Lee, Longoria easy award picks; many others are close calls

The Baltimore Sun

With the regular season ending today, there's only one task remaining before the postseason begins and we see endless promos for the same bad television shows.

Choosing league awards.

A few are clear-cut, but some - the National League Cy Young Award race, specifically - are befuddling this year.

My philosophy is always the same. I select whomever has had the best overall year; I'll throw defense in if it's applicable. If it comes down to a virtual tie, then I look at what a player meant to his team and what the team did in the standings.

It's not a scientific method, and I go as much with my eyes and ears as I do with statistical analysis.

For those stataholics out there who gasped when reading the above, don't worry. The Baltimore Sun prohibits its sportswriters from voting on postseason awards, so I won't be messing up the final tally. This is for amusement only.

American League Cy Young Award

Cliff Lee, LHP, Cleveland Indians

This is about as no-contest as it gets. The Toronto Blue Jays' Roy Halladay has been superb. And Los Angeles Angels closer Francisco Rodriguez set the major league record for saves. But Lee, the AL's All-Star Game starter, has been dominant all season. His 22-3 record for a mediocre club is phenomenal, and his 2.54 ERA is best among AL qualifiers.

AL MVP

Dustin Pedroia, 2B, Boston Red Sox

It's a pretty good race, with Pedroia edging the Minnesota Twins' duo of Joe Mauer and Justin Morneau and injured Chicago White Sox outfielder Carlos Quentin. Pedroia has the numbers needed for MVP, and he was as important to his team's playoff run as any AL player. He batted leadoff but had to move to cleanup at times and handled it adeptly. He's an excellent defender and base runner. The AL hasn't had a second baseman win the award since Chicago's Nellie Fox in 1959. That should change this year.

AL Rookie of the Year

Evan Longoria, 3B, Tampa Bay Rays

Chicago's Alexei Ramirez had a great season and would be a leading candidate in most years. But Longoria is one of those rare talents we see only every few seasons. He leads all AL rookies in homers and RBIs despite starting the season in the minors and missing a month with a fractured wrist. He's already among the league's best defensive third basemen.

AL Manager of the Year

Joe Maddon, Tampa Bay

It's difficult not to pull for a guy like Maddon, a career baseball man with a great sense of humor (he's a huge fan of the sitcom The Office) and the perfect temperament for a young club like the Rays. Orioles manager Dave Trembley always talks about respecting the game and the people in it, and no one illustrates that better than Maddon, whose even hand led the Rays to a worst-to-first season.

National League Cy Young

Tim Lincecum, RHP, San Francisco Giants

This one is excruciating, and I'm still not sure it's right. The Arizona Diamondbacks' Brandon Webb was the first half's best pitcher, and the New York Mets' Johan Santana has been the most clutch for a contender down the stretch. But Lincecum has been the steadiest throughout. The three could share a part of the pitching Triple Crown. No matter how much stataholics devalue the win, it still means something in my book, so it's tough to ignore Webb. But I am putting him second, and Lincecum, the Giants' 22-year-old right-hander with the funky delivery, first.

NL MVP

Albert Pujols, 1B, St. Louis Cardinals

I am a big believer in power production, and the Philadelphia Phillies' Ryan Howard leads the world in homers and RBIs. But his low batting average and on-base percentage are not acceptable for an MVP. Not when New York third baseman David Wright and Pujols have impressive power numbers and get on base continually. Pujols missed two weeks because of a calf injury and has been playing hurt all year, but he's among the league leaders in nearly every offensive category and he carried a surprising Cardinals team for several months.

NL Rookie of the Year

Geovany Soto, C, Chicago Cubs

In April, there was the belief that this would be a two-man race between Soto and Cincinnati Reds outfielder Jay Bruce. But another young Reds player, first baseman Joey Votto, has made this almost a dead heat. Soto and Votto have nearly identical numbers in many offensive categories. You couldn't go wrong with either. But Soto wins the tiebreakers. He plays a tougher defensive position and has contributed to a contender.

NL Manager of the Year

Lou Piniella, Chicago

Sure, the Cubs were supposed to win the NL Central with their hefty payroll, aggressive general manager and star-studded roster. But it's not that simple. Ask the New York Yankees. Piniella is a master at refocusing his players whenever they waver. And the Cubs stayed focused all season. Piniella deserves his third manager's award, his first in the NL. He beats out another great skipper, the Los Angeles Dodgers' Joe Torre.

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