The MLB’s Midsummer Classic will be played on Tuesday, July 15th at Minnesota’s Target Field. The MLB’s 85th annual All-Star Game marks the unofficial halfway point in the long and grueling MLB season. TSL offers our midseason round up and mash-up with an array of awards to deserving players and coaches. We also offer our observations of the MLB season to date as well as some predictions for a wild and wacky second half.
MIX MASTERS MANAGER OF THE YEAR AWARD
Time has come for O’s Manager Buck Showalter “AKA” Baltimore’s mad genius to finally get his due. Showalter has made sunshine out of shit for so long that it would be foolish to bet against him now when he finally fields a team of starters as talented and offensively savvy as any team in the division. The O’s have survived with an average pitching staff. They definitely need one stud in the rotation and with David Price available and 25-year-old Chris Sale (8-1 with a 2.16 ERA) reportedly on the market, Showalter is one major move away from having the pieces to prove he is the best baseball mind in the game today.
There are many worthy candidates for MLB Manager of the Year. Just having the best players doesn’t win you the award. Ask Don Mattingly. The way each skipper mixes and matches, strategizes and utilizes his player’s abilities in each situation defines the greatness of a coach. Does he do more with less? Does he inspire greatness in his best boppers? People are all geeked-out over what Bob Melvin is doing in Oakland. Ron Roenicke has had the Brewers on an upward climb since taking over in 2011. But as is the case most seasons in a tough AL East, nobody really expected Baltimore to be two games ahead of Toronto for first-place and looking down at a re-loaded Yankees squad, a usually frisky Tampa gang and a defending WS-champion Red Sox squad.
MONSTER MASHERS AWARD (AL)
Jose Abreu, Chicago WhiteSox: People raved about Mike Trout’s rookie year in 2012, but the way Abreu has come into the game crushing like a 10-year vet is just as impressive. The 27-year old Cuban ball-buster is leading baseball with 27 dingers and has 69 RBI as well. He’s one of the few bright spots on a White Sox squad that is gasping for breath at 42-47 and two-stepping with Minnesota for rights to the NL Central cellar. He’s looking to become the first rookie to lead MLB in homers since Big Mac McGwire did it with Oakland banging 49 in 1987. Abreu is most def a “Bash Brother.”
MONSTER MASHERS AWARD (NL)
Giancarlo Stanton, Miami Marlins: Miami was baseball’s laughing stock last season. Stanton was limited to 116 games and never got to finish out strong. This season, the Marlins have gone from worst to third (43-45) and there’s a flicker of hope for the future. Miami has some great young prospects and let’s not forget their best player Jose Fernandez is hurt. In a lineup that scares no one Stanton’s been able to lead the NL in homers (21) and RBI (62). Awesome stuff.
MR ELECTRICITY AWARD
It’s a tie between Dee Gordon, who leads MLB with 42 steals and Billy “The Slid” Hamilton, who is third with 35 steals as a rookie. Hamilton is expected to almost triple that number in future seasons. His .270 batting average is impressive for a new jack and well beyond what scouts projected. After an eye-opening spring, he started the season struggling, but since the beginning of June he has played incredibly, with a slugging percentage around .500 for the month. Gordon, who was snubbed from the NL All-Star team, has also shocked some with the bat, hitting .302. These guys are the two most exciting players in the sport. Few players can turn a single into a triple and a walk into a run like these barn burners. Together they are bringing the stolen base back and creating a pitch-by-pitch intensity that hasn’t been seen since Rickey Henderson rocked the Jheri curl fro, skyscraper-sized ego and set the standard for elite base swiping.
ALOE BLACC (The Man MVP Award)
Nelson Cruz (B-More O's): Contrary to popular belief Mike Trout should have to wait another season to grab that elusive MVP trophy, but after getting edged out by Miguel Cabrera the past two seasons, baseball voters feel they owe this kid. I beg to differ. Trout has been sensation as usual and his increased power (20 dingers) has really propelled him into elite status, but the O's acquiring Cruz for shorts has been the shrewdest move by any team this offseason (other than maybe the Yanks acquiring Masahiro Tanaka, but they paid $175 mill for him) and with the litany of injuries they’ve had to key players, without Cruz’s league-leading 27 homers and 71 RBI, they wouldn’t be in first place in the AL East and looking to improve their team via blockbuster trade.
Cruz has added another elite bat to a lineup that can already score a few runs. No player has been as vital to the success of a first-place team as Cruz. I know Trout is a face of MLB and the all-American ball player, but the star-studded Angels are still 3.5 games behind Oakland in the AL West and haven’t seen much success despite Trout’s historic seasons.
Golden-Arm General Award (Best Pitcher)
While many of the voters believe that Japanese imports should not qualify for the ROY award, Tanaka's off-the-chain start puts him at the head of the class. Tanaka leads the American League in wins with 12 and he’s up there in ERA (2.27) and K’s (130) and he has the second best WHIP at 0.97.
King Felix is gaining ground on Tanaka, but the fan fare and pressure he came into the game with combined with his performing “above” expectations – if that’s at all possible – gives the Japanese sensation the edge in my book. King Felix is always in the mix, but the Fernando Valenzuela-like Mania that follows Masahiro makes him my Golden-Arm General. Clayton Kershaw’s 15K no-hitter is probably the pitching performance of the season and his teammate Zack Greinke stays putting up prolific stats, but without Tanaka carrying the Yankees depleted pitching staff, Joe Girardi’s team wouldn’t still be in wild card contention.