Quite a few teams have played game number 81, so what better time to unveil the Midseason Awards? We'll start in the NL.
MVP (Most Valuable Player): Osvaldo Johnson, Arizona
- It was a tough choice between Johnson and Lawrence Flanagan from Houston- I think the two of them are having far and away the best seasons of anyone in the NL. But Johnson's eye-catching power numbers helped seal the deal- he's in the top 5 in the NL in home runs (32), RBIs (81), slugging percentage(.676), and OPS(1.074). To be honest, if that's all he did, Flanagan probably would have won this, but Johnson is also hitting .311 with a .398 OBP and has stolen 22 bases, so he's an all-around offensive star. Flanagan gets points for playing a much tougher position (SS) and being able to play it well, if not spectacularly, and for being tied for the league lead in runs (79) while hitting .310-23-81.
Also receivng consideration: Flanagan (Houston), Rico Valdez (Montreal), Richard Little (Pawtucket/Cincinnati)
LVP (Least Valuable Player): Napoleon Montgomery, Atlanta
- I looked long and hard for this one, and normally I could find at least some reason not to give someone this award. Couldn't find a reason to omit Montgomery from the award, so he wins (loses?) by default. Expected to at least help anchor the Bandits lineup, he's played everyday and still only managed to amass a .229 batting average with a .329 OBP and a .385 slugging average. He's hit 9 home runs and driven in 33. Extra points for clearing waivers.
Also receivng considerations: Yank Lohse (Boise), Quentin Harper (Fargo)
Cy Young: Matty Eusebio, Houston
- This choice was almost impossible- so many pitchers are having very similarly great years. I'll take Eusebio by a nose over about 5 other guys. He's been 8-3 with a 2.41 ERA and a 0.91 WHIP since the trade from Vancouver. His SO-BB ratio is about 5-1 and, more importantly than the stats, he has set Houston apart from the rest of the division.
Also receiving consideration: Manny Christians, Bernard Robinson (Cincinnati), Harry Lee (Montreal), David Dunwoody (Salem), Tex Howell (Houston), Vic McCormick (Memphis/Houston)
Cy Yuck: Duke Neilsen, Los Angeles
- I didn't want to pick him. I really didn't. Going with a middle reliever on the team that's 1 game away from the worst record in the NL doesn't seem fair. But I had no choice. He's pitched as many innings in relief (70.1) as some starters at this point. He's given up 149 runs when no other NL pitcher has given up more than 100. His ERA is an unsightly 17.66 and he has an acute case of whiplash (31 HRs) and WHIPlash (a WHIP of 3.48). In spite of all this, I wanted to go with a starter , a guy who was counted on to contribute and has just done poorly(Atlanta's Larry Springer and Chicago's Eric Alexander would be the frontrunners), but then I saw the walks to strikeouts- he's walked 104 batters this year and struck out 2. Ladies and gentlemen, we have a winner.
Also receiving consideration: Vasco Castro, Alfonso Quixote (LA), Rob Rehfield, Alexander (Chicago), Springer (Atlanta)
Surprise Team: Trenton Traffic
-There are actually 3 big-time surprises in the NL. Houston separating themselves and playing dominant ball and Fargo, a team rebuliding and yet recently streaking to get above .500, would be 2 big-time surprises. But the biggest surprise of all is that if the playoffs started today, the road to the World Series would go through Trenton. The Traffic traded their best starter (R.J. Toca) and two best position players (Bernard Young and DeWayne Castillo) for prospects in the off-season, have just 2 All-Stars (rookie closer Justin Beverlin and 2B Artie Neugebauer) and yet manage to have the best record in the NL, just one game back of Monterrey (the current home of Toca and Castillo) for best in the majors.
Disappointing team: San Juan Dead Bunnies
- I thought the Dead Bunnies would not be left for dead this early in the season- I liked their lineup in particular. While their offense has been decent (middle of the pack in most NL offensive category), their pitchers boast a 6.01 team ERA and they are the worst fielding team in the NL (coincidently, the Traffic are the next worst). As a result, the Bunnies trail rebuilding Memphis by a game for 3rd place and are 17.5 back of Houston.