They've soared toward an award

At the midpoint of the baseball season, it's time to predict who will capture the sport's end-of-season individual prizes.

Baseball Week

July 10, 2005|By DAN CONNOLLY | DAN CONNOLLY,SUN STAFF

THE CEREMONIAL first half of the baseball season ends today, with a team that didn't even exist last year sitting atop the National League East.

Besides the Washington Nationals, there have been plenty of compelling story lines this season: the ups and downs of the New York Yankees' $200 million enigma, the Chicago White Sox's amazing run and the cautionary tale of carrying venison up steps.

And, of course, there are the woes of the Orioles, but there's a whole half season remaining to kick around what might be another dog in Baltimore.

For now, though, here's what went right in the first half of 2005 and the appropriate midseason awards. Included are predictions for the award winners when the season is officially over.

American League MVP: Brian Roberts, Orioles. Some believe he's not the best MVP candidate on his own team. Miguel Tejada is certainly the heart and soul of the Orioles, and he's had an outstanding first half. But Tejada put up big numbers in 2004 and the team finished below .500. The primary reason for the Orioles' improvement is Roberts, who leads the league in hitting and is around the leaders in several other categories.

Full-season MVP: Manny Ramirez, Red Sox. He had a .316 lifetime average before the season, so his average will climb by September. He has finished in the top six in the MVP voting four times, and when the Red Sox win the East, he'll beat out Alex Rodriguez and the Orioles' duo.

National League MVP: Derrek Lee, Cubs. The guy is a legitimate Triple Crown threat, and if he stays lukewarm should at least capture his first batting title.

Full-season MVP: Albert Pujols, Cardinals. He's also a legit Triple Crown threat, and his team will make the postseason, which helps his cause. He has finished in the top four each of the past four seasons, but Barry Bonds simply can't win this time.

AL Cy Young: Roy Halladay, Blue Jays. He's almost single-handedly keeping Toronto afloat in the AL East. And if it weren't for fracturing his shin Friday and for Johan Santana and his strikeout lead, he'd have a legitimate shot at the pitching Triple Crown (sensing a trend here?).

Full-season Cy Young: Mark Buehrle, White Sox. He's at Halladay's heels in several categories, and he's the ace of baseball's best team. With Chicago continuing to win, look for Buehrle to lead the league in wins and post a sub-3.00 ERA.

NL Cy Young: Dontrelle Willis, Marlins. He's the most exciting pitcher in baseball. No one combines flair, talent and personality the way Willis does.

Full-season Cy Young: Chris Carpenter, Cardinals. Willis has faded in the second half before, and Carpenter is already a close second in this race.

AL Rookie of the Year: Chris Young, Rangers. With so many rookie hitters putting up mediocre numbers, Young stands out - and not just because he is 6 feet 10. He's the best Texas pitcher not to hit a cameraman. And that counts for something.

Full-season Rookie: Aaron Hill, Blue Jays. He has crushed the ball since making his debut in late May. If he keeps it up, he'll pass Young, who has to pitch in the Texas heat this summer.

NL Rookie of the Year: Clint Barmes, Rockies. What does it say about this race that the leader dropped out June 6? Barmes made headlines for breaking his collarbone when he fell carrying a package of deer meat up a flight of steps. Sometimes, even the most creative of writers can't make this stuff up.

Full-season Rookie: Yhency Brazoban, Dodgers. He's 16 of 19 in save situations and the job is his with Eric Gagne hurt. Washington's Ryan Church needs to stay healthy to have a shot.

AL Manager of the Year: Ozzie Guillen, White Sox. A slam dunk. Even if the team falters some, the White Sox should make the postseason.

Full-season Manager: Guillen.

NL Manager of the Year: Frank Robinson, Nationals. He certainly gets an assist from the commissioner's office for finally having a stable home park, but Robinson has kept this team focused and playing nine hard innings every game.

Full-season Manager: Bobby Cox, Braves. Behind the Nationals, the next best story in the National League is that the Braves are still in the hunt for a 14th consecutive divisional crown with three-fifths of their starting rotation and Chipper Jones on the disabled list. It would be great to see the Nationals hold on, but Cox and the Braves should never be underestimated.

EXTRA BASES

Say what?

"He performs the same way if he's playing in a sandlot with some friends and nobody's watching, or if he's playing in the seventh game of the World Series."

Los Angeles Angels manager Mike Scioscia on his former shortstop, St. Louis' David Eckstein, who will start in his first All-Star Game on Tuesday.

Who's he?

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