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The Best and Worst of Baseball

By Yong-yi Zhu

COLUMNIST

Now that the baseball regular season is over, we need to give out some hardware for all those players and baseball-affiliated people who deserve them. But instead of deciding the Cy Young’s and the MVP’s, let’s look at a couple of more interesting awards, some of which you may not have heard of before.

The first is the A-Rod Award. It is given to an MVP on a team that never had a chance to make the playoffs.

The clear choice in the American League is Ichiro Suzuki. What has this guy not done since he has joined Major League Baseball? This season, even though the Mariners lost more games than the Red Sox won, Ichiro did not give up on his team. He set the single season record for hits by breaking an 84 year old record belonging to George Sisler. He also won the batting title for the American League. That means he got on base a lot, which is exactly what Seattle needed him to do. However, the fruits of his labor were not converted to wins.

The winner in the National League is less obvious. But after sorting through all the teams that couldn’t, one person really could have made a difference had he not played for the Arizona Diamondbacks.

Randy Johnson was superb. The rest of the guys on his squad were not. He has a perfect game to add to his resume of amazing accomplishments. (It was against a division winner, nonetheless.) He was second in the league in ERA behind Jake Peavy, and also won 16 games despite being 79th in run support.

The next award is the Martinez-Zimmer Award for bad decision making among players.

Many players applied for this award, such as Sammy “I can hop if I want to” Sosa, Pedro “the Yankees are my daddy” Martinez, and even Frank “hurler of chairs” Francisco.

But the winner is Milton Bradley, who decided to throw a temper tantrum at Dodger Stadium while Los Angeles was in the midst of a pennant race. It’s not as though he is a dispensable player; he is one of the Dodger’s big bats.

Bradley got mad at one of the fans who threw a bottle at him and then proceeded to throw the bottle back into the stands. He also took off his jersey on his way to the clubhouse while calling out his own fans. It’s one thing to insult the opposing crowd, it’s a whole different thing to insult your own guys. It’s good he didn’t cost the Dodgers the postseason.

The Bud Selig Award for excellence in stupid management judgments goes out to two very deserving applicants.

On the American League side, Bud Selig gets his own award for his decision to start the regular season in Japan. Are the American fans so insignificant that you would take the Yankees and the Devil Rays halfway around the world in order to play the first game of the regular season?

Our leagues are called the American and National Leagues. Nowhere does it say international or Japanese. Let’s keep our ball games where they belong.

Winning this honor for the National League is Jim Duquette, general manager of the New York Mets who traded Scott Kazmir for Victor Zambrano.

What kind of idiot trades away his top pitching prospect for Victor Zambrano? Were the Mets ever in the playoff hunt, realistically? And is Zambrano even worth a trade of half that value? There were definitely better pitchers available on the market. But that’s exactly how the Mets have been shooting themselves in the foot in the recent years. No wonder they brought in Omar Minaya to oversee Duquette and make sure he doesn’t screw up.

Finally, the Cecil B. DeMille Award for outstanding contributions to the world of baseball goes to Edgar Martinez.

Harmlessly listed at 5'11", 205 pounds, Martinez seems innocuous enough. Yet, he has been one of the best designated hitters to ever have played the game.

Should he be in the Hall of Fame? Of course. Just look at his numbers. He has a lifetime batting average of .312, way better than Harold Baines. His On Base Percentage is .418, making him 8th among all time leaders in the AL. He also has a .515 lifetime slugging percentage, putting him ahead of Ty Cobb. Edgar has just been incredible and it was sad to see him leave at the end of such a terrible Mariner season.

Overall, 2004 produced many great memories. Now the post season must live up to its expectations. On that note, here are my predictions for the postseason series.

LA Dodgers vs. St. Louis Cardinals

Some say that the Cardinals are overrated. But how can you possibly say that when they had the best record in the National League by 9 games? How can you say that when Albert Pujols, Scott Rolen and Jim Edmonds, aka the three headed monster, are near the top in pretty much all offensive statistics? (And nobody has even mentioned Larry Walker and Edgar Renteria yet.)

So their pitching might be more suspect than the other teams in the playoffs. But Woody Williams, who anchors their staff, has been there before. He, along with Matt Morris, will bring experience to Jason Marquis and the rest of the pitchers to help them get through the playoffs. Besides, having a bona fide closer in Jason Isringhausen really helps.

The Dodgers staff has no way of keeping up with all the Cardinals’ offensive weapons. Although they bring in their own assortment of hitting machines in Adrian Beltre, Shawn Green, Milton Bradley and Steve Finley, these guys cannot keep up with the three headed monster. The Cards will easily pull this one out in three.

Houston Astros vs. Atlanta Braves

This is the more intriguing battle in the National League. Both teams were left for dead midway through the season, and while the Braves battled back soon after the All Star break, it took the Astros a lot longer to wake up and smell the Wild Card.

Astros bring a better tandem of pitchers in than the Braves with Roger Clemens and Roy Oswalt. However, their production after that will drop significantly because Andy Pettitte and Wade Miller are both out due to injury.

Atlanta, on the other hand, brings better pitching overall. But they have some problems of their own in that Russ Ortiz has been inconsistent and Jaret Wright, John Thompson and Mike Hampton each have recently been injured.

So the games will come down to batting. With the killer B’s, Bagwell, Berkman, Biggio and Beltran, the Astros will bring a better lineup to the plate. With a group of young players, the Braves have the energy, but not the experience the Astros do. And as much as I love Charles Thomas, he simply will not be the same in the playoffs.

This one will be close, but I’m going to have to go against history and say that the Astros will pull it out in five.

Minnesota Twins vs. NY Yankees

Johan Santana is the key to this series. If he does well, the Twins will win the World Series. If he does not repeat his regular season performance, the Twins are just as good as dead.

The Yankees bring pitchers Mike Mussina and Jon Leiber. But after that, the pitcher shuffle begins. Orlando Hernandez is injured. Kevin Brown is stupid. Estabon Loiaza is inconsistent. Just about anything you can find wrong with pitchers, you will find with this group.

True, their bats are loud. Their lead swinger is clearly Gary Sheffield (who has now admitted to using steroids). Jeter, A-Rod, Posada, and Matsui all bring their offensive prowess as well. However, Brad Radke and Carlos Silva will keep them in check enough for Minnesota batters Shannan Stewart, Jacques Jones and Torii Hunter to do their jobs at the plate.

Look for the non-Santana games to be high scoring. The Yankees will once again lose to the World Series Champions. Twins pull this out in five.

Red Sox vs. Anaheim Angels

This series will not be as close as everyone thinks.

The Angels are coming into the playoffs hotter than any other team. The Red Sox are also rolling after having caught up to within 3 games of the Yankees by the end of the season.

The three Angel batters in the middle of the lineup are the biggest concerns for the Sox pitchers. Vladimir Guerrero will hit any pitch within a one mile radius of his bat. Garret Anderson and Troy Glaus can also add some firepower.

But the Red Sox have weapons of their own. Pitcher Curt Schilling will win both of his starts. Sox fans need to pray that Pedro Martinez does not think too much or else his talent will seem juvenile to those Angel hitters.

With the battle mainly staged between the Sox pitchers and the Angel batters, the difference will be the offensive power of the Red Sox.

Manny Ramirez will need to carry his team offensively, but the experience of the veterans from previous years will take a lot of the pressure off of him to be a vocal leader.

The Sox simply have more weapons at the plate and will win in four.