Albert Pujols, Joe Mauer and Zack Greinke should be shoo-ins for the NL MVP, AL MVP and AL Cy Young awards, respectively. Chris Carpenter gets the call here in a tight race for NL Cy Young, as he led that league in both winning percentage and ERA. Adam Wainwright and Tim Lincecum aren't terrible choices, either, but the goals, after all, are to win the greatest percentage of games and allow the fewest runs. That's Carpenter.
Miguel Cabrera is omitted from my AL MVP ballot entirely because it's obvious he didn't care enough to give full effort. There is no excuse for a 6 a.m. bender when the pennant's on the line, never mind all the other shenanigans that went along with it.
Milwaukee's Prince Fielder had a terrific statistical season (.299, 46 homers and 141 RBIs) and will likely make a vast majority of NL MVP ballots, but the "most valuable'' part of the equation is weighed heavily here, as I don't believe players on also-ran teams should win the award.
For Rookie of the Year honors, Rick Porcello and J.A. Happ had superb years while pitching under the duress of a pennant race. The two ROY races seem to be wide open, but those two had the greatest impact. Happ tied Felix Hernandez for the lowest road ERA in baseball at 1.99 and managed a stellar 2.93 ERA overall pitching half his games in the bandbox Citizens Bank Ballpark.
Below are all my ballots -- a couple that count and others that don't (I voted in two categories this year). I've also included my picks for the top managers and executives, plus picks for the worst in all the categories except for the rookie category, where leniency is shown to newcomers. And remember, the postseason doesn't count.
1. Albert Pujols, Cardinals: Near-Triple Crown winner had it locked up by June.
2. Troy Tulowitzki, Rockies: Spectacular talent could have won Comeback Player. Playoff failures don't count.
3. Ryan Howard, Phillies: May actually be underrated.
4. Andre Ethier, Dodgers: Six walk-off hits led league.
5. Hanley Ramirez, Marlins: Big-time talent earned wrath of teammate Dan Uggla for not playing through pain.
6. Matt Kemp, Dodgers: Starting to become the superstar that folks predicted he'd be.
7. Chris Carpenter, Cardinals: Nearly untouchable when healthy.
8. Adam Wainwright, Cardinals: League's leading winner starting to get appreciation he deserves.
9. Chase Utley, Phillies: Perfect 23 for 23 in steals to go with everything else. Teammate Jayson Werth also a consideration.
10. Matt Holliday, Cardinals: As soon as he got to St. Louis, the Cards took off.
NL LVP (Least Valuable Player)Milton Bradley, Cubs: Alfonso Soriano (20 HRs, 55 RBIs, .241) and Geovany Soto (positive test for pot, .218 batting average) were dreadful, as well. But Bradley was asked to leave the team for the final two weeks. Tough to top that.
1. Joe Mauer, Twins: Led league in slugging percentage, on-base percentage and batting average as catcher. Runaway winner with Twins a playoff team.
2. Mark Teixeira, Yankees: Monster first year in New York, leading the league in home runs (tied with Carlos Pena) and RBIs while manning first base like a Gold Glover.
3. Kevin Youkilis, Red Sox: Feisty, versatile player personifies team.
4. Kendry Morales, Angels: Blunted disappointment of losing Teixeira.
5. Alex Rodriguez, Yankees: Yanks came together when he joined them after hip surgery.
6. Derek Jeter, Yankees: Improved in every way at 35. Just remarkable.
7. Bobby Abreu, Angels: Mike Scioscia called him their MVP. (Though if Torii Hunter played a full year, Scioscia noted it might have been him.)
8. Victor Martinez, Red Sox: Versatile hitter was Boston's best player down the stretch. Jason Bay also worthy.
9. CC Sabathia, Yankees: Bascally untouchable in second half for baseball's best team.
10. Justin Verlander, Tigers: He's in here for teammate Miguel Cabrera, who would have been third if not for his costly weekend bender, which showed he didn't care.
AL LVP (Least Valuable Player)Vernon Wells, Blue Jays: For $126 million, he put up mundane numbers yet again (15 HRs, 66 RBIs, .260). How about a refund? Ex-teammate Alex Rios swung a wet noodle in Chicago's South Side (.199 batting average, .530 OPS after arriving).
1. Carpenter, Cardinals: ERA and winning percentage titles normally a winning combo for this award.
2. Wainwright, Cardinals: The league's top winner is one tough guy.
3. Tim Lincecum, Giants: Tiny Tim a threat to throw a no-hitter every time out.
NL Cy OldBrad Lidge, Phillies: Great guy, 2008 savior, but nothing short of a disaster with an MLB-high 11 blown saves. Talented and young left-handers Oliver Perez and Manny Parra didn't exactly distinguish themselves, either.
1. Greinke, Royals: Only knock is pitching in AL Central. But he had sub 1.00 ERA against AL playoff teams.
2. Hernandez, Mariners: Had league's lowest OPS against (.605). The clear No. 2 in excellent field.
3. Roy Halladay, Blue Jays: He gets the nod over Sabathia and Verlander thanks to better ERA (2.79) and league-leading complete games and generally better numbers (other than wins).
AL Cy OldFausto Carmona, Indians: Considered a co-ace with Sabathia in 2007, he had become a batting practice pitcher in recent years (1.76 WHIP).
1. Happ, Phillies: His 12-4 record and 2.93 ERA are superb. But consider that ballpark he has to pitch in. On the road he had a baseball-best 1.99 ERA.
2. Chris Coghlan, Marlins: More hits than anyone in the second half.
3. Tommy Hanson, Braves: Perhaps the best future of any of a solid rookie class. Andrew McCutchen, Garrett Jones, Casey McGehee, Dexter Fowler and Randy Wells also had nice rookie campaigns.
1. Porcello, Tigers: Became rare 20-year-old to win at least 14 games (Dwight Gooden was another) and pitched beautifully in the deciding game at the Metrodome. Plus, whipped Youkilis.
2. Jeff Niemann, Rays: In a year where the Rays traded away three starters, they were smart to keep this guy..
3. Andrew Bailey, A's: Big-time numbers, but let's face it: He's a closer on a loser. Ricky Romero, Gordon Beckham, Elvis Andrus and Brett Anderson are all also worthy.
1. Jim Tracy, Rockies: Took over struggling team and led them into playoffs.
2. Tony La Russa, Cardinals: Superb tactician stumped for Holliday.
3. Fredi Gonzalez, Marlins: Very solid job with very young team, no matter what owner Jeffrey Loria may think.
Bud Harrelson Award (Worst NL Manager)Jerry Manuel, Mets: They lost $51 million in DL time, but still managed to underachieve with what they had left.
1. Scioscia, Angels: Year in and year out, just tremendous. This year, they overcame a lot.
2. Ron Gardenhire, Twins: Got the $60 million team to the playoffs.
3. Joe Girardi, Yankees: Softened (a little) and helped the Yankees reach their potential.
Maury Wills Award (Worst AL Manager)Dave Trembley, Orioles: Team performed the swan dive while word is clubhouse tension was created by the perception he was too conciliatory with undeserving veterans.
1. Dan O'Dowd, Rockies: Long list of fabulous acquisitions -- Huston Street and Carlos Gonzalez, Jason Marquis, Rafael Betancourt, Jason Giambi and Jose Contreras.
2. Ned Colletti, Dodgers: George Sherrill, Vicente Padilla and Jon Garland all worked at the deadline (and Jim Thome makes everyone feel good). Nice work.
3T. Ruben Amaro, Phillies: Cliff Lee deal boosted the talented Phillies (and crushed the Jays).
3T. John Mozeliak, Cardinals: Midyear moves for Holliday, Mark DeRosa, John Smoltz and Julio Lugo all worked to different degrees.
Ed Wade Award (Worst NL Executive)Jim Hendry, Cubs: Too bad it can't go to Wade himself, but there are other more deserving candidates this year. Turns out Hendry overreacted to their three-game sweep at the hands of the Dodgers, trading DeRosa and bringing in Bradley, badly miscalculating that Bradley and Chicago would like each other. The Mets' Omar Minaya didn't earn too many gold stars, either.
1. Brian Cashman, Yankees: The big-money moves all worked (Teixeira, Sabathia and A.J. Burnett), and so did the small-money moves (Eric Hinske and Jerry Hairston).
2. Tony Reagins, Angels: Trade for Scott Kazmir a big help on top of bargain winter pickups of Abreu and Brian Fuentes.
3T. Jon Daniels, Rangers: The move of Michael Young to third base to make room for Andrus worked. So did the hiring of Mike Maddux and several smaller moves, like getting Darren O'Day from the Mets.
3T. Theo Epstein, Red Sox: Overcame losing out on top choice Teixeira with a trio of worthwhile midsummer pickups -- Martinez, Billy Wagner and Alex Gonzalez.
Hawk Harrelson Award (Worst AL Executive)J.P. Ricciardi, Blue Jays: Now he's saying he never got very good offers for Halladay, and his bosses didn't really want to trade him. Whatever. Ricciardi, his bosses and everyone else knows they won't be getting Clay Buchholz, Justin Masterson, Michael Bowden, Nick Hagadone and a positional prospect, which is what the Red Sox offered.
Prospective Rangers owner Dennis Gilbert won't make wholesale changes in the front office if he wins the team. There has been internet speculation that he'd hire longtime friend and confidant Kevin Towers as general manager, but it is believed Gilbert would keep the current regime in place.
Gilbert heads one of three or four groups bidding for the Rangers, who are expected to go for close to half a billion. Howard Greenberg and Jim Crane are two other known bidders, and according to sources, Greenberg has all but locked up Texas legend Nolan Ryan to join his group. Ryan is the current club president so it's presumed the baseball operations department also would be left alone should the Greenberg/Ryan group win.
With speculation out there that Gilbert would bring in Towers and his own people, there's been some concern among the folks currently in power. The former superagent who's now a consultant for White Sox owner Jerry Reinsdorf is a longtime friend of Towers and it isn't farfetchecd to think Gilbert would want the ex-Padre GM involved. Towers was let go in San Diego when new owner Jeff Moorad, also a former superagent, decided he wanted his own man. So changes are anything but unusual under these circumstances.
However, Daniels and his people have done an excellent job, beginning with the franchise-remaking trade of Mark Teixeira to the Braves, which netted them AL Rookie of the Year candidate Elvis Andrus and ultra-impressive right-hander Neftali Feliz, among others. The move of Rangers star Young to third base to accommodate Andrus worked wonders, while the hiring of Ryan's friend Mike Maddux as pitching coach seemed to transform the young pitching staff.
Beyond being known for getting Barry Bonds the then-record $43.75 million contract and representing an array of stars, Gilbert, a minor leaguer in the Red Sox's organization, is well known for his Scouts Foundation, which has for years raised hundreds of thousands of dollars for scouts in need. Gilbert's group is believed to have the support of commissioner Bud Selig, which is occasionally a plus in seeking to own a team.
• The Phillies' first order of business this winter should be to lock up Cliff Lee. There's a $9 million option for 2010 that they'll pick up. But they need to keep him around a lot longer than that.
• Larry Bowa and Don Mattingly should be managerial candidates somewhere by this point.
• Great job by L.A. to blow through the Cardinals. St. Louis probably had an uphill battle to keep Holliday even before this series, but you have to wonder whether any lingering taste at the end will work against them, as well.
• Rockies outfielder Carlos Gonzalez looks like he's an emerging star. Ten hits in five games vs. Philly: very impressive.
• After their terrific season, Rockies management will try to bring back O'Dowd and Tracy now.
• Rough playoffs for closers so far. Street, Joe Nathan and Jonathan Papelbon all have blown up.
• Last dance? With Papelbon earning the wrath of the Red Sox for making a negative comments before the Wagner trade and blowing up in Game 3, and Daniel Bard looking ready to go, the idea of trading Papelbon is at least likely to be considered by the Red Sox -- though it's rare for a team to trade an established closer.
• Papelbon threw almost exclusively fastballs. And Monday night, Lidge threw only sliders in whiffing Tulowitzki. Perhaps that reflects the Phillies' scouting report. Or maybe Lidge had little faith he could throw the fastball for a strike
• Billy Wagner told the New York Post he plans to retire. Sometimes players overreact after tough defeats. Wagner has been saying for years he might retire after this contract. But a return can't be ruled out.
• Scioscia has been a New York serial killer in the postseason, Mike Vaccaro points out in Monday's Post.
• Can't blame the Astros for adding Bob Melvin as a candidate.
• According to MLB.com, Phil Garner called Astros GM Ed Wade to recommend Melvin. And then Wade took the opportunity to ask Garner if he was interested, and Garner responded by suggesting he was. Remind me never to ask Garner for career help. Yeesh.
• The Cleveland Plain Dealer reports that the Red Sox gave Cleveland permission to interview pitching coach John Farrell. But Farrell previously told the Red Sox he intends to stay. Farrell is well-respected and has been presumed to be the original No. 1 choice, but a manager needs to be fully committed to the job.
• Meanwhile, Bobby Valentine, who'd be a tremendous choice, told the Plain Dealer via e-mail that he'd be "happy to talk to the guys who run the club.'' That would be Mark Shapiro and Chris Antonetti.
• There were Indians acquisitions on every playoff team but the Angels: Lee and Ben Francisco (Phillies), DeRosa (Cardinals), Rafael Betancourt (Rockies), Martinez (Red Sox), Casey Blake (Dodgers), Sabathia (Yankees) and Carl Pavano (Twins).
• Andy Pettitte has not committed to playing another year yet. But there's no reason to think he won't after the season and finish he's had.
• Thome told the Chicago Sun-Times he wouldn't mind going back to the White Sox. He does need to be in the AL if he plays another year.
• Gary Sheffield has told folks he'd like to play for the Marlins, according to the Miami Herald. That's the sort of young impressionable clubhouse that needs to stay away from the me-first Sheffield, who also needs to be in the AL, anyway.
• Monday's tweet: Torre! Torii! Torrealba! Heyman on Twitter: http://twitter.com/SI_JonHeyman.