The DiSar Awards haven’t been clinched just yet–I’ve learned better than to make an official announcement before the season is over–but they do appear to be in safe hands, at least in the American League.

And no, it’s not Rocco Baldelli‘s mitts holding the Golden Crutch.

I announced the contest to pick the 2003 award winners this spring a little bit late, not getting to it until a few days into the season. Because of that, the vast majority of the entrants selected Baldelli, the free-swinging Devil Rays rookie, as the eventual AL award winner. Baldelli made a nice run, reaching 60 at-bats before his first walk, but he only held the top AL mark for a few days, getting caught by Deivi Cruz soon afterwards.

Cruz didn’t hold on, either; his 70 at-bats were passed by Matt Walbeck in July, but The Walbeck couldn’t even garner this much glory. A week ago, he, too, saw his total of 75 walkless at-bats to start the season eclipsed. Walbeck was passed by a player who received no votes in the preseason balloting, although his brother was one of the most popular candidates after Baldelli.

Jose Molina, who plays about once a week, has 82 at-bats and no walks so far this year. Brother Bengie is no slouch himself, with 13 walks in 359 ABs, and a 53-AB streak to start the year. In some seasons, that’s enough, but not when your little brother is taking lessons. Molina the Younger has virtually no competition right now; the four players with active AL streaks of 30 or more are in the minors (George Lombard, Carlos Mendez), the job market (Craig Paquette) and the third circle of hell (Freddy Sanchez, traded to Pittsburgh), with none above 40 at-bats.

Over in the NL, the situation is nearly as settled, but young talent is making things exciting. Rainer Olmedo is the leader in the clubhouse with 70 at-bats before his first walk. With pitchers ineligible for consideration, the next closest player with a shot at Olmedo is Eric Bruntlett, who is up to 46 walkless at-bats. Bruntlett’s problem is that he might not get to 70 at-bats, period. He’ll also be a threat to draw an intentional pass, as he’ll bat eighth when he gets his rare starts.

The bigger threat to Olmedo is a player who, like the Reds’ rookie, is getting his chance because his team isn’t very good. Bill Hall ran his streak to 43 walkless at-bats yesterday, and is playing semi-regularly as the Brewers’ shortstop. Like Bruntlett, he’ll have to watch the intentional passes in the No. 8 slot.

I’m sorry to say that no one picked Olmedo in the National League. Neifi Perez and Carlos Baerga were popular choices, but neither even reached 30 at-bats. Robby Hammock is second with a completed streak of 61, and if anyone had guessed that J.D. Drew would start his season with 54 at-bats before his first walk, I might have comped them a book just for having the guts to say so.

As mentioned, many pitchers have active streaks, with Brad Penny leading the way at 53. The DiSar Award–like the MVP to some people–has never considered pitchers as being eligible because the idea is to highlight players for whom walking should be a part of their skill set. Should that be changed? Nine pitchers have active streaks of 45 or better, while Livan Hernandez and Kerry Wood have completed streaks of that length.

The top 10 in each league through Sunday’s action:

American League      First Walk      AB
Jose Molina           (Active)       82
Matt Walbeck         06-JUL-2003     75
Deivi Cruz           23-APR-2003     70
Rocco Baldelli       17-APR-2003     60
Bengie Molina        18-APR-2003     53
Mike Difelice        21-MAY-2003     53
Warren Morris        24-JUN-2003     51
Dustan Mohr          02-MAY-2003     42
Gary Matthews Jr.    10-APR-2003     39
Dmitri Young         13-APR-2003     38

National League      First Walk      AB
Rainer Olmedo        07-JUL-2003     70
Robby Hammock        20-JUN-2003     61
J.D. Drew            19-MAY-2003     54
Miguel Ojeda         06-JUL-2003     53
Jose Reyes           24-JUN-2003     49
Eric Bruntlett        (Active)       46
Bill Hall             (Active)       43
Tom Goodwin          25-MAY-2003     42
Adrian Beltre        09-APR-2003     38
Tony Clark           04-MAY-2003     37

Top active streaks (30 or more, pitchers excluded):

Player                  AB
Jose Molina             82
Eric Bruntlett          46
Bill Hall               43
George Lombard          37
Carlos Mendez           35
Freddy Sanchez          34
Wilken Ruan             33
Craig Paquette          33

I’ll be back in about six weeks with your final DiSar Award update for 2003.