"A joke is a very serious thing."
- Sir Winston Churchill (1874-1965), British politician known chiefly for his leadership of the United Kingdom during World War II
It's a very serious thing because sometimes the baseball gods frown upon said joke.
Witness the 2008 Chicago Cubs.
Apparently the baseball gods didn't like my "...and baby goes to sleep" line very much. The Cubs have gotten drilled in their first two games against the Dodgers. Yes, the same Dodgers who were ushered into the playoffs by the massive collapse of the Arizona Diamondbacks. The same Dodgers who finished a grand total of 84 wins, barely over .500. Yes, those same Dodgers have scored a total of 17 runs in 2 games against the Cubs.
So the Cubs go on the road now, down two games to none. And since it's a "best of five" series, one more loss means the presumptive favorite in the National League will head home in ignominious defeat.
Baseball's a crazy game huh?
With that, it's time to hand out some hardware (figuratively speaking). Here, then, are the 2008 Sports Take MLB Awards!
NL Manager of the Year: Lou Pinella, Chicago Cubs
Honorable Mention: Tony LaRussa, St. Louis Cardinals; Charlie Manuel, Philadelphia Phillies
Remember, these are regular season awards. Despite the collapse of the Cubs in the playoffs so far, there's no question that they had an outstanding regular season. There were a lot of expectations heading into the season - always a dangerous thing on the north side of Chicago - but Pinella skillfully guided his charges to the best record in the National League.
NL Most Valuable Player: Ryan Howard, Philadelphia Phillies
Honorable Mention: CC Sabathia, Milwaukee Brewers; Manny Ramirez, L.A. Dodgers
Howards .251 batting average isn't going to wow anybody, but 48 home runs (8 more than anyone in baseball) and 146 runs batted in (16 more than anybody in baseball) are more than worthy of the award. People who know me know that I'm loathe to put a pitcher in the running for MVP, but there can be no question that Milwaukee (also down 2-0 in their playoff series) would've been done long ago if not for the acquisition of CC Sabathia. If that doesn't qualify as "valuable", I don't know what does. Similar recognition must go to Ramirez for his impact with the Dodgers. That being said, I still think he's a dope.
NL Cy Young: Brandon Webb, Arizona Diamondbacks
Honorable Mention: CC Sabathia, Milwaukee Brewers; Tim Lincecum, San Francisco Giants
So how can CC be on the MVP list and not win the Cy Young? Simple. In my mind the MVP should almost always come from a contending club. How valuable can you be if you're not getting your club into the playoffs? The Cy Young simply honors an outstanding pitching season regardless of your team's overall record. Again, these are my opinions. There's no question that CC was amazing in the second half. But he wasn't perfect either. And if you want to win the Cy Young based on half a season, you'd better be damned near perfect. Webb's 22 wins tie him for the most in baseball and are 4 more than anybody else in the National League. That equals a Cy Young performance to me.
NL Rookie of the Year: Geovany Soto, Chicago Cubs
Honorable Mention: Jay Bruce, Cincinnati Reds
Soto not only put up solid offensive numbers (.285, 23HR, 86RBI), but was lauded for his handling of the Cubs pitchers. There are more than a few personality issues in that clubhouse (witness the Zambrano/Barrett fight from last year), and Soto navigated those waters with the savvy of a veteran. Bruce brought some light to an otherwise dismal year for the Reds. If he continues his maturation, he'll be mentioned as an MVP candidate some day.
AL Manager of the Year: Joe Maddon, Tampa Bay Rays
Honorable Mention: Ron Gardenhire, Minnesota Twins; Mike Scioscia, L.A. Angels
This one's the no-brainer of all time. When you take your team from 66 wins last year to 97 this year, you're going to be Manager of the Year. Period. There's no question that the front office deserves a great deal of credit for reshaping the roster. But Maddon had to bring those players together and keep them focused in the right direction. That earns you this award. Gardenhire took a team that was expected to finish 3rd or 4th and got them within one game of the playoffs. If it wasn't for Tampa's amazing finish, this award could be his. And when your team wins more games than anybody in baseball (L.A.), the manager (Scioscia) has to at least get a mention.
AL Most Valuable Player: Dustin Pedroia, Boston Red Sox (whom I hate)
Honorable Mention: Josh Hamilton, Texas Rangers; Justin Morneau, Minnesota Twins
Had Morneau not fallen apart in the last two weeks of the season - even if that came from "trying too hard" - the Twins may very well have made the playoffs and he would've won this award. But he didn't step up the way Ryan Howard did for the Phillies, and for that reason, the award goes to Pedroia. Yes, it pains me to do it. But the guy had an outstanding season (.326, 17 HR, 86 RBI)for a team that made the playoffs. Maybe it's by default that he gets it, but sometimes that's how it works. Hamilton deserves a mention for his amazing first half if nothing else.
AL Cy Young: Cliff Lee, Cleveland Indians
Honorable Mention: Roy Halladay, Toronto Blue Jays; Mike Mussina, New York Yankees
Lee has already been named "Comeback Player of the Year", which is absolutely deserved. He'll be collecting some more hardware soon. A 22-3 record, 2.54 ERA and 5-to-1 strike out-to-walk ratio is as dominant a performance as we're likely to see anytime soon. I'll always remember it if for no other reason than I was in attendance for one of the 3 losses! Halladay had his usual amazing year. He's the Albert Pujols of the pitching world. They can't give these guys the awards every year, even though you could clearly make a case for them. Mussina had been written off by plenty of pundits, but came back with 20 wins for the first time in his stellar career.
AL Rookie of the Year: Alexi Ramirez, Chicago White Sox
Honorable Mention: Evan Longoria, Tampa Bay Rays
This was the hardest one of all to pick. Both guys had outstanding years. Ramirez finished with a batting average of .290, 27 home runs and 77 RBI. Longoria had an average of .272, also with 27 home runs and 85 RBI. And considering that Longoria missed almost a month with a hand injury, his numbers would've been even better. But you don't win an award based on what you "would have done", you win it based on what you did. And what tipped it in my mind for Ramirez was his performance down the stretch. The grand slam in Game 162 was clutch. And as one of my favorite writers, John Buccigross, is fond of saying, "clutch is everything".
So those are my award winners. Think I'm out of my mind? Attach a comment and let us know why!
Finally today, it's time for everybodys favorite segment: Dan's Favorite Teams Update!
Minnesota Twins: The Twins finished 88-75 and in 2nd place in the AL Central.
Look (copyright Joe Biden), it's hard to be real upset about the end of the Twins season. Yes, it would've been fantastic if they'd made the playoffs. But we have to remember that they clearly exceeded the modest expectations that surrounded this club at the beginning of the year. And with the youth in their pitching staff, and their core signed for the next few years, there's a lot to like about this clubs future.
That being said... Curse you Jim Thome! Curse you!
There... I feel better now.
Wisconsin Badgers: The Badgers are 3-1 (0-1 in the Big Ten).
In the span of an hour, I went from thinking, "the Badgers have a shot at a Rose Bowl this year" to thinking, "my god, they could start 0-3 in the Big Ten". That, my friends (copyright John McCain) is a bad afternoon.
And "bad afternoon" is the only way to describe the debacle in the Big House last Saturday. I give the Wolverines credit for making adjustments at halftime and executing well enough to win the game in the second half.
But let's be honest. The Badgers lost this game. They lost this game when they failed to score more than 19 points off of Michigans 5 turnovers in the first half. They lost this game when their passing attack fell apart in the second half. They lost this game when Michigan put 9 in the box, stifled the Badgers running game and dared Wisconsin to pass on them. And they lost this game when they inexplicably failed to execute a basic formation on a 2-point conversion play that would've sent the game to overtime.
It was like watching a train wreck in slow motion. There was nothing I could do to stop it. And the outcome seemed inevitable after a point. But I couldn't stop watching. It wasn't a matter of determining whether they'd win or lose that game. It was a matter of determining which cluster-jumbled way they'd find to lose it. Ugh.
Now it's time to put that one behind them, and move on. There's no time to wallow because a sterner test awaits. This week Ohio State comes to Camp Randall Stadium to face the Badgers. And it's a night game. I can't tell you exactly why, but things are definitely different under the lights in Madison. Perhaps it's because the fans have had all day to properly... ahem... prepare for the game. Whatever it is, the energy of the stadium alone should help make this a close game.
After last weeks loss, I'd be foolish to predict a win for Bucky. So I'll just say this is a winnable game. I firmly believe that Ohio State is not as good as they've been in the past couple of years. And when you get a team in that state at home, you have to give them your best shot. If the Badgers can't get motivated after last week's abysmal performance, then this season may be over for them already.
That's all for this week folks. I appreciate you taking the time to read all 5 posts. I know that's a lot to make time for, but there was a TON going on this week. Back to regular programming next week. Tune in on Monday for the Post-Mortem on my Week 6 picks. Until then, enjoy your weekend and thanks for reading!