June 10, 1998
BP Polling: Michael Wolverton's BallotTop 10 Teams
1. New York Yankees -- By far the best record in baseball, and they're doing it with worse-than-expected starting pitching. If Cone and Pettitte get going, the sky's the limit.
2. Atlanta Braves -- They're getting a lot more offense than expected from the ex-Rockies, but better production from Jones (Andruw) and Smoltz could help offset a return to earth by Gallaraga and Weiss.
3. San Diego Padres -- I'm puzzled at the collapse of the Padres' pitching last year. The addition of Brown this year, coupled with Ashby's finding his old form, makes this an elite team.
4. Texas Rangers -- 3 of their 5 starting pitchers have been absolutely abysmal, and they're still playing .600 ball. Their offense may come down to earth a bit, but their pitching is also bound to pick up eventually.
5. New York Mets -- Two years ago, everybody knew the Mets would soon have one of the elite starting rotations in the majors. But how many knew that rotation would be comprised of journeymen Rick Reed and Al Leiter, plus "the other Japanese guy"?
6. Seattle Mariners -- I've gotta figure some of the Mariners' misfortune this year is just plain bad luck. Their offense is mind-bogglingly good -- 4 of the top 7 hitters in the AL! If Randy Johnson is back to being Randy Johnson (and that's far from certain), there's still time for this team to leave the rest of the West in their dust.
7. Cleveland Indians -- Sticking with the same formula that got them to the Series last year: monster offense, mediocre pitching.
8. Houston Astros -- Sean Bergman? Jose Lima? These are key members of the 5th best rotation in the majors? Is Larry Dierker a genius, or is he in for some really unpleasant surprises this summer?
9. Boston Red Sox -- Yeah, I think the Red Sox could have found a spot for Aaron Sele this year.
10. Chicago Cubs -- Sammy Sosa probably won't continue to hit like a legitimate All-Star, but if Wood, Tapani and company keep it up, who cares?
Three teams I want to dump on
1. Los Angeles Dodgers -- The Dodgers got decent value for Piazza, but they're still missing the big picture. They're going to have a hard time getting much above .500 until they stop believing the press (unfortunately some of it coming from otherwise elightened sources) about their starting pitching. The Dodgers' rotation is not good, and it hasn't been for some time. Getting rid of Nomo is a good start, but Dave Mlicki is not the answer.
2. Chicago White Sox -- Frank Thomas is going to get sick of this real quick.
3. Baltimore Orioles -- an easy target. This is the team most likely to give Dave Stieb a major league start.
1. Mark McGwire, St. Louis
2. Barry Bonds, San Francisco
3. Chipper Jones, Atlanta
4. Greg Maddux, Atlanta
5. Craig Biggio, Houston
We haven't heard much about McGwire from the media this year, but trust me, he's having a fairly decent season. Bonds and Jones are essentially tied for the #2 spot on my ballot. Greg Maddux might be on his way to another season like '94 or '95, and this year he's even hitting the ball (.650 OPS, best of his career).
1. Alex Rodriguez, Seattle
2. Ivan Rodriguez, Texas
3. Ken Griffey Jr., Seattle
4. Bernie Williams, New York
5. Jim Thome, Cleveland
ARod isn't the best hitter in the league so far, but he's close, and his defense is far more valuable than his offensive peers'. The other Rodriguez also gets bonus points because of his fielding -- not so much because catcher is an especially important position (in my opinion, it isn't) but because his defense there is so much better than other catchers'.
Cy Young Award
1. Greg Maddux, Atlanta
2. Tom Glavine, Atlanta
3. Andy Ashby, San Diego
Must be tough to be the second best pitcher in your league and not even be your team's staff ace. Andy Ashby gets the #3 spot today, but Reed, Wood, Leiter, or Schilling could easily slide in there tomorrow.
1. Chuck Finley, Angels
2. Pedro Martinez, Boston
3. Hideki Irabu, New York
Honorable mention to Flash Gordon. He might belong in the top 3 somewhere, but I don't know where. I still say he'd be more valuable as a starter in the long run, but he's making an awfully good case for the value of a dominating closer right now.
Rookie of the Year
1. Kerry Wood, Chicago
2. Masato Yoshii, New York
3. Chad Fox, Milwaukee
It may seem odd to pick pitchers for all three spots here, but I'm not ignoring the hitters, honest. Unless I'm missing someone, the best position player candidates -- Dellucci, TLee, Fullmer, Helton, Kotsay -- haven't been quite as valuable as Fox so far. Fox only pitched 24 2/3 innings before going on the DL, but they were very valuable innings.
1. Ben Grieve, Oakland
2. Rolando Arrojo, Tampa Bay
3. Bobby Smith, Tampa Bay
I make Grieve to be the 15th best hitter in the AL so far this year. I'd say that qualifies for a ROY award.
Manager of the Year
1. Bobby Cox, Atlanta
2. Larry Dierker, Houston
3. Bobby Valentine, New York
Yes, he makes some questionable decisions (Leading off Ozzie Guillen? *Playing* Ozzie Guillen?). Yes, his team is loaded with talent. But year after year, Bobby Cox wins. His starting pitchers are great, but they're also remarkably consistent and injury-free, and I think Cox's and Mazzoni's enlightened attention to pitch counts deserves much of the credit for that.
1. Tom Kelly, Minnesota
2. Joe Torre, New York
3. Johnny Oates, Texas
I suspect the Twins are doing it with mirrors -- I don't expect them to be this near .500, or have the AL's best ERA, by the end of the year -- but I'll give Kelly the benefit of the doubt at this point.