An unassisted triple play to a end game, two grand slams in one game, and numerous players reaching milestones, both good and bad. 2009 has been quite a year.
After months of battling through the heat and humidity of summer, there comes a time in every baseball season to reflect on the game’s best.
Now, there are only a few games left in the 162-game schedule, and only the Yankees have clinched a playoff berth. In spite of this, here are my regular season awards…
Who should win: Joe Mauer, Minnesota
Twins Baseball fans knew prior to 2009 that Joe Mauer could hit. The 26-year-old catcher had already won American League batting titles (2006, 2008), making him the first two-time recipient of the award at his position, ever. This year, Mauer overcame a month-long back injury to mature into arguably the game’s most complete offensive player not named Albert Pujols. His statistics include 28 home runs, a career high and tops among catchers, and 89 RBIs. Add a batting average that is only .371. Don’t forget, Mauer had flirted throughout the season with the vaunted mark of .400.
Who will win: Derek Jeter, New York Yankees
Jeter has turned back the clock this season as if it were 1999. As if breaking the Yankees’ franchise record for most hits (previously held by Lou Gehrig with 2,721) were not enough, he recorded his seventh 200-hit season. New York’s captain has also accumulated a .329 batting average and 17 home runs. Most important, Jeter returned in 2009 to playing dynamic defense and aggressive base-running, and he has 104 runs scored and 28 stolen bases.
Who should and will win: Albert Pujols, St. Louis Cardinals
After possibly his best season, baseball’s best hitter might remember 2009 with a sour taste in his mouth. No 70-home run season, and “El Hombre” failed to shine in St. Louis at either the Home Run Derby or the All-Star Game. On the bright side, Pujols and the Cards gained two potent hitters in Matt Holiday and Mark DeRosa through midseason trades, and St. Louis has a pitching staff with three 15-game winners. No triple crown for Pujols, so he will have to suffice with his third MVP award. Is a second World Series ring next for the man who is hitting .330 with 47 long balls, and 129 runs driven in?
AL Cy Young
Who should win: Felix Hernandez, Seattle Mariners
Consider the numbers of Seattle’s 23 year old ace. Yes, he is 17-5 with a 2.49 ERA, and 207 Ks in 224.1 innings, but he is also sporting a combined 2.30 ERA against the Tigers, Rangers, and Angels. At least two of these teams will be in the postseason and all have had successful years thus far. The only negative about “King Felix” are that he does pitch at spacious Safeco Field.
Who will win: Zack Greinke, Kansas City Royals
His April was just as good as Albert Pujols’s first half. However, the Royals ace struggled in June (a 4.05 ERA) and started most of his games against the mediocre teams of the AL Central. He totaled just six innings of work combined against New York and Boston. Greinke is only 25 year old, and hopefully his best pitching is ahead of him. 2009 did prove to the baseball world that Zack Greinke is a workhorse, a competitor, and possibly the game’s best strikeout pitcher.
NL Cy Young
Who should and will win: Tim Lincecum, San Francisco Giants
First of all, I apologize to Chris Carpenter. At 34 and after countless surgeries, he proves time and again he is an elite competitor on the mound. Nevertheless, “the Freak” triumphs for the second year in a row. His offense, as a unit, is awful, and his two biggest rivals, Los Angeles and Colorado each feature potent lineups. What I value the most about Lincecum is his competitiveness. He began 2009 slowly. A couple of weeks later, he was back in mid-season form. To date, he has an ERA of 2.47 and has struck out 247 batters (almost double Carpenter’s total of 136).