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August 28, 1998

BP Polling: Michael Wolverton's Ballot

by Michael Wolverton


  1. Yankees -- It's surprising that the team threatening the record for most wins has so few players that belong on the MVP ballot. Williams is the only Yankee who's unquestionably among the AL's 10 best players this year. (Admittedly, there's a case to be made for Jeter in the top 10.) The key to the Yankees, of course, is that they're packed with second-tier guys. By my rankings, Jeter, O'Neill, Martinez, Strawberry, Posada, Brosius, Curtis, Knoblauch, and Raines all fall between #10 and #60 among AL position players. And, while the Yankees have no legit Cy Young candidates in their rotation, all 5 of the Yankees starters are among the top 30 in the majors.

  2. Braves -- It's time to admit that Galarraga is just going to hit like this all year.

  3. Astros -- With his arrival in Houston, Randy Johnson appears to be Randy Johnson again. That, along with the monster seasons from Biggio and Alou, gives reason to hope the Astros will have a better showing in the playoffs than last year's three-and-out.

  4. Red Sox -- This year, last year's strategy of filling the rotation with huge question marks (Avery, Saberhagen, arguably Wakefield) has worked. Of course, replacing one of the question marks from last year with Pedro Martinez helped a bit too. It remains to be seen how well those question marks will hold up come playoff time.

  5. Padres -- A glimmer of hope for the Padres playoff opponent: Ashby has slumped a bit in his last couple of starts, and after him (and Brown) you get Hitchcock and Hamilton.

  6. Indians -- The last time we did this, I wrote about the Indians, "Sticking with the same formula that got them to the Series last year: monster offense, mediocre pitching." What was I thinking? The Indians starting pitching is the third-best in the AL this year. Yes, Nagy has been a disaster, but Colon, Burba, and Gooden(!) have more than made up for that. This year's Indians rotation is vastly improved over the mediocre one that got them to the Series last year.

  7. Mets -- Olerud, Piazza, McRae, and Alfonzo may not exactly make Mets fans forget Hernandez, Carter, Strawberry, and Knight, but it's still a formidable core of the lineup. And the Mets pitching staff can go toe-to-toe with anybody. If they make the playoffs, I wouldn't look forward to playing them.

  8. Cubs -- Both Sosa and Wood have held up well, but if I'm putting money on the NL wild card, I'm putting it on the Mets.

  9. Angels -- Jack McDowell returning from the dead to pitch effectively has got to be considered a good omen for this club.

  10. Mariners -- I think of my job here as picking the best 10 rosters in the majors right now, and I still say the Mariners belong on that list. They have 3 of the top 10 offensive players in the AL in Griffey, Martinez, and ARod, and their rotation is still OK even without Randy Johnson. I can't explain why they haven't won. I know about their bullpen and managerial problems, but I still think much of their problem is just bad luck. Their Pythagorean projection is for a .501 winning percentage, very close to the Rangers (.515) and Angels (.527).


  1. Mariners -- see above.

  2. White Sox -- Their starting rotation is allowing 6.2 runs per 9 innings. In a pitchers park.

  3. Dodgers -- As in 1997, they haven't been able to get any significantly-better-than-average performances from their starting pitchers. I've said it before, and I'll say it again: the Dodgers' main problem is that they think their starters are better than they are.


  1. Ken Griffey Jr., Mariners
  2. Albert Belle, White Sox
  3. Alex Rodriguez, Mariners
  4. Bernie Williams, Yankees
  5. Jim Thome, Indians
Any one of the top four on this list would be a reasonable choice at this point. Albert Belle has arguably been a better hitter than Griffey so far -- he's slightly ahead of Griffey in Runs Above Replacement in the latest EQA Report, as well as in other hitting measures -- but Griffey's defensive value is enough to put him on top. Bernie Williams is handicapped right now by having missed a month's worth of games. If he plays out the season at his current rate of offensive production, he'll be my AL MVP hands-down.


  1. Mark McGwire, Cardinals
  2. Moises Alou, Astros
  3. Craig Biggio, Astros
  4. Chipper Jones, Braves
  5. Greg Maddux, Braves
Whether he gets to 62 or not, McGwire is the class of the majors offensively this season. He's the clear NL MVP. Sammy Sosa is having a terrific season -- don't let anyone blinded by his history of walk-phobia tell you differently -- but so are a bunch of other NLers. Sosa belongs in the same general category as Alou, Biggio, Jones, and Maddux (along with Bonds), but for various reasons I put him just behind the others. And from the "not a contender but a pretender" category: Dante Bichette has reached base by walk 14 times; Craig Biggio has reached base by being hit by pitch 22 times.


  1. Pedro Martinez, Red Sox
  2. Tom Gordon, Red Sox
  3. Mariano Rivera, Yankees
  4. Roger Clemens, Blue Jays
  5. Kenny Rogers, Athletics
This is a weak year for AL starters, so I'll put a couple of relievers having excellent seasons on my ballot. Pedro Martinez is looking to become just the second pitcher to win Cy Youngs in both leagues (Gaylord Perry was the first), and the first to do it in back-to-back seasons. He could easily lose in the sportswriter balloting to one of those Yankee starters with their gaudy W/L records.


  1. Greg Maddux, Braves
  2. Tom Glavine, Braves
  3. Kevin Brown, Padres
  4. Curt Schilling, Phillies
  5. Andy Ashby, Padres
If you were putting together a team of the 90's, you could do worse than to combine the top three names above with Clemens and Appier for your starting rotation. (Admittedly, you could also do better, by substituting Cone for Brown. But you could do worse.) Before his recent pasting by the Dodgers, Maddux was looking almost as good as he did in 1994 and 1995. We'll see if he can maintain that kind of performance level over a full (non-strike-shortened) season. Glavine just keeps getting better. Barring a late-season collapse, this will be his fourth consecutive year of improvement, and his best season to date.


  1. Rolando Arrojo, Devil Rays
  2. Ben Grieve, Athletics
  3. Orlando Hernandez, Yankees
Both Arrojo and Grieve have slumped a bit of late, but this is still a terrific field for a RoY award. I make Grieve to be about the 25th best hitter in the AL. In a normal year that makes him the runaway best rookie, but not this year. As of August 24, The SNW/L Report ranks Arrojo the 17th best starter in the majors (8th best in the AL), and that's probably underrating him because those numbers treat Tropicana Field as a neutral AL park instead of the hitters park it apparently is.


  1. Kerry Wood, Cubs
  2. Kerry Ligtenberg, Braves
  3. Travis Lee, Diamondbacks
Right next to Arrojo in the SNW/L report (as of this writing on 8/24) is Kerry Wood. He has less competition than Arrojo, and should win the ROY in a cakewalk. If the talking heads on TV would shut up for just two seconds about Atlanta's "lack of a proven closer", they might notice that Ligtenberg has done an outstanding job in that role.


  1. Joe Torre, Yankees
  2. Jimy Williams, Red Sox
  3. Ray Miller, Orioles
Yes, three AL East managers, but I'm not impressed with the possibilities outside the East (Collins, Hargrove, and Oates). It's hard to argue against Torre as #1; if you do, I'll give you 94 (as of 8/24) reasons you're wrong. Ray Miller deserves his spot on the ballot because of what he's done with what he was given. The Orioles started the season with a roster full of gray-haired geezers, but now, after dumping Joe Carter ... well, they're still a bunch of geezers, but they're geezers with the fifth best record in the AL.


  1. Larry Dierker, Astros
  2. Bobby Cox, Braves
  3. Bobby Valentine, Mets
I'm now officially on the Larry Dierker bandwagon. Part of me still wonders if there isn't some sort of trick photography involved every time ESPN shows me Jose Lima or Sean Bergman racking up another quality start. But I've waited all year for the roof to cave in on them and it hasn't. Almost every key player on the Astros is performing at or above (sometimes way above) expectations, and if the manager doesn't get credit for that, who does?


Felix Martinez, Kansas City

Martinez' offensive "contribution" is eye-popping enough -- his 90 plate appearances resulted in an astonishingly lame 16 times on base and 14 total bases. But what's most impressive is that he was able to take time from his busy out-making schedule to damage his team in so many other ways. With a kick to the face here and a cheap shot punch there, Martinez did more PR harm to the Royals and baseball in general than those "Turn Ahead The Clock Day" uniforms.


Todd Van Poppel, Pittsburgh

Sure, the stat fans will point to the mind-bogglingly bad numbers that, for example, Kevin Orie is putting up. But the LVP is about more than numbers. It's about consistency, doing it year in and year out. It's about duping major league GMs all over the country, being given the chance to damage team after team after team long after demonstrating that you never had any business playing baseball professionally. It's about being Todd Van Poppel. It's a credit to Todd that he's kept his RA in single digits this year (7.35 as of this writing, 6.32 since joining the Pirates). Still, even with that impressive improvement, you've got to figure the Pirates will eventually conclude they can do better than to give a guy allowing 6 to 7 runs a game a start every five days. And when that happens, the only question is: Who's next for Todd the Godd? The Dodgers? The White Sox?

Other Ballots
Chris Kahrl
Dave Pease
Steven Rubio
Joe Sheehan
Greg Spira

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1998-08-28 - BP Polling: Michael Wolverton's Ballot
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