No sweeping exits. No offstage lines. Just our annual end-of-season awards. The envelopes please ...
Barry Bonds: We suppose you could argue that a guy whose home run total will drop by almost 30 -- and a guy who won't lead his own team in RBI -- isn't the MVP. We even concede there are cases to be made for everyone from John Smoltz to Albert Pujols to Lance Berkman. But Bonds' 65 intentional walks -- eight of them with first base occupied -- say it all. There is no player in baseball more valuable to his team than Bonds. He's going to lead the league in slugging percentage by close to 200 points -- the biggest margin since Babe Ruth. He's going to break Ted Williams' 61-year-old record for on-base percentage. He's going to be the oldest player in history to win his first batting title. He's playing a different game than the rest of the species. So he'd better save room on his shelf for MVP trophy No. 5. Apologies to: Smoltz, Pujols, Berkman, Shawn Green, Eric Gagne, Randy Johnson, Curt Schilling.
|Barry Bonds will win his first-ever batting title this season.|
Miguel Tejada: It isn't the Prettiest Numbers Award. It isn't the Best Player Award. It isn't the Best Season for a Team with a Lousy Pitching Staff Award. It's the Most Valuable Player award. And the lessons of history are very clear. The only four times that players from a losing team won an MVP, there were no compelling candidates among the contenders. So A-Rod, we're sorry, pal. We hope you win every other award out there -- from Sporting News Player of the Year to the Nobel Peace Prize. But Tejada has had a season unlike any shortstop in history (except A-Rod) -- for a team that could never have won 100 games without him. Apologies to: Rodriguez, Alfonso Soriano, Garret Anderson, Jason Giambi, Torii Hunter, Eric Chavez.
NL LVP (Least Valuable Player)
Jeromy Burnitz: If the definition of MVP is a guy whose team could not have won (or contended) without him, then we suppose the definition of the LVP is a guy whose team could not have avoided contending without him. Burnitz had the lowest batting average of any regular in either league (.216), hit .188 with men in scoring position, drove in fewer runs in a full season (53) than Toronto's Josh Phelps did in half a season, and had the worst fielding percentage at his position in the league. Just enough to put him over the bottom. Apologies to: Roger Cedeno, Todd Hundley, Richard Hidalgo, Travis Lee, Juan Pierre.
Jeff Cirillo: He was supposed to solve all of Seattle's third-base issues for the next four years. Uh, maybe not. Cirllo's on-base percentage (.299) was lower than his career batting average (.311). He hit as many homers as Tony Graffanino (six). And he trailed all regular AL third basemen in on-base percentage, home runs, slugging, RBI and runs scored. Hmm. Think the Mariners might have been better off trading for Scott Rolen? Apologies to: Neifi Perez, Jose Offerman, Tony Clark, Greg Vaughn (who would have won going away if he'd played even one game after the All-Star break).
NL Cy Young
Randy Johnson: It was Curt Schilling's award for the first five months. But September matters. And the Unit's 5-0, 0.66 numbers in September trump Schilling's 2-2, 5.30 not-so-grand finale. Johnson wound up 24-5, with three blown saves. He went 13-1 after an Arizona loss. He allowed two earned runs or fewer in 24 starts (to Schilling's 17). He led the league in wins, ERA, strikeouts and innings pitched. Since 1900, only one other National League left-hander has finished a season with a winning percentage this high (.828) and with this many wins -- Sandy Koufax, in 1963 (25-5). Apologies to: Schilling, John Smoltz, Eric Gagne, Roy Oswalt, Tom Glavine.
AL Cy Young
Barry Zito: It's hard not to pick a guy who goes 20-4, and leads his league in strikeouts and ERA (i.e., Pedro Martinez). But we'll say this again: September matters. And Pedro couldn't make it to the mound for two weeks in early September when his team was trying to hang in the race, while Zito was winning his fifth, sixth and seventh games in a row (and his bullpen was blowing two more wins). Zito went 6-2 against playoff teams. Pedro went 5-4. So Pedro has his trophies. It's about time one of these A's aces collected one. Apologies to: Derek Lowe, Mark Buerhle, Jarrod Washburn.
NL Cy Yuk
Mike Hampton: Maybe he ought to enroll in the Colorado school system and let his kids try going to the mound at Coors, because it sure isn't working out too hot the other way around. What happened to this guy?
|2002 SEASON STATISTICS|
Hampton's 74-to-91 strikeout-to-walk ratio was the worst of any starting pitcher since 1988 (Mike Dunne). He allowed 16.4 baserunners per nine innings -- most of any pitcher who worked this many innings since the 1930s. He has won back-to-back starts once in his last 39 visits to the mound. And what's really scary is that his road ERA (6.44) was higher than his Coors ERA (5.68). Let's hope the Astros -- or somebody -- can send in some paratroopers and rescue this man from his altitudinous purgatory. He's better than this.
AL Cy Yuk
Tanyon Sturtze: Three pitchers since 1900 have led their league in losses, hits allowed, runs allowed and walks. One was a knuckleballer (Phil Niekro). The others pitched almost 100 years ago (Stoney McGlinn in 1907, Togey Pittinger in 1903). Only a weekend walkathon by C.C. Sabathia can keep Sturtze from becoming the fourth. Any man who can win that dubious quadruple crown -- and shove a Gatorade cooler at his manager -- has done more to earn a Cy Yuk award than any other pitcher on earth.
NL Rookie of the Year
Jason Jennings: He became the third pitcher in the history of the Rockies franchise to win 16 games -- while pitching in a park where the pop-ups land in the upper deck. And he's a rookie. Had Jennings won 20 -- and he probably should have (his bullpen blew four saves) -- this would be a no-brainer. But as tough as it was not to vote for Expos phenom Brad Wilkerson, the final straw was this: Jennings had a higher batting average (.306) than Wilkerson did (.265). Apologies to: Wilkerson, Austin Kearns, Damian Moss, Kazuhisa Ishii, Josh Fogg, Jason Simontacchi, Mark Prior and the great Dennis Stark.
AL Rookie of the Year
Eric Hinske: Trying to separate Hinske from Rodrigo Lopez was almost as tough as trying to figure out Zito versus Martinez, Johnson versus Schilling or A-Rod versus Tejada. Winning 15 games for a team like the Orioles isn't easy. But neither is finding rookies who score 97 runs, hit 23 homers, drive in 82 runs and only get thrown out stealing once in 14 tries. Funny thing is, if Josh Phelps had been called up by Toronto earlier, Hinske might not have won the Rookie of the Year award on his own team. Apologies to: Lopez, Phelps, Bobby Kielty, Carlos Pena, Kevin Mench, Mark Ellis, Nick Johnson, Jorge Julio.
Managers of the Year
Bobby Cox and Mike Scioscia: Tony La Russa did a sensational job in St. Louis, against a backdrop of tragedy and turmoil. But after much agonizing, we cast our vote for Cox -- who took what looked like the thinnest, most suspect Braves team since the '80s and found a way to win his division by 20 games. With Julio and Matt Franco at first base. With a fading Vinny Castilla at third. With a catching corps that hit .211. With a bullpen full of guys you thought had retired. Over in the AL, as compelling as the cases may be for Art Howe, Ron Gardenhire and Joe Torre, let's remember that Scioscia's team finished more games out of first place last year (41) than the Devil Rays. Biggest jump since the 1898-99 Brooklyn Bridegrooms.
Comeback players of the Year
Chris Hammond and David Wells: After 3½ years without throwing a big-league pitch, Hammond was on the verge of becoming the first left-hander since 1916 (and the legendary Ferdie Schupp), with an ERA that started with a zero (and more than 70 innings pitched). Meanwhile, if anybody out there -- besides that Steinbrenner guy -- thought David Wells would win 18 games this year, we'd like you to send us your picks in the Super Lotto. Apologies to: Mike Lieberthal, Pedro Martinez.
Five best free agents
NL (re-signs with former team don't count): 1) Hideo Nomo, 2) Jason Isringhausen, 3 ) Jimmy Haynes (NL nontender free agent of the year), 4) Jason Simontacchi (NL minor-league free agent of the year), 5) Pedro Astacio.
AL: 1) Jason Giambi, 2) David Wells, 3) Johnny Damon, 4) Rodrigo Lopez (AL minor-league free agent of the year), 5) Scott Hatteberg (AL nontender free agent of the year).
Five worst free agents
NL: 1) Albie Lopez (Braves), 2) Roger Cedeno (Mets), 3) Vinny Castilla (Braves), 4) Terry Adams (Phillies), 5) Moises Alou (Cubs).
AL: 1) Ricky Gutierrez (Indians), 2) Chuck Knoblauch (Royals), 3) Todd Van Poppel (Rangers), 4) Chan Ho Park (Rangers).
Jayson Stark is a senior writer for ESPN.com.