Compared with choosing one player as MVP of both major leagues in 1995, the task of singling out individuals for the other big awards—plus quite a few titles of our own invention—was like swinging at a Randy Johnson fastball. It was a breeze. (Note: All season stats are through Sunday.) No decision was easier than selecting the...
Pitcher of the Year: Greg Maddux, Braves. You were expecting Hideo Nomo? In what should be a unanimous vote, Maddux will win the National League Cy Young Award for an unprecedented fourth consecutive year. It's not his major-league-leading totals of 18 wins and 10 complete games that are so stunning. It's his big-league-best 1.68 earned run average and the fact that—unless he gives up eight earned runs in five innings in his final start—he will become the first pitcher to have a 2.00 or better in back-to-back seasons since Sandy Koufax in 1963 and '64.
Manager of the Year: Don Baylor, Rockies. Never mind that in the old two-division format, the Rockies would have finished 13 games behind the Braves in the National League West. The point is that in only its third year of existence Colorado will finish with a winning record and will likely make the playoffs. Baylor molded a bunch of castoffs into a formidable lineup with backbone. And the Rockies needed the moxie to overcome its league-worst 4.91 ERA.
Chief of the Year: John Hart, Indian general manager. He had the foresight over the last four years to identify his key young players and the courage to sign them to long-term deals. By so doing he made sure they stayed in town long enough to mature into a championship-caliber team.
Best Free-Agent Signing: Tom Henke, Cardinals. For the relatively cheap price of a one-year contract worth $1.5 million, St. Louis got a pitcher who turned out to be one of the National League's best closers. Henke has 34 saves (including No. 300 of his career) in 36 opportunities and a 1.87 ERA on the team with the second-worst record in the league.
Worst Free-Agent Signing: Danny Jackson, Cardinals. For the relatively expensive price of a three-year contract worth $10.8 million, St. Louis got someone who turned out to be the league's worst starting pitcher. When he (mercifully) went on the disabled list with a sprained right ankle on Aug. 12, Jackson was 2-12 with a 5.90 ERA. In 101 innings he gave up 120 hits and 48 walks. But Jackson still wasn't the...
Worst Pitcher Who Remained in the Rotation All Year: Juan Guzman, Blue Jays. Once the heart of a world championship pitching staff, Guzman has gone 4-14 with a 6.66 earned run average. If his ERA is still that high after his final start of 1995, it will be the ninth-highest ERA for anyone who threw at least 120 innings in a season this century.
Most Improved Player: Gary DiSarcina, Angels. A career .242 hitter who displayed little power in three previous major league seasons, DiSarcina, a 27-year-old shortstop, was hitting .317 with 36 extra-base hits in 328 at bats when he tore a ligament in his left thumb on Aug. 3. The Angels lost 29 of 45 games before he returned to the lineup last Friday.
Everyone Has His 15 Hits of Fame Award: Mike Benjamin, Giants. A career .186 hitter entering the season, Benjamin went 15 for 25 (one hit short of the major league record for hits in four consecutive games) against the Expos and the Cubs in mid-June. Take away those four games, and Benjamin was 25 for 157 (.159).
Injury of the Year: Randy Veres, Marlins. The righthanded Veres bruised his pitching hand banging on a wall in a hotel room. It wasn't Florida's slide into last place in the National League East that set him off, it was the people in the next room making too much noise.