The Monk was listening to the ESPN Gamenight with John Seibel and Fred Coleman whilst driving home Thursday night and they were discussing their first-half awards for the baseball season. Listening to them The Monk wondered what the f--k they had been watching all year for the simple reason that they never mentioned Jon Papelbon.
Jonathan Papelbon is the Redsux closer who has singlehandedly transformed the AL East race this year. Without him, the RedSux aren't in first place, even with the Yankees' injuries. Without him, the whole back-end of the RedSux gameplan is in shambles. And he wasn't even mentioned by these two so-called sports experts.
Why? Prejudice against closers among the conventional sports press, period. That bias is the sole reason that Bartolo Colon, who wasn't fit to tie Mariano Rivera's shoelaces last year, won the Cy Young Award and Rivera got the snub. That bias is why those two dingdongs on ESPN Radio chirped about Justin Verlander and Francisco Liriano but never mentioned Papelbon. And that bias is why sports media conventional wisdom is usually about as incisive as the average third-grader.
The Monk's a huge Yankees fan and he knows that without Papelbon, the RedSawx are not leading the AL East entering the All-Star break. Simple as that. The NY Post's Joel Sherman recognizes that, and his first-half awards and raspberries are worth a read. Herewith, however, The Monk offers his own half-year awards:
AL MVP: This is relatively easy, even without playing in the field. Fat Papi has been the leader of the RedSawx, he's tops in the AL in HR, RBI and has an OPS over 1.000. Jim Thome has been very good, as has Jason Giambi and Fat Manny (Travis Hafner gets no mention b/c his team is in the tank), but Ortiz has 86 RBI, 31 HR (compared to 25 HR, 76 RBI for Kirk Gibson for the whole 1988 season when he won the MVP with the Dodgers) and is doing that without Johnny Damon reaching the bases ahead of him this year. So, I'd give him the nod, with Papelbon second, Thome third (without him, the Chisox still don't suck), Giambi fourth, Vernon Wells fifth (the Jays are right there behind the Yanks and he's having a fine year). Sherman can gripe all he wants, but there's no way to keep Ortiz off the top five and consider yourself an honest evaluator of MVP.
AL Cy Young: Papelbon is unhittable (44 IP, 22 H, 0.41 ERA), Liriano is basically excellent (10-1, 1.83, 102 K in 88 IP), Johan Santana is again having a great year. Papelbon gets the nod because of what he's meant to his team. Santana may be the frontrunner to win this at the end of the year. Liriano, Roy Halladay and Justin Verlander round out a top five. Imagine the Twins next year with a full season 1-2 of Santana and Liriano!
AL Reliever: Papelbon, with BJ Ryan right behind. Rivera takes third.
AL Rookie of the Year: Again, Papelbon. This race will be close between him and Liriano if they both keep up their good work. That said, a 7-inning pitcher puts strain on the bullpen (that's Liriano because the Twins are rightly babying his arm), Papelbon gets the highest-pressure inning each game. Verlander will be third.
AL Manager: Jim Leyland, as if there's any question. The Tigers have the best record in baseball but are not nearly that good (the Yanks failed to sweep a four-game series in Detroit only because they blew a lead in game four), so this is easy. Francona (RedSux), Torre and Guillen will get consideration and would deserve it.
NL MVP: Albert Pujols. He missed three weeks and is first in the NL in HR, second in RBI, ninth in runs and the Cards were sunk without him. Others in the running: Lance Berkman, David Wright, Carlos Beltran and Miguel Cabrera.
NL Cy Young: Brandon Webb, the sinkerballer supreme for the DBacks. He's finally learned control and has been the best pitcher in the league all year. Second goes to Brad Penny, whose 10-2 record with an ERA sub-3.00 has helped keep the Dodgers in the mix in the NL West. Others: Bronson Arroyo (9-5, 2.79 ERA in a hitters' park -- this proves the NL sucks; Arroyo could barely crack the RedSux rotation), Chris Young (a midlevel pitcher in Texas, he's the Padres' ace at 8-4, 3.12) and Milwaukee's Chris Capuano. Sherman should not have picked Arroyo here because Webb has been consistently better (and also pitches in a hitters' park), but he's right to note that an AL stiff is the anchor for an NL wild card contender.
NL Reliever: Trevor Hoffman. He has 24 saves and a 1.03 ERA. Flash Gordon and Billy Wagner come next. Isringhausen has more saves, more headaches than any of the others.
NL Rookie: Dan Uggla, Ryan Zimmerman and Prince Fielder top this list. I'd personally like to see Fielder win because of the hardship his dad Cecil put Prince and his mom through. Uggla is one of the wunderkind that has helped the Marlins not suck (38-47 after 11-31 start, one of only two NL Least teams to win against the RedSux). Sherman notes that Uggla is a Rule 5 pick (obscure unprotected minor leaguer selected by the Fish); so was Johan Santana.
NL Manager: Joe Girardi, Marlins. A tough, smart team that is extremely young, underbudgeted and ready to play each day. Willie Randolph (Mess), Jerry Narron (Reds) and Clint Hurdle (the surprising Rockies) get consideration too.