October 30, 2002

And the award goes to...

Those of you who read this blog on a semi-regular basis know that I have been promising an article about my picks for the various end of season awards for a while now.

I did one slightly after the All-Star break and that illicited some good responses from my readers, so I figured I should do one after the actual season was over.

So, here it is!

Here are my picks for MVP, Cy Young, Rookie of the Year, Manager of the Year and a few extra awards thrown in (ranked in reverse order, to add to the suspense!)...

American League Manager of the Year:

3) Art Howe, Oakland Athletics

Howe guided the A's to their 2nd straight 100+ win season and the AL West division title in 2002 and he did it after losing his best player, Jason Giambi, in the off-season.

2) Ron Gardenhire, Minnesota Twins

Gardy got the Twins to the post-season for the first time since I was 8 years old and he did so despite a starting rotation that was in shambles all season long and a payroll near the bottom of the league.

1) Mike Scioscia, Anaheim Angels

Scioscia led the Angels to the playoffs for the first time since I was 3 years old!

He took a team that won 75 games in 2001 and managed them to 99 wins and the AL Wild Card.

National League Manager of the Year:

3-tie) Frank Robinson, Montreal Expos and Jim Tracy, Los Angeles Dodgers

Neither of these guys led their team to the playoffs, but they both did excellent jobs in 2002.

F-Robby took over a team that was about as close to extinction as a team can get and he managed them to 15 more wins than they had in 2001.

Jim Tracy somehow led a less than exceptional Dodger team to 92 wins and came very close to the NL Wild Card.

2) Dusty Baker, San Francisco Giants

Dusty has the great fortune of having Barry Bonds on his team, but he also generally does a good job managing, as he did this year leading the Giants to the NL Wild Card.

1) Tony LaRussa, St. Louis Cardinals

Not only did TLR lead the Red Birds to 97 wins and the NL Central title in 2002, he did so after one of the stars of his team, Darryl Kile, died in the middle of the season.

He managed the Cardinals to a 50-27 in the 2nd half of the year, as they pulled away from the 2nd place Astros.

American League Rookie of the Year:

5) Josh Phelps, Toronto Blue Jays

Phelps crushed minor league pitching in the first half of the year (.292/.380/.658 in 257 AAA at bats) and crushed major league pitching in the second half (.309/.362/.562 in 265 ML at bats).

Given enough playing time, Phelps is a legit 40+ homer threat and should be the Toronto DH for the next decade.

Phelps finished 13th in the American League with a .311 Equivalent Average (EqA).

4) Jorge Julio, Baltimore Orioles

Julio pitched pretty well in his brief stint with the Orioles in 2001 and was given an opportunity to be the closer in 2002.

The 23-year old responded with an excellent season, pitching 68 innings with a 1.99 ERA and 25 saves.

3) Bobby Kielty, Minnesota Twins

Kielty is my 2nd favorite player in baseball and deserves a lot more playing time then he got in 2002.

He has gotten on-base at a very high clip at every level he has ever played at, including a .405 on-base % in 289 ABs with the Twins this year.

Kielty finished 12th in the American League in EqA at .312 and hit .348/.375/.652 as a pinch hitter.

2) Rodrigo Lopez, Baltimore Orioles

Rodrigo Lopez was probably the biggest rookie surprise in baseball.

Prior to this season, Lopez had 24 2/3 big league innings, all with San Diego in 2000, and a career 8.76 ERA.

This year, Lopez, a 27-year old rookie, was one of the lone bright spots on a bad Orioles team, pitching 197 innings and going 15-9 with a 3.59 ERA.

1) Eric Hinske, Toronto Blue Jays

Toronto GM J.P. Ricciardi's first move after coming over from the Oakland A's was to acquire one of his favorite Oakland minor leaguers, third baseman Eric Hinske.

Ricciardi sent closer Billy Koch to Oakland for Hinske and the Blue Jays had their third baseman of the future.

Hinske got the most playing time of any rookie in the AL and he responded with some great numbers.

He finished 16th in the AL in Runs Above Replacement Position (RARP) by hitting .279/.365/.481 with 24 homers and 38 doubles in 566 at bats.

Hinske's defense looked pretty spotty in the early part of the season, but he improved greatly in the second half and finished with a respectable 20 errors at the hot corner.

National League Rookie of the Year:

5) Mark Prior, Chicago Cubs

Dubbed "The best college pitcher of all-time," Prior lived up to the hype, reaching the major leagues after only a short stint in the minors.

Once with the Cubs, Prior continued to dominate hitters.

He struck out 147 batters in only 117 innings pitched, a rate of 11.3 per 9 innings, which is higher than every single pitcher that qualified for the ERA title this year, except for Randy Johnson.

Prior's control was a little shaky at times and he gave up quite a few homers, but he showed utterly dominating stuff and looks like a future winner of multiple Cy Young Awards.

4) Austin Kearns, Cincinnati Reds

Kearns' outfield mate Adam Dunn got a lot of hype for his fantastic rookie year in 2001, but Kearns had himself a very strong debut as well.

He didn't hit for as much power as Dunn did in 2001, but in 372 ABs he hit .315/.407/.500 with 13 homers, 24 doubles and 54 walks.

If Griffey can ever get healthy and if Dunn can figure out why he slumped so horribly in the second half, the Reds could have the best outfield in the league.

3) Damian Moss, Atlanta Braves

Atlanta's young Australian lefty pitched very well in 2002, holding opponents to a .221 batting average while pitching 179 innings with a 3.42 ERA.

Moss was particularly dominant against lefties, limiting them to a .165 batting average and only 2 home runs in 103 at bats.

2) Brad Wilkerson, Montreal Expos

Wilkerson had perhaps the quietest of any of the rookie seasons on my list.

He played center field, left field and first base for the Expos and finished the year hitting .266/.370/.469 with 20 homers and 81 walks in 507 at bats.

A more natural middle of the order hitter, Wilkerson stepped into the leadoff spot for Montreal and provided a much needed source of on-base % ahead of Vlad Guerrero.

1) Jason Jennings, Colorado Rockies

I cannot stress enough how tough it is pitching in Coors field.

In their entire history as a franchise, the Rockies have never had a pitcher with 175 or more innings finish a season with an ERA under 4.00

Never, in 9 seasons.

Jason Jennings didn't break that streak, but he did pitch extremely well.

He threw 185 innings with a 4.52 ERA and won 16 games.

A 4.52 ERA in Colorado is probably good for about 3.25 anywhere else and Jennings' road numbers (91 IP, 3.35 ERA) bear that out as well.

American League Cy Young:

5) Tim Hudson, Oakland A's

Tim Hudson had a strange but good season in 2002.

He started off very strong, posting a 1.87 ERA in April, but he pitched very poorly in May, going 0-4 with a 7.30 ERA.

He rebounded in June, going 3-1 with a 2.08 ERA, but then struggled in July with a 3.90 ERA.

He recovered and finished the season with a strong final 2 months, with an ERA of 1.80 in August and 1.69 in September.

On the season, Hudson finished second in the AL in innings pitched with 238 and had the lowest ERA of his career at 2.98.

4) Roy Halladay, Toronto Blue Jays

Roy Halladay led the American League in innings pitched and established himself as the ace of the Toronto staff and one of the best young pitchers in baseball.

Halladay went 19-7 - a .731 winning % - on a Toronto team that finished the year having won only 48% of their games.

He gave up an amazingly low 10 home runs in almost 240 innings pitched, while finishing 4th in the AL in wins and 5th in ERA

3) Barry Zito, Oakland A's

Barry Zito won a league leading 23 games in 2002, becoming the third different Oakland A's starter to win 20 games in the last 3 years.

Zito placed 5th in the league in innings pitched (229 1/3), 3rd in ERA (2.75) and tied for 3rd in strike outs (182).

2) Derek Lowe, Boston Red Sox

Having struggled as the Boston closer in 2001, Derek Lowe was shifted to the starting rotation in 2002 and did far better than anyone could have possibly dreamed of.

He pitched 220 innings and finished 2nd in the American League in both ERA (2.58) and wins (21).

He didn't do it by striking out a lot of batters, finishing 25th in the AL in Ks with only 127 - he did it by keeping the ball on the ground and in the ballpark.

Lowe led the AL with an amazing 3.46 ground ball-to-fly ball ratio and gave up only 12 homers in his 220 innings pitched.

He limited the amount of damage via the home run and made hitters pound the ball into the ground, where his solid middle infield of Nomar Garciaparra and Rey Sanchez could convert the grounders in outs.

1) Pedro Martinez, Boston Red Sox

Pedro Martinez bounced back from an injury plagued 2001 and a very bad start to 2002 and had himself a tremendous season.

He stayed relatively healthy all season and was able to pitch just slightly under 200 innings.

In those innings, he had 20 wins and only 4 losses, to go along with a 2.26 ERA.

Pedro led the AL in ERA, strike outs, winning %, strikeouts/9 innings, strikeout-to-walk ratio, opponent's batting average, opponent's on-base % and was 2nd in the league in opponent's slugging %.

A marvelous, dominating year for one of the greatest pitchers of all-time.

National League Cy Young:

5) Tom Glavine, Atlanta Braves

For the 7th straight season, Tom Glavine topped 215 innings pitched, finishing 2002 with 224 2/3, good for 5th in the National League.

He posted his lowest ERA (2.96) since 1998 and won 18 games.

4) Greg Maddux, Atlanta Braves

The bad news is that Maddux snapped his streak of 14 straight seasons (1988-2001) with at least 200 innings pitched, a streak made even more impressive when you consider that two of those seasons were strike-shortened.

The good news is that Maddux did manage to pitch 199 innings with a 2.62 ERA and 16 wins.

The master may be slowing down a little bit as his "low" innings total and declining strikeout rate would suggest, but he can still get it done.

3) Roy Oswalt, Houston Astros

Oswalt followed up on his excellent rookie season from last year with a sophomore campaign that was even more impressive.

He led all non-Arizona Diamondback NL pitchers in innings pitched with 233 and wins with 19.

Oswalt is only 25 years old and looks to have several Cy Young Awards in his future.

2) Curt Schilling, Arizona Diamondbacks

After going the first 13 seasons of his career without winning more than 17 games in a year, Curt Schilling won 20+ for the second straight season in 2002.

He pitched the 2nd most innings in the NL with 259, won the 2nd most games with 23 and had the 2nd most strikeouts with 316.

He also improved upon his already fabulous control and walked an amazing 33 batters his 259 innings.

1) Randy Johnson, Arizona Diamondbacks

Randy Johnson had, far and away, the best season of any pitcher in major league baseball in 2002.

The Big Unit led the National League in innings pitched (260), strike outs (334), wins (24), ERA (2.32), opponent's batting average (.208), Ks/9 (11.56), winning % (.828) and probably about 1,000 other categories.

Curt Schilling's control was very nice this season, but Randy Johnson did every other possible significant thing better than Schilling and he deserves to win his 4th straight Cy Young Award.

American League Anthony Young Award (given to the worst pitcher in the league in honor of former Mets pitcher Anthony Young - no relation to Cy - who went a combined 3-30 in 1992 and 1993):

1) Todd Ritchie, Chicago White Sox

Acquired from Pittsburgh for 3 pitchers that combined to pitch 471 innings and win 29 games in 2002, Todd Ritchie was a complete bust for the ChiSox, going 5-15 with a 6.06 ERA.

He gave up 176 hits in only 133 innings (a .318 opponent's batting average), including 18 home runs.

And Ritchie's horrible season actually got off to a good start!

He posted a 3.03 ERA in 39 April innings and looked to be off to a good start with his new team.

In the following 4 months he posted ERAs of 7.18, 6.55, 9.12 and 7.50, before finally shutting it down in September.

National League Anthony Young Award (given to the worst pitcher in the league in honor of former Mets pitcher Anthony Young - no relation to Cy - who went a combined 3-30 in 1992 and 1993):

1) Mike Hampton, Colorado Rockies.

Well Mike, I sure hope that Colorado school system is everything you hoped it would be.

Hampton made $8.5 million dollars in 2002 and is scheduled to make an additional $78.5 million from 2003-2008.

What did the Rockies get for their $8,500,000?

Well, not much.

Hampton gave up a whopping 228 hits in 179 innings pitched for an opponent's batting average of .313.

He did manage to stand alone in one area though.

Mike Hampton was the only pitcher to qualify for the ERA title that had more walks than strikeouts.

Hampton walked 91 batters and struck out only 74 on his way to a 7-15 record and a 6.15 ERA.

American League Least Valuable Player:

1) Neifi Perez, Kansas City Royals

No player in baseball was as worthless as Neifi Perez in 2002.

He hit for crappiness, he hit for suckiness, he hit for worthlessness and he hit for all those things in a ton of playing time!

The Royals were somehow able to find 554 at bats to waste on Perez this season.

Here is what Neifi did in those precious ABs...

.236 batting average

.260 on-base %

.303 slugging %

3 home runs

20 doubles

20 walks

8 stolen bases

9 caught stealing

37 RBI

My god, I can smell it from here!

Those are just putrid numbers for a full-time player.

And the one thing he actually did well in the past, play defense, is no longer even a strength.

Neifi was a part of the "Age Gate" scandal involving hundreds of foreign born players in the off-season.

So, instead of being in his mid-20s like the Royals thought, he is now set to turn 30 on his next birthday.

He celebrated his additional years by dropping like a rock defensively.

So, he sucks on offense and sucks on defense.

Plus, he can't even steal bases any more - he got caught 9 times out of 17 attempts!

Neifi Perez is the complete suckiness package, which makes him perfect for a team like the Royals.

Did I mention they paid him $4.1 million for 2002?

National League Least Valuable Player:

Unlike with the AL version of this award, the NL pick was a difficult one to make.

There were several qualified players.

The one man who stands out above all the rest is Atlanta Braves third baseman, the man that forced Chipper Jones to the outfield, Vinny Castilla.

Vinny was once a decent player and he put up some gaudy power numbers while playing for the Rockies on Planet Coors.

40 HR and 113 RBI in 1996, 40 HR and 113 RBI in 1997 (yes, he had identical #s both years), 46 HR and 144 RBI in 1998 and 33 HR and 102 RBI in 1999.

Then, in 2000 he signed a free agent deal with the Tampa Bay Devil Rays (which makes sense if you think about it) and he suddenly found out just how much Coors Field helps a hitter like Castilla.

He hit .221/.254/.308 in his first year in Tampa.

In his second year in Tampa he stunk so horribly that the D-Rays actually cut him and ate his contract after only 93 ABs.

He signed on with the Astros for the 2nd half of the year and actually had a somewhat useful half season.

The Braves apparently thought it was more than somewhat useful because they gave him a 2 year contract for $8 million dollars!?!?!

Castilla played pretty much every day for the Braves in 2002, as any $4 million dollar a year third baseman should, I suppose.

His totals:

543 AB

.232 AVG

.268 OBP

.348 SLG

12 HR

61 RBI

56 Runs

22 BB

To make matters worse, Castilla was 35 this season, which means the Braves will be paying a guy who hit .232/.268/.348 $4 million dollars next year AND he is a year older and likely to be even worse (although that almost isn't possible).

American League Most Valuable Player:

10) Torii Hunter, Minnesota Twins

Torii started the season very well and stayed hot throughout the first half, hitting .306/.347/.564 before the All-Star break.

He slumped in the second half (.263/.315/.464) and finished the year at a very solid .289/.334/.524 including 29 homers, 37 doubles and 23 steals in 561 ABs.

His offense, along with good defense in center field made him the Twins MVP.

9) Magglio Ordonez, Chicago White Sox

Mags quietly had a phenomenal season in 2002.

He hit .320/.381/.597 with 38 homers, 47 doubles and 135 RBIs, while playing a very good right field for the Sox.

His .325 EqA ranked 8th in the AL and he ranked 7th in RARP.

8) Bernie Williams, New York Yankees

Bernie's defense in center field is declining, but his hitting certainly isn't.

After starting the year in a major slump (.236/.367/.292 in April), Bernie hit .374 in May, .368 in July and .402 in August to finish the year at .333.

He also hit 19 homers and 37 doubles, driving in 102 runs.

Bernie ranked 6th in the AL in RARP, finishing 64.4 runs above a replacement level CF.

7) Manny Ramirez, Boston Red Sox

If Manny ever stays completely healthy for an entire season, look out.

He once again struggled with injuries in 2002, but when he was in the lineup he hit like he always does, finishing the year at .349/.450/.647.

He hit 33 homers and 31 doubles while driving in 107 runs in only 120 games.

Manny led the American League with a .370 EqA and despite missing a ton of games, he ranked 4th in RARP.

6) Nomar Garciaparra, Boston Red Sox

After injuring his wrist last year and only playing in 21 games, Nomar had a very strong comeback season in 2002.

His numbers (.310/.352/.528) were very good, but not quite up to par with his 1998-2000 performances.

Nonetheless, Nomar stayed healthy for the entire season, played good defense at shortstop and had a very good offensive year.

5) Alfonso Soriano, New York Yankees

Soriano had what I would classify as the breakout season in the American League.

Despite walking about once every two weeks, Soriano hit .300 with 39 homers, 51 doubles and 41 steals.

He drove in 102 runs from the leadoff spot, where he ignited the powerful Yankees lineup all season long.

Soriano ranked 5th in the AL in RARP and and 17th in EqA.

4) Miguel Tejada, Oakland A's

My ranking of Tejada is probably the thing that will generate the most reader response.

I believe there are two schools of thought when deciding on the MVP of a league.

School #1 chooses the player they believe to have been the best player in the league for that particular season, including offense and defense.

School #2 chooses the player they believe provided the most value to a team that made the playoffs.

I am enrolled in the first school because I believe the Most Valuable Player is the guy who provided the most value to his team and thus was the best player in the league.

And Miguel Tejada was not the best player in the American League in 2002.

In fact, take a look at the following two players who both played the same defensive position and tell me which one was more valuable in 2002:

Player     AB   AVG   OBP   SLG  HR  2B  BB  SB   EqA

Player X 635 .310 .352 .528 24 56 41 5 .304
Player Z 662 .308 .354 .508 34 30 38 7 .300

Pretty darn close, huh?

Tough to pick which guy was the better player in 2002.

Player Z is Miguel Tejada.

The only problem with his MVP campaign is that Player X, the one that is so similar to him, is not the best shortstop in the league, Alex Rodriguez.

Player X is Nomar Garciaparra.

So Tejada was basically about as good as Nomar was in 2002, which is certainly nothing to be ashamed of.

The problem comes when you compare Tejada's performance to that of Alex Rodriguez:

Player        AB   AVG   OBP   SLG  HR  2B  RBI  RUN  BB   EqA    RF     ZR    E

Rodriguez 624 .300 .392 .623 57 27 142 125 87 .334 4.73 .919 10
Tejada 662 .308 .354 .508 34 30 131 108 38 .300 4.64 .830 19

I ask you this, what exactly did Miguel Tejada do better than Alex Rodriguez this season?

ARod had an OBP almost 40 points higher.

He slugged over 100 points higher.

He hit 23 more home runs.

He drove in more runs and he scored more runs.

He walked 50 more times.

He even stole a couple more bases.

On defense, he made more plays per game than Tejada.

He made a much higher percentage of plays on balls in his zone.

And he committed about half as many errors.

The only thing that Miguel Tejada did better than Alex Rodriguez in 2002 was have better teammates.

You make ARod Oakland's shortstop and they are going to score even more runs than they did with Tejada and they are going to prevent even more runs than they did with Tejada.

And if you don't see that, well, your "school" is teaching you the wrong stuff.

3) Jason Giambi, New York Yankees

Giambi left Oakland for the Big Apple and struggled a little bit early on, hitting "only" .282/.378/.456 in April.

Once he got used to the big city he stepped up his game and got back to his old, dominating self at the plate.

He finished the year hitting .314/.435/.598 with 41 homers, 34 doubles, 109 walks and 122 RBIs.

Despite switching to a more hitter friendly park in Yankee Stadium, Giambi's offensive numbers were actually down significantly from his 1999 and 2000 levels with the A's.

His .435 OBP was about 40 points lower than with Oakland (.476 in '99 and .477 in '00) and his slugging % of .598 was down too (.647 in '99 and .660 in '00).

Giambi's .351 EqA ranked 3rd in the AL and he also ranked 3rd in RARP.

2) Jim Thome, Cleveland Indians

Jim Thome had the best season of his career at the perfect time...his contract year!

Thome is now a free agent coming off a year in which he hit .304/.445/.677 with 52 homers, 122 walks and 118 RBIs.

Against right handed pitching, Jim Thome is the next closest thing to Barry Bonds, as he hit an amazing .333/.485/.766 against righties this year.

His big weakness has always been his struggles against lefties.

He continued to do much worse against southpaws this year, but he did make a significant improvement over his 2001 performance against them, hitting a respectable .245/.358/.497 in 2002.

Thome's power numbers are even more impressive when you consider he hit 52 home runs despite missing a weeks worth of action at two different times in the month of July.

Thome ranked 2nd in the AL (behind Manny Ramirez) in EqA with a .369 mark.

He was also 2nd in RARP, some 84 runs above a replacement level 1B.

1) Alex Rodriguez, Texas Rangers

ARod was, without a doubt in my mind, the Most Valuable Player, the best player and the most complete player in the AL in 2002.

Before we get to his hitting, I want to talk about his defense.

ARod was the best defensive shortstop in the league this year, as he was last year.

Whether or not he gets the Gold Glove is fairly irrelevant as it is obvious that the GG voters have a fascination with a certain aging Cleveland shortstop with dimishing range and some nice highlight reel plays.

On offense, there is no denying that Rodriguez is the total package.

He hits for a high average (.300), he hits for huge home run power (57), he hits for doubles power (27), he walks (87), he gets on base (.392 OBP), scores runs (125), drives in runs (142), slugs the heck out of the ball (.623) and even steals a few bases now and then (9/13 on steals).

And he plays every day - 162 games played in 2002 and 162 games played in 2001.

Alex Rodriguez is the MVP of the American League.

National League Most Valuable Player:

10) Andruw Jones, Atlanta Braves

Andruw recovered from a disappointing 2001 season to have a very nice 2002.

He still has not lived up the big expectations that many people have always had of him, but he is a very valuable player.

He drew a career high 83 walks this year which offset his low batting average (.264) and produced a .366 OBP, tying his career high.

He continued to hit for very good power, smacking 35 homers and 34 doubles this year, leading to a .513 SLG.

Andruw's most valuable skill is, of course, his defense in center field, which is among the best in baseball history.

A nice on-base %, good power and great center field defense...not too shabby.

9) Lance Berkman, Houston Astros

Just like Andruw Jones, Lance Berkman is a center fielder.

Actually, I should say that Lance Berkman "plays" center field, in that the center of the outfield is the place he stands while on defense.

Berkman is a pretty bad center fielder, but he isn't so horrendously awful that he kills a team.

And by putting him in center, it allows the Astros to have an extra hitter in the lineup at one of the corner outfield spots.

At the plate, Berkman is pretty damn good.

He hit .292/.405/.578 with 42 homers, 35 doubles and 107 walks in 578 ABs.

Berkman is a switch hitter, but the majority of that damage came from the left side of the plate, where Berkman hit .307/.420/.639.

As a right handed hitter, Berkman actually struggled a bit, hitting only .240/.351/.364.

At just 26 years old, Berkman already has 101 homers and a career hitting line of .304/.406/.578.

8) Albert Pujols, St. Louis Cardinals

After splitting time between 1B, LF, RF and 3B in his rookie year, Pujols spent the majority of 2002 in left field.

He is a decent defensive left fielder.

His hitting, on the other hand, is fantastic.

I have a hard time believing Pujols' listed age of 22 (I think he is probably closer to 26 or 27), but whatever his age, his first two Major League seasons were very good and remarkably similar:

Year   AB   AVG   OBP   SLG  HR  2B  RBI  RUN  BB

2001 590 .329 .403 .610 37 47 130 112 69
2002 590 .314 .394 .561 34 40 127 118 72

If those two seasons are in fact his age-21 and age-22 seasons, then Pujols is almost surely a Hall-of-Famer (and I'm the Tooth Fairy).

7) Chipper Jones, Atlanta Braves

Larry Wayne made the switch from third base to left field and was reportedly not too happy with it.

He did okay defensively, but if he really was unhappy with the switch, it may have affected his hitting in the first half of the year.

Check out Chipper's 1st half/2nd half splits:

Half   AB   AVG   OBP   SLG  HR  BB  SO

1st 313 .307 .396 .454 9 46 56
2nd 235 .353 .483 .647 17 61 33

He was a completely different player in the 2nd half.

He hit twice as many homers in almost 100 fewer at bats.

And he cut way down on his strike outs, while dramatically increases his walks.

For the whole year Chipper hit .327/.435/.536 which is pretty much right in line with the rest of his great career.

Jones ranked 3rd in the NL with a .335 EqA and has now driven in 100 or more runs in 7 consecutive seasons.

6) Sammy Sosa, Chicago Cubs

You know you are a great player when you have your worst season in the last 5 years and still end up hitting .288/.399/.594 with 49 homers.

That's how good Sammy has been since 1998.

His homer totals since then: 66, 63, 50, 64, 49, which is simply awesome in any era.

As his power has gone up, his defense in right field has declined a little bit each year.

He is still a decent defender and his great offense, which included 100+ walks for the 2nd straight year, make him an extremely valuable player.

Sammy was good for the 5th best EqA in the NL this year, as well as the 5th highest RARP.

5) Randy Johnson, Arizona Diamondbacks

RJ is the only pitcher on either of my MVP lists.

I have nothing against pitchers, in fact I think Pedro should have won the AL MVP in 2000.

I just think a pitcher has to be pretty damn good to be a viable MVP candidate.

And Randy Johnson was pretty damn good in 2002.

4) Brian Giles, Pittsburgh Pirates

Brian Giles is the best player that the casual fan has never heard of.

Since coming to Pittsburgh for Ricky Rincon (think Indians fans would do that one over?) here are Giles' numbers:

Year   AVG   OBP   SLG  HR

1999 .315 .418 .614 39
2000 .315 .432 .594 35
2001 .309 .404 .590 37
2002 .298 .450 .622 38

I think Brian Giles is a great player, but even I didn't realize how great he has been over the last 4 years.

He is gonna hit .300, get on base over 40% of the time and slug about .600.

Put him on a decent team (or build a decent team around him) and he would be a perrenial MVP contender.

Giles was 2nd in the NL in EqA at .351 and ranked 2nd in RARP.

3) Vladimir Guerrero, Montreal Expos

Vlad the Impaler tacked on a couple dozen extra walks in 2002 to add the final piece to his completeness as a player.

In his 5 full seasons as a big league player, he has never had a batting average under .300.

He has never hit less than 30 homers and he has never driven in less than 100 runs.

And now he has added walks to the resume that also includes speed, thanks to 77 steals over the last 2 years.

Guerrero is 26 and already has 200+ homers, 1,000+ hits and 600+ RBIs.

He looks like a lock for the Hall-of-Fame.

Vlad ranked 6th in the NL in EqA and 4th in RARP.

2) Jeff Kent, San Francisco Giants

This is why the Giants made the World Series.

Well, there were other reasons for sure, but this is the big one.

They had the two best players in the National League in 2002 and that goes a long way towards winning a pennant.

Jeff Kent hit .313/.368/.565 with 37 homers and 42 doubles while playing half his games in the most extreme pitching park in baseball.

And he did all that while playing a decent second base.

Since joining the Giants in 1997 Kent has put up 6 straight 20+ HRs/35+ Doubles/100+ RBI seasons.

If he hadn't gotten such a late start on his greatness (his first year with SF was his age-29 season) he would be approaching status as one of the best second basemen of all-time.

As it stands now, Kent has had 5 really good seasons in a row and, while he probably won't make Cooperstown, he has been a huge part of the Giants success this year and in the past.

Kent was 3rd in the NL in Runs Above Replacement Position.

1) Barry Bonds, San Francisco Giants

What do I say that hasn't already been said?

Barry Bonds has had perhaps the two greatest seasons in baseball history the last two years.

He is in a rare class of hitters along with only two other men: Babe Ruth and Ted Williams.

And if he continues to have seasons like the last two, there is going to be a need for a new class for just Barry.

Bonds' "production" numbers, his home run and RBI totals, were hurt this season because teams were simply too afraid to pitch to him most of the time.

He walked 198 times in 143 games, shattering his own all-time record for walks in a season.

The lack of opportunities to actually get decent pitches to hit makes what he did this year all the more amazing.

He hit .370 this season!

He hit 49 home runs and 31 doubles, drove in 110 runs and scored 117 in only 403 at bats!

And he did all of it while playing in Pac Bell Park, the most unfriendly place for hitters in MLB.

He led the National League (and all of MLB) with a .457 EqA, which was which over 100 points better than the 2nd highest NL figure.

He was 140.8 runs above a replacement level left fielder, which was almost twice as many runs as the 2nd highest total in the NL.

If you project Barry's 2002 stats over 550 at bats, a normal amount for a player during a full season (at least for a player that doesn't get walked 200 times) you get some pretty awesome numbers:

62 HR

42 Doubles

150 RBI

160 Runs

203 Hits

Barry Bonds is the greatest player I will probably ever see play.

It has been exciting as hell to watch him the past 2 seasons and while I don't know if a man approaching 40 can continue to hit at such a monstrous level for much longer, I would not put it past Barry Bonds.

One side note:

Ever since I can remember, I have wanted to be a sports writer "when I grow up."

I love sports, they are my #1 passion in life and I would like nothing more than to write about them for a living.

When I see the types of stories that writers are producing about Barry Bonds now, it makes me absolutely sick.

People like Bob Klapisch and David Halberstam should be ashamed of themselves for what they have written about Bonds in the past week.

Barry Bonds is a great baseball player.

That fact does not keep him from being human off the field.

He might not be the friendliest guy in the world, he might be a little arrogant at times, he might not give writers the kinds of quotes that they want and he might even sit in his very own lounge chair in the clubhouse.

So f---ing what?!

I hereby make a vow to all my readers that if I ever get in the position to write about athletes for a large audience, I won't let whether or not they are willing to give me good quotes after a game affect the way I portray them.

I am a fan of Barry Bonds because of what he does on the baseball field.

As long as his great sins include things like being a jerk to reporters and not stuff like murdering people or abusing his wife, I couldn't care less what he does off the field.

Okay, end of rant and I will now step off of my soapbox.

For those of you who read yesterday's entry and want to find out the answer to the 1991 World Series game 7 trivia question...

Who was Gene Larkin pinch hitting for in the bottom of the 10th?

An amazing number of readers (amazing to me at least) emailed me with the correct answer, so congratulations to all of them.

And that correct answer is...

The immortal JARVIS BROWN!

Pinch runner extraordinaire and owner of a career batting line of .203/.303/.282 in 227 at bats over 5 seasons.

Jarvis pinch ran for Chili Davis and made it all the way to third base before being stranded there.

Luckily for Tom Kelly, he had a pinch hitter left on his bench when Atlanta loaded the bases in the bottom of the 10th.

I am pretty sure Jarvis Brown couldn't have hit a fly ball as far as Larkin did even if you let him bat from second base.

And finally...

John Perricone over at Only Baseball Matters has a really good Pete Rose discussion going on, involving several really good writers from various sites around the internet.

I suggest checking it out.


I try to stay out of the Rose debates for fear of my life and sanity, because when those things really get going the arguments get heated and they can last a long, long time.

Sorta like the emails I am sure to receive about my award picks...

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