Pujols, Delgado garner top honors
Carlos Delgado and Albert Pujols were the league MVPs, so far, as Jayson Stark handed out the first-half hardware.
Well, we're halfway through another baseball season. And it's been a great year to be a GM with a computer, a great year to be a guy who wrote a book about a GM with a computer, and a great year to be a hair stylist with a Tampa Bay Devil Rays account.
But it's been a spectacular season so far, all the same. So Vanna, the envelopes please ...
Carlos Delgado, Toronto
Was it really just a few months ago that the Blue Jays had convinced themselves that Delgado was a guy you couldn't build an offense around? Uh, never mind. He's suddenly heading for one of the monster years of all time. Only three players in history have ever had a 165-RBI, 130-run, 50-homer, 90-extra-base-hit, 1.000 on-base-plus-slugging season -- Babe Ruth, Hack Wilson and Jimmie Foxx. But that's where Delgado is heading if his second half matches his first half. Scary. Apologies to: Bret Boone, Nomar Garciaparra, Garret Anderson, Melvin Mora.
Albert Pujols, St. Louis
In the back of our brains, we still hear that little voice screaming, "Are you crazy? NOBODY is more valuable to his team than Barry Bonds." We agree with that little voice. But if Pujols keeps this up, he's going to have one of the most memorable seasons in history, for a team that is in contention ONLY because of its offense. Even if he doesn't win the Triple Crown, he's still leading the league in batting, hits and extra-base hits, and is second in doubles, runs and slugging. And how many National Leaguers have EVER led in all those departments in the same year? How about two -- Stan Musial (1948) and Rogers Hornsby (1920). And he's actually accounted for a higher percentage of his team's runs than Bonds. Apologies to: Bonds, Gary Sheffield, Mike Lowell, Todd Helton, Luis Gonzalez.
AL LEAST VALUABLE PLAYER (LVP)
Paul Konerko, Chicago
Yikes. What HAPPENED to this guy? This time last year, Konerko was an All-Star who almost reached the finals of the Home Run Derby. Now he has fewer home runs (four) than Matt Kata (who got called up -- what? -- 20 minutes ago?), fewer RBIs (18) than Reed Johnson (who got called up -- what? -- 15 minutes ago), fewer extra-base hits (12) than Alex Cora and a lower slugging percentage (.278) than Chone Figgins. That's the stuff LVPs are made of. Sighs of relief for: Jeremy Giambi, Jermaine Dye, Ben Grieve, Bobby Higginson.
Edgardo Alfonzo, San Francisco
It's almost impossible to get yourself benched in the first three months of a four-year contract. But Alfonzo did it -- on merit. His batting average (.236) and on-base percentage (.311) are about 100 points lower than his numbers for the 2000 Mets. Which is great compared to his slugging percentage (.340), which is 200 points lower. Believe it or not, his last extra-base hit at home was June 8. Sighs of relief for: Pat Burrell, Shawn Green, Roberto Alomar, Adrian Beltre.
AL CY YOUNG
Esteban Loaiza, Chicago
Pedro Martinez (11 starts allowing one earned run or none) is still the best pitcher in the American League. But thanks to his dependable bullpen committeemen, he has six wins. Tim Hudson (whose team is 16-4 when he starts) has probably pitched every bit as well as Loaiza. But thanks to The Curse of Keith Foulke, Hudson has seven wins. So for now, we'll shakily hand this half-trophy to Loaiza, who has already tied his career high in wins (11) and has given up one earned run or none 11 times -- as many as in his previous 54 starts combined. Bear in mind that Loaiza has never had a second-half ERA lower than 3.62. (Of course, he never had a FIRST-half ERA under 4.04.) But the only AL pitchers in the last 25 years who have had a lower full-season ERA than Loaiza's current 2.21 ERA were Pedro, Roger Clemens and Bret Saberhagen. So how the heck did Loaiza worm his way into a group like that? Apologies to: Roy Halladay, Jamie Moyer, Mark Mulder, Martinez, Hudson.
NL CY YOUNG
Jason Schmidt, San Francisco
For 10 starts, Kevin Brown was the best pitcher out there. But now that Brown has lost three in a row, it's hard not to notice that, over the ENTIRE first half, Schmidt has outpitched him in just about every category but wins. They're virtually tied in ERA. But Schmidt leads the league in shutouts (3), complete games (5), opponent batting average (.200) and baserunners per inning. He has pitched into the eighth inning eight times. Brown has done that only three times -- and hasn't thrown a complete game in 44 consecutive starts. So it's a close, close call. But Schmidt has been every bit the dominator Brown has been -- and stayed out there longer. Apologies to: Brown, Mark Prior, Woody Williams, Eric Gagne, John Smoltz, Dontrelle Willis.
AL CY YUCK
Chris George, Kansas City
The easy choice here would be to pick a Tiger, just because half their staff is on the road to 20 losses. But that's TOO easy. What's hard is to pick a guy with nine wins (three more than PEDRO) and a WINNING record (9-6). But George isn't your typical nine-game winner. He's a nine-game winner with a 7.11 ERA. And no pitcher in history has ever won nine games, had a winning record and had an ERA that high. The current record-holder is Harry Staley, who went 12-10, 6.81 for those 1894 Boston Beaneaters. So our pal Brian Kingman isn't the only pitching legend whose place in trivia history is under assault this year. Sighs of relief for: Adam Bernero (traded to Colorado), Jay Powell, Joe Mays and Albie Lopez (wherever he is).
NL CY YUCK
Glendon Rusch, Milwaukee
Somebody probably should have seen this coming, considering Rusch is in his seventh big-league season, he's never had a winning record and he has the second-lowest career winning percentage (42-75, .359) of any pitcher with this many decisions in the last 50 years (behind only Jesse Jefferson's .325). But Rusch has had a vintage Cy Yuck year, going 1-11, 8.61, and even holding onto his league lead in losses and earned runs allowed despite spending 2½ weeks in the minor leagues. Not quite what the Brewers had in mind when they traded Jeromy Burnitz for him. Sighs of relief for: Ryan Dempster, Jose Jimenez, Luis Vizcaino.
Hideki Matsui, New York
By the time Rocco Baldelli played his first high school baseball game, "Godzilla" Matsui had already made more than 3,000 visits to home plate and 266 home-run trots for the Yomiuiri Giants. So it's almost farcical to think of Matsui as a "rookie" in the same way Baldelli is a "rookie." But the rules are the rules. So in a season in which we have two rookies with this many hits (at least 106 each) at the all-star break for the first time since Warren Cromartie and Bob Bailor in 1977, it's hard not to pick Matsui. He leads Baldelli in every major offensive category except stolen bases, triples and career quahogs eaten. Apologies to: Baldelli, Mike MacDougal.
Dontrelle Willis, Florida
He's not a rookie. He's a miracle. We're not allowed to count Nielsen ratings when we compute a guy's rookie-of-the-year credentials. But this guy actually outrated "Law and Order" in South Florida in his last prime-time start. He's only the third pitcher this young since 1934 to win eight of his first 10 big-league starts. (The others, according to the Elias Sports Bureau: Fernando Valenzuela and Mark Fidrych.) And think about this: Eight different opening-day starters have allowed 10 runs in a game this year. Willis has beamed in from Double-A to allow six runs in his last 10 starts put together. Apologies to: Brandon Webb, Brad Lidge, Horacio Ramirez.
MANAGERS OF THE YEAR
Tony Pena, Kansas City; and Bobby Cox, Atlanta
No team has ever gone from 100 losses to a playoff spot. But Pena has been a tidal wave of positivity for a team that hasn't had anything to be positive about since George Brett retired. Meanwhile, Cox's team lost four of its five starting pitchers, spun its bullpen through the Cuisinart and brought back essentially the same lineup that finished 10th in the league in runs scored last year. And he's still found a whole new way to do what his teams have always done -- win. Apologies to: Bob Melvin, Frank Robinson, Felipe Alou.
Jayson Stark is a senior writer for ESPN.com.
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