Before things get real …
I wanted to end this regular season properly — by giving you a way to totally disagree with me.
Here are my awards picks …
NL MVP: Ryan Braun
As I wrote recently, Braun deserves the hardware because his numbers are very comparable to those of his only competition — Matt Kemp — except he performed for a playoff team. Sure, it isn’t Kemp’s fault the Dodgers weren’t even close to the NL West title (and if it weren’t for him, they may be one of baseball’s worst clubs). But I believe that in order for a player on a non-playoff team to win MVP, his numbers have to easily be better than everyone else’s. I think Braun’s stack up pretty well.
AL MVP: Justin Verlander
Yes, I wrote a month ago that Verlander isn’t worthy of the MVP. But a lot has changed in a month. I’m not totally against giving a pitcher the MVP trophy. I just think that a starting pitcher (especially a starting pitcher in these days, when workloads aren’t as expansive as they used to be) should only get it in the most extreme of circumstances — during a transcendent season when no position player sticks out. Well, that is now the case. Adrian Gonzalez and Jacoby Ellsbury can’t get it for a collapsing Red Sox team, Jose Bautista fell off a bit down the stretch, and I’m not comfortable giving it to Curtis Granderson when teammate Robinson Cano is clearly the better player. Verlander had been outstanding this season, and that continued in the final month. It’s time.
NL Cy Young: Clayton Kershaw
There’s a lot of deserving pitchers in the Senior Circuit, but when you win a Triple Crown like Kershaw did — leading in wins, ERA and strikeouts — you get the Cy Young. I prioritize players on playoff teams for the MVP; not for the Cy.
AL Cy Young: Verlander
I’m giving it to the Tigers’ ace — even though I’d be tempted to try and create history by having the first pitcher win an MVP and not a Cy Young.
NL Rookie of the Year: Craig Kimbrel
Kimbrel may have fallen off when his team needed him down the stretch, but he was still fantastic all season, setting a rookie saves record and (until the very end) having a major impact for a contending team. No NL rookie had close to as big an impact.
AL Rookie of the Year: Jeremy Hellickson
Ivan Nova’s numbers (16 wins, 3.70 ERA) are pretty comparable, but Hellickson put up 13 wins, had a 2.95 ERA and was the heavily-relied-upon No. 3 starter for a Rays team that rode its starting rotation to a surprising trip to the playoffs.
NL Manager of the Year: Kirk Gibson
Is there any question? The D-backs went from last in the NL West to first in the NL West without adding any high-impact players to their roster. Gibson, in his first full season as manager, gets a lot of credit for that.
AL Manager of the Year: Joe Maddon
Nothing to really argue about here, either. Maddon guided a team with the second-lowest payroll in baseball’s toughest division to the most improbable of playoff runs. A big reason why the Rays made it stems from the culture the easy-going Maddon has created. It works.
C: Mike Napoli (.320 BA, 30 HR, 75 RBI)
1B: Adrian Gonzalez (.338 BA, 27 HR, 117 RBI)
2B: Robinson Cano (.302 BA, 28 HR, 118 RBI)
3B: Michael Young (.338 BA, 11 HR, 106 RBI)
SS: Asdrubal Cabrera (.273 BA, 25 HR, 92 RBI)
LF: Curtis Granderson (.262 BA, 41 HR, 119 RBI)
CF: Jacoby Ellsbury (.321 BA, 32 HR, 105 RBI)
RF: Jose Bautista (.302 BA, 43 HR, 103 RBI)
DH: Miguel Cabrera (.344 BA, 30 HR, 105 RBI)
SP: Justin Verlander (24-5, 2.40 ERA)
SP: CC Sabathia (19-8, 3.00 ERA)
SP: Jered Weaver (18-8, 2.41 ERA)
RP: Jose Valverde (2.24 ERA, 49-49 SV)
RP: Mariano Rivera (1.91 ERA, 44 SV)
C: Brian McCann (.270 BA, 24 HR, 71 RBI)
1B: Albert Pujols (.299 BA, 37 HR, 99 RBI)
2B: Brandon Phillips (.300 BA, 18 HR, 82 RBI)
3B: Aramis Ramirez (.306 BA, 26 HR, 93 RBI)
SS: Jose Reyes (.337 BA, 44 RBI, 39 SB)
LF: Ryan Braun (.332 BA, 33 HR, 111 RBI)
CF: Matt Kemp (.324 BA, 39 HR, 126 RBI)
RF: Justin Upton (.289 BA, 31 HR, 88 RBI)
DH: Prince Fielder (.299 BA, 38 HR, 120 RBI)
SP: Clayton Kershaw (21-5, 2.28 ERA)
SP: Roy Halladay (19-6, 2.35 ERA)
SP: Cliff Lee (17-8, 2.40 ERA)
RP: Craig Kimbrel (2.10 ERA, 46 SV)
RP: J.J. Putz (2.17 ERA, 45 SV)
World Series prediction: Phillies over Tigers in 6
** I’ll be at Yankees-Tigers in the first round. CC-Verlander in Game 1. Can’t complain.