June 10, 1998
BP Polling: Gary Huckabay's BallotTop Ten Teams
1. Atlanta Braves: All this, without particularly sterling performances from Andruw Jones or John Smoltz. Wow.
2. New York Yankees: Depth, walks, power, a nasty bullpen, and rotation. This is what the Baltimore Orioles had in mind -- they just did it with old, bad players.
3. Houston Astros: Rotation depth is amazing. Not many teams could have lost Holt and Garcia and still burned it up like this, especially considering Scott Elarton wasn't part of the mix. Will drop off somewhat.
4. Cleveland Indians: Everyone knew their pitching would be weak. Like it matters with an offense like this. Once the hitters get hot, and they scrape up some league average starter from somewhere, they'll leave the division in the dust.
5. Los Angeles Dodgers: The additions of Bonilla and Sheffield certainly makes the defense more interesting to watch. Valdes may not rebound, but Reyes is ready.
6. Seattle Mariners: Ken Cloude's recent Kerry Wood imitation is an indicator of things to come. If Buhner's healthy and they can get a solid LF for Johnson, along with another starting pitcher, Texas'll be 10 games back in September.
7. Anaheim Angels: Finley's not this good. How long until Glaus plays 3B, Hollins moves over to 1B, and Salmon's fascia completely McGwires?
8. San Diego Padres: Joey Hamilton may never figure it out. I've come to the conclusion that Steve Finley plus Greg Vaughn must always necessarily be a constant.
9. Chicago Cubs: Trachsel, Tapani, Wood, Gonzalez, Clark is an awfully solid rotation, and the offense has been walking...or at least it was early in the season.
10. Boston Red Sox: How often are a team's offensive holes concentrated in easier places to fix? A couple of solid OFs for Mo Vaughn?
Most Disappointing Teams
1. Cincinnati Reds: I expected much more from Gabe White than he's shown, and the lackluster offensive performances have more than offset the pleasant surprises of Bret Boone's temporary rebirth and Eddie Taubensee's addiction to hard line drives.
2. San Francisco Giants. The Giants disappoint me every time they win a game. These guys are playing way over their heads, and it makes me ill. Hopefully, the offending parties, specifically Bill Mueller and Orel Hershiser, will soon return to earth, and the Giants will pursue their birthright of 120 losses.
3. Florida Marlins. Yes, I know, everyone and their brother's been shipped out of town for Walt McKeel, and this is the greatest tragedy ever to hit modern baseball. But still -- these guys have more talent than this, still. I might be the only BP author who doesn't think much of Todd Dunwoody, but other than that, there is a lot of GOOD young talent here. Not Andruw Jones-good, but Mark Kotsay-good isn't a bad thing. They've underperformed.
MVP: NL: 1. Mark McGwire
2. Chipper Jones
3. Jason Kendall
4. Barry Bonds
5. John Olerud
AL: 1. Alex Rodriguez
2. Ivan Rodriguez
3. Damion Easley
4. Bernie Williams
5. Derek Jeter
Mark McGwire could be a DH with a permanent courtesy runner and still be the clear choice. Jones and Kendall are a wash, and could easily be swapped. No matter how you slice it, there's approximately two great seasons in toto listed above. Congratulations to Damion Easley on convincing the alien to stay.
CY: NL: 1. Greg Maddux 2. Al Leiter 3. Curt Schilling
AL: 1. Pedro Martinez 2. Chuck Finley 3. Hideki Irabu
Al Leiter stands out as the biggest surprise in this group, and somewhere along the line, I expect him to lose the strike zone and become mortal again. Of course, with umpiring these days, he may start getting the Glavine/Key strike zone, in which case you can look for him to post about a 1.80 ERA for the rest of his career.