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Thursday, October 28, 2010

The DH Inequity



      By Ross Newhan

      It is a useless spiel that I have made dozens of times, but watching Game 1 of the World Series drove me back to the computer to voice it again:

      For a major sport to allow it's two leagues to play under different rules is madness.

     By now, of course, you know I am referring to the designated hitter rule and the fact that it is used fulltime in the American League but not at all in the National League.

     So, in the World Series, on the game's biggest stage, the American League team must take the DH out of the lineup when in the National League park and possibly play him or another player at a position basically new or foreign to them.

    The American League champion Texas Rangers, playing the first two games in the home park of the San Francisco Giants, knew that putting their DH in right field could lead to problems.

    It isn't so much that Vladimir Guerrero is 34. it's that both knees are worn down from playing the equivalent of eight years on the concrete carpet of Olympic Stadium in Montreal (along with other knee injuries). I mean, it is painful to watch a player who was once one of baseball's premier outfielders try to run and to play a position he had played only once in the last eight weeks.

    For the Rangers, however, It was either risk defensive lapses with Guerrero in the outfield or lose his potent bat.

    The Rangers chose to take the risk and paid a price.

   Guerrero made two errors on balls that got past him. Also, in one of the most difficult parks in the majors for right fielders and center fielders, Texas center fielder Josh Hamilton was forced to shade toward right to give Guerrero protection, opening up a wider gap in left center field. The Giants got six doubles--three by Freddie Sanchez. Not all were driven through the wider gap in left center. Some were down the left and right field lines.

     Nevertheless, it remains a bizarre and inexcusable situation to play under two sets of rules during both the regular season and World Series, where the American League team has to pay a bigger price.

     The AL team can either put the DH and his bat on the bench while playing a better defensive player in the field, or, as the Rangers did and will apparently continue to do, risk defensive lapses by keeping the DH in the lineup at a position he no longer plays well.

    In the meantime, the NL team, playing in the Amrican League park, has a distinct advantage.

    It simply has to bring one of  its better hitting reserves off the bench and give him four or five at bats as the DH, benching the pitcher.

    The NL team doesn't sacrifice anything defensively.

    The Rangers not only had to put the limited Guerrero in the field, but they had to move Nelson Cruz from right field to left and they had to bench one of their usual third outfielders: Jeff Francouer, David Murphy or Julio Borbon.while also batting a pitcher who probably hasn't batted all season.

    Why has this been tolerated since the DH was introduced in 1973 to stimulate offense?

    Why do the two leagues have separate rules?

    The answer at this point is that it's simply too late to change what had been a one league experiment that turned permanent.

    Now, the players union will argue strongly against dropping the DH because he is generally one of the team's highest salaried players, raising overall salaries.

    And National League owners don't want any part of the DH for that very same financial reason and they will argue that the more tactical NL game, featuring double switches and pinch hitting for the pitcher, is a better game.

    All of that would not prevent the commissioner from ordering the same set of rules in both World Series parks.

    That, too, is not going to happen, so enjoy Vladimir Guerrero in right field.  

                           

Sunday, October 24, 2010

A Few Giants/Phillies Thoughts

 


    By Ross Newhan

    --Yes, Cody Ross was the obvious choice as NLCS most valuable player, but the stealth MVP was San Francisco southpaw Javier Lopez who continually nullified the left handed hitting Chase Utley and Ryan Howard, and is one more example of why baseball minded parents should raise their sons to throw left-handed. Veteran left handed relievers are never out of work. Left handed bullpen colleague Jeremy Affeldt is with his fifth team. Lopez, 33, pitched for the Red Sox, Rockies and Diamondbacks before being acquired from Pittsburgh at the trade deadline. During the regular season, Lopez appeared in 27 games with the Giants, almost always facing a left hander, and struck out 16, walked two and allowed no home runs. He retired all seven of the first seven batters he faced in the post-season, and worked in five of the six games against the Phillies, striking out four in 4 1/3 innings and allowing one run and one hit. Utley batted .182 in the NLCS (he fielded almost as poorly). Howard hit .318, but he had no home runs and no runs batted in, and he struck out 12 times in 22 at bats, an NLCS record.

   --Bruce Bochy won't be the NL's manager of the year. The writers' award, voted between the end of the regular season and start of the playoffs, will probably go to Bud Black of San Diego or Dusty Baker of Cincinnati. However, Bochy always seemed to have the right lineup combinations during the post-season despite the absence of a regular third baseman, a briefly slumping center fielder in Andres Torres and an injured shortstop in Juan Uribe, who disregared his sore left wrist to hit the winning sacrifice fly and home run in Games 4 and 6 of the ALCS.

   --Of course,  Bochy had the combinations to work with because General Manager Brian Sabean, from the pre-season signing of Aubrey Huff (no one could have predicted his 26 homers and 86 RBI), never stopped, trading for Lopez and Ramon Ramirez, calling up Buster Posey and Madison Bumgarner, signing and calling up the released Pat Burrell, landing Ross on waivers to keep him away from San Diego. The offense may be Torture, as telecaster Duane Kuiper first called it, but the Giants a way, and the pitching is special. The Phils batted .216 and scored only 18 runs in six games.

    --There will be a modest free agent crop on the market this winter, and Jayson Werth will be strongly pursued, but probably not by his Phillies, who will move top prospect Dominic Brown into the right field slot. The larger issue is in left field, where Raul Ibanez, at 39, is coming off a terrible first half of the regular season and a .211 NLCS with no home runs or RBI. Ibanez is owed another $11.5 million next year, and there is nothing the Phillies, who are aging throughout their lineup, can do about that.  The Phillies had MLB's fourth highest payroll at about $140,000 million, but we've learned that money doesn't always talk. Nineteen of the 30 teams have reached the World Series since the 1994 work stoppage, including 10 of 16 NL teams.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

A Few Ranger/Yankee Thoughts



     By Ross Newhan

     --Yankee GM Brian Cashman makes it clear that Joe Girardi will return as manager next year, and he certainly has earned that endorsement at least. If a friend dropped in from Mars during the ALCS and you told him this was a $200 million team, he would have had you commited to the nearest black hole. This was a 95 win team that turned old and exposed its weaknesses before our very eyes.

     --I don't think Girardi can be blamed for A.J. Burnett largely being an $80 million flop and forcing the manager to use any catcher except Jorge Posada because Burnett and Posada are not on the same wave length or Joba Chamberlain, the next great Yankee pitcher, virtually becoming just another bullpen guy or only Robinson Cano, among the position players, looking like a player who deserves longterm pin stripes in the great tradition of Yankee pin stripes, or Derek Jeter, the wonderful Derek Jeter and I mean that sincerely, suddenly presenting a difficult contract dilemma at 36 or Alex Rodriguez largely coming up empty in one more October series (.190, 2 RBI) or....well, you get the $200 million drift.

    --Colby Lewis gives up three runs in 13 2/3 innings and looks like one tough Nolan Ryan type dude in Games 3 and 6 for the Rangers and it's hard to believe he was pitching in Japan the last two years, although that's where he learned the breaking pitch that has made his fastball that much faster and given him a second weapon. Ryan, as club owner, and Mike Maddox, as pitching coach, have the Ranger starters all believing they can finish what they start, and  it's pretty likely that Derek Holland, at some point, will be coming out of the bullpen to join them, although he is baby-faced valuable in a long or short role where he is.

   --As I wrote the other day, Texas shortstop Elvis Andrus is headed to national stardom and probably has more tools than his idol, Derek Jeter, had at a similar starting point, although the one thing that has separated Jeter over the years is his ability to always be in the right spot at the right time, and all you have to remember is his on the run cutoff and backhand flip to Posada that nailed Jeremy Giambi at the plate, saving Game 3 of the 2001 ALDS against Oakland--a turning point play and game.

   --In advancing to the World Series, the Rangers have sent a message to the Angels that they will remain a legitimate contender in the AL West, although their ability to retain Cliff Lee is a significant key, of course, and if the Yankees are paying Burnett $80 million, what do you figure they will offer Lee, raising the ante for the Rangers, and it was 30 years ago that Ryan sought to become the first $1 million a year pitcher only to have the late Buzzie Bavasi, then the Angels general manager, allow him to leave as a free agent in what Bavasi would call the biggest mistake of his career. Now free agent salaries have grown to numbing heights for both pitchers and position players, and it is Ryan--in a case of what goes around comes around--who will have to decide how much financial Lee-way he has.                

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Nobody Asked Me, but...


    By Ross Newhan

    With apologies to the late, great Jimmy Cannon, nobody asked me but...

    --The Steinbrenner brothers had to be seeing dollar signs every time potential free agent Cliff Lee threw a pitch against their Yankees in Game 3 of the ALCS. I don't think I've ever seen a pitcher carve up a quality lineup in the way that the Texas southpaw did. The Yankees may not be Murderer's Row, but they did lead the majors in runs this year...

    --I like the work of TBS analysts Ron Darling and John Smoltz and have long thought that Darling is one of the most insightful in the business. Too bad they aren't doing the World Series...

    --It's too bad as well that Magic Johnson probably won't make enough from his percentage sale of the Lakers to buy the Dodgers, but he should expect a call from Frank McCourt. One more loan source for the strapped Dodger owner except that Magic is likely on the verge of purchasing the Detroit Pistons...

    --Wacky Nevada Senatorial candidate Sharon Angle's running an ad advising Hispanics not to vote on Nov. 2 has to be the lowest of the low, although there's plenty to choose from, such as ("I am not a witch") Christine O'Donnell, maybe even the wackier Delaware Senatorial candidate, asking her debate opponent just where does the Constituion cite separation of church and state. Perhaps she just hadn't gotten to the first amendment yet...

    --Longtime Giant telecaster Duane Kuiper calls his team's lineup Torture Inc., given their struggle to score runs and frequency with which they play games decided by one run. A 2010 awakening by Pablo Sandoval would have helped correct that, but it may be far too late given that the slumping Panda has been swinging the equivalent of bamboo since the start of the season and the Giants have been starting just about everyone else since the postseason began...  

   --Anyone who thinks that Cody Ross emerged from a post-season gopher hole somewhere hasn't been paying attention. Ross had 24 homers and 90 RBI with Florida last year and 22/73 the year before. He went on August waivers when the Marlins brought up a truckload of prospects, and the Giants shrewdly claimed him so that division leading San Diego wouldn't, just one of several key second half moves by GM Brian Sabean...

   --I had seen him several times in Anaheim this season so I haven't been surprised by his post-season play, but no one is making a bigger name for himself on the national stage--with apologies to Ross--than Texas shortstop and leadoff hitter Elvis Andrus. He has 14 post-season hits, seven with two strikes. He is a Gold Glove caliber defender who made the key defensive play in the Game 4 victory against the Yankees, and, having stolen 32 bases during the regular season, he forces New York pitchers to split their attention when he is on base...

     --So, Fredi Gonzalez and Eric Wedge are each getting a second managerial opportunity with Atlanta and Seattle. Decent choices, but I like that Florida is apparentlly going to give Bo Porter, who has definitely put in his time and was on the Arizona coaching staff this year, his first managerial shot in the majors, and I like that another lifer, Mike Quade, who has managed more then 2,300 minor league games, is getting the Cubs job when it would have been easy for new owner Tom Ricketts to pick a bigger name, including that of Ryne Sandberg or Joe Girardi, who the Yankees have not signed beyond this year. After Lou Piniella stepped down, only the Phillies had a better record than the Cubs under the interim Quade...

    --It's easy to say now, but I think Girardi made a mistake not starting C.C. Sabathia on three days rest with his team down a game, especially since A.J. Burnett had pitched so infrequently recently and so poorly when he did. I don't think Girardi is in trouble, but Hank Steinbrenner has a lot of his father in him, and the Rangers are handing it to the Yankees, looking like a far better team. The Rangers would have already won the AL title except for one inning in Arlington, and Joe Torre, among others, would say nothing surprises him in the Bronx...

    --I wouldn't get excited by the Dodgers re-signing Ted Lilly to a three year contract. It will still be a surprise if they find enough cash to add the potent bat they desperately need. Given that Carl Crawford is probably headed to the Angels or Yankees, the Dodgers could do worse than return Adrian Beltre to third base, although it would mean swallowing the $6.50 million Casey Blake has remaining through 2011 and a 2012 buyout (besides meeting Beltre's demands), so that's probably more than McCourt can digest....

    --Besides, wouldn't the Angels love to put Beltre at third and Crawford in left, adding power and speed and filling two key positions, with a healthy Kendry Morales filling another as he returns to first base...

    --I can't think of a more personable and popular former player than Dave Roberts, who is confident he has won a bout with Hodgkins Lymphoma and will coach first base for the Padres next season, potentially enhancing the San Diego running game...   

       

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Pitching Dominance--and the Ongoing Exodus Under the McCourts



      By Ross Newhan

     I have to admit that the spellbinding rescue of the Chilean miners cut into my viewing of the decisive game in the Texas-Tampa Bay AL division series in which Cliff Lee of the Rangers proved spellbinding to the Rays hitters.

    Lee's masterful performance, following Roy Halladay's no hitter (his second and MLB's sixth of the year) and Tim Lincecum's 14 strikeout shutout of Atlanta--not to overlook masterful performances by Cole Hamils, C.C. Sabathia, C.J. Wilson and Phil Hughes--have served to underscore the continuing dominance of pitching in 2010.

    Consider:

    --Runs in 2010 were down a whopping 1,111 from 2009 and home runs were down 429.

    --The overall earned-run average dropped from 4.32 to 4.08.

   The emhasis on the drafting and force feeding of young flame-throwers, the obvious impact of steroid testing (although there is still no viable major league test for human growth hormone) and the departure of a fleet of steroid era power hitters have all affected the reduction in offense.

   I like it. Baseball has returned to its roots. Pitching, speed and defense are more critical than ever.

   Excuse me if I sound like a fan, but I can't wait for Saturday's Lincecum-Halladay opener of the National League's Championship Series, although the events in Chile put even the post-season in perspective.

     Fleeing the McCourts
 
     It started from Frank and Jamie's first day of Dodger ownership and it has continued--the loss of quality people through firing or resignation, with most of those people quickly moving into quality jobs that served to make the McCourts look foolish

     Most recently, Frank fired club president Dennis Mannion, prompting the executive of another major league club to say, "I don't get it. Dennis had become repected throughout baseball. He gave the Dodgers a positive face."

     Now we're back to the negative face of McCourt as club president.

    Mannion, who tried to give general manager Ned Colletti as much operating room as possible while the McCourt's go through their financially strapping divorce, was guaranted a buyout, which would evaporate if he commented.

     Most people close to the club believe the firing resulted from the fact that McCourt didn't want to pay Mannion's $1 million salary and was tired of the hits he was taking during coverage of the court trial regarding his divorce for operating out of a Beverly Hills office instead of Dodger Stadium.

    Now, he is returning to a Dodger Stadium office with even closer control of the financial reins.

   Of course, Jamie could win the court case and Frank might have to sell, which might create an impromptu celebration in Los Angeles.

   In the meantime, here's just a small sampling of the quality people who have left or were forced to leave and the quality jobs for which they were hired or created--and we won't even get into the general managers or managers like Jim Tracy, who had a brief tenure with the hapless Pirates before becoming a manager of the year in Colorado, or Paul DePodesta, who is an Executive Vice President with San Diego, or Dan Evans, who formed West Coast Sports Management, of which he is President and CEO..

   The McCourts inherited Bob Graziano, who was club president, and Derrick Hall, who was senior VP of  communication.

   Now, Graziano is a managing partner with Northern Trust, a nationally respected  investment company, and Hall is President and CEO of the Arizona Diamondbacks.

   There was Marty Greenspun, who left the Yankees to become Dodger president and then fled back to the Yankees as Senior Vice President, Strategic Ventures, and ticketing executive Debra Duncan, now ticketing director at USC, and Chief Financial Officer Cris Hurley, now Senior Vice President of Finance with the NBA, and Erikk Aldridge, who was Director of Community Affairs with the Dodgers and is now Executive Director with the Boys & Girls Club in Venice.

   How about the series of publicity and public relations people that Frank or Jamie eventually found fault with like Dr. Charles Steinberg, who is now a right hand man with Commissioner Bud Selig, or Lon Rosen, who is Executive Vice President with Blue Entertainment Sports Network, or Lon Rosenberg, who is Senior Vice President of Operations for the Washington Redskins, or John Olguin, who is VP of communication with Chip Ganassi Racing, or Gary Miereanu, who does publicity for Disney, Warner's and Sony, or Shaun Rachau, who is vice president of communication with the Diamondbacks, or Camille Johnston, who is merely Michele Obama's communications directior.

    Camille was a vice president of communications with the Dodgers when the McCourts hired Steinberg for essentially the same position, prompting her departure.

    Now she works in the West Wing of the White House for ostensibly the most popular person in the administration and has no reason to look back. Why would anyone who has worked for the McCourts look back? After all, they are already having the last laugh.

    STING-LESS RAYS

    Watching Tama Bay against Texas it is difficult to believe they finished second in the American League in runs, averaging almost five per game. The Rays have won the beastly East two of the last three years, though there is a theory they were set up this year by the Yankees, who didn't care about entering the playoffs as the wild card if it meant they would play Minnesota in the division series, a team they have dominated on an almost annual basis every October.

    Yankee manager Joe Girardi scoffs at the conspiracy theorists, but both the Yankees and Rays had a playoff berth locked up early and neither team tore it up during the final couple weeks, a lethargy that the Rays failed to shake against the Rangers.

    Now the Rays face the loss of three key players to free agency:: Outfielder Carl Crawford, first baseman Carlos Pena and closer Rafael Soriano.

    Crawford and Soriano will be widely pursued, but Pena's market value has continued to slip from his 2007 high of 46 homers, 121 RBI and .282 average. This year, he hit .196 with 28 homers and 84 RBI. Steroids--or the absence of them? Many scouts believe he has simply become frustrated by the right-side overload that most teams use against the left handed hitter and he has shown no ability to adjust and take pitches to the opposite field in left. Pena is still a threat, but at .196, with a drop of 18 homers and 37 RBI  since 2007, there is wide spread skepticism in the market, although he was 4 for 14 with a home run against Texas. Many teammates did worse.                                 

Friday, October 8, 2010

Clearly, More Replay Is Needed


       By David Newhan


      I know hindsight is 20/20. I had the overwhelming urge to post another article on the use of instant replay for the playoffs before they started but I held back. My thought was that I was just beating up on the umps too much.

     Well, that is not the case. The ultimate goal is to help them by giving them every tool and piece of technology available to relieve some of the pressure on them and to get the call right.

     The fans deserve it, the players deserve it, the owners deserve it, and the umpires deserve it.

     Once again, however, our commissioner, Bud Selig, has failed us and the game by becoming retroactive instead of proactive.

     Guaranteed, he will put a system in for next year that goes beyond deciding if home runs were fair or foul or if there was fan interference on a potential home run.

     The problem is, he had plenty of evidence and time to implement an expanded use of replay for the 2010 season and its playoffs.

    Enough already! There is far too much at stake and the right technologies are available now to help the umpires.
 
   Unfortunately, Thursday's games provided more examples for why these playoffs needed an expanded replay review.

   Some type of system in which managers can challenge decisions, as in the NFL, must be implemented.

  All three games on the playoff docket were radically affected by a close call. In unprecedented manner, two managers were ejected from playoff games in one day….and a third, Bobby Cox (who ironically was the last manager to be tossed from a playoff game five years ago and has been ejected from more games than any manager in history) could or should have been if he'd had a better angle at a stolen base call that was proved wrong by replay.

  Game 2 of the Rangers vs. Rays ALDS saw Tampa manager Joe Maddon argue a check swing by the Rangers' Michael Young. Jerry Meals, umpiring first base, ruled that Young held up his swing on a close 2-2 pitch from Chad Qualls. On the next pitch, Young tagged Qualls for a home run to dead center. This chain of events drastically changed the make up of the game and the series. A 2-0 Ranger lead was now 5-0!

  When Maddon went to the mound he argued heatedly with home plate ump Jim Wolf. Wolf, protecting his partner Meals and with no other choice in the matter, ejected Maddon.

  Replays cleary showed that Young had indeed gone too far on his checked swing.

  Indeed, the true result should have been a strike out, leaving Qualls with still two on but two out and a great chance to get out of the inning and stay close enough to make a comeback relevant.

  Exhibit 2 came in Game 2, Yankees and Twins. Minnesota down 1-0 in games. Seventh inning of a 2-2 game with one on, Lance Berkman takes a close two strike pitch. Well, replays show it to be a little too close. MLB.com’s pitch-fix showed it to be a perfect pitch on the inside corner. Steeeerrrrikkkke three. Naked Gun moonwalk, batter out! Oooops, sorry, ball. Next pitch, Berkman doubles and Jorge Posada rolls around the bags to score from first. Twins now down 3-2 and pitcher Carl Pavano plainly upset on the mound. Manager Ron Gardenhire goes to the mound and lets plate umpire Hunter Wendelstedt know what he thought of the previous pitch. Of course, Gardy gets run by an umpire with whom he has a heated history. Another game changing, series changing, chain of events.

  Case 3, game three of the day, Giants vs. Braves playoff opener. Buster Posey on first base decides to push the issue in a scoreless game by trying  to steal second. He takes off and is ruled safe by second base ump Paul Emmel. Tough call, high tag, close play. Upon review, he is out. Of course, the next batter, Cody Ross, singles and drives in what turns out to be the only run of the game. Tim Lincecum’s spectacular two hit shut out holds up and the Giants hold a one game lead in the series.

  I am not saying the Rays, Twins or Braves would have won if it hadn’t been for these calls. My point is that the calls changed the entire complexion and way in which the remainder of the game was played. I am not trying to belittle these umpires. I am not trying to say that their job is easy. Quite the opposite. It is obvious that these are close games and bang-bang type calls. The camera angles are there. The technologies are available. Let's utilize them and not make a mockery of the game.

   Players and organizations invest way too much for baseball to blow off the importance of trying to get every possible call right. No one is removing the human element. It's just a matter of getting it right!

   As I stated at the top, we've had enough time to implement a working system. The Commish has dropped the ball. Again, he is retroactive in his approach. Selig could have made progress on this issue and, pardon the pun, helped nip it in the Bud.

  But, no, we will have to wait for him and his special committee reviewing changes and enhancements to the game to make adjustments in the off season.

 Already, the players union wants to meet with the umpires. Players are not trying to show the umps up, and the umps want to get it right. Why not give both sides the tools to help? Take the pressure off the umpires and allow them to use replay. Too many instances have already occurred (last years playoff's, this year's, the Galarraga perfect game bid, etc.). The communication has broken down between the two sides. Help them restore the relationship by implementing some type of expanded replay system. Selig is a patient consensus builder who has helped bring in many changes that have enhanced the game's revenue and popularity, but he  has sat back too long on this issue, ignoring the obvious need for change. On replay, he needs to take the lead.

Monday, October 4, 2010

And the Newy Awards go to....

     By David and Ross Newhan


      Well, we made it: 162 games in the book and a breath away from needing 163 and 164 to decide the total post-season field. The playoffs begin Wednesday and we will soon find ourselves amid the drama that is October (and thanks to our good friends at TBS and FOX) November baseball.

     So, who are the winners and other candidates for all the major awards?

     For the most part, father and son find themselves in unusual agreement, which may be news in itself.

     We'll call these the Newy Awards, and here are our selections:.

                                             NATIONAL LEAGUE MVP

     David: 1. Joey Votto, Reds; 2. Carlos Gonzalez, Rockies; 3. Albert Pujols, Cardinals. It's always an issue as to whether the MVP goes to the best player in the league or the player who has been his team's most valuable player or pitcher. I feel like the Silver Slugger Award represents the best season at each position while the MVP represents the player most involved in helping his team get to the playoffs, consistently the most valuable. Votto, CarGo and Pujols are the top tier for me. All three dominate the offensive leader boards in virtually every category. Votto gets the edge by leading the league in both on base and slugging percentage Furthermore, his team made the playoffs and he consistently delivered the big hits. I also belieive that San Diego closer Heath Bell should be somewhere in the mix because the Padres are not even close to winning the division without him. Usually, I am against a pitcher being considered for this but I think his 47 saves (34 in a row) with a 6-1 record and 1.93 earned-run average put him somewhere in the top five.

    Ross: 1. Votto; 2. Gonzalez; 3. Pujols. Father and son are on the same page for the same reasons. I also agree that Heath Bell has to receive consideration, and I would add that the top three are pretty much the best players in the league, besides being the most valuable. This year, it's hard to separate the criteria, as it already is with Pujols and will be in the future with the Colorado outfielder known as CarGo. This kid is just getting started.

                                                           AMERICAN LEAGUE MVP

   David: 1. Josh Hamilton, Rangers; 2. Miguel Cabrera, Tigers; 3. Robinson Cano, Yankees. Hamilton edges out Cabrera based on his supporting cast helping him get to the playoffs, as well as his 30 point advantage in average. The other defining factor goes to his contributions on the defensive side of the field in which Hamilton clearly brings more to the table. Cano is a victim of his peers. Too many good players around him in the Yankee lineup to say that he is the MVP. Great season though by a player on the vege of greatness. I would love to have given the award to Tampa Bay third baseman Evan Longoria if his numbers were only slightly better. Who doesn’t remember him jumping teammate Upton’s rear earlier this year for loafing it, the kind of thing an MVP does.

     Ross: 1. Hamilton; 2. Cabrera; 3. Cano. Again, we agree. Cabrera had a great statistical year, but so did Hamilton, who might have won the Triple Crown if he hadn't missed most of September with broken ribs. His absence during a period when the Rangers weren't the same team without him underscored his value. In the meantime, where does Jose Bautista with his 54 home runs and 124 runs batted in fit in? Was he the best player in the league based on those numbers or do they raise too many questions regarding his sudden power and productivity? Is he simply the victim of an era still fresh in our minds?

                                                           NL CY YOUNG

    David: 1. Roy Halladay, Phillies; 2. Adam Wainwright, Cardinals; 3. Ubaldo Jimenez, Rockies. Did anyone think that a pitcher not named Jimenez could win this award after the month of May? Halladay and Wainwright, however, had the better overall years when it was all done, and Halladay edges Wainwright, in my thinking, by one win, 15 more innings, six more strikeous, and four more complete games with virtually identical ERAs. Both pitchers are true number ones, aces of not only their respective staffs but consistently among the best in baseball. Side note on comeback player of the year: Carlos Zambrano of the Cubs goes 8-0 with a 1.41 ERA in 11 starts after a return from anger management courses and how about the Phillies' Roy Oswalt, the former Astro who made the most of his change in venue.

   Ross: 1. Halladay; 2. Wainwright; 3. Jimenez. Again we agree. I just wonder if Jimenez wouldn't have been able to maintain his first half form in the second half if Colorado manager Jim Tracy hadn't asked him to throw 120 pitches so often so early.

                                                       AL CY YOUNG

    David:  1. David Price, Rays; 2. Felix Hernandez, Mariners; 3. C.C. Sabathia, Yankees. Price takes the Cy because of the ineptitude of the Mariner offense to perform. King Felix dominated every statistical category except wins and losses. He led the league in quality starts, ERA,, innings and was within one strike out of  that crown. That being said, he was 13-12. I find it hard to give the award to someone with that record. I don’t know, maybe one game above .500 is pretty awesome considering his team was 40 games below .500 with the league's worst offense. Price wins by going 19-6 with a 2.72 ERA, making many of his starts in MLB’s toughest division, leading his low price team to a second division title in the last three years, edging Sabathia in my mind.

    Ross: 1. Hernandez; 2. Price; 3. Sabathia. I have the same top three, but I give the award to Hernandez for the same reasons my son opted not to....he led the league in virtually every statistical category despite a 13-12 record with the worst offensive team in the league.

                                                        NL ROOKIE OF THE YEAR

    David: 1, Buster Posey, Giants; 2. Jason Heyward, Braves; 3. Gaby Sanchez, Marlins. In a packed and talented NL rookie crop, Posey gets the nod over Heyward even though Posey was a late call up. Posey solidified the Giants lineup, hitting fourth, terrorizing pitching staffs in August and ending the year with a .305 average, 18 homers and 67 RBI despite his late start.

    Ross:  1. Posey; 2. Heyward; 3. Sanchez. The Giants made several important acquisitions before and after the start of the season but none more important than the call up of Posey, who fit into the middle of the lineup like a glove, no pun intended.

                                                         AL ROOKIE OF THE YEAR

   David: 1. Neftali Feliz, Rangers; 2. Austin Jackson, Tigers; 3. John Jaso, Rays. Both Feliz and Jackson are deserving. Jackson played solidly on offense and defense. He scored over 100 runs, stole over 20 bases and hit close to .300. Feliz is my choice on the basis of his 40 saves for a division winner, a rookie closer helping lead the Rangers to their first playoff berth in 11 years.

   Ross:  1. Feliz; 2. Jackson. It comes down to a choice between Feliz and Jackson in my mind as well, and while I would normally lean toward the every day player, I think a rookie closer who saves 40 games for a division winner deserves the nod.

                                                            NL MANAGER OF THE YEAR

    David:  1. Bud Black, Padres; 2. Dusty Baker, Reds; 3. Bobby Cox, Braves; 4. Charlie Manuel, Phillies. OK, I know it’s a little bit of a cop out but I do think it is a toss up, with either Black or Baker deservedly winning. I live in San Diego county so I listed Black first, but if you live in Ohio, Baker is probably your choice. I do know that no one picked the Padres while many saw the talent that the Reds had and expected them to be in a Central dogfight with St. Louis, although maybe not supplanting the Cardinals. Bobby Cox is back in the playoffs for one last dance and will always be known for his 14 straight division titles and being a player's manager. I think Manuel did a great job keeping the Phils on track despite a multitude of injuries and has that team favored to get back to the World Series.

    Ross:  1. Black; 2. Baker; 3. tie between Cox and Bruce Bochy, Giants.. The fact that the Padres failed to reach the playoffs should not diminish the job Black did in leading a team with the league's next to lowest payroll and worst offense to the 162nd and final game of the season before being eliminated.

                                                               AL MANAGER OF THE YEAR  


      David:  1. Ron Gardenhire, Twins; 2. Ron Washington, Rangers; 3. Joe Maddon, Rays. Gardenhire kept the Twins rolling to the Central title. Despite financial restraints and a changing cast they win year in and year out and it is largely due to his leadership. Washington is a close second, directing the Rangers to their first title in 11 years after winning the respect of his players in the spring by publicly admitting he had used cocaine. Maddon led the Rays to baseball's toughest divisional title. Players love the atmosphere he creates, and the financially restricted Rays are now a yearly contender under his watch. It may get overlooked but another big job was done by Buck Showalter after his mid-season hire by the Orioles, who finished 10 games over .500 in his short tenure.

    Ross:   1. Washington; 2. Gardenhire; 3. Maddon. I just feel that Washington had a little bit more to overcome than Gardenhire, although it's a toss up. The Twins know how to win. Washington had to convince the Rangers that they could amid injuries and a lengthy court fight over a change in ownership. Year in and year out, however, the Twins set a standard for small market clubs in the art of contending and often winning, and they could be a playoff sleeper with the support of capacity crowds in their new ballpark.

    And so go the Newy Awards.