Sports Illustrated baseball writers Tom Verducci, Jeff Pearlman and Stephen Cannella offer their picks in some less-than-major awards categories.
Miguel Cairo, Cardinals. Why does it seem like every time I see this guy pinch hit late in a game he dumps a hit in somewhere? He's a better version of Luis Sojo, the Yankees' old rabbit foot.
Quinton McCracken, Diamondbacks. Can play three outfield spots capably, still runs mighty fast and has a knack for extra-base hits. That he was dumped by Tampa Bay is reason No. 7,689 why Devil Rays general manager Chuck LaMar should be making sandwiches at Blimpie.
Carlos Baerga, Red Sox. Best on the bench, too. The rambunctious veteran was baseball's loudest cheerleader all season -- tying your spikes correctly was enough to earn a dugout hug from him. Baerga got serious when it counted, though. No one in the AL had more pinch hits or a higher PH average.
Verducci: Alfonso Soriano, Yankees. Home runs, strikeouts, stolen bases, doubles, errors, acrobatic plays. Never a dull moment with New York's second baseman.
Pearlman: Alfonso Soriano, Yankees. To see New York's second baseman in the flesh is to see a whirlwind of nonstop, high-octane motion. His bat speed is neutronic, his running speed is Brock-tronic and, in the words of Yanks first base coach Lee Mazzilli, "He gets to balls Ozzie Smith would only dream about." Forget the big boppers. This is who you should be paying to watch.
Cannella: Barry Bonds, Giants. He even makes walks interesting. Bonds has just completed what might be the two greatest back-to-back offensive seasons in history. It's hard to think of another hitter who has ever been so locked in for so long.
Verducci: Magglio Ordonez, White Sox. Maybe you've heard his name. But tell me one thing -- anything -- you know about him.
Pearlman: Scott Hatteberg, A's. OK, so you've heard of him. That doesn't mean you've actually paid attention. It would be impossible to state how smoothly Hatteberg has made the jump from catcher to first base (by contrast, watch Mike Sweeney, who's still struggling nearly five years later). Although Hatteberg is no Jason Giambi offensively, his reliability and clutch hitting made Carlos Pena expendable.
Cannella: J.C. Romero, Twins. "Minnesota setup man" isn't exactly a high-profile gig, but hitters know who the lefthander is. He has an ERA under 2.00 and has allowed just two homers to left-handed batters in his four-year career.
Verducci: Ben Weber, Angels. Until he toned it down, the right-hander's fast-forward, two-handed double-pump before his windup.
Pearlman: Mariano Rivera, Yankees. All baseball players spit, but only New York's closer does so with such amazing frequency and consistency. As my wife says every time we watch the Yanks on TV, "That guy is sooooooooooo gross."
Cannella: Craig Counsell, Diamondbacks. The world got to know his bizarre stance last October. If he puffed out his chest any further his head might bounce off his tailbone.
Verducci: Rafael Palmeiro, Rangers. Yes, he cheats on inside fastballs now and has no interest in hitting to the opposite field. But he's still blessed with that easy, silky swing that sends balls a mile.
Pearlman: Chipper Jones, Braves. Wasn't he supposed to struggle in left field? Jones may never be a Gold Glove outfielder, but his transition from third has been impressively smooth.
Cannella: Garret Anderson, Angels. On a team of grinders, he glides. Don't be fooled by his smooth style. Anderson is a dangerous (three straight seasons with 115+ RBIs) and durable (missed a total of seven games from 2000-2002) hitter.
Verducci: Chuck Lamar, GM, Devil Rays. Millions of rotisserie players are saying, "Even I couldn't be that bad." Who can argue?
Pearlman: Rondell White, Yankees. He's one of the game's ultimate nice guys, but by season's end it was painful to watch White repeatedly chase slider after slider out of the zone. He just doesn't seem comfortable in pinstripes.
Cannella: Tony Clark, Red Sox. Nice guy and respected in the clubhouse, but there are Victorian novels that unfold more quickly than his swing. A .210 average and sub-.300 slugging percentage. This guy was an All-Star a year ago?
Verducci: Jeremy Giambi, A's to Phillies. A prototypical AL player who said goodbye to his party buds, playing time and the postseason in Oakland to ride pine in the NL.
Pearlman: Jeremy Giambi, A's to Phillies. The leader of the Oakland clubhouse was a little too loud (and a little too unproductive) for GM Billy Beane, who shipped Jason's little bro to Philly for six cases of beer and a couple of cupcakes. Jeremy was shocked.
Cannella: Kenny Rogers, Rangers. So devastated, in fact, that he killed the July deal that would have sent him to the Reds. Presented a golden chance to join a pennant race, he chose to stay with last-place Texas.
Verducci: Alex Rodriguez, Rangers. The baseball equivalent of a gym rat.
Pearlman: Brian Hunter, Astros. Simply the funniest, kindest, happiest guy in baseball -- and it rubs off on his teammates like sweet perfume. Whether he plays or not, Hunter always has a smile on his face.
Cannella: David Eckstein, Angels. Uses selflessness as a weapon. He has more HBPs and sac bunts than anyone else in the AL. It's no coincidence that the Angels caught fire when he did down the stretch.
Verducci: John Smoltz, Braves. Intelligent and emotional, he sees the game outside of his own responsibility.
Pearlman: Torii Hunter, Twins. Funny, charming, gregarious and remarkably honest. Hunter is exciting as a player and thrilling as a conversationalist.
Cannella: Al Leiter, Mets. As thoughtful and eloquent as they come. A media career awaits -- unless he runs for mayor of New York.
Verducci: Mark Prior, Cubs. As good as advertised.
Pearlman: Dewon Brazelton, Devil Rays. Hopefully Tampa's next manager will exercise patience with the team's first true Grade-A pitching prospect. Brazelton is only 22, but with a low-90s fastball and wicked off-speed stuff, he could win 12 to15 games.
Cannella: Austin Kearns, Reds. Cincy's best hitter for long stretches this year. Will be an outfield fixture at Great American Ballpark.