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ON BASEBALL

Plenty to Value in Bonds, Soriano

September 29, 2002|Ross Newhan

The envelopes please ...

MOST VALUABLE PLAYER

National League: 1. Barry Bonds, San Francisco; 2. Albert Pujols, St. Louis; 3. Shawn Green, Dodgers.

American League: 1. Alfonso Soriano, New York; 2. Alex Rodriguez, Texas; 3. Miguel Tejada, Oakland.

Comment: It's time to give Bonds permanent possession of the NL award and be done with it.

As he drives the Giants into the playoffs, winning a batting title at 38, shattering Ted Williams' record for on-base percentage and breaking his own mark for walks in a season, he has proven again that no hitter--active or otherwise--has had greater influence on pitching and managerial decisions.

In the AL, there has seldom been a more difficult decision.

The field is deep, the MVP rules ambiguous.

In fact, the voter instructions say, "There is no clear-cut definition of what Most Valuable means. It is up to the individual voter to decide who was the Most Valuable Player in each league to his team. The MVP need not come from a division winner or other playoff qualifier."

Certainly, that last sentence implies that it would be fine to select Rodriguez, and it would be. He is the best player in baseball, the runaway leader in home runs, runs batted in and total bases. He also is valuable to the Rangers in the field, at bat, and in the dugout and clubhouse, but there is also something to the fact that his team finished last.

Although that might not matter in a season when the MVP competition wasn't so deep, when there weren't so many players making valuable contributions to winning teams, the fact that there are weighs against picking a player from a losing team. Yes, it might be more difficult playing for a loser, but the ramifications and consequences on a per-game basis aren't as severe.

In staying with Soriano, who was also my midseason MVP, I am sure to raise complaints. Some will say that it is impossible to single out one Yankee when Jason Giambi and Bernie Williams are also having MVP-caliber seasons. However, Giambi struggled early, Williams was injured early, and Soriano has been the catalytic constant on a team with more than 100 wins, a team that was looking for just such a catalyst after the departures of Paul O'Neill, Tino Martinez and Scott Brosius.

Soriano leads the AL in runs, hits, extra-base hits and stolen bases--a sweep achieved only twice before--may still become only the fourth player to hit 40 home runs and steal 40 bases in the same season, is batting .330-plus with runners in scoring position and has the most homers and total bases of any AL player who is going into the playoffs.

A-Rod supporters need not apologize. Neither do I.

CY YOUNG

National: 1. Randy Johnson, Arizona; 2. John Smoltz, Atlanta; 3. Curt Schilling, Arizona.

American: 1. tie between Pedro Martinez, Boston, and Barry Zito, Oakland; 3. Derek Lowe, Boston.

Comment: Call it the easy out, but I could not separate Martinez and Zito. Martinez dominated more categories, but Zito had more wins and was pivotal to the surging A's in the second half, when he went 11-2 with a 1.74 earned-run average while also posting an overall record of 12-1 in starts that followed an Oakland loss.

A Cy Young Award would be the fourth for Martinez, who won one in the National League, and the fourth consecutive for Johnson. It would further enhance the perceptions that Johnson's free-agent signing by the Diamondbacks ranks as one of the best ever, and that the trade in which the Dodgers sent Martinez to Montreal ranks as one of the worst ever.

ROOKIE OF THE YEAR

National: 1. Jason Jennings, Colorado; 2. Austin Kearns, Cincinnati; 3. Brad Wilkerson, Montreal.

American: 1. Eric Hinske, Toronto; 2. Rodrigo Lopez, Baltimore; 3. Jorge Julio, Baltimore.

Comment: It is best to put pitchers and position players in their own categories, but a significant number of pitchers has won the rookie award in either league and it is difficult to ignore Jennings' nine wins in Coors Field and 16 overall, the most by a rookie pitcher since Tom Browning won 20 in 1985.

The AL award could also go to a pitcher, since Lopez won 15 games for the pathetic Orioles after San Diego gave up on him and Julio saved 25 for the Orioles, but Hinske's 23 homers and 82 RBIs as the Blue Jays' third baseman are as impressive as his Gold Glove-in-waiting defense.

MANAGER OF THE YEAR

National: 1. Tony La Russa, St. Louis; 2. Bobby Cox, Atlanta; 3. Jim Tracy, Dodgers.

American: 1. Mike Scioscia, Angels; 2. Art Howe, Oakland;. 3. Ron Gardenhire, Minnesota.

Comment: Scioscia convinced a team that finished 41 games out of the division lead last year and started 6-14 this year that it had championship capability and had to focus only on one game at a time.

Now the Angels are about to appear in the playoffs for the first time in 16 years.

Of course, it's a tough competition.

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