Wednesday, July 11, 2007

MLB Awards at the Intermission: The Extraordinary League of Americans.

Merry Wednesday, people! Today's presentation is, as promised, the AL's answer to the virtual trophy decisions of yesterday. The clash between these two leagues is as tame as things get in any sport; the long standing grudge they have for playing against each other obviously contributes to that in some way, as does the fact that one league has been clearly superior to the other over the past decade. But simply based on the way sports are run, players, teams, and leagues are given a blank slate at the beginning of every season. Which in effect, bringing to an end my little tangential rant, is why we have petty, pointless awards such as these.

AL MVP: Vladimir Guerrero
This situation presents us with a perfect opportunity to debate over the true nature of the MVP award. But in my mind, it is attested to symbolize not the player whose performance transcended that of others, but the player who helped a contending ballclub to a greater extent than any other. A-Rod, as has been the case on numerous past occasions, has been far and away the best hitter in either league. However, the Yankees have proven to be such a debacle this season that I cannot award him this honor with a clear conscience. Vlad's home run and average numbers won't blow anyone away, although they are terrific. But he has managed to drive in 75 runs to this point, showing us once again why he is so widely feared. And for as long as the Angels maintain a stranglehold on the surprisingly competitive American League West, he's the clear favorite in my mind.
Maybe Next Time: Alex Rodriguez, Justin Morneau.

AL Cy Young: Dan Haren
Most of us like to think of these awards as highly contested. However, there is a clear lead horse in this race. Prior to this season, Haren was seen as a good pitcher, but nothing extraordinary. A solid two or three in the Oakland rotation, depending on Rich Harden's availability. Haren has stepped his game up several echelons, posting the lowest ERA in the American league (2.3) 10 wins, a terrific WHIP of 1.00, and 100 strikeouts. Without Haren epitomizing the qualities of an ace, the As would have been dead and buried right alongside their Texas rivals.
Try Harder! Can you feel the burn yet? Now can you feel it?: CC Sabathia, Josh Beckett, Johan Santana, Justin Verlander.

AL ROY: Hideki Okajima
The Boston Red Sox really did bring two Japanese pitchers on during the offseason. But with some dude named Dice-K hogging all the headlines, Okajima was nothing more than the fine script on page eighteen. After his unmitigatedly incredible first half, however, Okajima has clearly contributed far more than his endlessly hyped counterpart. The fan needs to look at one number to capture a snapshot of his success-an ERA of 0.83. LESS THAN ONE. There's a reason I put that in capitals- don't mistake it for a typo. The Scarlet Stockings' setup man has been absolutely nothing short of dominant throughout the season. While I'm still apprehensive about calling a 32-year old a rookie regardless of his lack of MLB experience, there's no doubt he's been the best first-year player in the bigs.
Maybe Next Year... Oh wait, You're only a rookie once!: Jeremy Guthrie.

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