Saturday, November 05, 2005

MLB Post Season Awards

First of all, due applause on a surprising, amazing and unexpected season for the Chicago White Sox who have finally given the Second City something to be happy and proud of when baseball is mentioned. Think those lousy Cubs didn’t enjoy having their noses rubbed in it? Like the Red Sox, the Cubs have masochistic supporters who seem to derive some sort of perverse pleasure in being disappointed season after season. Oddly, White Sox fans never really figured in the equation, even though they hadn’t won anything since the Black Sox. But they’ve got their due, they can now mock the Cubs fans with puffy chests and their World Champions banner and the Cubs can go back to dreaming what it might be like.

MVP NL: With the Astros the top team in the NL this season it’s difficult to finger a particular every day player they couldn’t have done clinched without. So there is no obvious choice. So the second tier boils down to who wouldn’t have made the playoffs that did without a particular someone:

Braves (anyone want to argue Andruw Jones just because he hit over 50 homeruns? Nah, didn’t think so) –
Cardinals may or may not have made it without Pujols as they did without Rolen and so many others this season blanking out or getting injured.
The Padres of course, didn’t deserve to be in the playoffs to begin with so who possibly could have most valuable on a least valuable team?

It’s a tough choice but what it boils down to is there wasn’t a real standout player who made the difference in the NL this season. And let’s not have any fireside chats about Cubbie Mr Lee - let’s face it, with or without him, they would have sucked and disappointed just as well. Nominate him for player of the year if you like, but MVP? No chance.

Therefore Sports Amnesia’s NL MVP is: Andy Pettitte if for no other reason than if Andy Pettitte didn't move to Houston, Roger Clemens would have never unretired and two thirds of a brilliant starting rotation would be gone along with any prayer the Astros ever had of winning. Don't forget, this World Series was engineered two years ago and if Pettitte hadn't spend most of last season hurt, they'd have done it two years running.

AL MVP: Oh the hindsight of the postseason would make this rather simple if it weren’t for the fact the postseason isn’t supposed to come into play when considering.

So again, we look to the teams that made the playoffs and who they most needed to get there. The Yankees’ obvious candidate is A-Sod who put up steady numbers this season but choked when it mattered (v Red Sox and in post-season).

The Red Sox were fired offensively by both Manny Ramirez and David Ortiz but if you discount Manny for his crap clubhouse attitude, Ortiz is the man they needed most. (Not to discount the effect Damon has had at the top of the order but he just didn’t win as many games for them as did Ortiz)

The White Sox of course, were led more by solid pitching and ticky tack hitting all season than a big power guy with impressive numbers although Paul Konerko certainly merits attention and will likely be the most sought-after free agent should the Sox not re-sign him.

Vladimir Guerrero, the man the Mets didn’t sign and the Angels did, left an impressive resumé for the season.

The winner is: David Ortiz.

AL Cy Young: These are far more easier awards to calculate the winners for. Sheer numbers and domination are all that matters. The winner is Randy Johnson because he was robbed last year. Doesn't matter that his inaugural season in pinstripes was a yip, he deserved last season's award and since he didn't get it then, he should get it now because the AL didn't really produce a gaudy starting pitcher worthy of the Cy Young this season.

NL Cy Young: The strongest pitching staff in the National League won the NL title for the Astros. Pettitte, Clemens and Oswalt were all strong, dominate pitchers for the second half of the season and it’s arguable that the Astros never would have made it to the World Series without them. Andy Pettitte is the winner.

NL Manager of the Year: I’ve always thought this was just as important an award as the MVP award as in some cases, the manager is the most valuable person on a successful team even though he isn’t playing.

In the case of playoff teams (again, we emphasise teams that make the playoffs because otherwise, a season cannot truly be deemed a success.) – Phil Garner managed to bring the Astros back from the dead for the second season running although he was clearly at a managerial disadvantage in the World Series.

Hating the Braves as I do it’s difficult for Sports Amnesia to consider Bobby Cox for anything other than most contemptible but frankly, with so many question marks this season, so many injuries and so leaving what was arguably the toughest division in the NL in the dust for the better part of the season cemented the fact that the Braves will never actually lose the NL East again and will continue to play like muppets once the regular season is over.

Tony La Russa managed the best team in the NL but even though I don’t hate the Cardinals, there isn’t a more despicable manager out there. La Russa is the classic over-manager, the classic over-thinker and frankly, as far as a post-season flopper, really gives Cox a run for his money considering his team was swept in the World Series last season and then knocked out of the NLCS this season.

So the question is would the Astros have made the World Series without Garner? Well, the only real answer is that the Astros made it in on hot players the last two seasons running and Garner was so over-matched in Game 3 of the World Series and his meltdown, blaming his players afterwards was indicative of a questionable character as manager. Yes, Cox’s teams meltdown every season but after every miserable season the Braves stand atop the NL East, regardless of their personnel situation, and Cox is a primary reason. Now that the human rocking chair pitching coach Leo Mazzone has fled for Peter Angelos in Baltimore, we will see just how much Cox and the Braves GM have mattered over the years. For now, Bobby Cox was the NL Manager of the year.

AL Manager of the Year: Is there anyone who hasn’t yet embraced the concept of Ozzie Guillen? The Sox changed from sluggers to small ball, held the best record in the AL most of the season, survived a nearly cataclysmic collapse and an almost allowed an unforgivable survival of the Cleveland Indians only to turn it all around, win the AL Central, sweep the defending World Champion Red Sox and then virtually sweep the Anaheim Angels before sweeping the Astros in the World Series. 11-1 in the post season is impressive. Dominating. You can’t put the White Sox in the category of best for the last 10 years even considering the roll of luck and bad umpiring calls that got them there (we could be talking about the World Champion Angels were it not for a particular blown call in Game Two of the ALCS).

Nonetheless, no one was more entertaining than Ozzie Guillen all season and considering he managed the best team in the AL, the award should go to him, hands down.

We’ve read whingeing little couplets about Joe Torre meriting consideration but frankly, with a 200 million dollar budget, the Yankees had no excuse for not winning the World Series this season. True that without him, the Yankees would have been even more miserable than they were but a good manager should have been expected to make the postseason and so what Torre did was not so earth-shattering in retrospect.

A good argument might be made for the Cleveland Indians manager, if anyone outside of Cleveland could remember his name but the fact is, regardless of how hot the Indians got in the second half, when it came down to doing the business, the team choked miserably.

****** NFL*****

Alas, we’ve missed more than a month of the season and with Sky knocked out for the foreseeable future, the chances of watching live NFL games in England for Sports Amnesia are the post-midnight games on Sunday and Monday nights.

That said, it’s still followed in these parts.

Most Surprising Team : So far you’d have to ask yourself, who would have thought Cincinnati Bengals would ever rise above mediocrity?

Most Disappointing Team: Minnesota and Green Bay, who have made a mockery of the traditional black and blue division, led by the disappointing Brett Favre and the disappointing Duante Culpepper (who is now, thankfully for him anyway, injured for what is like to be the duration of the season). Not that we’d wish the same on Favre but isn’t it time the Pack starting developing a future QB with Favre clearly on his last legs and the Pack going nowhere but down this season?
Running a close third are the Philadelphia Eagles, inexplicably abandoning the running game and looking weaker by the week.

NFL Top Ten

1. Denver Broncos (6-2) – Last season the Broncos were humiliated by the Colts in the playoffs but with the running game going, they are one of the hardest teams to stop.
2. Indianapolis Colts (7-0) – still unconvinced that someone won’t knock them from their stoop (like the Pats again once the postseason starts) and leave Colts fans disappointed yet again.
3. San Diego Chargers (4-4) – hard to top the combination of best running back in the league and best tight end in Mr Gates. Started slowly but have felt their way through the darkness and are now on their roll.
4. New England Patriots (4-3) – everyone including Sports Amnesia want to see this sham dynasty brought to its collective knees but it’s still too early to count them out even if they’ve been unimpressive all season. This weekend’s game against the Colts will be a truer test of their mettle but not the ultimate word, whether they win or lose, unless they do either in convincing fashion.
5. Pittsburgh Steelers (4-2) – barely capable of beating the miserable Ravens is no way to impress voters on the Steelers’ chances. Nonetheless, a powerful running game and a tough defence mean they still have a chance to make it to the Super Bowl.
6. Carolina Panthers (5-2) – with the Jets having fallen to the kerbside, the Panthers are the only team remaining of Sports Amnesia’s preseason Super Bowl picks. They’ve still got a dominating defence and the capability of taking it back to the Super Bowl, one season removed from their last impressive appearance.
7. NY Giants (5-2) – hard to know if they’re for real but they’ve got their dead owner Mara to keep them inspired in the low moments – still, their defence is their Achilles Heel and although they may yet win the NFC East, they won’t make it much further.
8. Philadelphia Eagles (4-3) – difficult to imagine how they could fall so far so quickly but this is a team which would appear, after three successive NFC Championship games, ready to call it an era and are fading fast. I’ve put them here on promise alone, certainly not their performance this season. Unless they too stomp on the Redskins like doormats, the Eagles shouldn’t be considered for much other than awards for disappointing most.
9. Cincinnati Bengals (6-2) – Is Carson Palmer more the new Peyton Manning or is Eli Manning the new Peyton Manning?
10. Jacksonville (4-3) – watch out for the Jags to catch fire in the second half of the season.

NB: The Chicago Bears are the San Diego Padres of the NFL this season and the NFC North is the NL West of the NFL. But watch it, the Bears and the Bucs are probably the two best defensive teams with the weakest offensive support in the NFL.

NCAA Top Ten

1. USC
2. Texas
3. Fuck everyone else.