The envelope, please . . .
Most Valuable Player
AMERICAN LEAGUE 1. Alex Rodriguez, 3B, Yankees. Yes, Magglio Ordonez had a great season, but not like A-Rod. A-Rod had big hits all year, even in April and May when it looked as if the Yankees were going to be wiped off the AL East map.
2. Magglio Ordonez, RF, Tigers. You can see why Theo Epstein wanted to deal for him in 2003. The Sox would have had Ordonez in right and A-Rod at shortstop, which might have been pretty unstoppable for a few years.
3. Mike Lowell, 3B, Red Sox: There aren't enough superlatives to describe the season he's had. The Sox have been a tad nonchalant about trying to re-sign him until recently.
NATIONAL LEAGUE 1. Matt Holliday, LF, Colorado: He had the most extraordinary year in the league, on a team that contended until the bitter end. Average, power, on-base percentage, OPS . . . you name it. You'll hear about the Coors Field advantage, but everyone in the MVP race with the exception of Rodriguez had far better home numbers than road numbers.
2. Prince Fielder, 1B, Milwaukee: Unless his weight balloons as he gets older - as happened to his father, Cecil - he's going to be a huge force in the game for a long time. Fifty homers is quite a feat. He kept his team in contention. Just wish he'd let the antagonism toward his father go, or at least keep it to himself. It's very unbecoming.
3. Jimmy Rollins, SS, Phillies: First 30-30 guy for a shortstop since A-Rod. He backed up his words in spring training when he said, "We're the team to beat." He was a definite spark plug, but they also had Ryan Howard and Chase Utley, two other guys who should get votes.
Cy Young Award
AMERICAN LEAGUE 1. Josh Beckett, RHP, Red Sox: The 20 wins, the consistency, the toughness, and what is generally regarded as absolutely nasty stuff put Beckett slightly over the top. He didn't do himself any favors by not pitching well in his last start, but this was quite a turnaround from a 5.01 ERA last year to 3.27 this year.
2. (tie) John Lackey, RHP, Angels: Will win the ERA title (3.01) and is tied for second with 19 wins.
2. (tie) Fausto Carmona, RHP, Indians: "There isn't a pitcher in baseball with the movement he has on his pitches," said Seattle manager John McLaren. How can you not respect a guy who a year ago was getting lit up (1-10, 5.42 ERA in 38 games, seven as a starter) and this year was virtually unhittable? He had a 3.06 ERA and 19 wins.
4. C.C. Sabathia, LHP, Indians: He threw 241 innings, making him the workhorse of the league and certainly the best lefty (after Erik Bedard got hurt).
NATIONAL LEAGUE 1. Jake Peavy, RHP San Diego: Captured the NL Pitching Triple Crown by leading the league in wins (19), ERA (2.36), and strikeouts (234).
Rookie of the Year
AMERICAN LEAGUE 1. Dustin Pedroia, 2B, Red Sox: He was consistently good from May through September and made himself a better fielder as the season went along. He became the one constant along with Lowell in the Sox lineup. At a position the Sox haven't valued that much through the years, he proved the impact of a good second baseman. He's already a team leader.
2. Delmon Young, RF, Tampa Bay: His great season was marred by yesterday's controversy, when he was benched for not hustling. That should help Pedroia's chances, but Young still had outstanding numbers, including 93 RBIs and 16 outfield assists.
NATIONAL LEAGUE (co-winners) 1. Troy Tulowitzki, SS, Colorado: Developed well beyond his years. Already a leader. A .289 hitter with 24 homers and 98 RBIs. He has committed only 11 errors. Rock solid.
1. Ryan Braun, 3B, Milwaukee: With 34 homers, 96 RBIs, and a .321 average in 112 games, this is a terrific young player who didn't start his major league career until May 25.
Manager of the Year
AMERICAN LEAGUE 1. Eric Wedge, Cleveland: He had a lot to prove after his team fell apart last season. The Indians had the usual bumps, but they were smoothed out quickly. He did a nice job incorporating younger players into the lineup, and his management of a much-maligned bullpen was second to none.
2. Joe Torre, New York: When you consider how low this team got and how much of a surge it made, it was pretty impressive. The very thing Torre was criticized for early (being too calm) was the thing that was a strength in the end.
NATIONAL LEAGUE 1. Bob Melvin, Arizona: Sticking to my ex-Red Sox-catcher-turned-manager theme, Melvin's work was outstanding in making a lot of young players believe they could stand up to the big boys. Managed his bullpen very well and overcame the loss of Randy Johnson.
2. Clint Hurdle, Colorado: You can almost say "ditto." Young team, marvelous results.
Comeback Player of the Year
AMERICAN LEAGUE 1. Carlos Peña, 1B Tampa Bay.
NATIONAL LEAGUE 1. Dmitri Young, 1B, Washington.
The Great Debate
Will Bonds be back in '08?
Barry Bonds's final game in San Francisco left a lot to be desired. He went 0 for 3, refused to take a curtain call, and left AT&T Park before the final out. He was obviously upset that he didn't get to leave on his terms, as the Giants announced last week they would not re-sign him. We asked Washington general manager Jim Bowden and Seattle manager John McLaren whether Bonds would play next year.
BOWDEN: "Yes. He could be a special DH in the American League. His bat is still a difference-maker. He still has a tremendous eye at the plate and he's still very dangerous. I think he proved that beyond a reasonable doubt this season, when you look at his production. If he's in position to just hit, there's no doubt in my mind and in the minds of the many scouts who have watched him that he can be a force. He could be the finishing piece to the puzzle of a lot of lineups in the American League. Of course, the public relations aspect of the situation always has to be weighed in the particular market you're in and I'm sure that will be a factor. But in terms of pure baseball, can he hit? Absolutely."
McLAREN: "I do believe he'll find a job. It would have to be an American League club. You would have to know the condition of his legs and whether you think he can finish out a year for you. I know people talk about his age, but look at the Yankees and the commitment they made to Roger Clemens. I do think that Barry wants to win. I think he's quite genuine when he says that. You look at the Yankees and Yankee Stadium and the short porch, could that be a fit? It's a great ballpark for him, that's for sure. In terms of the other stuff swirling around him, the one thing I admire about him is that he performs at such a high level for a guy who has to deal with all the stuff he has to deal with."
Texas catcher thinks the setup here hurts Gagné
A few questions for Rangers catcher Gerald Laird, who caught Eric Gagné in Texas this year.
What did you think of Eric Gagné's struggles when he came to Boston?
GL: "Eric was key for us. When he was healthy, he pitched great for us. Honestly, it's very surprising to me to see him struggle like he has. He was lights out and we could count on him to close the games. From what I can see over there, he might be out of his comfort zone. That happens to pitchers who are used to doing things one way, especially guys who have done things one way for so long."
So you think that a change of roles might be at the root of his struggles?
GL: "Honestly I do. I know people don't like to hear it. I know it's three outs, but it's different. He's been a closer pretty much his whole career. He's been a dominant closer. A guy like that has always felt comfortable pitching the ninth, and now he's coming in an inning earlier. He comes in with his theme song being played and he's built up a head of steam and he's really into it, protecting a one-run or two-run lead. Now he's coming into the game in the eighth, sometimes when the team is behind. It's a lot different."
There's been some speculation that Gagné might have hurt his shoulder when he pitched in both ends of a doubleheader against Seattle in his final games with Texas on July 24. He did not appear until the Sox traded for him on July 31 and then got into his first game with the Sox on Aug. 2.
GL: "I don't think so. Eric's the kind of guy where I'm sure he had some say-so in that. I'm sure he pushed to do it. I'd be surprised if that was the case. I don't really know. But I'd be surprised."
What's Gagné like when he's really on?
GL: "When he's on, he throws the curveball early on in the count for strikes. And his changeup is so good it makes his fastball seem a lot faster. We know he doesn't have the fastball he once had with the Dodgers. He uses his fastball in spots where it's not going to hurt him. When he keeps the ball down, he's tough to hit."
What do you see from him going forward?
GL: "It's just one of those stretches where he's struggling, and a lot of pitchers go through it. Whoever gets him next year is going to get the old Gagné who closes in the ninth and he'll be fine."
Touching the bases
Apropos of nothing: 1. Can we all chip in and give Phillies manager Charlie Manuel a contract extension? 2. It's mind-boggling to think of all of the people Lou Gorman once employed; outgoing Twins GM Terry Ryan was one of his scouts with the Mets. 3. Washington's Manny Acta, who just got his contract extended through 2009, is a pretty good manager. 4. The Rangers didn't give Gary Matthews Jr. the money. They won't give it to free agent Torii Hunter, either. 5. How young are the Diamondbacks? Outfielder Justin Upton, 20, was not old enough to sip the champagne during the NL West-clinching celebration.
Mendoza delivers in Texas
Righty Luis Mendoza, whom the Red Sox traded to Texas in 2006 for Bryan Corey, is quickly developing and could be in the Ranger rotation next season. He went 15-4 with a 3.93 ERA for Double A Frisco, and in five games (three starts) with the Rangers, he is 1-0 with a 2.57 ERA. Mendoza, who spent five seasons in the Red Sox organization, said the Rangers changed his delivery and it's made quite a difference. "The Red Sox were mostly concentrating on my pitches, but the Rangers decided to change my delivery, and that's made my pitches a lot better," he said. Mendoza, who has a nice changeup and sinker, said, "They moved me from the first base side to the third base side of the rubber. Now when I miss, I don't miss over the middle of the plate." Mendoza is grateful to the Red Sox for the opportunity in Texas. "They told me when they traded me that there were people over here that might be able to help me, and they were right," Mendoza said.
Anyone brave enough to try it?
Teams looking for bullpen help (and who isn't?) probably will be teased once more by Octavio Dotel. He's come back after missing six weeks with a triceps injury throwing absolutely vicious stuff for the Braves, 95 with great movement. Question is, can you depend on him?
Looking to start something
Mariners manager John McLaren is pretty excited about Brandon Morrow, who has been a decent reliever (18 holds) in his rookie season and is heading to Venezuela for winter ball to try to become a starter next season. "We've been thinking about it for a while," said McLaren, "We think he's got a great arm and our need is to bolster our starting pitching. We also need to go out and improve the eighth inning because we've had trouble getting to J.J. [Putz]."
They can see the mountaintop
You have to feel pretty good if you're the Rockies right now. Whether or not you make the playoffs, the future looks bright. In addition to an excellent young lineup that features Matt Holliday, you've got 24-year-old closer Manny Corpas (18 of 19 in saves), which enables you to deal Brian Fuentes, who should be much sought after. The Rockies will also likely deal third baseman Garrett Atkins and aren't fretting about losing second baseman Kaz Matsui in free agency because they have what Triple A hitting coach Carney Lansford feels is the best defensive second baseman he's ever seen in Jayson Nix.
Santana's name being thrown around
There's been lots of talk about the Dodgers needing to do something dramatic this offseason, and Johan Santana's name has popped up in a potential blockbuster, with the Dodgers perhaps sending prized prospects such as lefty Clayton Kershaw or outfielder Matt Kemp to the Twins. The big question is, will the Twins deal Santana now or try to win with him one more time? One AL executive theorized, "There are a few teams who could match up with the Twins. Would the Yankees deal Melky Cabrera and an Ian Kennedy for Santana? How about Boston? Would they send a Clay Buchholz and a Jacoby Ellsbury for him? The Mets? There are few teams who could handle the paycheck you'd have to give Santana and also be able to part with key prospects."
The clamoring for Tom Glavine's return has escalated among Atlanta fans and media. Glavine can opt out of his Mets contract because he reached the 180-inning figure. The Mets will likely try to keep him, but it doesn't appear Glavine will bite unless there's nothing else out there. According to one major league source, the Braves would have to step to the plate pretty quickly. One other intriguing option for Glavine might be Washington, where the CEO is Stan Kasten, who once ran the Braves. The Nationals will be moving into a new ballpark and could use Glavine as the veteran presence on a young staff . . . Happy 33d birthday, Jeremy Giambi. Happy 45th, Dave Magadan.
Nick Cafardo can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org