Sure, it’s cheating a little bit to be giving predictions more than a week into the season, but who doesn’t cheat in baseball these days? So in honor of Frankie Rodriguez, here are your big-league award winners for 2007:
NATIONAL LEAGUE MVP: MIGUEL CABRERA, FLORIDA MARLINS: Even if the Fish stink like salmon left in the sun, Cabrera’s going to run away with it unless Albert Pujols puts up a strong season and gets a bunch of sympathy nods from voters who feel guilty about having hosed him a few times. Cabrera is still only 23 years old, but he’s already one of the most complete hitters in the game and there’s enough young talent around him to prevent opponents from walking him at a Bonds-in-his-prime pace.
NL CY YOUNG: TIM HUDSON, ATLANTA BRAVES: Completely healthy last year for the first time in several seasons, Hudson was so excited to be able to let loose that he overthrew, frequently eliminating his natural sink and getting hammered high in the strike zone. Still healthy this year, he’s vowed to back off on the heater a bit, and he’s back to looking like the dominant little fella he was in Oakland. This is the year that one of A’s general manager Billy Beane’s few bad moves — Hudson for who? Huh? and What? in December 2004 — looks REALLY bad.
NL ROOKIE OF THE YEAR: CHRIS YOUNG, ARIZONA DIAMONDBACKS: Perhaps the most complete player among the many talented Baby Backs, Young is a five-tool phenom who need only stay healthy to edge out Colorado’s Chris Iannetta and Troy Tulowitzki. Bonus point for having a name you can pronounce on the first try.
NL MANAGER OF THE YEAR: WILLIE RANDOLPH, NEW YORK METS: The pitching staff will overachieve, and Randolph will get the credit that pitching coach Rick Peterson deserves.
NL COMEBACK PLAYER OF THE YEAR: HUDSON: See NL Cy Young.
AMERICAN LEAGUE MVP: ALEX RODRIGUEZ, NEW YORK YANKEES: He probably won’t maintain the 300-homer, 700-RBI pace he’s on, but confidence is everything for A-Rod. If he’d have gotten off to a slow start, he’d have been in an asylum by June. But in keeping the Bronx boo-birds at bay for a full week for the first time as a Yankee, he’s already got enough confidence to carry himinto October. Beyond that, all bets are off.
AL CY YOUNG: JOHAN SANTANA, MINNESOTA TWINS: He simply doesn’t lose at home because he doesn’t give up any runs there, and the Twins have enough offense to counter the handful of runs he gives up on the road. The A’s Rich Harden and Seattle’s Felix Hernandez could give Santana a good race, but Harden’s health history and King Felix’s youth have to give you pause.
AL ROOKIE OF THE YEAR: DAISUKE MATSUZAKA, BOSTON RED SOX: Alex Gordon finally gives Kansas City Royals fans a reason to pay attention, but Dice-K is worthy of everybody’s attention. Yes, Matsuzaka isn’t a rookie in the traditional sense because he’s a veteran of Japan’s big leagues, but neither was Ichiro Suzuki, and he won the ROY and MVP in the same year. Japan is where American backups go to extend their careers. The best baseball in the world is played here, and Boston’s expensive import will prove he belongs.
AL MANAGER OF THE YEAR: BOB GEREN, A’S: Against all odds, the A’s will again go on a ridiculous second-half run. And while everyone knows who really runs the show in Oakland, Billy Beane won’t be on the ballot, so the voters will have no choice but to reward Geren for, among other things, not being one-hundredth as paranoid or resentful as was Ken Macha.
AL COMEBACK PLAYER OF THE YEAR: HARDEN: If he’s healthy, he wins 20. If he’s not, he’ll win this award in 2008. Or 2009. Or ... you get the idea.
Mychael Urban is the author of "Aces: The Last Season On The Mound With The Oakland A’s Big Three — Tim Hudson, Mark Mulder and Barry Zito" and a writer for MLB.com. He also hosts the weekend edition of "Sportsphone 680" on KNBR (680 AM).