ANAHEIM, Calif. -- The Weekend Buzz -- Halfway Point edition -- while you were looking for Lindsay Lohan's celebrity jail cell on your way to the All-Star Game. ...
AL MVP: 1. Miguel Cabrera, Tigers. 2. Josh Hamilton, Rangers. 3. Justin Morneau, Twins. 4. Vladimir Guerrero, Rangers. 5. Robinson Cano, Yankees. 6. Kevin Youkilis, Red Sox. 7. Vernon Wells, Blue Jays. 8. Paul Konerko, White Sox. 9. Adrian Beltre, Red Sox. 10. Ichiro Suzuki, Mariners.
|Miguel Cabrera is in the running for the Triple Crown and is the first-half MVP. (AP)|
NL MVP: 1. Ubaldo Jimenez, Rockies. 2. Joey Votto, Reds. 3. David Wright, Mets. 4. Albert Pujols, Cardinals. 5. Andre Ethier, Dodgers. 6. Scott Rolen, Reds. 7. Martin Prado, Braves. 8. Ryan Howard, Phillies. 9. Brandon Phillips, Reds. 10. Carlos Gonzalez, Rockies.
Yes, you read that right. It is the exceptionally rare case when a pitcher should earn MVP consideration in addition to that of a Cy Young nod -- hasn't happened in the NL since Bob Gibson won both in 1968 -- but so far, this is one of those years. Jimenez is the first pitcher to win 15 games before the All-Star break since Toronto's David Wells in 2000 and, without him, the Rockies would be sunk. Troy Tulowitzki is out for two months, three-fifths of their rotation was out earlier this year, Todd Helton is no longer Todd Helton. Jimenez almost singlehandedly has pushed the Rockies into contention. Votto quietly has been sensational, leading the NL in OPS and, along with Rolen and Phillips, leading the Reds' resurgence. Wright is striking out way too much, but he is tied with Howard for the NL RBI lead and had played a huge role in pushing the Mets back into contention. Biggest second-half question: Will Pujols lap all these guys and wind up winning his fourth overall (and third consecutive) NL MVP award?
Yeah, yeah, Lee leads the AL with six complete games and is on the tip of all wagging tongues following Texas' quick-strike to get him last week. But it is Price who leads the AL in ERA (2.42) and wins (12), he's thrown two complete games and he's made four more starts than Lee. Lester scores lots of points with an AL-low .203 opponents' batting average. When the second half begins, Lee has the momentum -- especially now that he's backed by Josh Hamilton, Vladimir Guerrero, Michael Young and Co.
Jimenez has been an incredible workhorse: He no-hit Atlanta and he's dragged a down-and-out Rockies team out of the gutter and into contention. That said, Johnson has been so phenomenal over the past couple of months that he's arguably become the best pitcher in the league. He leads the NL in ERA (1.70) and has more strikeouts (123) than Jimenez (113). Still, it was Jimenez who strung together a brilliant streak of 33 consecutive scoreless innings earlier this year. And it is Jimenez who out-ranks Johnson in opponents' batting average (.198 for Jimenez, .203 for Johnson), innings pitched (127-122) and, while I know the argument that pitchers can't always control wins is legitimate, come on. Jimenez has racked up 15, and last I checked, the game is about winning.
AL Manager of the Mid-Year: 1. Ron Washington, Rangers. 2. Jim Leyland, Tigers. 3. Terry Francona, Red Sox.
When the Rangers did the humane thing and stuck with Washington this spring after his positive test for cocaine in 2009 was embarrassingly leaked, this is why. There are other managers in the game who are as beloved by their players, but nobody plays harder for their manager than the Rangers for Washington. He's hit all the right notes to help maneuver the Rangers to one of the best starts in club history. His shining moments came early, when the Rangers were having problems closing games, and he replaced Frank Francisco with Neftali Feliz. Leyland has been masterful at mixing Detroit's rookies (Brennan Boesch, Austin Jackson, etc.) with the veterans. And Francona, against an incredible rash of injuries, might be doing his finest job in Boston. Meantime, is that the White Sox's Ozzie Guillen gaining ground in the outside lane?
NL Manager of the Mid-Year: 1. Bud Black, Padres. 2. Dusty Baker, Reds. 3. Bobby Cox, Braves.
Now that the Padres have smartened up and added speed and defense (imagine!), Black no longer is a few burritos short of a combination plate in the dugout. Shackles off, he's done a marvelous job in molding an aggressive club, playing small ball and managing the NL's best pitching staff. The Padres are the game's biggest surprise this season, with Black calling the right shots. Baker is out-LaRussa-ing St. Louis' LaRussa. And Cox, in his swan song, finally has a team he can lead back into October.
|Brennan Boesch had a scintillating first half with a .343 average, 12 home runs and 48 RBI. (Getty Images)|
Heyward not only still leads NL rookies in RBI despite not having played in a week because of his thumb, he immediately assumed a vital role in pushing Atlanta into first place in the NL East. As the Braves work toward establishing themselves as NL East favorites, they most likely will go as far as Heyward will take them. Garcia? While everybody's been paying attention to Stephen Strasburg, it's Garcia who leads all NL rookie pitchers in ERA (2.17), wins (8), strikeouts (80) and opponents' batting average (.229). Meanwhile, while the Bobby Valentine saga took center stage in Florida, Sanchez has been consistently stellar for the Marlins, ranking second among NL rookies in OPS to the Giants' Buster Posey.
AL Biggest Surprise: Chicago White Sox. Here's the weird thing: I picked them to make the playoffs (as the AL wild-card) coming out of spring training. So, how can they be a surprise? Well, truthfully ... did you see these guys in April? Bru-tal. Absolutely brutal. And yes, the Sox have taken advantage of some gimmes in their recent schedule, but that's what contenders are supposed to do. Jake Peavy's season-ending injury means GM Kenny Williams will be busy on the telephone, but hey, at least it won't be looking to dump guys. The Sox are in first place at the break thanks to winning 25 of their last 30. One of the most amazing stats of the first half: The Sox not only moved from 9 1/2 games out of first into first during the run, they gained 13 games on the Minnesota Twins in those 30 contests.
NL Biggest Surprise: San Diego. Fish tacos and margaritas for all!
AL Best Extreme Makeover: Detroit. Tigers fans were angry when the club traded fan favorite Curtis Granderson to the Yankees and allowed Placido Polanco to walk last winter. But look at them now. Kudos (again) to general manager Dave Dombrowski for executing an on-the-fly reconstruction of the budget and roster. Rookies Austin Jackson and Brennan Boesch are keepers, Johnny Damon has worked out great, Miguel Cabrera seems to have grown up. ...
NL Best Extreme Makeover: San Diego. If the Padres continue along their stunning path, can Kevin Towers and Jed Hoyer be named co-executives of the year? It was Towers who mostly assembled the Padres' fierce bullpen before he was fired last October, including the key acquisitions of Heath Bell, Mike Adams, Luke Gregerson, Edward Mujica and Joe Thatcher. It was Towers who stole Adrian Gonzalez from Texas several years ago. Hoyer's key contributions were signing free agent pitcher Jon Garland, catcher Yorvit Torrealba and the Hairston brothers, Scott and Jerry Jr. It's added up to a lethal mix.
AL Lurking Danger: Los Angeles Angels. You know why? Because everybody's all excited over Texas after the Cliff Lee acquisition. And while it's true that the Rangers' 4½-game cushion at the break is impressive, and you look at a gasping Angels lineup that currently includes Kevin Frandsen and Paul McAnulty and wonder how long until they fall out of it ... they never do. The Angels under Mike Scioscia always are a threat, and you'd better believe Texas will keep the pedal to the metal and be glancing over their shoulders until they clinch -- if they do.
NL Lurking Danger: Philadelphia. After back-to-back NL titles, the Phillies cruise into the All-Star break third in the NL East. And it's a hard third, too, with Chase Utley out for a prolonged period of time and Atlanta looking like a keeper. But for all the problems the Phillies currently have, they've proven over and over again these past few seasons how resilient they are. The second half of 2010 might be the sternest test yet.
AL Best Moments, first half: How can you top the behavior of Armando Galarraga following his 28-out perfect game? And that of umpire Jim Joyce and Tigers manager Jim Leyland? They taught us more about sportsmanship during that tough 24-hour span than many of us learn over our entire childhood.
NL Best Moments, first half: Roy Halladay's perfect game. Ubaldo Jimenez's no-hitter. The sensational Philadelphia-Cincinnati game Saturday night in which Reds rookie Travis Wood took a perfect game into the ninth against Roy Halladay's shutout. Best moments? Yes, all of those. Certainly not the Florida Marlins axing Fredi Gonzalez, getting Bobby Valentine egg all over their faces and winding up with a downgrade