Only one way to reach October (cont.)
From the Mailbag
I feel like a broken record when I ask this: Why doesn't anybody mention Johan Santana's name as a real potential Cy Young candidate? His stats are there, with the exception of wins (which can be blamed on the Mets' early offensive anemia and a faulty bullpen). He's top two in quality starts in the NL, top 3 ERA, top 5 WHIP, top 5 K/BB, top 10 BAA. In all of these categories, he is either slightly ahead or slightly behind Tim Lincecum, the presumed NL Cy Young winner. Since he plays for a playoff contender, shouldn't he have the edge on Lincecum?
-- Jason Kahan, NYC
Yes, he should be considered. Absolutely he should be. And I think he will be. Especially after Sunday night's must-have performance. And you're right, Jason, he can make a fine case. I think the media has a little fascination with Lincecum right now -- and rightfully so, 'cause his is a great story -- but Santana's credentials can't be denied. Arizona's Brandon Webb is still in this. Don't discount him. But Santana has to be considered with both Webb and Lincecum.
How come Joe Girardi seems to be getting a total free pass on the Yankees performance this year? You hear plenty about how Girardi bears no blame for how the Yankees have performed.
-- Wes Paulson, Tulsa, Okla.
Fair question. Could the Yanks be better than they are? Probably. But it's not as if they play particularly sloppy, or are lacking in preparation or in hustle or in effort. They're simply an older team with limitations, one that has been hurt by younger players (mainly) who haven't performed as expected. Plus, I think Girardi, being a former Yankee player, is still on his honeymoon with fans and the media. If the Yanks miss out on the postseason next year, though? Wouldn't want to be in his spikes.
Who do you see emerging as the most dangerous spoiler in the game? I think Houston has that one wrapped up. With Oswalt looking like a true ace again, their bullpen as solid as it's been for a long time now, their defense leading the majors and their offense playing the way it does, Houston has got to be the team no contender wants to play right now. If they could beat the Pirates they themselves would be a contender.
-- Billy, Austin, Texas
Good choice. Don't forget the Blue Jays, though, who put the hurting on the Rays last week and still have seven games against the Red Sox. The Jays are 7-4 against Boston this year.
Hey, John, has any player ever fallen as far and as fast as Andruw Jones? Is he completely finished (at 31), or is there a chance for him to make a comeback?
-- Trev, Halifax, Nova Scotia
Wow, Trev, it's hard to think of another one off the top of my head. But remember, this isn't a one-year dropoff for Jones. He was a below-average player last year in Atlanta. His lack of discipline at the plate, his declining range in the field, his increasing size, some questions about his health ... all those contributed to the Dodgers giving him only a two-year deal last winter. In other words, a lot of people saw this coming. To this degree? No, probably not. Comeback? I think it's possible. But he's going to have to dedicate himself to getting in better shape. And he's going to have to learn to lay off bad pitches away and go to right field once in a while. So far, he's not been willing or able to do either.
It seems folks have all but given the Cy to Cliff Lee. But with Detroit, Boston, Minnesota and ChiSox left on the schedule, it is conceivable Roy Halladay could steal it. He is three wins behind, has more Ks, more IPs, a better WHIP (granted only .01 better) and all those CGs. Add him to your list. He might just sneak up on Lee. Indians are in last place, something has to give.
-- Matt, Gainesville, Fla.
I know, and after Sunday's win, Lee's now 21-2. Look, I love Halladay's game. I think he should have started the All-Star Game over Lee. But no way he gets the Cy Young. Sorry.
Call me a homer, but why does Justin Morneau not get much mention about being the AL MVP? Is it a matter of him already having won it two years back? His numbers easily compare with the best hitters in the game, and the Twins would be in Royalsville if not for his incredible season this year. Seriously, where's the love?
-- Zac Smeltzer, St. Louis Park, Minn.
Homer. But you're right, Zac. Morneau deserves a very close look. And I've heard his name mentioned a lot lately in MVP talk. With Carlos Quentin out, with Josh Hamilton struggling in the second half, with the Rangers fading (10 wins in their last 30 games) so badly that Milton Bradley may not be a viable choice (though he leads the league in OPS), Morneau has emerged as a big-time candidate. Dustin Pedroia is in there, with Boston teammate Kevin Youkilis. But I like the Morneau pick. Let's see what happens these last three weeks.
If to be the MVP your team has to win a division or make the playoffs, then perhaps Albert Pujols has just about been eliminated. But he is the best player in the game year after year. Should have been the starting first baseman in the All-Star Game. He should win the Gold Glove. [Leads in all sorts of offensive categories.] And would lead other categories but pitchers don't like to give him much to hit. Is he the MVP? If not, who is better?
-- Jerry Mogensen, Des Moines, Iowa
Well, Jerry, as we know, an MVP doesn't have to come from a division-winning team. Or even a winning team, for that matter. But it helps. We could bang this back and forth, but the truth is that Albert Pujols is the best player in the NL. Probably the best in baseball. I say he's MVP, and I'd give Ryan Braun the silver medal. (That said, Lance Berkman was the right pick for the All-Star Game.)
You know the problem with baseball? Way too many errors. I propose we replace all of those pesky, error-prone "human" fielders with machines who will always make the play they're supposed to. That way, we'll really know if a batter is any good. A ball in the gap will be a hit. A grounder to the shortstop will be an out. Fans will finally get to see "true baseball," not this mistake-laden game we've been playing for the last century. After all, as you write, "as technology gets better and better, I don't see how you can deny expanding its use."
-- Mark Onwiler, Kearney, Neb.
I'm detecting a little sarcasm here, Mark. A little smart-aleckness. I like it.