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Top Ten Teams

1. NY Yankees: they’re strong enough to survive injuries almost anywhere in the
lineup or on the pitching staff and still not suffer a noticeable dropoff.

2. Atlanta: the key hitters are all young and can get better (I don’t consider
the Big Cat key, whatever the last two months say), while the pitching staff
can comfortably put up with multi-week absences from John Smoltz.

3. Cleveland: they’ve always been able to get by without much pitching, and
this year, they may actually have their best rotation of the ’90s. The offense
is more fragile, but they’ve got help in the system, and Hart rarely holds
anything back.

4. Houston: Does Larry Dierker walk on water?

5. San Diego: They’re getting good work from their bench, none of their vets
are scuffling, and if they ever get Joey Hamilton straightened out, they could
get very hot.

6. San Francisco: I’m surprised, but this is what happens when you give Bonds a
good teammate or two.

7. Boston: Dan Duquette needs to stay out of the way, stop the constant roster
shuffling for its own sake, and focus on the big in-season goal: an outfielder
who’s an asset.

8. Texas: Now here’s a fun idea: could the Rangers actually help themselves by
putting Matt Perisho or Todd Van Poppel into the rotation? That’d be
chutzpah…

9. NY Mets: Can we expect Yoshii or Leiter or Reed to keep being this good? If
not, the nagging offensive problems may leave the Mets fighting to stand in
place, let alone moving up.

10. Chicago Cubs: Its been awhile since we had to remember the franchise’s
tradition of the June swoon. Although they’re red-hot now, they’ve still got
several problems they’re going to have to straighten out: Hank Rodriguez? Scott
Servais? Brant Brown in center?

Big Disappointments

1. Los Angeles: Being big and splashy can either mean you’re making progress,
or you’re Shamu. For now, I’m going with the fishy alternative.

2. Seattle: Until Woody Woodward acknowledges that the team can’t make any
progress with Piniella scragging and misusing his staff, they’re going to be
making fans and networks unhappy.

3. Cincinnati: I can’t pick Baltimore, because I don’t see them being
appreciably worse than they ought to be. The Reds should be in much better
shape, but they’ve gone through some self-inflicted wounds (Dave Weathers?),
and some disappointments (Reggie Sanders, Jon Nunnally).

Most Valuable Player

National League

1. Mark McGwire, StL

2. Craig Biggio, HOU

3. Barry Bonds, SF

4. John Olerud, NYM

5. Jason Kendall, PIT

McGwire gets my vote for the showy stat totals, but in a team-relative context,
I could end up switching to Biggio or Bonds by season’s end. Olerud and Kendall
get my picks as offensive workhorses on teams that rely heavily on them.

American League

1. Ivan Rodriguez, TEX

2. Jim Thome, CLV

3. Alex Rodriguez, SEA

4. Ken Griffey Jr., SEA

5. Bernie Williams, NYY

Pudge and Thome get my pics because of how critical they are to their teams,
while the rest are some great players playing well.

Cy Young Award

National League

1. Greg Maddux. A default setting.

2. Al Leiter. I’m not counting on him still being here at season’s end, but
give credit where it’s due.

3. Andy Ashby. An outstanding turnaround, and a great example of a pitcher
learning and adapting over the course of his career.

American League

1. Brad Radke. A crummy defense behind him doesn’t help, and he’s still
outstanding.

2. Pedro Martinez. Some guy from the NL…

3. Chuck Finley. An excellent start, but he’s the AL’s answer to Al Leiter.

Rookie of the Year

American League

1. Ben Grieve, OAK

2. Rolando Arrojo, TB

3. Mike Caruso, CHW

The first two aren’t really that surprising, although Arrojo has been almost
J.R. Richard-like in his ability to just freeze, dissect, and blow away
right-handed batters. Caruso has shown progress as a hitter, but he’s just
beginning to learn how to field his position.

National League

1. Kerry Wood, CHI

2. Masato Yoshii, NYM

3. Travis Lee, ARI

Wood and Yoshii have each been amazing in their distinctly different ways.
Travis Lee only seems to be brought up now and again as being even more mellow
than Ben Grieve, as if that’s a bad thing. He’s an outstanding glove and an
improving hitter playing regularly. I’m surprised he isn’t mentioned more often
for what he does on the field.

AL MoY

1. Johnny Oates, TEX

2. Tom Kelly, MIN

3. Mike Hargrove, CLV

Voting for Oates is sort of a vote for his general manager, but Johnny O has
managed to take advantage of the deep bench and pen that he’s been handed, and
that’s what has the Rangers going strong. TK deserves some credit for standing
by LaTroy Hawkins, but he’s always going to have somebody like Brent Gates
around to irk someone like me. Mike Hargrove has gotten some reasonable
criticism for his handling of his rotation, but dumping the Dunston experiment
and handing the job to David Bell is, so far, one of the best moves anyone has
made anywhere.

NL MoY

1. Larry Dierker, HOU

2. Bobby Valentine, NYM

3. Bobby Cox, ATL

Sure, Bobby Cox wins all the time. But does he make something out of other
people’s garbage, and contend with it? Dierker has Jose Lima thriving, is
getting good use of Sean Bergman, has broken in younger pitchers like Nitkowski
and Miller well, uses his bench, and has no problem not taking much credit for
it, sort of like Cox.