AL MVP: Miguel Tejada, Oakland A's
In the absence of Jason Giambi, Tejada stepped in and became the potent bat the Oakland A's needed. Particularly clutch down the stretch, Tejada performed above and beyond his anticipated capabilities. He finished the season at .308, with 34 home runs and 131 RBI. Some scouts would argue that he's a better fielder than Alex Rodriguez. If Tejada wins, it would be proof that the MVP voting is not a popularity contest. Tejada is not often the cover story -- you don't see him featured on Sunday Conversation, and there's a bit of a language barrier. But he was the biggest asset on an A's team that won the AL West, baseball's toughest division.
Many will argue that A-Rod deserves the award. There's no doubt that A-Rod had a phenomenal season (AL-leading 57 home runs and 142 RBI). The MVP, though, shouldn't go to the best player in baseball, but rather the most valuable. When the bottom line is winning, overall team success has to be the overriding factor.
Yankees second baseman Alfonso Soriano, who finished one homer shy of a 40-40 season, should also be taken into consideration. Soriano wasn't the only focal point of the Yankees' lineup. They've got a couple of different hitters who produce. And the A's loss was Soriano's and New York's gain. Soriano benefited from Jason Giambi's presence in the lineup, while Tejada was called on to fill the void left by Giambi in Oakland -- and did so emphatically.
Honorable mention: Angels LF Garret Anderson; Twins CF Torii Hunter; Yankees 1B Jason Giambi
NL MVP: Barry Bonds, San Francisco Giants
My vote for NL MVP goes to Barry Bonds, without question. Hands down the most feared hitter in the game, pitchers avoid actually pitching to Bonds at all costs -- evident in his record-setting 198 walks this season (68 intentional). Still, Bonds managed to have another great year, recording 46 home runs, 110 RBI and batting .370 -- becoming the oldest first-time winner of a league batting title in baseball history. Bonds helps everyone else in the Giants' lineup and helped them get to the playoffs this season. There should be no other players in this conversation. There shouldn't even be a second place. They should leave it open out of respect for what Bonds has accomplished.
Honorable mention: Cardinals 1B Albert Pujols, Astros CF Lance Berkman; Dodgers RF Shawn Green; and D-Backs starters Curt Schilling and Randy Johnson
NL CY Young: Randy Johnson
Curt Schilling was ahead of Randy Johnson for the first half of the season. But after the All-Star break, Johnson caught up and managed to pull away. With 24 wins and 2.32 ERA, Johnson most deserves the Cy Young. Johnson also led the league with 334 strikeouts. D-Backs catcher Damian Miller told me Friday on the radio show that Johnson deserved the award. I'm not going to argue with a guy who caught for both Schilling and Johnson, there's no question about that.
AL Cy Young: Pedro Martinez
The Cy Young award goes to the best pitcher, not the most valuable. With a 2.26 ERA, Pedro Martinez is the best pitcher in the AL. A's lefty Barry Zito led the league with 23 wins, and Red Sox starter (and former closer) Derek Lowe became the third pitcher to throw a no-hitter plus have a 20-win and 40-save season in his career. But when Pedro was on, the Red Sox were still in the race. In terms of run support, Martinez did more with less. When he got four runs or less, he still won nine of 13 decisions. The better the competition, the better Martinez performs.
AL Rookie of the Year: Eric Hinske
From start to finish, Eric Hinske played a great third base for the Toronto Blue Jays. Hinske had 24 home runs, 84 RBI and a .279 batting average. Look for him to be a Gold Glove candidate for years to come.
Honorable mention: Rodrigo Lopez flew in under the radar and pitched well for the Baltimore Orioles. In a quiet, unassuming role, he performed well, winning 15 games.
NL Rookie of the Year: Jason Jennings
It's not easy to be a rookie pitcher, especially at Coors Field in Colorado. But nine of Jason Jennings' 16 wins came at home. The opposition batted over .300 against him, but that's still an impressive feat.
Honorable mention: Brad Wilkerson earned some recognition by hitting 20 home runs for the Expos. And Ryan Jensen surprised some people with the Giants.
AL Manager of the Year: Mike Scioscia
Considering that the Anaheim Angels finished 41 games back last season, began this year winning only six of their first 20 games, and play in the toughest division in baseball, Mike Scioscia is my easy pick for manager of the year.
Honorable mention: Twins manager Ron Gardenhire made the most of his young talent -- and made the playoffs -- despite contraction concerns. A's manager Art Howe won the AL West after losing his star player, Jason Giambi, in the offseason.
NL Manager of the Year: Tony La Russa
Tony La Russa lost his ace and clubhouse leader, Daryl Kile, the franchise patriarch in Jack Buck, and his father in one year. But despite the adversity, La Russa did a great job holding the Cardinals together. Initially, pitching was the Cardinals' strength, but La Russa had to maneuver some chess pieces to win that division. With Rick Ankiel MIA, he brought in Jason Simontacci from the Italian League, who won 11 games. Announcer Joe Buck told me that St. Louis fans used to view La Russa as a Californian managing their team. But after the way he held this team together this year, he's finally one of them.
Comeback player of the year: Jermaine Dye
Jermaine Dye returned from a broken leg suffered last postseason and contributed 24 home runs and 86 RBI to help the A's win the AL West -- pretty phenomenal.