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TOP TEN TEAMS

  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).

THREE MOST DISAPPOINTING TEAMS

  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.


AL MVP

  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.


NL MVP

  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.


AL CY YOUNG

  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.


NL CY YOUNG

  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.


AL ROOKIE OF THE YEAR

  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.


NL ROOKIE OF THE YEAR

  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.


AL MANAGER OF THE YEAR

  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.


NL MANAGER OF THE YEAR

  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?


AL LEAST VALUABLE PLAYER

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.


NL LEAST VALUABLE PLAYER

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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