WITH BARRY BONDS AROUND, THE NATIONAL LEAGUE MVP race has been a no-win situation for Albert Pujols. From 2001 through '04 the Cardinals first baseman finished fourth, second, second and third in the MVP vote--and Bonds won it each time. But with Bonds coming off right-knee surgery and missing all but 14 games of '05, Pujols finally should get his due. Here is my vote for NL MVP and the other seven major awards that will be announced next month, plus SI's Most Ridiculous Performance awards for this season
MOST VALUABLE PLAYER
1. Albert Pujols, 1B, Cardinals
2. Andruw Jones, CF, Braves
3. Derrek Lee, 1B, Cubs
4. Morgan Ensberg, 3B, Astros
5. Brian Giles, RF, Padres
6. Pat Burrell, LF, Phillies
7. Carlos Delgado, 1B, Marlins
8. Jeff Kent, 2B, Dodgers
9. David Wright, 3B, Mets
10. Chad Cordero, closer, Nationals
HOW DOES Jones, a Gold Glove centerfielder who hit 51 home runs for a first-place team, not win the MVP? Actually, in choosing Pujols over Jones, it's not even that close. Of the two, Pujols was significantly better at getting on base (.430), slugging (.609), hitting for average (.330), scoring runs (129) and stealing bases (16). While Jones did lead the league in RBIs (128), his .207 average with runners in scoring position was far below MVP standards.
CY YOUNG AWARD
1. Chris Carpenter, SP, Cardinals
2. Roger Clemens, SP, Astros
3. Dontrelle Willis, SP, Marlins
Carpenter's September swoon might be detrimental to the Cardinals' chances in the playoffs but not to his shot at the Cy. Since the mound was lowered in 1969, Carpenter is only the fifth pitcher to win more than 20 games with an .800 winning percentage, a sub-3.00 ERA and 200 strikeouts. The previous four all won the award: Ron Guidry ('78), Dwight Gooden ('85), Clemens ('86) and Pedro Martinez ('99).
ROOKIE OF THE YEAR
1. Ryan Howard, 1B, Phillies
2. Jeff Francoeur, RF, Braves
3. Garrett Atkins, 3B, Rockies
Despite Atkins's rookie-leading 89 RBIs it's difficult to take his candidacy seriously because his home-road splits (.339--.238 in batting average and .508--.347 in slugging percentage) show how much he was helped by playing at Coors Field. Howard, who replaced an injured Jim Thome at first base in early July, leads all rookies with 22 home runs in only 312 at bats and ranked second among NL rookies with 63 RBIs.
MANAGER OF THE YEAR
1. Bobby Cox, Braves
2. Frank Robinson, Nationals
3. Phil Garner, Astros
Cox won a 14th straight division championship, and this may have been the finest job yet by a man who has won three of these awards. The Braves changed two thirds of their starting outfield on the fly, lost third baseman Chipper Jones and starting pitchers Mike Hampton and John Thomson to major injuries, used 18 rookies, tried 21 relief pitchers--none of whom saved more than 15 games--and still Cox guided them to the playoffs.
MOST VALUABLE PLAYER
1. Alex Rodriguez, 3B, Yankees
2. David Ortiz, DH, Red Sox
3. Vladimir Guerrero, RF, Angels
4. Travis Hafner, DH, Indians
5. Paul Konerko, 1B, White Sox
6. Manny Ramirez, LF, Red Sox
7. Grady Sizemore, CF, Indians
8. Mariano Rivera, closer, Yankees
9. Michael Young, SS, Rangers
10. Gary Sheffield, RF, Yankees
ORTIZ IS the last man a pitcher wants to see at the plate with the game on the line, this side of a healthy Barry Bonds. But are Ortiz's contributions on offense so much greater than Rodriguez's as to render defense irrelevant? The answer is no. Rodriguez was superb at driving in runs (130) and preventing them: Among third baseman with 400 or more chances, only the Rangers' Hank Blalock had fewer errors than his 12.
CY YOUNG AWARD
1. Mariano Rivera, closer, Yankees
2. Johan Santana, SP, Twins
3. Bartolo Colon, SP, Angels
Santana (16--7) led the league in strikeouts (238) and was second in ERA (2.87), but David Cone (1994) is the only AL starter to win the Cy with so few wins. Rivera became just the third pitcher (John Wetteland in 1993 and Cy winner Eric Gagne in 2003) to save 40 games with a sub-1.50 ERA while working 75 or more innings. He retired 61 of the 69 batters to lead off an inning (88%) and allowed one run all season on the road.
ROOKIE OF THE YEAR
1. Huston Street, closer, A's
2. Jonny Gomes, LF, Devil Rays
3. Robinson Cano, 2B, Yankees
One year out of college (he left Texas after his junior year) and thrust into the closer's role because of an injury to Octavio Dotel, Street pitched with the savvy of a veteran and a slinging style reminiscent of his idol, Dennis Eckersley. Street saved 23 games in 27 chances (including all 18 in the second half), held hitters to a .194 batting average and had the best ERA by an AL reliever (1.72) this side of Rivera's 1.38.
MANAGER OF THE YEAR
1. Ozzie Guillen, White Sox
2. Eric Wedge, Indians
3. Joe Torre, Yankees
The quotable, irreverent Guillen made his club's season resemble a reality TV series. The loss of all but 1 1/2 games of a 15-game lead was dangerously thrilling, but with solid pitching (Mark Buehrle, Jose Contreras, Freddy Garcia and Jon Garland were a combined 63--33) and just enough offense to win close games, the White Sox and their energetic manager finished with the best record in the AL (99--63).
The MRP Awards
SI's fourth annual tribute to the Most Ridiculous Performances of the season By Daniel G. Habib
MIND OVER MATTER AWARD To Twins outfielder Jason Kubel, who summed up the effect that off-season knee surgery and extended rehab had had on his hitting stroke by saying, "I still feel pretty confident about my swing, even though I haven't been swinging."
ALL ABOUT THE BENJAMINS AWARD To White Sox catcher A.J. Pierzynski, who before a spring training game offered $100 to any player who hit a homer off Giants righty Brett Tomko, a despised former teammate. (Outfielder Joe Borchard cashed in.)
BLINK AND YOU'LL MISS IT AWARD To Indians outfielder Juan Gonzalez, who aggravated a strained hamstring while running out a ground ball in the top of the first inning of his 2005 debut on May 31 and sat out the rest of the year for a one-at-bat season.
BAMBI'S REVENGE AWARD To Rockies shortstop Clint Barmes, who was hitting .329 on June 6 when he fell while carrying a package of frozen deer meat up a flight of stairs, breaking his collarbone.
JUST BECAUSE YOU'RE PARANOID, DOESN'T MEAN THEY'RE NOT OUT TO GET YOU AWARD To White Sox lefthander Mark Buehrle, who in August alleged that the Rangers used a flashing light system to steal signs at Ameriquest Field.
MOVING DAY AWARD To Reds manager Dave Miley, who on May 24 ordered recliners belonging to outfielders Adam Dunn and Ken Griffey Jr. taken out of the clubhouse; after the 11--15 stretch that followed, Miley was fired.
CONSIDER A PHONE CALL AWARD To Cubs righthander Carlos Zambrano, whose elbow soreness was thought to be aggravated by his spending 4--5 hours a day e-mailing and instant-messaging friends and family in Venezuela.
DON'T BLAME THE MESSENGER AWARD To Nationals G.M. Jim Bowden, who after a loss to the Cardinals, said, "This isn't a problem of one or two guys. We have an embarrassing problem of all eight." (Five players in the lineup that day had been acquired by Bowden.)
LACTOSE INTOLERANCE AWARD To the Marlins, who suspended batboy Nick Cirillo for six games after he took a $500 dare from Dodgers righthander Brad Penny to chug a gallon of milk--then vomited outside the Los Angeles clubhouse.
40 ACRES AND A MULE AWARD To minor league lefty John Rocker, on the heckling he endures for off-color comments he made in 1999: "I know Hank [Aaron] and Jackie [Robinson] took a good deal of crap, but I guarantee it wasn't for six years."
DETAILS, DETAILS AWARD To Devil Rays G.M. Chuck LaMar, who defended his legacy--seven last-place finishes in eight years--by saying, "The only thing that keeps this organization from being recognized as one of the finest in baseball is wins and losses at the major league level."
LIMA TIME IS RUNNING OUT AWARD To Royals righthander Jose Lima, who fashioned a 6.99 ERA in 1682/3 innings to become the first pitcher to have a season with at least 150 innings and a 6.00-plus ERA in each league. (His ERA was 6.65 with the 2000 Astros.)
FLIP-FLOP AWARD To White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen. On Sept. 15 after a loss to the Royals, he said, "We flat-out stink."
On Sept. 29, after clinching the AL Central, "A lot of people started doubting us.... But then we started believing again."
DO AS I SAY, NOT AS I DO AWARD To Orioles first baseman Rafael Palmeiro, who testified to a congressional committee on steroid use last March, "I believe that our game will get cleaned up. We just need to give this policy a chance."