Jay Bruce.

Jair Jurrjens had a 5.14 ERA after Aug. 1, but otherwise was the Braves' most effective starter.

AL & NL Comeback Player

My picks

American League
1. Carlos Quentin, White Sox
2. Cliff Lee, Indians
3. Mike Mussina, Yankees

National League
1. Ryan Ludwick, Cardinals
2. Fernando Tatis, Mets
3. Jody Gerut, Padres

What, you expected Carl Pavano?

Frankly, I'm not sure whether Ryan Ludwick and Carlos Quentin meet the criteria; the award recognizes players who "re-emerged" during a single season.

Ludwick and Quentin never quite emerged in the first place. Josh Hamilton "re-emerged" last season with the Reds. Milton Bradley, who seemingly should be a candidate, never exactly disappeared.

This award is determined not by the Baseball Writers Association of America, but by a committee made up of representatives of Major League Baseball and the editorial staff of its website, MLB.com.

Executive

My picks

1. Andrew Friedman, Rays
2. Ken Williams, White Sox
3. Doug Melvin, Brewers

The Rays are far more than the product of high draft picks. Andrew Friedman hit on big moves (Delmon Young for Matt Garza and Jason Bartlett) and small (Eric Hinske, Gabe Gross, Willy Aybar) while putting together a team that will end up having allowed nearly 300 fewer runs than it did last season.

Ken Williams' offseason acquisitions of Carlos Quentin and Alexei Ramirez were eerily prescient, and he's one GM who did not overrate his young talent, getting it right with John Danks and Gavin Floyd.

Melvin's trade for CC Sabathia was a masterstroke, and he also made the right calls with his offseason signings of Mike Cameron, Jason Kendall and Gabe Kapler and mid-season addition of Ray Durham. His bullpen reconstruction, including the $10 million signing of Eric Gagne, brought mixed results, but the team ranks fourth in the NL in bullpen ERA.

Honorable mention to the Red Sox's Theo Epstein, who obtained Jason Bay as a quality replacement for Manny Ramirez, then added Paul Byrd and Mark Kotsay in August. Epstein barely flinched when his three-way talks with the Marlins over Ramirez collapsed on July 31; operating on a parallel track with the Dodgers, he got another deal done.

Two executives from each club vote for this award.


Author:Fox Sports
Author's Website:http://www.foxsports.com
Added: September 29, 2008

Seattle Mariners News

News » My picks for all the 2008 awards


My picks for all the 2008 awards


My picks for all the 2008 awards
The envelope, please:

NL MVP

My picks

1. Albert Pujols, Cardinals
2. Brad Lidge, Phillies
3. Ryan Howard, Phillies
4. CC Sabathia, Brewers
5. Lance Berkman, Astros
6. Manny Ramirez, Dodgers
7. Carlos Delgado, Mets
8. Geovany Soto, Cubs
9. Chase Utley, Phillies
10. Aramis Ramirez, Cubs
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