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Even though every team in MLB passed the actual halfway point of the season (81 games) the All-Star break, is the point where the fans, the media, and the teams historically and traditionally think of as the halfway point. With that in mind we will look at our first half award winners. If the season ended today, and we had a vote {Which unfortunately we do not, the electronic media in Baseball whether it is Television, Radio, and now the Internet are looked at as Interlopers. The MLBWA is looking forward to the day they no longer have to share the press box with us. Don't hold your breath fellas.} First we will go over the Award winners, and then talk about the teams currently contending, and see if we can distinguish between the Contenders, and the Pretenders. We will take a look at the American League first;

Magglio Ordonez Detroit Tigers

There are two schools of thought on the MVP award in MLB, is it for the league's best player or most valuable player? Many time those are two totally different set of parameters, such as when Alex Rodriguez won the MVP in Texas a few years ago. Was he clearly the league's best player that year? Without a doubt, no question about it, but the Texas Rangers finished in last place, they could have done that without him! The other school of thought, and the one that I personally subscribe to, is that the Most Valuable Player is exactly that, a difference maker, the player that puts you over the top. The Player that if you did not have you would succeed to the level you have reached! Again in the first half of the 2007 campaign, we have that choice best season or the player that puts you in the position to contend. If we are talking pure numbers, then again you have to give it to A-Rod who is having a career season, even for a man who is already on the path to Cooperstown. With 30 homers, 86 RBI and a slugging percentage of .665 any other year since he has been with New York he is deservedly the MVP, hands down. But this is 2007, the Yankees are ten games back of Boston, and a game below .500 at the break. Great numbers but in my opinion he can't be called the MVP. No, in my opinion the the American League MVP is Detroit Tigers Magglio Ordonez. Last year Jim Leyland had the Tigers win with pitching and defense, this year it is with the sticks. The middle of the Tigers order this season facing Gary Sheffield, Ordonez, and then Carlos Guillen has proved to be a daunting task for most pitching staffs. And Ordonez with league's best batting average and OBP is the hub that that wheel spins on. Let's also remember that Ordonez was damaged goods when the Tigers signed him coming off major knee surgery.


C.C. Sabathia Cleveland Indians

Yes he got tagged pretty hard in his last start, as he gave up seven runs, and the Tribe lost 12-3, but Sabathia has been the most dominant pitcher in the league this season from the jump. William Shakespeare said "Some men are born great, some achieve greatness, and some have greatness thrust upon them." Sabathia could be described as all of the above. I literally saw this young man come of age before my eyes between 2001-2006. The maturation of him as a pitcher has only been exceeded by his maturation as a man, I wish we could describe more of our athletes in such glowing terms. Sabathia, had success in his first year in the Bigs as he went 17-5, and the Tribe made it to the postseason for the last time in an era that between 1995-2001 saw them win the A.L. Central every year but one. The next year was the great "Cleveland Fire Sale, Every Thing Must Go!" including the Ace of the pitching staff Bartolo Colon, as well as veteran Chuck Finley. Talk about having greatness thrust upon you, Sabathia, went from being the "little brother on the team" {only in a figurative sense, C.C. is no body's little anything!) to the man the staff looked to as their leader. As he would say to me many times over the next few years "These guys are asking what it's all about, and I'm younger than all of them!" But he persevered, learned to be a pitcher and even more importantly a leader. The fact that he is 12-3 at the break does not surprise me, I wrote an article in February predicting this would be the year he would win 20 games. C.C. Sabathia has arrived.

Daisuke Matsuzaka Boston Red Sox

Of course he's not a rookie, either was Ichiro (who won) or Hideki(came close). So you think that when the team that I rooted for as a kid gets a player from the Japanese Leagues that he's not going to get my vote? Please! Yes Japanese players according to Hoyle should not be considered rookies, the caliber of competition they face over there is far superior to the USA's minor leagues or college counterparts. But since there is no rule against it, even though I realize it is wrong that this loophole exists, I will exploit it !! "Dice-K" has been as good as advertised, 10-6 with a strikeout to walk ratio of 123-38, and allowing only 51 runs in over 118 innings. Showed some shakiness at the end of May beginning of June, but seemed to have bounced back before facing the Red-Hot Tigers in his last start.


Eric Wedge Cleveland Indians

If John Wayne was ever a MLB manager he would have been Eric Wedge. When Cleveland Indians General Manager Mark Shapiro first started talking about then Triple A Buffalo Bisons manager Eric Wedge in the fall of 2002 when he was a candidate for the parent club's vacant field boss job, the words dynamic and intense came up a lot. Those words still apply. Wedge can say more with a glare or a raised eyebrow than most people could say in a 10 minute monologue. He treats people as individuals, yet realizes, no part is greater than the whole. The word TEAM means a lot to Eric Wedge, a philosophy he has stressed since day one. That is why the Cleveland Indians this year are playing better than the sum of their collective parts. Because of Wedge's team concept.

A.L. Division Leaders And Wild Card

Boston fell back to earth just before the break being swept by the suddenly Red-Hot Detroit Tigers. But unless they have a total collapse, in the second half they should be able to maintain what is now a double digit lead against all division foes. Los Angeles has had a very nice first half, the question is how will their only real competition so far this year Seattle deal with the loss of Mike Hargrove. In the Central it looks like you have the only real race, with Detroit currently ahead at the break over Cleveland by one game. However Cleveland has spent more time in first place in the Central than any other team, this division like last year will probably contain the eventual Wild Card team, either Detroit or the Indians. DARK HORSE: The New York Yankees. Yes I know they are seemingly out of it, with an ancient starting pitching staff except for Wang, and a bullpen that looks like it is popping rivets with every game they play. But it's the Yankees. I have seen too many journeyman pitchers go to the Bronx in seasons past and watch them turn into Ron Guidry for two months. The fixes never last for long ie; Bobby Abreu but they don't have to in Yankeeland it's all about today, who cares about tomorrow. As long as King George is still calling the shots, I learned long ago don't ever count the Yankees out!


Prince Fielder Milwaukee Brewers

No controversy here, best player on a story book team. This young man had huge expectations hoisted upon him before he was even drafted, almost unheard of in Baseball where the prospects usually do not have the cache of their counterparts, in the NBA, the NFL. or even the NHL. But Fielder because of his father former MLB slugger Cecil, had a reputation, he was a known quantity. And Fielder has lived up to all the hype and more! Leading the league with 29 homers and a .620 slugging percentage. Second in the league in RBI with 70 and fifth in the league in runs scored with 62. Young Mr. Fielder, "Welcome to the world of gentlemen."


Jake Peavey San Diego Padres

Probably my most difficult choice, I debated between Peavey and the Dodgers Brad Penny for hours before finally settling on Peavey. Penny with a 10-1 record and a 2.39 ERA, was a very tempting choice over Peavey at 9-3 with a 2.19 ERA. But when in doubt, you go to the scoreboard. Yes, if the season ended today both teams would be in the playoffs, but San Diego would win the division. Decision; Peavey.


Hunter Pence Houston Astros

You may be sitting in font of your screen right now saying who? This young man is for real, and he is good! People in Baseball knew this guy was going to be special, just not this soon. He didn't even start the season in the Bigs! But this young man with the humble demeanor, and All American Boy looks and personality have made him a hero in Houston, as well as Arlington,Texas where he hails from. All he is doing is leading the National League in batting average, and playing stellar defense in centerfield for the Astros. This young man is getting known in a hurry and so far it's all positive.

N.L. Manager Of The YEAR
Ned Yost Milwaukee Brewers

He's got the Milwaukee Brewers in first place in the National League Central at the All-Star break! With a 4.5 game lead over second place Chicago! He's got second best winning percentage in the National League! With the Milwaukee Freakin Brewers! They haven't contended since the Coolidge Administration (I am actually exaggerating a bit they only came into existence in 1970). Not only should this man win N.L. Manager Of The Year, they should make him mayor!

N.L. Division Leaders And Wild Card

A lot more volatility in this league than in the American League, with basically all three divisions really all within reach of teams that are further down in the standings. The Mets, have at times looked like they were on the verge of running away with it, only to slip back to the pack. In the West San Diego, and the Dodgers can feel the breath on the back of their necks, not only from the D-Backs, but the Rockies are still alive. Probably the team that looks the safest at the present time is Milwaukee, who is an unproven group, who have basically taken advantage of the fact that the three teams most experts picked to contend the Cardinals, Astros, and the Reds, have come no where near to what people's expectations were. It definitely could go down to the wire in all three divisions. DARK HORSE: Atlanta Braves, certainly within reach of the Mets and the Wild Card spot. And Andrew Jones can't have as bad a second half as he did in the first, can he?
© Copyright thesackattack.com 2007

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