Well, I suppose now is as good a time as any to throw my hat into the ring with regards to the MVP, Cy Young and Rookie of the Year discussions. It's only one man's opinion, and I'm sure many will take issue with some of these selections, but ultimately it's all just fuel for the fire.
Joe Mauer: .328/.413/.451, 9 HR, 85 RBI, 98 R
This was a tough pick as no one stands out too much among a field of strong contenders for the award. Grady Sizemore and Kevin Youkilis are guys who should be in the running, but to me this race comes down to Mauer and Dustin Pedroia, a pair of great hitters at valuable defensive positions who helped propel their teams toward the postseason (although the Twins came up just short). Both players have their strong points, with Mauer holding a slight edge in batting average and a large edge in on-base percentage while Pedroia holds advantages in power and stolen bases. In the end, I lean toward Mauer because he plays superior defense at a more crucial defensive position. And because I'm a Twins fan. What of it?
Albert Pujols: .357/.462/.653, 37 HR, 116 RBI, 100 R
You'll hear a lot of talk about Ryan Howard, who led the league in home runs and RBI for the NL East champion Phillies. You'll hear some talk about Manny Ramirez, whose arrival in Los Angeles at the trade deadline gave the Dodgers the necessary jolt to reach the playoffs. You'll hear talk about Carlos Delgado, Ryan Braun, maybe even C.C. Sabathia. All this talk is misguided. Pujols was the most valuable player in the National League this year, and in my mind it's not even close. Look at those numbers. Pujols reached triple digits in RBI, runs and walks, he batted .357, and his OPS+ was 190. 190!!! That's a career high for a guy who has had a pretty unbelievable career. He also played some pretty solid defense at first base. The Cards finished fourth in the NL Central, but that has nothing to do with Pujols. There is no player in major-league baseball I'd rather build my team around. That's the definition of an MVP.
AL Cy Young
Cliff Lee: 223.3 IP, 22-3, 2.54 ERA, 170/34 K/BB, 1.11 WHIP
There's an argument to be made for Roy Halladay. He threw more innings, posted a better WHIP and strikeout rate, was a 20-game winner and faced tougher teams. But I think Lee edges him by a hair. He won 22 games and led the league in ERA, and the Indians went 24-7 in his starts.
NL Cy Young
Brad Lidge: 69.1 IP, 41 SV, 1.95 ERA, 92/35 K/BB, 1.23 WHIP
I suspect plenty of people will disagree with this selection. Tim Lincecum and Johan Santana are both very deserving candidates and I would have no problem with either winning the award. But I just can't get over the season Lidge had. He was perfect in save opportunities, converting 41-of-41, and posted a 1.95 ERA while allowing just two home runs in nearly 70 innings despite calling a very hitter-friendly stadium home. It's rare that a closer is deserving of Cy Young honors in a year where starting pitchers contributed 200-plus innings of outstanding work, but this seems like one such occasion.
AL Rookie of the Year
Evan Longoria: .272/.343/.531, 27 HR, 85 RBI, 67 R
No contest. In another year, Denard Span may have merited consideration. This year, Longoria was the class of the rookie crop. Had he avoided injury, he may have been a legit MVP candidate.
NL Rookie of the Year
Geovany Soto: .285/.364/.504, 23 HR, 86 RBI, 66 R
Not much doubt about this one in my mind. For a catcher to put up these types of numbers in his first big-league season is really impressive.