Santana simply too dominant, edges Schilling for Cy Young
Posted: Friday October 1, 2004 2:51PM; Updated: Friday October 1, 2004 2:51PM
Make it seven Cy Youngs for the incomparable Roger Clemens.
Quick! Before anyone else!
My 2004 awards picks, with a couple of extras thrown in, a weekend too early, maybe.
Cy Young (American League)
Mark Mulder had this thing wrapped up -- he had it! -- but he lost it when he lost "it" in the last month. Before that, Kenny Rogers made a good first-half charge at it. Curt Schilling, who never has taken one of these babies home, has won 21 games with a 3.26 ERA and maybe ought to get it. But, in my book, when a guy wins 20, leads the league in ERA (by more than a half-run over Schilling), is second in innings pitched, first in strikeouts, first in opponent's batting average against (.192, are you kidding me?), hasn't lost since the All-Star break and has a 5-0 record with an 0.45 ERA in September ... Johan Santana of the Twins, step on up. You've earned it.
Cy Young (National League)
I want to give this award to the Diamondbacks' Randy Johnson. No other pitcher has done more with less behind him. No other pitcher, in either league, works on that kind of a tightwire. No other pitcher in the NL -- let's be honest, here -- is nearly as dominant. But the Big Unit barely has cracked a .500 record, and by season's end, he may not have that. Maybe if he does something magical in his last start Saturday, I'll change my mind. Save that, you have to give the incomparable Roger Clemens (18-4, 2.98 ERA) his first NL Cy Young, his seventh overall.
Best performance by a pitcher
No hits, no walks, 13 strikeouts and a place in baseball history. So he doesn't get the Cy. Johnson became only the 17th pitcher to throw a perfect game when he blanked the Braves on May 18, 2-0. At 40 years old, he became the oldest ever to do it. The Unit may want to forget much of the 2004 season. This, he'll hold onto.
Most Valuable Player (AL)
This is a tough one, and not because of Ichiro and his pursuit of the hits record. That's nice and all, but it doesn't measure up to the truly productive players after this award. Boston's Manny Ramirez has a higher on-base percentage, a higher slugging percentage, more homers and more RBIs than Anaheim's Vladimir Guerrero. But Vlad, I think, is more valuable to his team, if for no other reason than the Angels' lineup isn't as strong as Boston's. Guerrero has more at-bats -- he's tough to get out of the lineup -- so he's scored more runs. He doesn't strike out as much as Ramirez, either. Boy, this is close. The Yanks' Gary Sheffield may get some consideration, but he doesn't compare to these two guys. In the end, I think I'll concentrate on the most-valuable-to-the-team part of this equation and hand the thing to Guerrero.
Most Valuable Player (NL)
It's Barry Bonds, OK? Sure, I wouldn't mind seeing someone else win the award once in a while. L.A.'s Adrian Beltre has been fantastic. He leads the league in homers, he's third in RBIs and third in batting average. He means everything to his team. Albert Pujols of the Cardinals is just about as good, although on a much better team. But nobody -- maybe nobody ever -- changes a game like Bonds. His Surliness is going to win a second batting crown, he's driven in more than 100 runs and he's top five in homers even though no team in the league gives him a chance to swing the bat unless it's absolutely necessary. Bonds runs away with his fourth straight MVP, his seventh overall.
Best performance by a player (non-pitcher)
On June 2 against the Red Sox, Guerrero smacked a two-run home run off of Pedro Martinez in the first inning, doubled in two runs in the third, cranked a sacrifice fly in the fourth, smashed a three-run home run off Mike Timlin in the sixth inning and singled in a run in the ninth in a 10-7 Angels' win. If you're counting, that's nine RBIs in a 4-for-4 game.
Rookie of the Year (AL)
Minnesota's Lew Ford is not eligible. And neither is the Twins' Justin Morneau. So this one's pretty clear. Oakland shortstop Bobby Crosby leads all rooks with 22 home runs (going into the weekend) and 64 RBIs, he's been steady in the field (for a rookie) and he's been there every day. His average is nothing to write home about. But, come on. He's a rookie.
Rookie of the Year (NL)
At one time, I was ready to hand this over to San Diego's Khalil Greene, who plays a slick shortstop and was putting up decent numbers before he broke his finger in mid-September. But how can you overlook 26 homers, 82 RBIs and a near-.300 average in only 399 at-bats? Jason Bay, Greene's roommate last year at Class AAA Portland, is a budding star for the Pirates. He's a hands-down winner. Greene, in fact, may not be the best rookie on the Padres. Right-hander Akinori Otsuka has appeared in 72 games with a 1.75 ERA, and opponents are hitting just .199 against him.
Manager of the Year (AL)
Joe Torre always gets rooked in these things because he has such good teams, and I'm not going to buck the tide here. I will say no one knows more about managing the game, at least in the AL, than Torre. That said, Ron Gardenhire has taken a team that was ripped apart in the offseason, losing its closer (Eddie Guardado), its setup man (LaTroy Hawkins), its catcher (A.J. Pierzynski) and a couple of starters (Kenny Rogers and Eric Milton). Then the team's prized rookie, Joe Mauer, missed most of the season with a knee injury. What happens? Gardenhire, who calmly put out a couple of clubhouse fires along the way, led the Twins to their third straight AL Central title in a runaway.
Manager of the Year (NL)
Come on, already. Jaret Wright as an ace? John Thomson? Who are DeWayne Wise, Charles Thomas and Nick Green? J.D. Drew playing a whole season? Who would've thought that? Bobby Cox, in his 15th season with the Braves on this go-round, knows what he wants, knows what he needs and, most of all, knows what to do with it once he gets it. And no one rolls with the punches of a season better. He has pushed and pulled and butt-slapped the Braves to their 13th consecutive division title. This is the best job he's ever done.
OK, now, quick! On to the last regularly scheduled E-Bag of the season.
(Don't be surprised, though, if one pops up in the postseason.)
What is the goal of a baseball manager? Especially the one who continually has the best record in the NL year in and out? Win the World Series! Not divisions, not pennants, not awards. Championships. By having 13 chances to win the title, Bobby Cox has one title. This is not a feel-good business. It's results. -- Ralph, Bloomfield, N.J.
All I can say to that, Ralph, is Cox has put them in position to win 13 times in a row. No one else has. No one else could. You can hold the Braves' postseason failures against Cox, if you want. But, to me, you judge a manager on the six months of a regular season, not the few weird weeks of a postseason.
Do you really believe anybody has done a better job of managing than Jim Tracy of the Dodgers? He's overcome an injury-riddled, second-hand starting rotation. Not to mention his GM pulling the rug out from under him in July. Despite all this he has held off the surging Giants and Padres (instead of the self-destructing Phillies and Marlins, as Cox has done). -- Eric George, Columbus, Ohio
Love the job Tracy has done, Eric. A lot with a little, too. He'd be my No. 2 pick, behind Cox. I give Cox the edge for blending new guys like Wise, Green and Thomas into the lineup and getting way above-normal seasons from Wright and Thomson. Nobody -- nobody -- thought these guys were worth the effort. Cox, simply, got the most out of them. Again, Tracy's done a wonderful job. Can't knock him at all.
What has happened to Mark Mulder, and why are so few people talking about it? Did he have a bad meal on August 25 and not tell anybody about it? Is he tipping pitches? Out of gas from overuse? Inquiring minds want to know. -- Roy Delgado, Silver Spring, Md.
I think, Roy, we haven't heard anything because nobody in Oakland knows what's going on. I'm not sure Mulder knows. This much we know: He hasn't won in his past six starts. In his past nine starts, he has a 6.88 ERA. His velocity is down, though not significantly, yet he swears he's fine, physically. He has pitched more innings than in any year since 2001, so fatigue might be a part of it. The whole thing is baffling. He's been so bad that the A's were thinking of pitching a rookie Friday and skipping Mulder's spot. That's not going to happen. But neither is the Cy Young. And, if the A's keep this up, the West is lost, too.
Two teams have at one time called Washington, D.C., home and left for other cities. They are the now Twins and Rangers. What's different this time? Also, do you think they'll keep the Expos name? -- Dave Salas Overland Park, Kan.
Baseball people will tell you how much the area has grown, they'll recite per capita income numbers, tell you about the strong business base. Certainly, in terms of size and viability of the market, it seems clear that D.C. was the best choice. Can they get folks to come to the ballpark, though? They're already behind, that's for sure. There is no ownership group, no front office to speak of, no plan on how to sell tickets ... it's a mess. I think D.C. baseball will work. But it's going to take a while to get off of the ground.
Milton Bradley can be an out-of-control jerk. But Bradley's the victim here, not the instigator. The fan who threw the bottle that triggered the incident has been arrested and charged, Bradley hurt nobody and didn't leave the field. Aren't there extenuating circumstances in this case that justify a milder suspension? -- Richard Aronson, Oakhurst, Calif.
The idea, Richard, is that even if he's conked in the head with an anvil, he should have someone else handle the situation. Players should never confront fans. Period. Truth is, I think Bradley got off relatively easy, not missing any potential postseason games. And I think Bradley has to be thinking that, too, which is why he didn't appeal.
Expect to hear some adult language hurled at players during ballgames. Explain it to your kids or simply ignore it, just as you do copies of Playboy at the newsstand or racy parts of Hollywood movies and prime time TV shows. (Believe me, I'm sure they've heard it many times at recess and probably use it themselves.) If it's still too much, wait 'til they can handle it. Life isn't Disney World squeaky clean. Accept it. Furthermore, the more conformist and homogenized we make our society, the less dynamic it becomes. People stop questioning why things are the way they are. That's not just bland, it's dangerous. So prepare your kids to hear foul language at the stadium. Teach them to heckle without cursing. Bring a radio to the beach. Open a beer. Play ball in the street like The Little Rascals. The sky won't fall, Chicken Little. Trust me on that one -- and trust your fellow man. -- Tom Rabbitt, New York
You make some good points, Tom. But ... come on. Why don't I just take the boy down the street and get him a beer? He's going to drink anyway, sooner or later. Why don't I take him out to an R-rated movie? The kids talk about it on the street anyway. Why don't we just both go to the ballpark and scream nonsense at the top of our lungs without regard to the people around us? Heck, those people have to learn it's going to happen sooner or later. Are those your arguments? We all know life isn't squeaky clean. And I don't think anyone would want it that way. But teaching, and demonstrating, a little compassion and intelligence, not to mention some common respect for the people around you -- even while in a ballpark -- shouldn't be seen as some naïve, pie-in-the-sky ideal.
My father has been a season-ticket holder at Fenway Park for more than 30 years. He has no problem confronting the swearing, obnoxious loudmouths and telling them to keep it clean. Every time he has had to confront these blowhards, they always quiet down. I guess 70-year-old men still demand some respect. -- Julie, Boston
We all should have one or two of those guys at our disposal when we head to the ballpark.
The problems caused by alcohol at the ballparks and stadiums aren't going to go away. As the family-oriented people who are disgusted with the language and actions of drunk louts increasingly stay away from live sports venues, things are only going to get worse. Is it going to take a situation where someone gets killed in the stadium, on national TV, before anyone questions the wisdom of selling alcoholic beverages in unlimited quantities to anyone who can manage to fumble out their wallet to pay for them? I know the chances of an entire stadium or ballpark going "dry" are about on par with seeing pro athletes and teachers paid commensurate with their worth to society. So how about a modest proposal: declare certain sections of the venue "dry" and allow people to choose where they want to watch the game. For the sake of security, make any section of the venue where fans and players are in close enough proximity to have a conflict a "dry" area. Everyone, you included, seems to be a "girlie man" when it comes to addressing the problem of alcohol and live sports venues. You'll admit that alcohol causes problems, but you'll argue that you must have a right to consume it at the stadium, because otherwise your manhood will come into question. After all, real adult men drink alcohol, don't they? Isn't being able to drink alcohol one of the defining acts of adulthood? All I can say is I'm glad I'm not a man, and that I'm adult enough to admit that I can enjoy a baseball, football, basketball or hockey game without needing to ingest alcohol. I just wish that a few sportswriters like yourself, who are in a position to make a difference, could do the same. -- Karin Cozzolino, Lomita, Calif.
Comments, questions or obviously unfounded criticism? To e-mail Donovan, use the form below.
Whew. I couldn't get all of Karin's e-mail in -- that's a lot of bold type to digest -- but that is the gist of it. In my defense, I didn't address the issue of alcohol in stadiums in my column on boorish fans because, really, it's a separate topic that deserves its own, in-depth examination. Heck, we could run a series on it. But let me say this: Our sports leagues need to be ever vigilant on this. Many franchises have no-alcohol, so-called "family" sections, and that's great, but that shouldn't mean that anything goes in the rest of the stadium. All that should be monitored. I think it's a wonderful idea to keep the drunks away from areas where they can get into trouble with the players. It should be a given. All that said, Karin, I don't think there's anything wrong with selling a beer or two to people who want to have a couple. And having a couple of pops at the park has nothing to do with manhood or adulthood. It's a choice and, as long as it doesn't adversely affect others, a choice that should be respected.
The Orioles are lucky that they had temporary access to the Senators' old market. They should be grateful for those 30 bonus years, rather than acting like they have owned the D.C. market, AL and NL, for all time. Besides, no D.C. team could have damaged the Orioles' interests more than Peter Angelos has these past seven years. Angelos should spend his time concentrating on the Orioles and undoing the damage he's done to that once-proud franchise. That should be taking up his time, not some obsession with fighting the return of the Senators. -- Mary Eno, Rockville, Md., Orioles season ticket holder since 1990
Yeah, Angelos is not a very sympathetic character, is he? But, as a businessman, if someone's trying to take over your turf, you fight. I can't blame him for that.
No matter what Shawn Green did on Yom Kippur, it was [going to be] the wrong decision. As a Jew I understand this, whenever the High Holy days come around, Jews have to decide to work or to go pray, but most cannot do both. For me it's easy, I go to pray, but I'm not being paid millions. Every Jewish boy grows up hearing about Sandy Koufax and what he did or did not do on Yom Kippur. However, that was what was right for Sandy. If what Green did was right for him, nobody has the right to give him a hard time about it. Very few people understand how tough of a choice it actually is. -- Daniel Spivak, Dekalb, Ill.
It's not all that difficult to understand, is it? It was his decision to sit out. Respect it. Respect it like the decisions that other Jews in baseball made (Gabe Kapler and Kevin Youkilis of the Red Sox both decided to play). It's that simple.