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Baseball ’03 Awards? Very Barry Interesting

By Phil Janowicz

SPORTS EDITOR

Sure, the players are off the field, but it doesn’t mean that no baseball action takes place during the long winter months. Players are already being traded, and no club is silent.

Here in Boston, the Sox have their hands full with arbitrations. Mike Timlin, the best guy in the bullpen last season, has already been re-signed for next year with a $2.5 million option for 2005. Todd Walker has said he would like to return to the Sox next year, but the decision might not be up to him. Although GM Theo Epstein has stated that he wouldn’t be against having Walker back next year, the Sox are now beginning to reach down into their pockets and fish for pennies. The Sox have a great team and look promising for next year, but they need to watch their pocketbooks because they do not seek a firesale next year.

Elsewhere, Seattle has reacquired outfielder Raul Ibanez from the Royals, leaving a gaping hole in the Royal outfield. The Blue Jays have signed RHP Pat Hentgen to a one-year deal because he provides much for very little cost. The Jays have also traded outfielder Bobby Kielty to the A’s for LHP Ted Lilly, filling much needed holes in their pitching staff. The Twins traded catcher A.J. Pierzynski to the Giants for RHP Joe Nathan and two minor league pitchers. The Astros re-signed catcher Brad Ausmus to a two-year deal. The Indians have re-signed outfield sensation Milton Bradley to a one-year extension, hoping that Bradley will anchor the tremendous outfield the Indians have with Coco Crisp in left and Jody Gerut in right. Unfortunately, the Tribe lost outfielder Chris Magruder to the Brewers and outrighted former closer and physics major Danys Baez to AAA Buffalo.

With all that moving around, some things in baseball are constant: the postseason awards. Although I agree with many of the choices made by the Baseball Writers Association of America (ahem, I’m still waiting for my ballot), two selections differed from my own, and one in particular peeved me. Let’s start at the very beginning (a very good place to start).

AL Rookie of the Year: “Touched By An” Angel Berroa of the Kansas City Royals. Berroa helped turn a dismal Royals franchise into a winning ballclub with a shot at the playoffs. With the help of the rest of the Royals, fans in Kansas City actually started coming to games instead of waiting around until the Chiefs season started. Berroa shows great promise at shortstop and some pop at the plate, allowing the Royals to stop their seemingly perennial search for a shortstop. Although I would have given the award to Cleveland’s right fielder Jody “Spans the” Gerut, Berroa definitely deserves the award for his stellar rookie season.

NL Rookie of the Year: Dontrelle “Whatchu Talkin’ ‘Bout” Willis of the World Champion Florida Marlins. Was there any doubt that Willis would win this award? We all pegged him with it in June when he went 5-0 with a 1.04 ERA. His high leg kick and charming personality helped the Marlins make it to the postseason again and continue their franchise postseason undefeated streak.

AL Manager of the Year: Tony “Toni, Tone” Pena of the Kansas City Royals. Amazing. Simply amazing. Pena always had a smile on his face the whole season long and was the only manager to run to the mound when changing pitchers. He always encouraged his team with his positive attitude which spread throughout Kansas City. You rival Mike Sweeney for the greatest person in baseball.

NL Manager of the Year: “Grandpa” Jack McKeon of the World Champion Florida Marlins. At the start of the 2003 season, McKeon was fishing with his grandkids in the Carolinas. In May, he received a call from the Marlins to be their new manager after they fired Jeff Torberg. McKeon agreed and proceeded to lead the Marlins to their second World Series victory. Like Pena, McKeon kept a positive attitude and just encouraged his players more because he knew they were the best team in baseball. It just took a special man to get them to realize it.

AL Cy Young: Roy Halladay “Inn” of the Toronto Blue Jays. Despite his massive red Rod-Beck-esque chops, Halladay was the perfect pitcher last season. He even pitched a ten-inning complete game shutout, allowing only three hits. Incredible.

NL Cy Young: Eric “Monsieur” Gagne of the Los Angeles Dodgers. Perfect. 55 for 55. He currently holds the longest active streak without blowing a save. With his great control, blistering fastball, and knee-buckling breaking ball, Gagne is the best pitcher I have ever seen. No hyperbole was necessary there.

AL MVP: Alex “A-Rod” Rodriguez of the Texas Rangers. Yes, he is the best player in the American League, but what should the MVP be for? I would include play on the field as well as play in the clubhouse. A-Rod definitely is the best hitting, defensive, and running shortstop in the league. Also, off the field, he’s a generally good guy, too, so I see nothing wrong with his getting this award. I would have given it to Red Sox David Ortiz because once he got hot, the Sox started winning, and winning a lot. But, A-Rod is the MVP of the AL.

NL MVP: Barry “Bail” Bonds of the San Francisco Giants. Barry, I hate you so much it hurts me sometimes. You are an ass who doesn’t deserve any accolades anyone, not even your own pompous self, could give you. Yes, you are a good hitter, but Albert Pujols is a much better person who in fact hits better than you do. Pujols should have won this award hands down. Bonds, go piss up a rope.