Bastian's Midseason Awards
TORONTO — Anyone catch that Home Run Derby last night? Congrats to the Canadian Justin Morneau on taking the crown, but no one will remember that aspect. Everyone will remember the show that Josh Hamilton put on, putting some last-minute dents in Yankee Stadium before it closes its doors for good.
Seeing Hamilton rip baseballs off the billboards beyond the right-field bleachers and peppering the third deck with 500-foot bombs was a blast — 28 in the first round? Are you kidding me? And none were cheapos either. That was a joy to watch, even if I was in my living room in Toronto and not at The Stadium.
Mrs. Bastian is working tonight, so I’m planning on taking a break for the health kick I’m on by ordering a pizza and watching the All-Star Game. I will say that I believe BoSox manager Terry Francona made the wrong choice for the American League starter, going with Cliff Lee over Roy Halladay. But I digress…
As promised, I’m going to roll out my midseason award winners. Here we go:
MOST VALUABLE PLAYER: Josh Hamilton, Texas
COMMENT: Call me a sucker for a great storyline. There’s certainly a case to be made for Kinsler (.419 with runners in scoring position), or even Texas teammate Milton Bradley, but Hamilton’s 21 homers and 95 RBIs before the break seem too hard to ignore. To return from the depths that Hamilton has is amazing, and what he’s doing on a baseball field is simply icing on the cake.
APOLOGIES TO: Ian Kinsler (TEX), Alex Rodriguez (NYY), Jermaine Dye (CWS)
CY YOUNG AWARD: Roy Halladay, Toronto
COMMENT: Logging nearly 150 innings and spinning seven complete games and two shutouts before the break is ridiculous these days, when six innings and three earned runs are considered to be a “quality” start. Doc’s ERA is only a touch above Lee’s and, for not being much of a strikeout pitcher, Halladay nearly leads the league. Throw in just 21 walks and I just can’t see why he isn’t starting the All-Star Game.
APOLOGIES TO: Cliff Lee (CLE), Joe Saunders (LAA), Justin Duchscherer (OAK)
ROOKIE OF THE YEAR: Evan Longoria, Tampa Bay
COMMENT: Longoria didn’t make the Rays’ roster out of Spring Training, but since being summoned from a brief stay in the Minors, he’s emerged as the elite rookie in this year’s class. Longoria, with his 16 homers and 53 RBIs at the break, is the face of Tampa Bay’s unbelievable first half. It says something when Tampa Bay signed him to an extension before he barely had his feet wet in the bigs.
APOLOGIES TO: Jacoby Ellsbury (BOS), Nick Blackburn (MIN), David Murphy (TEX)
MANAGER OF THE YEAR: Joe Maddon, Tampa Bay
COMMENT: So they ended the first half with a seven-game skid? Did you think the Rays were going to go all season without a losing streak? Finishing second in the AL East to the reigning World Series champ Red Sox is accomplishment enough for a Rays squad that resided in the cellar a year ago. The question is whether Maddon can leads his troops to an unlikely October appearance.
APOLOGIES TO: Ron Gardenhire, Ozzie Guillen, Mike Scioscia
MOST VALUABLE PLAYER: Lance Berkman, Houston
COMMENT: This was by far the most difficult pick for me. There’s a strong case to be made for Utley’s season for first-place Philly, Jones’ quest for a .400 average and for what Pujols is still doing for a St. Louis team that was left for dead in the preseason polls. Shoot, I hate to even leave Hanley Ramirez off the list. But, strictly poring over the statistics, I can’t go against Berkman (.347/.443/.653, 22 HR, 30 2B, 73 RBIs, 56 BB vs. 61 K, 15 SB, 79 R).
APOLOGIES TO: Chase Utley (PHI), Chipper Jones (ATL), Albert Pujols (STL)
CY YOUNG AWARD: Tim Lincecum, San Francisco
COMMENT: I know, how good would that Alex Rios for Lincecum trade look right now for the Jays? Well, really, who knows with how Toronto’s staff hasn’t received much run support? Then again, Lincecum has gone 11-2 with a 2.57 ERA and 135 strikeouts against 47 walks for a Giants club that has actually scored fewer runs than the Blue Jays this season. That, to me, makes Lincecum the first-half Cy over the others.
APOLOGIES TO: Brandon Webb (ARI), Edinson Volquez (CIN), Ben Sheets (MIL)
ROOKIE OF THE YEAR: Geovany Soto, Chicago
COMMENT: Besides absolutely raking for my fantasy team — the South Side Spartans — Soto has been stellar (16 HR, 56 RBIs, .891 OPS) for the Cubbies. Growing up in Chicago, catcher always seemed to a trouble spot for the North Siders (Todd Hundley anyone?). It doesn’t appear to be that way anymore with Soto, who has been instrumental in the Cubs’ quest to shed that 100-years-with-no-World-Series label. And I’ll always pick a “true” rookie like Soto over someone like Fukudome.
APOLOGIES TO: Kosuke Fukudome (CHC), Jair Jurrjens (ATL), Joey Votto (CIN)
MANAGER OF THE YEAR: Tony LaRussa, St. Louis
COMMENT: When it’s all said and done, this honor might fall to Yost, whose Brewers could have a huge second half with C.C. Sabathia and Sheets heading their rotation. For now, the story of the NL Central has been the Cardinals — not the Cubs. Even I had the Cards finishing fifth in the division. It’ll be interesting to see who wins the three-team race between the Cubs, Brewers and Cardinals down the stretch. As good as the Cubs have been, this could go down to the wire.
APOLOGIES TO: Lou Piniella (CHC), Fredi Gonzalez (FLA), Ned Yost (MIL)
(For what it’s worth, my preseason picks for these awards also included Halladay, Maddon and Soto for their respective accolades. Of course, I did pick Toronto, Cleveland and Seattle to each finish second in their respective divisions, too.)