|Wednesday, April 30
Updated: May 1, 11:50 AM ET
Not second-rate: Soriano on track for rare MVP
By Joe Morgan
Special to ESPN.com
When the New York Yankees won four of five championships from 1996-2000, no Yankee won the MVP. Will this be the year they pull off both? One month into the season, the New York juggernaut is heading in that direction.
I believe that Alfonso Soriano will become the first second baseman in 44 years to win the American League MVP. In a lineup of great hitters like Jason Giambi and Bernie Williams, Soriano has become the offensive leader of the Yankees.
Just look at his stats: He leads the majors in total bases (80), with a guy named A-Rod in second place at 69. Soriano is second in the majors in RBI (25) and third in the majors in batting (.375). He's tied for first in the AL in home runs (9) and leads the AL in runs scored (26). What's especially amazing is his run production from the leadoff position.
Other AL players have produced, including Toronto's Carlos Delgado and A-Rod, but the early leader for the MVP is clearly Soriano. He's been unbelievable, the best hitter in baseball. Over in the National League, no one stands out as Soriano does in the AL.
The last second baseman to win the AL MVP was Nellie Fox in 1959 (with the White Sox). Fox, a Hall-of-Famer, was one of my idols. I ended up playing with him for one season with the Astros -- his final year in the majors was my rookie year, 1965. I learned more as a rookie from Fox and some other veterans than most players learn in their first five years.
Later, I was able to win the MVP as a second baseman in the National League, in 1975 and 1976 with the Reds.
Yankees Will Get Even Better
The Yankees have the best record in baseball (20-6), and they've done it without a couple of All-Stars, closer Mariano Rivera and shortstop Derek Jeter. Rivera just returned from the disabled list this week, while Jeter has been out since the season's first game with a shoulder injury (he's been practicing and hopes to return soon).
With Rivera back in the bullpen and Jeter's imminent return to the lineup, the Yankees will be even better. Other players will get better too. No surprise here: Expect the Yankees to dominate the American League all season.
Millwood's Trade Should Have Been No-No For Braves
I was surprised that the Braves traded Millwood, on several levels. First, why trade him at all? The Braves' success in the past decade-plus has been built on pitching. Millwood, at 28 years old, seemed like the perfect candidate to take the baton from 37-year-old Greg Maddux and 35-year-old John Smoltz.
Second, why trade a front-line starter for an unproven backup catcher (Johnny Estrada)? I was surprised the Braves got so little for Millwood.
It was obviously a move made for payroll purposes. But the Braves were willing to pay for other new starters this season, like Russ Ortiz, 28, and Mike Hampton, 30. Why not spend salary on Millwood instead of Hampton?
And third, why on earth would you trade him to one of your division rivals? Given Millwood's track record and potential, I'm surprised the Braves dealt him.
Millwood must be careful now as he approaches his next couple of starts. If the expectations and pressure become too high, a no-hitter can be a curse. It happens for hitters too. Last year, Mariners center fielder Mike Cameron hit four homers in one game, but then he struggled the rest of the season.
Pitching at One-Month Mark
In the NL, several pitchers are off to strong starts, including Cardinals starter Woody Williams (3-0, majors-leading 0.69 ERA), but there's no five-game winner yet. Two NL pitchers are 4-0 (Colorado's Shawn Chacon, San Fran's Damian Moss), while two Cubs are among five starters at 4-1 -- Mark Prior (1.77 ERA) and Kerry Wood (2.77).
By the way: I'll be answering your questions in an ESPN.com chat Friday at 10:45 a.m. ET.
An analyst for ESPN's Sunday Night Baseball, Hall of Fame second baseman Joe Morgan won back-to-back World Series with the Reds. He contributes a weekly column to ESPN.com.