Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Playoff predictions and 2007 MLB awards

The fall is my favoritest time of year: Day trips to Salem, the cool autumn weather, the start of the hockey season and best of all, baseball playoffs. Here are some random thoughts on potential October glory, followed by 2007 award semi-predictions:

In the American League, my head is telling me the Cleveland Indians will not only be in the World Series, but win the whole fucking thing. My fandom and New England residence tells me it’ll be another Yanks-Sox ALCS, which is what we’re all hoping for in the Northeast. The gimpy Angels won’t do much against a rejuvenated Red Sox squad, and look for the Sox to ultimately prevail over the Bombers in a mildly anti-climatic six-game ALCS tilt. ALCS MVP: Mike Lowell.

In the Senior Circuit, shit, who knows. Can anyone accurately predict Phillies-Rockies and Cubs-Diamondbacks? I’ll just say Phillies in 5, Cubs in 4, and the Phillies over the Cubbies in 7 games for the NL title. Bartman the Sequel will cause more people to believe in that stupid assed Billy Goat Curse. NLCS MVP: Chase Utley.

So World Series? Red Sox over the Phillies in 5 games. But a Cubs/Sox WS would be worth a look, though the Cubs aren’t as sexy as they were in 2003, when they should have advanced to the Fall Classic. World Series MVP: Jonathan Papelbon.

2007 Hardware:

AL MVP: Alex Rodriguez, Yankees
All-Everything picked a great time to evoke a contract escape clause and lead Jason Corey’s Orkney Road fantasy team to glory. Now here’s hoping he goes and signs with the Dodgers for $30M a season. Any other year and this award is Magglio Ordonez'. Not this one, though.

NL MVP: Matt Holliday, Rockies
Jimmy Rollins had a great season, but he had Chase Utley and Ryan Howard propelling him to that 20-20-20-20 feat, which isn’t so impressive when we see Curtis Granderson also did it this year. Holliday hit .339, knocked in 6,745 runs and did it with a decrepit Todd Helton and overrated Brad Hawpe hitting behind him. He wins this, even if he didn’t touch home plate last night. Utley and Prince Fielder would be in the discussion as well, if Utley didn’t get hurt and Fielder’s Brewers didn’t suddenly remember, “Oh fuck, we’re the Brewers.”

AL Cy Young: Josh Beckett, Red Sox
The stat-heads are out in full-force here, as CC Sabathia and Josh Beckett should have the closest vote since the Blue Jays’ Pat Hentgen edged out the Yanks Andy Pettitte in 1996 by a vote of 110-106. I know Sabathia pitched about 35 more IP than Beckett, but to pitch in Fenway Park half the season and win 20 games should give him the edge. Even though being the Best Starter on the Best Team is usually enough to win it, I admit though, at no time watching Beckett pitch this year did I think I was watching the eventual Cy Young Winner. And that’s a problem.

NL Cy Young: Jake Peavy, Padres
Quite an unsexy list here for a second straight season. I thought the National League was all about pitching? No 20 game winners again, and Peavy has Petco Park in his corner. But so did Greg Maddux. I’ll spare my grandchildren the confusion of seeing Brandon Webb as a back-to-back Cy Young winner, and consider it a public service. If Cole Hamels stayed healthy, he could’ve had a say in this. If Aaron Harang played for a team besides the Reds, he'd get attention here as well.

AL Rookie of the Year: Dustin Pedroia, Red Sox
Every talented team needs a sparkplug atop the batting order, and after a dreadful start, those 4- and 5-hit games started pouring in for Baby Eckstein. Dice-K wasn’t spectacular, and after the Bob Hamelin fiasco in Kansas City a decade ago, we’ll wait to see more results from Brian Bannister before bestowing him some MLB hardware. Alex Gordon rebounded nicely for double digits in HRs and SBs, but it wasn’t enough, same with future Royals slugger and Berkman-clone Billy Butler. Is Jacoby Ellsbury eligible next year? If so, the ‘08 trophy can be engrained now.

NL Rookie of the Year: Ryan Braun, Brewers
Yeah, his glove has more holes in it than Pete Doherty’s forearm, but the guy fucking mashed for the final two-thirds of the season, keeping the Brewers from total freefall. I’m not sold completely on Troy Tulowitzky or Chris Young, despite his near 30-30 season. The Rox SS might have stolen the award with his team's redonkulous playoff sprint.

AL Manager of the Year: Terry Francona, Red Sox
This guy just doesn’t get enough credit. Eric Wedge did a good job in Cleveland, but that division was a mess after the Tigers. Francona deals with the pressure of Boston, handles an overbearing media and insufferable fanbase (with unrealistic expectations, suddenly) all while massaging 25 mega-egos in one confined, century-old clubhouse. He won’t come close to winning this award, but shit, he deserves credit for keeping this team focused, especially as the Yankees were throwing a beatdown on the AL. He’s not the best strategist, but in Boston that’s not the most important part of the job. The payroll, unfairly, works against him.

NL Manager of the Year, Charlie Manuel, Phillies
Ned Yost lost this in the final month, and getting suckered into a beanbag war with the Cardinals showed how much control he lost, in himself and the team. D-Backs skipper Bob Melvin deserves votes, but Manuel kept the Phils in the hunt in the NL’s best division despite losing its best positional player (Utley) and starter (Hamels) for more than a month each, as well as using wife-beatin’ Brett Myers and Tom Gordon as his closer. All in the pressure-cooker that is Philly. Damn.

AL Comeback Player of the Year: Carlos Pena, Devil Rays
Pretty fucking obvious here. Northeastern University spawns a 46-HR monster. Too bad he was passed around by teams like a drunk hipster chick at an Allston afterparty before settling in down in St. Pete.

NL Comeback player of the Year, Josh Hamilton, Reds
I know Dimitri Young already won this today, but while D-Yo had a great season and helped nurture young Nats after dealing with a litany of personal issues last fall (from divorce to arrest to drugs), my vote goes to Hamilton. Almost ten years after selected first overall by the Devil Rays (ahead of Josh Beckett), he’s finally shaken drug addiction and mashed for a few months with the Reds before injuries derailed his season. The most encouraging story in sports this year, Hamilton came a long way. He’s got the tattoos – and lost years – to prove it.

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