The envelopes, please:
MOST VALUABLE PLAYER
First, a caveat. Barry Bonds again showed himself to be the most valuable by the dive San Francisco took without him, but let’s throw him out.
Florida’s Miguel Cabrera is already a hitting star at 22, and he had more to do with keeping the Marlins in the NL East race than high-profile free-agent acquisition Carlos Delgado.
Morgan Ensberg had a breakout year in Houston, Cliff Floyd kept the Mets afloat and Derrick Lee made a run at the Triple Crown for the also-ran Cubs, but the race is between Albert Pujols and Andruw Jones.
Jones will lead the league in homers, RBIs, and ratios in both categories.
Pujols will lead in runs and have a batting average 60 points higher.
No NL MVP has batted under .300 since Kevin Mitchell (.291) in 1989, but Mitchell led the league with 47 homers and 125 RBIs.
Jones’ power numbers are even higher — 51, 128 — and he plays great defense, too. He’s the pick here.
Boston’s David Oritz, by a clutch hit over Alex Rodriguez.
"When it comes down to those two guys, game on the line, ninth inning, it’s a matter of who you would want to face the least, and I think the answer to that is Ortiz,’’ Toronto manager John Gibbons said.
CY YOUNG AWARD
Roger Clemens has the best ERA in the league but despite his gaudy numbers and may be only the third most important starter on his own team, behind workaholic Roy Oswalt and resurgent Andy Pettitte, the likely NL pitcher of the month after going 4-0 in September.
Among closers, Chad Cordero threatened to become the ninth pitcher in major league history to reach 50 saves and Trevor Hoffman had his eighth 40-save season.
But like the MVP, this is a two-man race between Chris Carpenter and Dontrelle Willis, although neither has been at his best down the stretch.
Both have seven complete games; Willis has five shutouts, one more than Carpenter, who has a more distinct edge in strikeouts.
Willis has one more victory and an ERA that is 0.24 better. In a race this tight, it is enough to give Willis the edge.
The Angels’ Bartolo Colon.
ROOKIE OF THE YEAR
Colorado shortstop Clint Barmes was the early leader until his broken collarbone kept him out for four months, and Rockies teammate Garrett Atkins will finish with the best production numbers while playing a whole season.
J.J. Hardy and Rickie Weeks, who got their feet wet this season, will be Milwaukee’s double-play combination for a decade. Willy Taveras ran and defended well as Houston’s center fielder from Day 1.
Jeff Francouer was the best of Atlanta’s 16 rookies, a twoway right fielder who had 14 home runs and 11 assists.
For his contributions replacing Jim Thome down the stretch, Ryan Howard moved to the head of the strong class.
Howard had 21 home runs and 58 RBIs in 303 at-bats entering the final two games of the season. He has 10 homers in September, tying Thome’s team record for the month, and 11 have either tied a score or given Philadelphia a lead.
This one goes to Howard.
Oakland’s Huston Street, from the College World Series to the Arizona Fall League to closing for the A’s in 12 months.
MANAGER OF THE YEAR
St. Louis’ Tony La Russa has the best team — Pujols and Carpenter are candidates for the major awards, each of his five starting pitchers will win at least 13-plus games, his defense has turned 194 double plays and the role players like David Eckstein have had stellar years.
Houston’s Phil Garner turned the Astros around after a very slow start, and Ned Yost will guide Milwaukee to its first non-losing season in 13 years.
Those are all fine jobs, but one stands out. The Braves’ Bobby Cox won his 14th straight NL East title. Fourteen straight. No. 14 came with 16 rookies suiting up.
Cox, by acclamation.
The White Sox’s Ozzie Guillen, with Cleveland’s Eric Wedge a close second.
THROW OUT THE RECORDS
While San Diego may yet have the worst record of any division winner since division play began in 1969, that does not mean its postseason stay will be short.
The 1973 New York Mets, whose 82-79 record is the worst by a playoff team, beat favored Cincinnati in five games in the NLCS, a series that included the fight at second base between Pete Rose and Bud Harrelson, and led Oakland, three games to two, before losing the final two games of the World Series to Catfish Hunter and Ken Holtzman.
Minnesota, who won the AL West at 85-77 in 1987, won the World Series. The Twins surprised Detroit (98-64) in the ALCS in five games before beating St. Louis in seven games, turning a 5-2 deficit into an 11-5 victory on homers by Don Baylor and Kent Hrbek.
Colorado’s Coors Field yielded its fewest numbers of runs and home runs this season, not only by the Rockies but also by opponents.
Games averaged 11.1 runs and 2.1 home runs, lowest figures in the history of the park 5,280 feet above sea level. The figures have dropped in the four seasons the Rockies have used a humidor to keep the balls from hardening and shrinking in the dry air.
The Rockies had 86 homers, 11 fewer than their previous low in 2002. While their numbers could have been expected to shrink with Todd Helton the only bopper left, opponents also struggled, hitting only 84 homers. The previous low was 101 in 1998.
"Who knows what the real reason is, whether it’s the humidor, the weather, better pitching or hitters who just aren’t as good,’’ Rockies second baseman Aaron Miles said.
• "It was very disappointing, obviously, and in many senses a calamity. For bordering on the bizarre, this one takes the cake.’’ — Baltimore owner Peter Angelos, on the Orioles’ season.
• "I always thought they were the best team.’’ — San Francisco manager Felipe Alou, after San Diego beat the Giants on Wednesday to win the NL West.
• "This is for all the ones that said there’s no way this can continue, to the ones that are waiting for the next debacle.’’ — Braves pitcher John Smoltz, who helped Atlanta wins its 14th straight NL East title.
• Los Angeles Dodgers manager Jim Tracy has an escape clause that allows him to opt out of the final year of contract during an offseason window that begins when the regular season ends, but he is not expected to use it and has asked general manager Paul DePodesta for a contract extension.
• New York Yankees bench coach Joe Girardi has been mentioned as a candidate for the managerial opening in Pittsburgh and possible openings in Tampa Bay and Florida, but Yankees general manager Brian Cashman said no team has asked for permission to speak to him.
• The Yankees drew 4,090,696 this season, an AL record and only the third major league team to reach at least 4 million in attendance. Toronto and expansion Colorado sold 4 million tickets in 1993.
• Jose Contreras: White Sox hurler is 8-0 in in his last eight starts.
• Jimmy Rollins: Philadelphia Phillies shortstop had a 35-game hitting streak.
• Shawn Chacon: Yankees pitcher has given up one earned run in his last 22 2/3 innings.
• Pedro Feliz: San Francisco Giants third baseman had seven hits in his last 48 at-bats through Friday.
• A.J. Burnett: Florida pitcher was sent home a week early after criticizing manager Jack McKeon last weekend.