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Top 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.

MVP

National League

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).

American League

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

National League

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.

American League

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

National League

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.

American League

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

National League

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.

American League

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.

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