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Bonds has earned sixth NL MVP

Joe Rutter

CHICAGO — If you watched Albert Pujols’ awe-dropping performance against the Pirates this season, you’d probably start engraving his name on the MVP trophy.

Pujols fattened up on Pirates pitching to the tune of a .443 average, 10 doubles, four homers and 16 RBI in 17 games. His slugging (.803) and on-base (.469) percentages also were off the charts.

That type of production helped produce whispers that Pujols might win the Triple Crown. He entered the weekend on track to win his first batting title and had a chance to win the home run crown, even though he won’t complete the RBI hat trick.

Still, as impressive as Pujols’ numbers are, they aren’t good enough to keep Barry Bonds’ from winning the award one more time. When voting is revealed in November by the Baseball Writers’ Association of America, expect Bonds to win the award for the third consecutive year and sixth time overall.

As he should.

The award doesn’t go to the most outstanding player or the best player, it goes to the most valuable one. Simply put, Bonds meant more to the San Francisco Giants than Pujols did to the Cardinals.

The lineup surrounding Pujols is deeper. And despite his worldly talents, Pujols couldn’t coax his team into anything but a third-place in the division.

Bonds draws walks the way Jennifer Lopez draws photographers. He also leads the majors in slugging percentage and on-base percentage. He is among the NL leaders in batting average, runs scored and homers.

But the most important stats are these: the Giants were 2-7 when Bonds was on the bereavement list and 18-20 when he wasn’t in the lineup. When he was in the lineup, the Giants were 79-40 heading into the weekend.

Now, that’s valuable.

Here’s one opinion on how the major awards will shake out in November:

NL MVP: 1. Bonds; 2. Pujols; 3. Gary Sheffield, Braves; 4. Jim Thome, Phillies; 5. Richard Hidalgo, Astros.

NL Cy Young: This might sound crazy, but Atlanta’s Russ Ortiz gets left off this ballot. Sure, Ortiz has won 21 games while nobody else went into the weekend with more than 17. But he’s the beneficiary of a lethal lineup. Give Kip Wells that kind of support, and he’d have won 18 games this year easily. Mark Prior and Jason Schmidt don’t have the lofty win totals but were dominating in their own right. Closers usually don’t merit Cy Young consideration, but Eric Gagne has been no ordinary closer, going 55 of 55 in save opportunites.

1. Gagne; 2. Prior; 3. Schmidt.

NL Rookie of the year: When all things are equal, go with the everyday player. That’s this theory on awards voting, and there’s nothing that separates any of the pitching candidates from Scott Podesednik. He leads all NL rookies in average, multi-hit games, runs scored, hits, total bases, triples, steals and walks. Give him the award. He’s earned it.

1. Podsednik; 2. Brandon Webb, Diamondbacks; 3. Dontrelle Willis, Marlins.

NL Manager of the year: What Jack McKeon has done with the Marlins has been nothing short of remarkable. For the Dusty Baker apologists out there, consider that McKeon didn’t get three ex-Pirates handed to him in mid-season. McKeon also kept the Marlins on track after All-Star third baseman Mike Lowell went down with an injury.

1. McKeon; 2. Baker; 3. Felipe Alou, Giants.

AL MVP: Cases have been made for Alex Rodriquez, Shannon Stewart, Nomar Garciaparra, Manny Ramirez, David Ortiz, Miguel Tejada and Eric Chavez among others. None of these candidates has distanced himself from the field, so let’s go against the grain and recognize an impact player from the AL’s best team.

1. Jason Giambi, Yankees; 2. Ortiz; 3. Rodriquez; 4. Stewart; 5. Chavez.

AL Cy Young: If it wasn’t the 15-game winning streak that clinched the award for Roy Halladay, it was his 10-inning masterpiece earlier in the month. Esteban Loaiza has 20 wins, while Pedro Martinez will win the ERA and strikeout titles. Still, Halladay’s the man.

1. Halladay; 2. Loaiza; 3. Martinez.

AL Rookie of the year: This race is clouded by the issues of whether a foreign player with previous professional experience should be eligible to win the award. The real issue should be whether Hideki Matsui has had the best year. He has, albeit barely.

1. Matsui; 2. Rocco Baldelli, Devil Rays; 3. Mark Teixeira, Rangers.

AL Manager of the year: Tony Pena did the most with the least, coaxing a Royals team that lost 100 games last year to a winning season and a near AL Central title.

1. Pena, Royals; 2. Ken Macha, Athletics; 3. Ron Gardenhire, Twins.


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