Mikey’s Crystal Ball: preseason MLB award predictions

It’s hard to believe the start of baseball season is next week. It seems like a very short time ago when the Phillies and Rays were playing a Game 5 of the World Series in frigid Philly, having to suspend it and pick up the next night. It seemed like nothing was going to stop that Phillies team, much to the dismay of this Mets’ fan. Anyway, it’s a fresh start and a clean slate and a whole lot of possibilities. Here are a few of those as I see them…

NL MVP: David Wright, New York Mets—Am I playing homer? Yes. But this kid works really hard every off-season and consistently puts up big numbers, and he hasn’t even come close to showing his potential. This year Wright is going to show the world why the Mets have built their franchise around him, and he’s going to (finally) lead them to a World Series.

AL MVP: Grady Sizemore, Cleveland Indians—Last year, Sizemore had a full season low batting average of .268 but racked up career highs in home runs (33), RBI (90) and stolen bases (38). Last season Sizemore finished 10th in the AL MVP voting but like Wright, he is on the verge of something huge, and he’s going to lead the Indians to the playoffs.

NL Cy Young: Tim Lincecum, San Francisco Giants—I love a good short-guy-kicks-ass story, the kind where most scouts write someone off because of their size (5’10, 160 pounds), and then they go and prove everyone wrong except the team who drafted them. That’s Tim Lincecum, who won the NL Cy Young last season for the Giants, winning 18 of his team’s 72 wins, or ONE QUARTER of them. His stuff is absolutely sick, and at times just unhittable and he will coast to his second straight Cy Young.

AL Cy Young: Daisuke Matsuzaka, Boston Red Sox—Last season, Dice-K went 18-3 but was largely overshadowed by Cliff Lee’s 22-3 masterpiece as well as by K-Rod’s record-breaking 62 saves. But this guy has taken over as the dominating shutdown starter in Boston after Josh Beckett battled inconsistency last year, and this year he’s going to roll to the Cy Young.

NL Rookie of the Year: Micah Hoffpauir, Chicago Cubs—Last season, during the second straight historic collapse by the Mets, Hoffpauir was Babe Ruth for one game, going 5 for 5 with two home runs and five RBI. That was his only multi-hit game, but you don’t just have a showing like that by accident.

AL Rookie of the Year: David Price, Tampa Bay Rays—Sure, the Rays optioned their young phenom to the minors recently, but don’t let that fool you. Once Price logs a few innings, he’ll be back in Tampa blowing hitters away the way he did in the ALCS against Boston last season. And he’ll find himself as the #2 or #3 starter before long.

NL Manager of the Year: Jerry Manuel, New York Mets—When Willie Randolph was let go in New York last season, the Mets were 34-35. After Manuel replaced him, the Mets went 55-38 the rest of the way. Okay, they choked again down the stretch, but this year it’s Jerry’s team from the start, and he’s going to show everyone that his no-nonsense and player-friendly approach can win lots of games, as well as championships. It doesn’t hurt that he has two lights-out closers (K-Rod, JJ Putz) anchoring his bullpen now.

AL Manager of the Year: Eric Wedge, Cleveland Indians—The Indians missed the playoffs last season after taking the eventual champion Red Sox to 7 games the year before. The Tribe plays well in odd numbered years as of late—going 93-69 in 2005 and 96-66 in 2007. This season, with the additions of Kerry Wood, Mark DeRosa and Carl Pavano, Cleveland is going to surprise a lot of folks.

NL Comeback Player of the Year: Eric Byrnes, Arizona Diamondbacks—Byrnes was way off his career averages in 2008, hitting a paltry .209 with 6 homers and 23 RBI. He has nowhere to go but up, and this season I have a feeling Byrnes’ numbers are going to match his intensity on the field.

AL Comeback Player of the Year: John Smoltz, Boston Red Sox—After season-ending shoulder surgery in June of 2008, the Braves finally let one of the cornerstones of their franchise go, as the free agent pitcher signed with the Sox. He won’t see the mound until June, but Smoltz threw in the bullpen this week and showed no signs of pain. He’s going to make the Braves sorry—really sorry.

Follow the Scores Report editors on Twitter @clevelandteams and @bullzeyedotcom.

Will The Mets Collapse Again?

I’m a lifelong Mets fan, and while they have been in four World Series and won two, they have been good enough to get there numerous times and have not. Most recently, the Mets were eliminated from playoff contention in 2007 on the season’s final day–to complete an epic collapse in which they were leading the Phillies by seven games with 17 to play. I remember those days vividly. My wife had just had our first child so I was up in the wee hours at least once a night, and every time I turned on ESPN News the Mets had lost while the Phillies had won. I get a sick feeling in my stomach when I think about it. It doesn’t help that the year before that, 2006, the Mets were painfully beaten in a Game 7 in the NLCS by the upstart (and annoying) Cardinals.

Now, it appears that recent history will repeat itself. Despite that the Mets replaced Willie Randolph with interim skipper Jerry Manuel in June, and had that amazing run in July to get back on top of the division, they continue to build 3-4 game leads only to have the Phillies catch them. Right now they sit 1/2 game behind in the NL East, and 1/2 game up in the wild card standings only because Milwaukee has had their own collapse.

Is this a repeat of 2007? How can you say it’s not looking that way? Jay Schreiber of the NY Times parallels some eerie things from last year to this year in his blog.

Me, I just feel it. The middle of the order has stopped hitting, though they did wake up last night against Washington. Still, the Mets had an 8-2 lead and won 9-7. The bullpen is maybe the worst in baseball, and are responsible for a minimum of 10 losses already. And even the starting pitchers have started slipping a little. Not even Johan Santana makes you feel like they are going to win for sure.

Throw in the fact that guys like John Lannan look like Cy Young against the Mets, and guys like Anderson Hernandez, Jorge Cantu and So Taguchi look like Ted Williams against them….and you just can’t feel good. Oh, and every day I look at the morning paper and the Phillies have won.
Seriously, do they ever lose in September?

Despite all of my negativity here, there is a good chance the Mets wind up as the wild card. They would face the Dodgers, who they match up well against. Well yeah, but don’t think someone like Casey Blake won’t hit .800 in that series. Plus, they haven’t face the Manny Ramirez Dodgers yet.

If the Mets do wind up choking here down the stretch, I won’t say I told you so. And if they make it, I’ll root for them like crazy. But I still don’t feel very confident.

Related Posts