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BASEBALL EXTRA | BASEBALL / ROSS NEWHAN

Walker, Griffey: Most Prolific, Most Valuable

September 28, 1997|ROSS NEWHAN

The envelope, please . . .

MOST VALUABLE PLAYER

NATIONAL--1. Larry Walker, Colorado; 2. Mike Piazza, Dodgers; 3. Jeff Bagwell, Houston.

AMERICAN--1. Ken Griffey Jr., Seattle; 2. Tino Martinez, New York; 3. Tim Salmon, Angels.

COMMENT: A case can be made for Piazza being more important to the Dodgers than Walker is to the Rockies, but Walker produced a stunning season of historic and near triple crown proportions. Neither the Dodgers nor Rockies won, nullifying that issue. Martinez carried the Yankees, but Griffey's homer barrage evoked memories of the Babe, and he'll finish with almost 150 RBIs.

CY YOUNG

NATIONAL--1. Pedro Martinez, Montreal; 2. Greg Maddux, Atlanta; 3. Denny Neagle, Atlanta.

AMERICAN--1. Roger Clemens, Toronto; 2. Randy Johnson, Seattle; 3. Brad Radke, Minnesota.

COMMENT: Martinez won 17 games while receiving better than two runs per game less support than Maddux and Neagle. His major league-leading earned-run average of 1.90--along with his whopping edge in strikeouts and complete games--underscored his superiority. Clemens, on a mission after leaving Boston, regained his status as baseball's premier right-handed power pitcher.

ROOKIE OF THE YEAR

NATIONAL--1. Scott Rolen, Philadelphia; 2. Andruw Jones, Atlanta; 3. Kevin Orie, Chicago.

AMERICAN--1. Nomar Garciaparra, Boston; 2. Deivi Cruz, Detroit; 3. Jose Cruz Jr., Toronto.

COMMENT: Rolen and Garciaparra were better than advertised.

ROOKIE PITCHER

OF THE YEAR

NATIONAL--1. Rich Loiselle, Pittsburgh; 2. Matt Morris, St. Louis; 3. Jeremi Gonzalez, Chicago.

AMERICAN--1. Jason Dickson, Angels; 2. Jaret Wright, Cleveland; 3. Brian Moehler, Detroit.

COMMENT: Loiselle came out of the blue to save 28 games for the Pirates. Dickson held the injury-riddled Angel rotation together until hampered by his own ailments.

COMEBACK OF THE YEAR

NATIONAL--Tie between Deion Sanders, Cincinnati, and Curt Schilling, Philadelphia.

AMERICAN--Tie between Randy Johnson, Seattle, and David Justice, Cleveland.

COMMENT: Brett Butler, simply being in uniform again, made the comeback of this or any year, but his irregular role mitigates against an official recognition. Johnson, Justice and Schilling all returned from major injuries to their previous form. Sanders, who didn't play in '96, stole 56 bases and batted .273. Easy game.

MANAGER OF THE YEAR

NATIONAL--1. Dusty Baker, San Francisco; 2. Gene Lamont, Pittsburgh; 3. Larry Dierker, Houston.

AMERICAN--1. Terry Collins, Angels; 2. Buddy Bell, Detroit; 3. Phil Garner, Milwaukee.

COMMENT: Lamont had a fabulous season managing a lineup of mirrors, but Baker convinced the Giants they were good enough to win. Collins brought a new attitude to Anaheim. The Angels went hard from start to finish, and might have beaten the Mariners if they hadn't lost Chuck Finley, Mark Langston and Todd Greene--or had they traded for Mark McGwire.

EXECUTIVE OF THE YEAR

NATIONAL--Brian Sabean, San Francisco.

AMERICAN--Randy Smith, Detroit.

COMMENT: Some in the Bay Area called Sabean the village idiot after he dealt Matt Williams to Cleveland for Jeff Kent, Jose Vizcaino and Julian Tavarez, but the trade--and the acquisition of J.T. Snow--filled gaping holes for the Giants, and his July acquisition of Wilson Alvarez, Roberto Hernandez and Danny Darwin provided the requisite pitching depth down the stretch. Smith stole Deivi Cruz out of the Rule V draft, stole 16-game winner Willie Blair from San Diego and made a nine-player trade with Houston in which he got center fielder Brian Hunter, who led the AL in stolen bases, and maturing closer Todd Jones.

IF THEY HAD TO DO IT OVER

Hindsight is a prerequisite for sportswriters and a curse for general managers. Here's one man's view of the best and worst trade/free-agent acquisitions of last winter.

THE BEST:

1. Clemens, free agent, by Toronto; 2. Jimmy Key, free agent, by Baltimore; 3. Alex Fernandez, free agent, by Florida; 4. Kent and Snow, separate trades, by San Francisco; 5. Jeff Fassero, trade, by Seattle; 6. John Olerud, trade, by New York Mets; 7. Justice and Marquis Grissom, trade, by Cleveland (in a deal that sent Kenny Lofton to Atlanta and helped both teams); 8. Moises Alou, free agent, by Florida; 9. Dave Hollins, free agent, by Angels; 10. Hunter, Deivi Cruz and Blair, in separate trades, by Detroit.

THE WORST:

1. Albert Belle, free agent, by White Sox; 2. Danny Tartabull, free agent, by Philadelphia; 3. Mark Gubicza, trade for Chili Davis, by Angels; 4. Mel Rojas, free agent, by Cubs; 5. Jaime Navarro, free agent, by White Sox. 6. Benito Santiago, free agent, by Toronto; 7. Terry Steinbach, free agent, by Minnesota; 8. Mark Portugal, free agent, by Philadelphia; 9. Carlos Garcia, Orlando Merced and Dan Plesac, trade for six prospects, by Toronto; 10. Greg Vaughn, free-agent re-signing, by San Diego.

The new market?

The best of a modest group of free agent-eligible players: Andres Galarraga, Brady Anderson, Darryl Kile, Randy Myers and Lofton. Galarraga, Anderson and Myers probably will re-sign with their teams. Kile and Lofton will draw big-time attention.

The November expansion draft should enhance winter intrigue, stimulating the market and providing hindsight fodder for the writers.

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