There are only three spots on the ballots for the Rookie of the Year awards. That's not going to be nearly enough for the voters who are asked to select the National League's top rookie.
What a crop.
Think about this for a second. How much have you heard about Gaby Sanchez, the Marlins' first baseman? Very little, probably, as the buzz rookie on the Marlins has been Mike Stanton, who entered the final weekend with 43 homers between Double A and Florida. But Sanchez has been solid, hitting .275 with 19 homers and 85 RBIs.
At one point, Stephen Strasburg seemed like an almost automatic pick. But his elbow injury threw open the door and probably got him dropped off more ballots than he will be named on after his 12-start season.
Buster Posey should win the award. He has played a huge role in the Giants' surge after they were plodding along at 41-40 on July 4, so important to the lineup that manager Bruce Bochy plays him at first base when he's not catching. Entering the weekend he was at .313 with 17 home runs and 66 RBIs in 105 games. He should get most of the first-place votes, with the Braves' Jason Heyward receiving any that Posey doesn't get.
But who else goes on the three-player ballot? The huge cast deserving consideration includes Cardinals lefty Jaime Garcia, Brewers closer John Axford, Mets first baseman Ike Davis, Cubs shortstop Starlin Castro, Giants lefty Madison Bumgarner, Reds lefty Travis Wood, Pirates third baseman Pedro Alvarez, Astros third baseman Chris Johnson, Cubs outfielder Tyler Colvin, Stanton and Strasburg. And you probably could make cases for even more guys.
My ballot would look like this: Posey, Heyward and the Cubs' .298-hitting Castro (because of the importance of shortstops).
The other awards:
AL MVP: Josh Hamilton, Rangers — This is a difficult choice, as it was the Tigers' Miguel Cabrera who put up the traditional MVP numbers. But the Tigers were never a factor in the AL Central race, and with four playoff teams in each league, it would take a Triple Crown or record-setting season to be more valuable than someone getting his team into the postseason.
Hamilton missed much of September with broken ribs, but his bat played a huge role in giving the Rangers a lead of 81/2 games by the end of July. The only real debate here was Hamilton vs. Yankees second baseman Robinson Cano, who was a wire-to-wire huge factor for Joe Girardi.
The ballot: 1. Hamilton; 2. Cano; 3. Cabrera; 4. Joe Mauer; 5. Paul Konerko; 6, Vladimir Guerrero; 7. Carl Crawford; 8. Jose Bautista; 9. Alex Rodriguez; 10. Ichiro Suzuki.
NL MVP: Joey Votto, Reds — You would like to say there never has been a question about Votto. But why, then, did the Reds pass on Gordon Beckham to draft first baseman Yonder Alonzo with the seventh pick (one ahead of Beckham) in 2008?
Votto missed part of 2009 to get his head together from depression related to his father's death but has returned in fine form. He carried the Reds to an NL Central title, entering the weekend in the top three in all three Triple Crown categories (.323-37-111). And he hit even better on the road than at his hitter-friendly home park. He's an easy pick.
The ballot: 1. Votto; 2. Carlos Gonzalez; 3. Albert Pujols; 4. Adrian Gonzalez; 5. Scott Rolen; 6. Posey; 7. Heyward; 8. Jayson Werth; 9. Pat Burrell; 10. Troy Tulowitzki.
AL Cy Young: David Price, Rays — The Mariners make a strong case for Felix Hernandez, who easily could be 18-7 with a little more support. But he's 13-12, and even if he does wind up leading the AL in ERA, innings and strikeouts it's going to be tough to vote for him (although the 10 pitchers who led the league in all three categories have all won the award). Hernandez has pitched with no heat on him, unlike Price and the Yankees' CC Sabathia. Most discussion has centered on Sabathia vs. Hernandez, but Price has outpitched big CC.
The ballot: 1. Price; 2. Sabathia; 3. Hernandez; 4. Trevor Cahill; 5. Joakim Soria.
NL Cy Young: Roy Halladay, Phillies — Pounding the strike zone always has been a recipe for success, especially when you locate your pitches within it like Halladay, who is the closest guy to Greg Maddux still in the game. He has had fewer walks than starts, and only nine fewer victories (21) than walks (30). It's close but no cigar again for Adam Wainwright, who some argued should have been the choice over Tim Lincecum last season.
The ballot: 1. Halladay; 2. Wainwright; 3. Ubaldo Jimenez; 4. Carlos Marmol; 5. Josh Johnson.
AL Rookie: Neftali Feliz, Rangers — Should the Baseball Writers Association of America take a look at its rookie qualifications? Perhaps, as Felix worked 20 games last season but still is a rookie because the pitching threshold is 50 innings — a ton for a relief pitcher. But he was spectacular this season (WHIP of 0.89 entering the weekend), and gets the call over rock-solid center fielder Austin Jackson, the Tigers' return from the Yankees in the Curtis Granderson trade.
The ballot: 1. Feliz; 2. Jackson; 3. Wade Davis.
AL Manager: Ron Gardenhire, Twins — New stadium. No Joe Nathan. Shaky first half from Joe Mauer. No Justin Morneau in the second half. Same Twins (except maybe better).
The ballot: 1. Gardenhire; 2. Ron Washington; 3. Joe Maddon.
NL Manager: Bud Black, Padres — Dusty Baker did a great job infusing the Reds with the fighting spirit that was evident in San Francisco and in 2003 with the Cubs. But he had a lot more to work with than Black. How can you overlook the Padres' amazing ride, no matter how it ends?
The ballot: 1. Black; 2. Baker; 3. Bruce Bochy.
The last word: "We should have been in the playoffs. Me being hurt, Kevin (Youkilis) being hurt, it was too much. We could have done a lot of damage, dude." — the Red Sox's Dustin Pedroia.