A few weeks ago, I took a look at the NL MVP race, which has widened considerably since I predicted that Barry Bonds would take home the hardware, and now the only MVP race to be decided is in the AL.
First off, Alex Rodriguez will not win the MVP award, even though he is having the best season of any of the candidates. In the past it was possible for a player to win the MVP Award, even if his team was in the middle of a horrible season, but that is no longer the case. Since a premium has been put on team success, A-Rod will not win this year. His 51 home runs have already set a single-season record for shortstops, and he has been everything advertised at the plate and in the field. Sure, it is hard to justify his $25.2 million dollar salary, but if any player in the game is worth that money, he is.
Moving on to players that actually have a chance of taking home the trophy, the Seattle Mariners have two top candidates. The first is second baseman Bret Boone. Boone has had a career year in all aspects. While Boone has slowed down as of late, he still has managed to clock 35 home runs, drive in 136 runs and score 114 runs, all while playing Gold Glove caliber defense. He is a great candidate, but it is likely that Ichiro Suzuki is a better one. Ichiro has been the sparkplug at the top of the Mariners lineup. He leads the AL with a .348 batting average, has churned out 235 hits and has stolen 53 bases. In the field he is the best rightfielder in the game, and he has made the transition from Japan to the major leagues look too easy.
On the Cleveland Indians, there will be three players fighting for MVP votes. Jim Thome started the season in a horrendous slump, batting under .200 for the first month of the season, but since then he has been on fire. At times this year he has completely dominated games, hitting 49 home runs and raising his average all the way up to .297. Juan Gonzalez has returned to his old form after a disastrous year in Detroit. Gonzalez has stayed healthy all season, staying near the top of all three triple crown categories for the duration of the season. Roberto Alomar is the third candidate from the Indians. Alomar has sparkled on defense-as usual-and he is no slouch at the plate, either. Alomar may be the greatest all-around second baseman to ever play the game, and he has done nothing to tarnish that reputation this season.
The final player to have a legitimate shot at the AL MVP award is last year’s winner, Jason Giambi of the Oakland A’s. Giambi has again been the best player on one of the best teams in the league, and his combination of leadership and performance have led the A’s back from a disastrous first 25 games to the second best record in the major leagues. Giambi has belted 35 homers, scored 103 runs and knocked in 113 more, all while maintaining his plate discipline and drawing 124 walks on the season.
In the end, I think that Giambi will take home the trophy for the second straight year. His A’s have been one of the top two teams in baseball for the last 125 games of the season and are cruising into the playoffs for the second straight year. He has strapped the team onto his back for the second straight year, and he should win the MVP award over the many other deserving contenders. Ichiro will likely gather a large amount of support, but I don’t believe that he will join Fred Lynn, currently the only player to win the MVP and Rookie of the Year Awards in the same year.
Too much, too early
I just can’t get myself pumped up for the hockey season right now. Sure, I joined a fantasy league this past week-since that is seemingly all I do with my time-but right now I am not ready to watch any hockey on television, or in person for that matter.
It is just too early for the hockey season to start. With the season extending into June for the end of the Stanley Cup finals-a ridiculously late date for a winter sport-we have only had a little over three months since the last puck was dropped in the NHL. That is just too soon for the season to start again. All of the other sports leagues have considerably longer offseasons, and that is part of the beauty of them. We need time to savor the accomplishments of last season before we start in on a new one.
Also, the weather just doesn’t seem right for hockey to be starting. Watching hockey on TV is supposed to make you want to go out and play hockey. For the standard viewer who is not in a league of some sort, that means going and out and playing pond hockey. Right now, that is an impossibility. In fact, I don’t want that to be a possibility for a while. It is still the middle of football season, a time that we closely associate with falling leaves and moderate weather conditions, not the freezing bleakness of the winter months. Let us enjoy this season for the time being, and when late October or early November rolls around, let hockey come with it.
I have grown to love the game of hockey recently. It is one of the only sports that I didn’t play as I was growing up, except a few feeble attempts at playing pond hockey, so I never truly had an appreciation or interest in the game. Recently, I have acquired this, and I enjoy watching the game, but I just am not interested in watching it right now. I need more time to remember Ray Bourque raising the Cup over his head at the end of the finals, and I suspect that many fans feel the same way.
Tarnish on the Golden Dome
When was the last time Notre Dame started their football season 0-3? Well, since the illustrious program started in 1887, it has never happened. Never, at least, until this year.
Images of Notre Dame football are those of greatness. The speeches of Knute Rockne, the last minute heroics of Joe Montana, and the Heisman trophies of Tim Brown and Rocket Ismail, among others, come to mind, but those images have been replaced by that of a struggling program.
Head coach Bob Davie has had trouble in the last few years in South Bend. His teams no longer attract the talent that they once did, and he has routinely scheduled games that have hurt the Irish chances of success every year. Really, who expected the Irish to beat Nebraska in their first game of the season, especially when the Huskers had already played two games.
Since that opening game defeat, the Irish have proceeded to lose two more games, and their schedule does not ease up at all. They still have games against Pittsburgh, Boston College, USC, Stanford and Tennessee, all of which will test the team. The Irish could very easily end the season with a losing record, an indignity that does not fall upon the team very often.
Notre Dame is still a respectable program, but they just aren’t the same as they were even 10 years ago. There has been a shift in power over the last decade, with the Florida schools rising in prominence at the expense of established powers like Penn State and Notre Dame. This trend doesn’t look like it will end in the near future, and the Irish can expect more sub-par seasons down the road.