Posted: Tuesday September 26, 2006 12:39PM; Updated: Tuesday September 26, 2006 9:40PM
Jim Leyland gave the Tigers an extra hop in their step.
Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images
24. Duaner Sanchez, RP, Mets. He was establishing himself as one of the game's best setup men when a late-night car accident cost him his season.
23. Chris Young, P, Padres. Texas dealt away him, Alfonso Soriano and David Dellucci.
22. Paul Lo Duca, C, Mets. He got a little taste of the tabloid war, thanks to a couple of indiscretions and an ex-agent bent on revenge. Yet through it all he's continued to be a steady influence and .300-plus hitter.
21. Mike Piazza, C, Padres. Yes, the fellow the Mets excised for Lo Duca has resurrected himself back in Southern California at a relatively low cost ($2 million).
21. Andre Ethier, OF, Dodgers. He's slowed a bit lately, but still a superlative pickup for a team stocked with young talent. As a bonus, they got rid of Milton Bradley in the same deal.
20. Joe Girardi, manager, Marlins. He's done so well that he's days from being booted out the door. That's par for the course in the wild, wacky world of Marlins owner Jeffrey Loria.
19. Jose Valentin, 2B, Mets. GM Omar Minaya strikes again. Actually, even Minaya had his doubts on this one, as the Mets considered trading him to Baltimore two months into the season.
18. Kenji Johjima, C, Mariners. His hitting abilities have translated easily to big league baseball, and there haven't been any reports of massive communication problems.
17. Brandon Phillips, 2B, Reds. After failing across Ohio in Cleveland, he's finally becoming the player everyone figured he'd be.
16. Cla Meredith and Josh Bard, Padres reliever and catcher. The Red Sox must have been pretty desperate to get Doug Mirabelli back to give up these two fine young players to reacquire Tim Wakefield's personal caddie.
15. Carlos Delgado, 1B, Mets. Great in the clubhouse, even better with the bat. He helped Carlos Beltran regain his form and helped bring the Mets their first division title in 18 years.
14. Greg Maddux, P, Dodgers. A lot of folks figured Maddux was done, but his old Cubs friend Ned Colletti, L.A.'s new GM, knew better. Maddux has been a great influence in the clubhouse as well as a lights-out pitcher every other outing.
13. Bronson Arroyo, P, Reds. He may have a quirky personality, but he's a reliable rotation presence and he gave the Reds a chance. Wily Mo Peña, who was sacrificed to get Arroyo, is talented but incomplete as a player.
12. Bobby Abreu, OF, Yankees. The trade of Abreu seemed to work wonders for the acquiring team (Yankees) and also the trading team (Phillies). Perhaps New York was simply a better spot for Abreu after his time had pretty much expired in Philly.
11. Nomar Garciaparra, 1B, Dodgers. His home-run heroics back home have helped the Dodgers stay in it.
10. Jim Thome, DH, White Sox. An MVP candidate early, he gave the White Sox yet another threat. It's hard to believe they're going out so meekly.
9. B.J. Ryan, closer, Blue Jays. Some scoffed at the $47 million price tag. But in a division where Mariano Rivera and Jonathan Papelbon close for their rivals, Ryan was an essential sign.
8. Billy Wagner, closer, Mets. A standup guy in the clubhouse, a shutdown guy on the mound. Exactly what the Mets needed.
7. Kenny Rogers, P, Tigers. Detroit is 24-8 in games started by a cameraman's worst enemy.
6. Alfonso Soriano, OF, Nationals. For Brad Wilkerson (who got hurt) and Terrmel Sledge, Washington got an edge. Soriano's the first ever 40-40-40 man (40 homers, 40 doubles, 40 steals). The bad move was failing to trade him at the deadline. But one monster year easily made it worth it.
5. Johnny Damon, CF, Yankees. Beyond adding much-needed life to the Yankees' business-like clubhouse, he's been as advertised and more. Surely it's fortunate that the Yankees' first half-dozen center-field options didn't pan out and they didn't have to resort to starting Bubba Crosby.
4. Dan Uggla, 2B, Marlins. A rare Rule 5 pickup to become a star, Uggla is part of a double-play combo that could battle it out for Rookie of the Year.
3. Jim Leyland, manager, Tigers. Leyland recently remarked that he's had only one blowup so far with Tigers GM Dave Dombrowski, one fewer than they had in 1997, the year they combined to win the World Series in Florida. Unlike some others, Dombrowski is one GM willing to put his own ego aside and hire a big-personality manager, which is exactly what was needed there.
2. Hanley Ramirez and Anibal Sanchez, Marlins shortstop and starting pitcher. "I don't know what the Red Sox were thinking when they traded Sanchez,'' one scout said, "He can get major-leaguer hitters out with five pitches and he throws 95 [mph].'' And Ramirez might be the National League Rookie of the Year if it's not Uggla, in maybe the strongest year for rookies in decades.
1. Frank Thomas, DH, A's. For $500,000 guaranteed (plus another $3 million in incentives), they got a man on a mission and a bona fide MVP candidate. Now that's Moneyball at its finest.
Around the majors
While one person acquainted with the Giants' front office said the baseball people wouldn't mind moving on, he also said they know they should be prepared for another year of Barry Bonds and his baggage. And, oh yes, the most discomforting home-run chase you're ever going to see.