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On baseball

A few select words

Email|Print| Text size + By Nick Cafardo
November 12, 2007

The Baseball Writers Association of America will begin giving out its annual awards starting with today's announcements of the American League and National League Rookies of the Year.

If the awards were based on regular season and postseason, the Red Sox would clean up. Dustin Pedroia would win Rookie of the Year, Josh Beckett would take the Cy Young Award, and Terry Francona would be Manager of the Year.

Yet the voting is based on the regular season, so Beckett and Francona may not come away with the hardware.

My thoughts, my picks, and the predicted winners:

AL Manager Francona, who now has won two World Series rings in the last four years, may lose out to managers he beat in the playoffs, Eric Wedge of Cleveland and Mike Scioscia of the Angels, who also had fine regular seasons. He might even have some competition from Joe Torre, who led the Yankees to the playoffs when it appeared early that they were down and out.

My pick: Wedge.

Predicted winner: Wedge.

AL Rookie The best shot for a Sox award winner is Pedroia (.317 average, 8 HRs, 50 RBIs, .380 OBP), whose candidacy gained steam late in the season though the Tampa Bay Devil Rays were openly campaigning for talented and temperamental right fielder Delmon Young (.288, 13, 93). Boston's Daisuke Matsuzaka (15-12, 4.40 ERA) and reliever Hideki Okajima (2.22 ERA in 69 games) and Kansas City's Brian Bannister (12-9, 3.87) all should receive votes. But it appears it'll be Pedroia, especially since Young might have harmed his candidacy with a late-season incident in which he failed to run out a grounder and was yanked from the game by manager Joe Maddon and threatened to quit (though he came back to play the next day).

My pick: Pedroia.

Predicted winner: Pedroia.

AL Cy Young Beckett, baseball's best pitcher from start to finish, might not come away with the award despite leading the majors with 20 wins and having a 3.27 ERA. By the end of the regular season, C.C. Sabathia, who didn't do much for his Indians in the postseason, gained steam in the minds of many voters I spoke to. Also, it seemed there was a voter or two nationally who might not have had Beckett in their top three. If Sabathia, a 19-game winner, does win, it's not expected to be by a lot. There is the possibility of a split of some votes between Sabathia and teammate Fausto Carmona, another 19-game winner who had a superb regular season but struggled in the postseason except for one exceptional nine-inning start against the Yankees in the infamous "Bug Game." Voters were impressed with Sabathia's innings pitched (241) and 34 starts, four more than Beckett, and Sabathia's ERA (3.21) was slightly lower than Beckett's. Los Angeles righthander John Lackey, who can't pitch worth a lick against the Red Sox but dominated other teams, also won 19 games and led the AL with a 3.01 ERA. Chien-Ming Wang, another 19-game winner and postseason bust, could get a few third-place votes, but he's expected to be a distant fourth.

My pick: Beckett.

Predicted winner: Sabathia.

AL Most Valuable Player This should be unanimous in favor of Yankees third baseman Alex Rodriguez, who hit .314 with 54 homers and 156 RBIs. He had an on-base percentage of .422 and slugged .645. Detroit's Magglio Ordonez and Boston's David Ortiz and Mike Lowell, the World Series Most Valuable Player, all should receive second- and third-place votes. Ichiro Suzuki, Vlad Guerrero, and Derek Jeter also may receive votes, but with all the criticism A-Rod gets for his postseasons with the Yankees, they likely would not have made the playoffs this season if not for Rodriguez's tremendous output.

My pick: Rodriguez.

Predicted winner: Rodriguez.

NL Manager Another close call. Hard to ignore either Bob Melvin for the job he did in leading the upstart Diamondbacks to the NL West title with a very young team or Clint Hurdle in leading the Rockies on their historic end-of-season run and to a dramatic playoff win against San Diego to earn the wild card. Did enough writers hold back their ballots to see how the season unfolded, possibly giving Hurdle the nod over Melvin? Chicago's Lou Piniella, Milwaukee's Ned Yost, and Philadelphia's Charlie Manuel also will appear on ballots.

My pick: Hurdle.

Predicted winner: Melvin.

NL Rookie An intriguing race. Colorado shortstop Troy Tulowitzki appeared to be rising at the end of the season as he helped the Rockies go on their amazing run. But it was hard to overlook Milwaukee third baseman Ryan Braun, who didn't even come up until May 25 and then smacked 34 homers and knocked in 97 runs with a .324 average. The argument for Tulowitzki was that he was the better all-around player, being superb defensively (only 11 errors and a .987 fielding percentage). Braun could be Dr. Strangeglove at third, committing 26 errors. This will be close.

My pick: Tulowitzki.

Predicted winner: Braun.

NL Cy Young This one should go to San Diego righty Jake Peavy, who won the Triple Crown with most wins (19), strikeouts (240), and lowest ERA (2.54). The Diamondbacks' Brandon Webb (18-10, 3.01 ERA), the 2006 NL Cy Young winner, will get some votes but should finish second. Brad Penny (16-4, 3.03) also merits consideration.

My pick: Peavy.

Predicted winner: Peavy.

NL Most Valuable Player Strong cases can be made for three players - Colorado left fielder Matt Holliday, Milwaukee first baseman Prince Fielder, and Philadelphia shortstop Jimmy Rollins. Holliday's numbers were tremendous on the Cinderella Rockies (.340, 36, 137), while Fielder stroked 50 homers to lead the league and also drove in 119. With Rollins's huge contribution to the Phillies' surge to the NL East title (.296 average, 30 homers, 94 RBIs, 41 steals, and only 11 errors), he won many people over with his leadership and all-around play.

My pick: Holliday.

Predicted winner: Rollins.

Nick Cafardo can be reached at cafardo@globe.com.

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