With the season winding down, and not much new going on with the San Francisco Giants (Matt Cain is still getting no run-support and the team looks like it's just playing out the schedule, sans Tim Lincecum), I am going to go ahead and pick who I think should win the major awards in each league. Yes, there is still 2 weeks left and a lot can change, but if the season were to end today, here are my picks:
Ryan Howard, PHI: The .250 batting average aside, he has been the most dominant hitter in baseball this year. It's amazing what he's done after such a slow start, and he is the main reason the Phillies are ahead in a tough NL East. Albert Pujols is a close second, but he hasn't carried the Cards like Howard has Philly.
Tim Lincecum, SFG: Call me biased, but there has not been a pitcher better or more dominant in 2008 than Tim Lincecum, NL or AL. Yes, Brandon Webb has the 20 wins, but put Timmy in Arizona and he'd have darn near 25. C.C. Sabathia has been great, but he's only been in the league for 2 months. Lincecum leads the league in ERA and strikeouts, plus he may even make it to 20 wins with a team that should only win 72. No knock on Brandon Webb or even Sabathia, but you ask any ML hitter right now who they'd rather face, and nobody would say Lincecum.
Manager of the Year
Charlie Manuel, PHI: He's had the Phils at or near the top of a very tough division all year long. Whether it's as a wild card, or the NL East winners, they will be in the playoffs and in my opinion, they'll be the team to beat in the NL.
Rookie of the Year
Geovany Soto, CHC: Soto's 22 home runs and 83 RBI top all NL Rookies in 2008 so far. He also sported a solid batting average all season long and has been nails behind the plate for the Cubs. He's a big reason why the Cubs lead the NL Central by 9 games, not the other rookie on the team that gets all the headlines (Kosuke Fukudome).
Comeback Player of the Year
Jorge Cantu, FLA: It's tough to imagine that this guy had trouble finding a job this spring. A lot of teams are kicking themselves for turning down his services, including the Giants, who could have desperately used him. All he's done after barely squeezing onto the Marlins' OD roster: .274 batting average, 27 home runs, 86 RBIs, which would be about 26 home runs and 72 RBI better than last years effort.
Josh Hamilton, TEX: I'm usually one that likes to take the MVP's off of winning ball clubs, but Hamilton has been special this year. He did slow down in the second half, but him, Milton Bradley, and Ian Kinsler have single handily turned Texas into a competitive ball club. Like the NL though, there isn't a clear cut winner, and there are 3 or 4 guys that deserve it just the same. I take Hamilton just because I think he's been the best player, from start to finish, in the AL this year.
Cliff Lee, CLE: Just when you think the veteran lefty will come back to earth, he puts together another amazing start. Minus the strikeouts, he's done to the AL hitters what Tim Lincecum has done in NL. He leads the league in wins and ERA, and even though his team isn't going to the playoffs, Lee should run away with this award.
Manager of the Year:
Joe Maddon, TBR: This is really the easiest pick of all end of season awards in 2008. Joe Maddon had the Rays atop the division all year long and even if they somehow miss the playoffs, which is highly unlikely, this guy has done a hell of a job with a team most picked to finish no higher than 3rd or 4th in the division. Not only will he win this award with ease, but he will also entrench himself into the baseball managerial elite.
Rookie of the Year
Evan Longoria, TBR: Another Ray destined for hardware after the season, Longoria could have been in the MVP talks had he started the year with the team instead of AAA. In less than 400 at-bats, Longoria has 22 bombs and 74 RBI to go along with a .278 average. If it weren't for him, Tampa Bay wouldn't be in first place.
Comeback Players of the Year
Edwin Jackson TBR: The Rays are number 1 in the best division in the game for a reason, and that's been their starting pitching. Jackson's put together his best year as a Major Leaguer after years and years of disappointment in LA and Tampa. 11 wins and a 4.33 ERA aren't earth shattering numbers, but he now only has 22 wins in 113 big league games, so half of them have come in the last 5 months. Not quite living up to expectations fully yet, but the 25 year old looks like he's finally molding into that top of the rotation pitcher everyone thought he'd be.
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