Texas, Cards may be busy at awards season
Both have worthy MVP, Cy, Rookie, top manager candidates
And now, for the real Triple Crown -- the coronation in this regard being actual, not just symbolic.Or dare we jump all the way to projecting an unprecedented Glory Grand Slam -- Major League Baseball's top four individual league awards all being claimed by members of the same team? In the 54 years since the Cy Young Award in 1956 joined Most Valuable Player, Rookie of the Year and Manager of the Year in the trophy case, such a sweep has never happened. (The Baseball Writers Association of America began issuing awards to each league's manager in 1983, prior to which The Sporting News bestowed one Major League Manager of the Year honor.) Three out of four? Yes, in various combinations, we have had 15 of those -- in itself a pretty low rate of occurrence out of the 106 possibilities. The fact that no team was overwhelming enough to ever corral all four prizes -- not even the 114-win Yankees of 1998 or the 116-win Mariners of 2001 -- makes even more impressive the fact that we now are witnessing such a possibility in each league. Chances are, one could go back to mid-August of previous seasons and mount arguments for awards sweeps that we now know never came to pass. Voting members of the BBWAA tend to rationalize things: "If Player A was productive enough to be MVP, how tough could managing his team have been?" But none of that diminishes the credentials the Cardinals and Rangers both bring to the booth. So we go around the horn.
National League: Cardinals MVP: Albert Pujols already has three of these, and he isn't doing anything different than he did to earn the previous trophies. Like the NL Central dogfight, this is another match race with the Reds (Joey Votto), with Ryan Howard and Adrian Gonzalez also very much in the picture. Cy Young: With his consistency, Adam Wainwright has waited out both Tim Lincecum (many still think he should've gotten the award last season) and Ubaldo Jimenez, everyone's midseason choice before he started hitting some bumps. Roy Halladay, a popular preseason pick, now could be the biggest obstacle, but the field is crowded with Tim Hudson and the sensational yet still overshadowed Josh Johnson. Rookie: Jaime Garcia has pitched with such poise and panache that after having faced him, many opponents are surprised to learn that he indeed is a rookie. One big problem -- the arrival of the NL's Generation Excellent. The fierce competition includes Buster Posey, Jason Heyward, Starlin Castro, Ike Davis, Ian Desmond, Gaby Sanchez and latecomer Pedro Alvarez. Manager: Tony La Russa will have a tough time winning his fifth manager award, since, to do so, he'll have to keep it away from Bobby Cox, who seems destined to go out on top. And skippers of upstarts like the Padres (Bud Black) always resonate with voters. Nevertheless, La Russa is doing his typically impressive job of juggling and motivating. American League: Rangers MVP: Josh Hamilton is hitting a hundred points above the league average, and he's doing it with power and in the clutch. He might have sealed this honor early, when in the course of a 23-game hitting streak in June, the Rangers went 18-5 and climbed from a tie atop the AL West into a 4 1/2-game lead. The Tigers' fade isn't helping Miguel Cabrera, but his numbers remain compelling. Also prominent are Paul Konerko, Carl Crawford, Robinson Cano and his teammate, perennial candidate Alex Rodriguez, who, after all, is second in the league in RBIs. Cy Young: Here's your long shot, but any of three borderline candidates could step out in the final six weeks. Between his two 2010 stops, 10-game winner Cliff Lee still has a lower ERA than consensus favorite David Price, the Rangers' 18-6 record in C.J. Wilson's starts is pretty compelling and Tommy Hunter has the league's top winning percentage. Notorious fast-finisher CC Sabathia, Clay Buchholz and -- yes, Yankees fans -- Carl Pavano are all threats. Rookie: The rookie class in this league -- Austin Jackson, Brennan Boesch, John Jaso -- is just as impressive, but not on the mound, which will make Neftali Feliz stand out. He has 27 saves; the rest of the AL rookie pitchers have 20 combined. Manager: As if overcoming his own Spring Training admission of past drug use hasn't in itself been worthy of admiration, Ron Washington has kept the Rangers focused through an ownership morass that only recently cleared up. Bravo. Of course, one of these years, voters could wake up and recognize the job Ron Gardenhire keeps doing in Middle America. Having a bona fide Rookie of the Year candidate lowers the odds against the Rangers accomplishing the sweep, since that has historically been the award that keeps teams from touching them all. That makes sense: Champions, or at least very strong contenders, are the likeliest clubs to hatch award winners -- and the least likely to give inexperienced rookies enough playing time to earn national attention. Only three Rookies of the Year have been parts of the aforementioned 15 threesomes: Ichiro Suzuki (2001 Mariners), Walt Weiss (1988 A's) and Vince Coleman (1985 Cardinals). Conversely, that means the Rookie of the Year was the elusive prize the other 12 times. In Feliz, the Rangers would appear to have the missing link to close the circle.
Tom Singer is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.