Justin Verlander is 17-8 this season, leading the league in strikeouts… (Jim Mone / Associated Press )
Award ballots are due at the end of the week from voting members of the Baseball Writers' Assn. of America, and as always there are few easy choices. The toughest might be American League Cy Young, as you can argue Detroit's Justin Verlander and Tampa Bay's David Price from about 100 angles.
The AL most-valuable-player debate rages on, but it would be hard not to pick between the Angels' Mike Trout and Detroit's Miguel Cabrera if either leads his team into the postseason, especially if that is Cabrera, who was there all season.
The picks I would authorize fully — Cabrera and San Francisco's Buster Posey for MVP, Price and New York Mets right-hander R.A. Dickey for Cy Young, Trout and Arizona's Wade Miley for rookie of the year, and Baltimore's Buck Showalter and Washington's Davey Johnson for manager of the year.
The Texas Rangers began the weekend 77-1 when leading after seven innings, the sign of a bullpen ready for the playoffs. The one concern is that setup man Mike Adams has slumped down the stretch, which could put guys such as Alexi Ogando and Tanner Scheppers into bigger roles than were expected a month ago.
While this will be remembered as another bitter season in Pittsburgh, it was also only the second in club history in which three Pirates had 25-plus home runs. Pedro Alvarez, Andrew McCutchen and Garrett Jones have done that, joining the 1966 trio of Willie Stargell, Roberto Clemente and Donn Clendenon.
Dusty Baker's mini-stroke raises the question of whether he will want to continue to manage after this season is over. He would be more likely to walk away if the Cincinnati Reds won it all, according to people close to him.
Torii Hunter's huge September has created pressure for the Angels to keep him. He'll be in demand if he reaches free agency.
The Nationals and Astros made a good decision to allow Bo Porter to remain with Washington through the playoffs before starting his job as Houston's manager. There's no reason he should be distracted from his third base coaching job at hand, even if the Nationals still are playing a month from now.
Jason Varitek was hired to be a special assistant to Boston Red Sox General Manager Ben Cherington but he is expected to be heavily involved in game preparation, working with catchers to develop plans of attack for Red Sox pitchers. He eventually may manage the Red Sox but it won't be in 2013.
Baltimore's Nick Markakis gets the pins out of his broken left thumb this week and will start swinging a bat. He hopes the Orioles can play long enough for him to get back in the leadoff spot.