With the weather getting warmer, run scoring around the major leagues is up, helping to create some separation in the Cy Young races. Through the end of April, the average major league team scored just 4.16 runs per game. Thus far in May, the average team has scored 4.35 runs per game, and over the last two weeks, that rate has been up to 4.43 runs per game.
A hot start doesn't guarantee a player season-long contention for the Most Valuable Player award. Indeed, of the 20 players to make my MVP lists three weeks ago, 11 have fallen off my lists this time around, while two others are here almost entirely on the strength of what they did in April and will need to get back on track in June to maintain their candidacies.
Miami Heat forward LeBron James is the NBA's 2011-2012 Most Valuable Player.
There's quite a contrast between the Cy Young races in the two leagues thus far. In the American League, the top contenders are quite easy to discern and include three former winners of the award and last year's AL runner-up.
Matt Kemp was the unanimous choice for the National League Player of the Month for April and has clearly been the best player in baseball to this point in the season, but he's not the only man off to a strong start. Below, in my first full-blown Awards Watch of the season, I take a look at the top 10 candidates for the Most Valuable Player awards in each league.
How mainstream has efficiency become? In the press conference following the national championship game, Kentucky coach John Calipari searched for words to validate that his team had won on more than talent alone. He chose these: "We were the best team this season. We were the best team. The most efficient team. We shared the ball."
Welcome to the third season of Awards Watch, my weekly column tracking the developing races for baseball's three major player awards in each league: Most Valuable Player, Cy Young, and Rookie of the Year. As I did last year, I'm opening this season with a look at the field of candidates for Rookie of the Year in the American and National League.
Although the western hemisphere's Opening Day isn't for another week, the 2012 baseball season officially got underway in Japan on Wednesday morning when the A's and Mariners played the first of two games in Tokyo, which means it's high time that I update my 2012 awards predictions from November.
Five thoughts recapping a slew of contract extensions: Giants starter Matt Cain became the highest-paid righthanded pitcher in baseball history ($127.5 million guaranteed from 2012 through 2017, with an option for 2018); two emerging stars -- Alex Gordon with the Royals and Asdrubal Cabrera with the Indians -- signed up for more years in the AL Central; and Reds first baseman Joey Votto, the 2010 NL MVP, was reported to be close to his own long-term deal.
GLENDALE, Ariz. -- An unexpected thing happened late in the summer of what had once seemed a nightmare 2011 for the Los Angeles Dodgers. The Dodgers -- who had been undermined by the failing ownership of Frank McCourt; who had fallen to 14 games under .500, at 37-51, on July 6 -- simply did not want the season to end. They went 41-28 after the All-Star break. Each of the seven teams with better second-half records made the playoffs, and the Dodgers felt sure that they could have joined them, had only the season extended just a little bit longer.
We're coming to the end of a fascinating year of baseball, with tremendous comebacks, a surprise World Series winner, one of the great single days in the game's history and the news that we'll have labor peace for years to come. Can 2012 top that? Perhaps. Here are 10 things I think I think about the upcoming year:
1. The Saints will beat the Ravens in the Super Bowl. May as well start off with a prediction bound to lead to angry responses, right? This one's not so much an indictment of the Packers, who might be on the verge of becoming a dynasty again, as it is an admission that the Saints are really, really good. Almost all of that confidence comes from Drew Brees' continued spectacular performance. The Saints took Green Bay to the wire in Week 1. On the other side of things, even with the AFC road likely going through New England, the Steelers and Ravens have the best mixes of offense and defense. Baltimore has had Pittsburgh's number this season and looks poised to take the AFC North crown. That means the Steelers might have to win in Batimore to get to the Super Bowl, which the Ravens won't allow.
For the second year in a row, my Awards Watch column correctly predicted all six winners of the Baseball Writers' Association of America's player awards, so in an effort to prove my fallibility, here's a look at the top three favorites to win each of the three major awards in each league next year. Note that just four of the 18 players named in this piece a year ago actually finished in the top three for that particular award, and that's counting Cliff Lee, whom I had listed for the American League Cy Young prior to his signing with the Phillies. Predicting awards nearly 12 months in advance is a shot in the dark at best, but that doesn't mean it's not fun to contemplate.
Ryan Braun should spend the next few days shopping for gifts for his teammates, because they just delivered him the 2011 National League Most Valuable Player award. Braun, who was named first on 20 of the 32 ballots, had an outstanding season, hitting .332/.397/.597 with 33 home runs, 33 stolen bases (while being caught just six times), 111 RBIs and 109 runs scored for the NL Central champion Brewers. As great as that year was, it was clearly inferior to the season Matt Kemp had for the Dodgers, who finished third in the NL West.
For the first time in 19 years a pitcher has won the Most Valuable Player award. Justin Verlander, who was the unanimous winner of the American League Cy Young award last week, received 13 of 28 first-place votes for AL MVP to win an expectedly close race by just 38 points over the Red Sox' Jacoby Ellsbury. In doing so, Verlander became the first pitcher to win an MVP since A's closer Dennis Eckersley in 1992 and the first starting pitcher to win one since the Red Sox' Roger Clemens in 1986.
A week ago, I correctly predicted the winners of all six of the Baseball Writers Association of America awards that have been announced so far, and in my two years of writing the Awards Watch column here at SI.com, I have correctly predicted all 10 announced player awards, three of the four managers of the year, and the top three finishers, in order, for every player award except the American League Rookie of the Year.
That Justin Verlander was just named the unanimous American League Cy Young award winner should surprise no one who was paying any kind of attention to major league baseball this season. Verlander was the clear choice for the award after a season in which he won the pitching triple crown with the AL lead in wins (24), strikeouts (250) and ERA (2.40), while also leading the major leagues in the first two of those categories as well as in innings (251), WHIP (0.92), ERA+ (170), and fewest hits allowed per nine innings (6.2).
The Baseball Writers Association of America will announce the winners of baseball's major awards over the next week and a half, starting with the Rookies of the Year on Monday and continuing through the league Most Valuable Players the following Monday and Tuesday. Since it has been more than six weeks since the last installation of my Awards Watch column, here's one final look at who is likely to win awards that will be announced next week -- the Rookies of the Year, Managers of the Year and Cy Youngs. Next Friday, I'll preview the two Most Valuable Player awards, which won't be announced until Nov. 21 (AL) and 22 (NL).
It was only a year ago that MLS HQ execs rubbed their hands in glee that Los Angeles and New York were the top seeds in the MLS Cup playoffs and on a collision course to meet in a star-studded, TV-ratings-boosted MLS Cup final. Both teams spit the bit, though, failing to make the title game.
Know your Major League Soccer -- Five things we learned from Round 31:
Click here for SI.com staff answers for most intriguing story, biggest disappointment, unsung hero, and more.
This is the final regular-season edition of Awards Watch for 2011, but it's not my final word on this year's awards. Some of these races, particularly the two MVP races, are still close enough that the final three games could still tilt the balance, and Awards Watch will return to weigh in on things again both immediately before and after the results are announced in November.
At first it sounded like a joke. After being booed by the home fans whenever he touched the ball Wednesday night, after making hand gestures back at those jeering fans, after seeing his New York Red Bulls sink to new depths in a 3-1 loss to Salt Lake, New York defender Rafael Márquez could have raised his hand and accepted some responsibility for the biggest train wreck in Major League Soccer.
There are 10 days left in the 2011 season and still several major player awards yet to be decided. In the American League, the Most Valuable Player race has a new, first-time leader who could be the first starting pitcher to win an MVP award in a quarter century while the Rookie of the Year chase is only now starting to come into focus. Over in the National League, the Cy Young battle is a three-way toss-up and the MVP race is still up in the air.
There are less than 20 days left in the 2011 regular season, but just two of the six races for the three major player awards have a clear leader. Go ahead and put down Justin Verlander as the American League Cy Young award winner and Craig Kimbrel as the National League Rookie of the Year, but both MVP awards, the NL Cy Young and the AL Rookie of the Year awards are both wide open with handfuls of contenders still in play for each and the very real possibility that a favorite might not emerge before the season comes to an end.
Blue Jays star Jose Bautista deserves strong consideration for the American League MVP award, and if someone thinks he's the MVP because he's been the best player in the league, that's understandable.
Justin Verlander has become part of the American League Most Valuable Player discussion, a clear sign that he's pulling away in the AL Cy Young award race. However, over in the National League, the competition for the Cy Young is as wide open as ever. This week, the NL race has a new leader, who finds himself in that top spot for the first time this season, while the other four contenders from last week have shuffled spots behind him, and the Diamondbacks' Ian Kennedy and his 17-4 record are stuck on the outside looking in. That gives the NL six legitimate contenders, and major league ERA leader Johnny Cueto is not among them.
Let's be straight about the decision Jered Weaver made to take a five-year, $85 million extension from the Angels. The righthander didn't pass up another $50 million or so -- he passed on a chance to pull down much more coin by hitting the free agent market after the 2012 season. What he also did was rule out risking the $85 million because of an injury and rule out the possibility of signing somewhere else and not liking it as much as he does pitching for the Los Angeles Angels.
Five Cuts on American League happenings ...
Roberto Alomar will be inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame this weekend. Including Rod Carew, who played 54 more games at first base than second, Alomar is the 17th major league second baseman to be inducted as a player, but the first to be voted in by the writers since 2005, when Ryne Sandberg made it, and only the fourth since Jackie Robinson in 1962. That alone paints Alomar as one of the greatest second basemen in the game's history, but where exactly does he rank on that list?
The purpose of this column is to rank players according to how likely they are to win a given award, not by who is most deserving of that award. As a result, the rankings below bow to the conventional wisdom that Adrian Gonzalez and Prince Fielder have been the most valuable players in their respective leagues through the first half of the 2011 season, despite the fact that they quite clearly have not been. While Gonzalez and Fielder are indeed enjoying outstanding seasons, both are first basemen playing in hitter-friendly ballparks. If one adjusts their production to account for the offensive standard of their position and the tendencies of their home ballparks, both are slightly diminished. More significantly, even without any adjustments, each plays in a league with a player who has been clearly more productive in terms of raw numbers.
The last week brought the first two no-hitters of the 2011 season, but, as far as Awards Watch is concerned, neither performance was enough to put its author among the top five Cy Young candidates in his league. The no-no by Minnesota's Francisco Liriano against the White Sox last Tuesday night almost seemed like a fluke in what has otherwise been a disastrous season and was itself weak as far as no-hitters go. Liriano walked six and struck out just two and only improved his overall season line from brutal to awful (his ERA dropped from 9.13 to 6.61, his record boosted from 1-4 to 2-4), and actually broke a tie between his season totals in walks and strikeouts in favor of the former. The performance by the Tigers' Justin Verlander on Saturday in Toronto was far more impressive. Though his four strikeouts matched his season low, he allowed just one baserunner, that coming on a one-out walk in the eighth after he had retired the first 22 batters in order, and erased that one runner via
Brewers star Ryan Braun's $105 million, five-year contract extension through the 2020 season seemed like it came out of nowhere, since Braun already had a deal in place that kept him in Milwaukee through 2015.
When Jered Weaver recorded his sixth win in as many starts on Monday, much was made of the fact that he was the first man ever to record six wins by April 25. Weaver has been truly dominant thus far this season, but his win pace is unique only by the standards of the Gregorian calendar. Measured against the regular season schedule, what Weaver has accomplished is hardly unique, though it remains extremely impressive.
When Felix Hernandez won the American League Cy Young award last year with a 13-12 record, it changed the conventional wisdom of what a Cy Young award-winning season looks like. Previously, the book on the award was that voters looked at wins first, losses second, and every other statistic a distant third. As a result, the award for the best pitcher in each league was frequently given to someone who didn't fit that description. However, the Cy Young voters' last egregious error came back in 2005, when Bartolo Colon won the AL award over a clearly more-deserving Johan Santana. In 2009, Zack Greinke won the AL award with 16 wins, and Tim Lincecum won the National League trophy with 15 wins, both record lows for starting pitchers in non-strike seasons. Hernandez's award, then, can be seen less as an isolated event than as evidence of an enlightened electorate no longer chained to wins and losses, statistics which tell us very little about how well a pitcher actually pitched due to the
The members of the Professional Hockey Writers Association vote for the following NHL postseason awards, a curious exercise in making the news instead of merely reporting it. The writers, of course, also help make history. When the Hall of Fame committee meets each June, the number of Hart, Norris or even Selke trophies that a player wins during the course of his career often helps frame the deliberations or even tips a candidacy in one direction or the other, changing the life of a player if not the course of human events.
With most teams having played just three games through Sunday, it's obviously way too early to start ranking MVP or Cy Young award candidates, but the Rookie of the Year races began to take shape as soon as the Opening Day rosters were announced. There are 750 players in the major leagues at any given moment, but as of this writing, just 71 of them, a mere nine percent, are rookies (defined as players who, prior to the current season, have had fewer than 130 at-bats or 50 innings pitched in the majors or have spent fewer than 45 days on the active roster prior to rosters expanding on September 1). Taking the two leagues individually, with 31 rookies in the American League and 40 in the National, it's easy to pare down the current rookie crop into two short lists of potential Rookie of the Year contenders.
The only safe prediction for the coming baseball season regards Francisco Rodriguez's $17.5 million vesting option for 55 game finishes. He won't be getting it, the games or the money.
Welcome to the second season of Awards Watch. This column was conceived last May with the idea of using the races for the three major player awards (Most Valuable Player, Cy Young, and Rookie of the Year) in each league as a way to track some of the season's finest performances as well as to examine just what sort of performances typically win those awards. Appearing weekly and focusing on a different award each week on a rotating basis, Awards Watch lists the top candidates in each league for the award at hand, basing the rankings on who is most likely to win, not necessarily who is most deserving, though the latter is identified in the text when the inevitable fission occurs.
The hard work is done. The fun stuff is about to begin. So as we bid adieu to the 2010-11 regular season, your resident Hoop Thinker is ready to bestow the major year-end awards in each of the Big Six conferences. Herewith:
As if the failed Albert Pujols negotiations weren't enough to cast a pall over the Cardinals' spring training, things went from bad to worse for the Redbirds on Monday, when ace righthander Adam Wainwright left camp with an injured elbow. Wainwright was sent back to St. Louis for tests with expectations being that he'll need Tommy John surgery and thus miss the entire 2011 season. That's a devastating blow to a Cardinals team that is facing the possibility of losing Pujols to free agency at year's end and will have to contend with ascendant Reds and Brewers squads in the NL Central.
The annual dinner of the New York chapter of the Baseball Writers Association of America, always a star-studded event, welcomed baseball royalty Saturday night: Willie Mays stole the show -- and from a seat in the audience. Even with luminaries such as Felix Hernandez, Roy Halladay, Josh Hamilton, Robinson Cano, Joe Torre and Bobby Cox on the dais, it was the presence of Mays that provided the highlight of the evening.
In 2010, Jose Bautista hit an astonishing 54 home runs, the most of any player in the majors since 2006 and 41 more than his previous single-season high. It represented the largest increase in baseball history, not bad for a guy whose only previous claim to fame was being on five different teams in less than two months back in 2004. Indeed, what made Bautista's transformation from journeyman outfielder to superstar slugger so amazing was that it was entirely unforeseen.
Lionel Messi was named World Player of the Year for the second straight year Monday, pipping Barcelona teammates Andres Iniesta and Xavi to the inaugural FIFA Ballon d'Or.
1. The Patriots will beat the Saints in Super Bowl XLV. Tom Brady and the New England offense have too many options to stop in their home stadium in the AFC playoffs. New Orleans has been a forgotten team for most of the year, but its hard-nosed road win over the Falcons in Week 16 showed why it is good enough to return to the big game. Drew Brees can handle the pressure of playing on the road in the postseason. The Patriots-Saints showdown will go down to the final possession with New England winning on a field goal.
The first year of the second decade of the new millennium is chugging to a close. Here's what I'm looking forward to in 2011.
When Mariners pitcher Felix Hernandez was named the American League Cy Young Award winner last month despite a 13-12 record, Bert Blyleven felt he had taken a step toward making the Hall of Fame.
Bert Blyleven's Hall of Fame case continues to be the most controversial and interesting one ever, certainly among those not tainted by the steroid issue. His candidacy has stirred more debate and arguments than any other player's, and it isn't even close.
The Wimbledon champion stepped on glass and didn't play another match the rest of the year. The youngest of the WTA's Grand Slam champs was an "unretired" mother and wife. Serbia won the Davis Cup. Two retired legends, both known for their dignity, trashed each other ... at a charity event. The U.S. Open men's final nearly played out on three different American television networks. James Blake and commentator Pam Shriver debated each other DURING a match. This was the same week another Wimbledon encounter finished 70-68 in the fifth set.
Almost a year after they traded him, Cliff Lee is headed back to the Philadelphia Phillies.
Taiwan's Yani Tseng was crowned LPGA Rolex Player of the Year after a nervous wait at the season-ending Tour Championship in Florida.
With the Baseball Writers Association of America awards as well as the first season of my Awards Watch column in the books, it's time to take a (very) early look at who might be the favorites for these awards in 2011. In stark contrast to the accuracy of my final Awards Watch of the regular season -- I correctly identified 17 of the 18 top-three finishers in the six player awards, missing only the third-place finisher for American League Rookie of the Year -- what follows makes no presumption of being a perfect projection of next year's voting. In fact, it is about as close to picking names out of a hat as you can get, but if you're looking for the odds-on favorites going into the 2011 season, these should be the top three candidates for the three major awards in each league.
On September 4 at Target Field, the Twins' Delmon Young lifted a third inning flyball that Rangers centerfielder Josh Hamilton tracked back to the wall over his right shoulder. Upon hitting the warning track, Hamilton leaped, caught the ball, and slammed his left side into the padded centerfield wall. Hamilton grounded out in the top of the fourth, then, after playing the field in the bottom of that inning, was replaced in the field in the bottom of the fifth. He didn't play again until October 1.
Joey Votto completed his ascension to the game's elite on Monday by winning his first National League Most Valuable Player award in a landslide, picking up 31 of a possible 32 first-place votes. After finishing second in the Rookie of the Year voting in 2008, Votto was among the most productive players in baseball in 2009 on a per-game basis, but an inner-ear infection and depression stemming from his father's death the year before limited him to 131 games. This year, the 26-year-old Votto played in 150 games and set career highs in virtually every offensive category and led his Reds past the Cardinals to their first winning season since 2000 and first division title since 1995.
Is Manny Ramirez done? To put it another way, is he the next Vladimir Guerrero or the next Gary Sheffield? Ramirez's unproductive 2010 season was remarkably similar to the 2009 seasons for Guerrero and Sheffield. Guerrero signed a $5.5 million contract with Texas and bounced back with a Silver Slugger season. Sheffield never got a job.
Now that Felix Hernandez has won the American League Cy Young award with a 13-12 record, it seems safe to declare an end to the era when the voting for the award was based largely, at times seemingly exclusively, on pitching wins and losses. Prior to Hernandez, the record for fewest wins by a pitcher to win the award in a non-strike year was 15 by the Giants' Tim Lincecum, and the AL record was 16 by the Royals' Zack Greinke. Both of those came last year, evidence that Hernandez's win is not an isolated event but rather the continuation of a trend that suggests pitchers are being evaluated more completely than ever before.
Roy Halladay wasn't actually that much better than the Cardinals' Adam Wainwright this season, but the slight advantage he held was obvious enough that his selection as the 2010 National League Cy Young Award winner was the most obvious result among the eight Baseball Writers Association of American awards being handed out this week and next. Indeed, Halladay was listed first on all 32 of the writers' ballots, the 13th time that a National Leaguer has won the award unanimously in the Cy Young's 55-year history. Halladay is now in some elite company with this, his second Cy Young award. Not only does he join Sandy Koufax as the only men ever to pitch a perfect game and win a Cy Young in the same season (Koufax did it in 1965), but, having previously won the award in the American League with the Blue Jays in 2003, he becomes just the fifth pitcher ever to win the award in both leagues. The four men who did it before him were Gaylord Perry, Randy Johnson, Pedro Martinez and Roger
The Baseball Writers Association of America awards will be announced over the next week and a half, starting with the Rookies of the Year on Monday and continuing through the American League Most Valuable Player on Tuesday November 23. Here, then, is a look at who is likely to win the four major awards in each league (or who likely has won given that the votes were cast more than a month ago, before the playoffs began) as well as who, in my opinion, deserves to win.
Know your Major League Soccer -- Five things we learned from Week 25:
While the playoff races are just about decided, a few of the awards races will remain hot topics for debate until the results are announced later this month. The American League Cy Young award, the AL MVP and the National League Rookie of the Year could be among the closest and/or most controversial in years.
Is Bobby Cox really done with managing? He sure doesn't look like a guy who has lost his touch or his passion. The Braves have a magic number of two for putting Cox in the postseason for a 16th time, breaking a tie with Joe Torre for the most postseason appearances by a manager. To get this close, Cox deftly has used starters on short rest, worked around injuries to Chipper Jones, Kris Medlen, Jair Jurrjens, Takashi Saito and Martin Prado, and somehow squeezed the fifth-most runs in the league out of an offense with little power and even less speed.
With just two weeks left in the regular season, there is still surprisingly little decided with regard to the major awards and a solid chance that the final two weeks do little to clarify matters. One of the questions readers of this column might ask is, "Where's Tulo?" The Rockies' Troy Tulowitzki has been on another planet this month, hitting .351/.407/1.000 in September with 14 home runs and 34 RBIs. Tulo's 14 homers and 31 RBIs over a recent 15-game stretch marked the most impressive 15-game outburst in September in baseball history, passing Hank Greenberg's 12-homers, and 32 RBIs in 15 games in September 1940. Tulowitzki, however, has not cracked my top three for National League Most Valuable Player.
It is not often that a league's most valuable player carries a team to a championship.
European champions Inter Milan dominate UEFA's shortlist for the Club Footballer of the Year award, with five players up for the gong.
In our latest check of the Cy Young races, National League hurlers are showing just how fleeting success can be while in the American League one pitcher is putting up some historic numbers.
My fifth look at the Most Valuable Player races finds two top American League contenders knocked out of the race by injuries -- one permanently and one literally, as Kevin Youkilis had season-ending thumb surgery on Friday and Justin Morneau is continuing to struggle with the after affects of a concussion suffered in early July. Still, the AL award looks like a three-man race, while the NL chase continues to be dominated by two players who will do battle over the next three days for their division lead. Further down the NL list, we find this is a big year for second basemen in the senior circuit, despite Chase Utley's continued absence.
This period of late July and early August is hardly the sweet spot for MLS. Everyone is still a little hangdog about the World Cup being over. And if there's some bounce to be found, most of it goes to the wealthy foreign sides now barnstorming the United States amid much pomp.
The top contenders continue to separate from the pack in my fourth look at the Most Valuable Player races. Yet, while the lower-ballot contenders in the American League simply shuffle positions, there is again massive turnover in the National League, where the field of honorable-mention candidates includes roughly 20 players, all of whom could wind up receiving votes in October (30 men received votes for NL MVP in 2009).
First basemen Albert Pujols of St. Louis and Miguel Cabrera of Detroit are perpetual MVP candidates, having received MVP votes seven years running and combining for 11 top five finishes in those 14 elections. There is one big difference between the two reliable sluggers: Pujols has won the vote three times and Cabrera not at all.
Back when I was President of the Professional Hockey Writers Association (a time that corresponds roughly to when mankind was learning to master the use of fire), there was an annual obligation to select an Elmer Ferguson Award winner (contributions to journalism) and present the name to the Hockey Hall of Fame for inclusion in the annual festivities.
Baseball is a game of balance between the batter's box and the pitcher's mound. Because that balance is so delicate, the history of the game is often marked by gradual tilts toward one side or the other resulting in several distinct periods of high or low run scoring. Thus far, 2010 looks like a year in which the balance has tilted decidedly in favor of pitching, but that hasn't been a sudden change. The major leagues as a whole have been trending back toward pitching and defense in the wake of the offensive explosion of the late 1990s. Indeed, run scoring has decreased in each of the last four seasons from a high of 4.86 runs per game in 2006 to the current pace of 4.47 R/G (though with the hot summer months still to come, that current-year figure is likely to increase).
Every week I will rank the top five candidates in each league for one of baseball's three major awards. This week I revisit the Cy Young award races, which I first examined three weeks ago. The number in parenthesis after each player's name reflects his rank on the previous list (HM stands for honorable mention).
Starting today, and for the remainder of the regular season, I will take a weekly look at the competition for baseball's major awards by ranking the top five candidates in each league for Most Valuable Player, Cy Young and Rookie of the Year honors, taking on one award per week on a rotating basis (MVP today, Cy Young next week, Rookie of the Year the week after, repeat). To be sure, it's still early in the season but it's not unusual for candidates to announce themselves by now and in some cases -- like Zack Greinke did with the AL Cy Young last year -- put a stranglehold on a major award before the calendar officially turns to summer.
Don Banks and Peter King are two of the 50 AP voters who will revote for the 2009 NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year award. Read King's contrasting viewpoint here.
Here is how I'm planning to fill out my official ballot early next week ... with a few extra awards thrown in. (Note that voters are asked to select their top three choices for each award except MVP, which requires five players, and the All-NBA team, which involves 15 players. Media do not vote for the All-Defensive team or Executive of the Year, but I've still included my picks.)
BOSTON (AP) -- Red Sox ace Josh Beckett agreed to a $68 million, four-year contract extension through the 2014 season, solidifying one of baseball's best rotations.
Chelsea's Didier Drogba has been crowned African Footballer of the Year for the second time.
TEMPE, Ariz. -- Brandon Wood is not technically a rookie, but in every meaningful way, he is. For most of the past three seasons, he pogoed between Los Angeles and Triple A-Salt Lake, never locking down a regular role with the Angels and always wondering when he would finally get his chance.
SI.com's NBA writers analyze the latest news and address hot topics from around the league each week. (All stats and records are through Feb. 22.)
SAN FRANCISCO (AP) -- Tim Lincecum and the San Francisco Giants reached a preliminary agreement on a $23 million, two-year contract ahead of the scheduled start of an arbitration hearing.
Thursday is the first day for arbitration hearings, when eligible players with fewer than six years of major league experience can have their salary decided by an independent party. The player and the team submit their salary demands to an arbitrator, who decides the case. In some years there are few big names that actually go to a hearing -- often the two sides settle on a contract in advance -- but this year there is, of course, a major high-profile case that may get that far. Tim Lincecum, winner of the past two NL Cy Young Awards, is asking for $13 million, while the Giants are offering $8 million.
King Felix's reign didn't even last one month.
Clark County District Court Judge Darvin Zimmerman either has a highly tuned sense of irony or an obliviousness that borders on cosmic.
As the decade draws to a close it is time to reflect and reminisce on 10 years of glorious football drama -- and what better way to do this than by paying respect to the characters who have contributed so much to the soccer story that has captivated fans since 2000.
Triton Financial, an Austin, Texas-based investment firm which boasts prominent ties to the sports world -- including a sponsorship deal with the Heisman Trophy Trust; a three-year contract for a PGA Champions Tour event, the Triton Financial Classic; and a roster of former Heisman Trophy winners and NFL players that were employees of the company -- has been sued in a civil action by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission for defrauding investors in a multimillion-dollar insurance scam, according to documents filed yesterday at Austin federal court. In connection with the complaint, Triton and its CEO, Kurt Barton, consented to an injunction to put the company into receivership.
GUARD: Sheryl Swoopes Though she won one only one of her four WNBA titles with the Comets during this decade, Swoopes influenced the league as its first three-time Defensive Player of the Year (2000, 2002, 2003) and first three-time MVP (2000, 2002 and 2005). She is SI.com's WNBA player of the decade.
Well, you probably know by now that the three-way Roy Halladay-Cliff Lee-prospects-galore deal is utterly unique. It has never happened before that two Cy Young Award winners were in the same trade. When you throw in the odd fact that the SON of a Cy Young Award winner -- Kyle Drabek, son of 1990 Cy Young winner Doug Drabek -- was also part of the deal (according to sources), well, it's really quite a remarkable thing. This is finally the chance for headline writers to go with that that Cy-Onara headline they've been waiting forever to use.*
1. Alex Rodriguez to the Yankees from the Rangers for Alfonso Soriano and Joaquin Arias; Feb. 16, 2004 Rodriguez was being pursued by the Red Sox all during the winter of 2003-04. And he probably would have gone to Boston had the players union signed off on a trade that would have diminished the value of his record $252 million contract by a few million. But when all hope seemed lost, out of the blue came the blockbuster deal to the rival Yankees, the team that was truly made for baseball's biggest and best-paid star.
In 2004, Dennis Martinez got 16 votes for the Hall of Fame. I'm fascinated by the players who get between 15 and 20 votes their first year -- because that indicates that:
This week brought a close to the 2009 season with the announcement of the annual MVP and Cy Young award winners. While I happen to agree with all four of the baseball writers' picks for those awards this year, it's a fair question to ask whether the process used to determine the MVP and Cy Young awards is accurate and fair.
So, it looks like I spent another sports year feeling pre-agitated about things that did not come especially close to happening. Zack Greinke won the Cy Young Award ... he won it rather easily. There was no sudden and overpowering push to get Jack Morris into the Hall of Fame while Bert Blyleven writhes in baseball limbo. The Cleveland Browns did not hire Eric Mangini.
No catcher ever has won the Most Valuable Player Award unanimously, an honor Joe Mauer of Minnesota somehow was deprived of in the 2009 voting announced Monday by the Baseball Writers Association of America. Only one vote stood between Mauer and his rightful claim to history: a first-place vote for Miguel Cabrera, a powerful hitter, but a guy who played first base for a second-place Detroit team that coughed up a division title by finishing 1-4 while Cabrera went 3-for-20 and, on the last weekend of the season, was drunk and involved in a domestic violence episode. The vote was cast by Keizo Konishi of Kyodo News and the Seattle chapter of the BBWAA.
It should be ridiculous. To raise the possibility that a 25-year-old -- a "veteran" of just three major league seasons, with only 40 career wins and a look so youthful that he almost certainly still gets carded -- is worthy of serious Hall of Fame discussion, ought to, by all rights and common sense, be ridiculous.
Sorry Jim Tracy. Apologies, Mike Scioscia. Don't take it personally, Ron Washington. But with all due respect to those three men and the other leading contenders for the Manager of the Year awards that will be announced on Wednesday, does anyone really care? That honor serves merely as the undercard to what will be the heavyweight bout of this year's awards season: the National League Cy Young race. None of the other pieces of hardware that will be handed out this offseason will be as strongly debated, and none have a roster of contenders that combines the star of the Giants' Tim Lincecum, the reigning Cy Young winner; the Cardinals' Chris Carpenter, the 2005 winner; and his St. Louis teammate, Adam Wainwright.
Every so often in this crazy sports racket, you can't help but feel like the conversation has changed ever so slightly ... and changed for the better. Zack Greinke won the American League Cy Young Award on Tuesday. More than that, he breezed to the award. He was named first on 25 of 28 ballots. He was the runaway winner.
Forget for a moment that Chris Coghlan and Andrew Bailey sound more like Irish rugby players than major league baseball's newest Rookies of the Year. Forget that they toiled in relative anonymity all season long for two non-playoff teams whose payrolls combined are less than half that of the Yankees. Forget that neither produced a statistical season of great historical importance or that a compelling case could be made for several other players to have won the award in both leagues. And forget, too, that despite their impressive debut campaigns, it seems likely that this year's winners will one day more closely resemble those from 1989 (when forgettables like Gregg Olson and Jerome Walton were the AL and NL winners, respectively) than 2001 (when future Hall of Famers Ichiro Suzuki and Albert Pujols took home the hardware).
SI.com's resident experts weigh in with their selections for the eight major awards.
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Albert Pujols, Joe Mauer and Zack Greinke should be shoo-ins for the NL MVP, AL MVP and AL Cy Young awards, respectively. Chris Carpenter gets the call here in a tight race for NL Cy Young, as he led that league in both winning percentage and ERA. Adam Wainwright and Tim Lincecum aren't terrible choices, either, but the goals, after all, are to win the greatest percentage of games and allow the fewest runs. That's Carpenter.
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