In tight MVP races, go with your heart

Mlb Week


Some baseball awards are easy to define.

The Rookie of the Year is self-explanatory. So, too, is Manager of the Year. The Cy Young Award should go to the best pitcher in baseball, regardless of role.

And Most Valuable Player? It's the use-your-own-criteria award. There's no absolute precedent, no true blueprint to follow. The trend changes yearly.

Is it the best player? The best player on a contending team? The player that means the most to a contender? An everyday player only?

The ideal formula is to look at everything - a player's offensive and defensive stats, his team's record, and, yes, his direct impact on that standing. That should be the underlying tiebreaker for the MVP.

If the choice is still muddied, flip a coin. This year's MVP races required several quarters. And still I'm not convinced. At least this was done with some backbone. No ties were permissible.

Here are the picks:

American League Rookie of the Year: Jonny Gomes, Tampa Bay. Unlike the past few seasons, there are plenty of options this year. The tough choice is Gomes, an outfielder who has led rookies in most offensive categories despite barely playing 100 games.

National League Rookie of the Year: Jeff Francoeur, Atlanta. Two impressive candidates made their debuts midseason on pennant contenders: Philadelphia's Ryan Howard and Atlanta's Francoeur. Howard did an impressive job of filling in for injured star Jim Thome. But Francoeur gets the nod here because his offensive numbers are nearly as eye-popping as Howard's and he had 14 outfield assists from right field.

AL Manager of the Year: Ozzie Guillen, Chicago. Yes, the White Sox almost blew it. And Cleveland's Eric Wedge never let his surprise team quit. But honestly, despite their age, the Indians have more talent than the White Sox. So Guillen can't be overlooked. The Orioles' Sam Perlozzo should get one vote for not breaking down in the dugout about halfway through September.

NL Manager of the Year: Bobby Cox, Atlanta. Frank Robinson did a wonderful job - for half a season. Charlie Manuel's and Phil Garner's teams also had great halves, and Tony La Russa is a fantastic manager. That said, no one is Cox's equal. Three-fifths of his rotation went down, as did his most established hitter. And his closer kept blowing up. Cox used 17 rookies, and won his 14th straight division title.

AL Cy Young: Johan Santana, Minnesota. Admittedly, the Twins were a non-factor down the stretch. Los Angeles' Bartolo Colon won 21 games for a division champion, Mark Buehrle led the White Sox, and Yankees closer Mariano Rivera had his best season. If Rivera wins this, there will be no complaints here, but Santana trumps all starters in practically every category but victories. That should mean something.

NL Cy Young: Dontrelle Willis, Florida. Houston's Roger Clemens and his sub-2.00 ERA deserve consideration. But Willis and St. Louis' Chris Carpenter each nearly doubled Clemens' win total, and their other numbers were in line with Clemens'. Carpenter bettered Willis in quality starts and strikeouts, and he plays for the league's best team. Willis had more victories, a better ERA and helped win games with his bat. Overall, Willis did a tad more with fewer runs.

AL MVP: David Ortiz, Boston. I've flip-flopped on this hair-puller three times now. New York's Alex Rodriguez has had the best all-around season - he has even stolen 18 bases - while Ortiz leads the league in RBIs and dramatic moments. Ortiz probably is more important to his team than any other player in baseball, and that's the difference. However, A-Rod has helped carry the Yankees and he plays a great third base, while Ortiz, a designated hitter, sits throughout most games. That's a compelling argument, Yankees fans. But, simply put, the stats-driven mind says Rodriguez, and the unrelenting baseball heart screams for the never-give-up Ortiz.

NL MVP: Andruw Jones, Atlanta. Based on similar logic, it's impossible to go with Ortiz and not Jones, who, really, is the reason the Braves won their 14th straight title. He got better when the team around him fell apart. St. Louis' Albert Pujols deserves a break here, and it would be great if he finally gets an MVP. Again, he's the better all-around player, and his batting average and on-base percentage put Jones to shame. But Jones won two-thirds of the Triple Crown and is a Gold Glove center fielder. He wins by the narrowest of margins.

Say what?

Sam Perlozzo

"As corny as it may sound, I never took a greenie in my life. I was always afraid I might run out on the field with all my clothes off or something."

The Orioles manager was talking about the union's proposed concession to allow amphetamines -- or greenies -- to be placed on the 2006 banned drug list. The prescription drug reportedly has been widely used in major league clubhouses as an energy booster during the drudgery of a 162-game season.

Who's he?

Craig Hansen

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