It’s the Mid-way point of the 2012 MLB season.  With the Mid-Summer Classic being held tonight in Kansas City’s beautiful Kauffman Stadium, the biggest stars of the game on showcase, it’s time to hand out the Mid-Way End of the Year Awards. I try not to be biased and use an open-minded approach to my choices.  I will, at least, give you my reason for choosing each.  Some will agree, some will disagree, but this is my decision at the half…
AL
MVP– Josh Hamilton
Is there anyone more important to their team, & maybe their league, than Hambone?  He’s one of the most likable people in all of baseball, he’s had a rough road back, has made it back, has tried to get rid of every vice that would hold him back (including dip recently) and puts up crazy numbers when he’s healthy.  I’m not giving him the award because he’s Mr. Congeniality.  I’m giving him the award because Texas doesn’t do what they do without him in the line-up.  They may have a stacked line-up, but he’s the fuse that starts the fireworks.  He’s the heart & soul of this team…and of this league.
Honorable Mention- Robinson Cano (having a terrific year and leading the 1st place Yankees, but can’t quite hand him the award because I don’t feel like he’s the league’s MVP, just his team’s.)
Cy Young Award– Jered Weaver
He had two great years, and this third straight year with a 10-1 record, 1.96 ERA, & 0.90 WHIP might be better so far than the previous.  How can you argue with numbers like that.  I don’t know if he can keep up this pace, but if he does he will have one of the greatest years a pitcher has ever had.  I can remember watching him pitch in the College World Series and thinking, “Jeff’s little brother is going to be good someday.”  I was wrong…he’s great.
Honorable Mention- Justin Verlander (having another stunning season, but not as dominant as last year.  He’s got great numbers, is still probably the guy you want to have the ball in a big game, but Weaver gets the nod right now.)
Rookie of the Year– Mike Trout
Is there any doubt or reason to explain myself?  C’mon…he’s freaking amazing and I could’ve put him in the MVP talks.  Has anyone that young had this great of a start to his career…especially in a year when the pitcher is dominating.  He’s it.  No need for Honorable Mention.
Manager of the Year– Buck Showalter
He is managing a team that, ever since he came on board, has improved by leaps and bounds.  He is a great teacher and knows the game as well as any of the best managers mentioned in baseball.  He has won wherever he has gone, he’s extremely underrated and he’s doing it again in a place where they haven’t won in a while.  He believes in his players, his team and won’t back down to anybody.  I like that & he’s got my vote.
Honorable Mention- Robin Ventura (for him to get his guys behind him in his first year and be able to find ways to be in first place, is a great managing job.  No one expected the ChiSox to be in first right now and they are and won’t be falling in the standings anytime soon…barring injuries.)
Most Improved Player– Austin Jackson
He’s always been able to flash the leather, but his hitting has had holes.  This year, he’s doing both and his offense at the top of the line-up has helped Detroit start to make it’s resurrengence over the last month.  He’s batting over .330 and has definitely improved this team and his stock.
Honorable Mention- Alcides Escobar (another guy who has been flashing leather since he came to the bigs, but hasn’t been able to help his team as much as Jackson.  If he can keep this up, he’ll be an All-Star and will help bring KC to the top of the AL Central.)
Comeback Player of the Year– Alex Rios
I could’ve gone with the Honorable Mention, but Rios has come further this year than the other guy.  He’s hitting for a high average and is living up to the hype that came with his landing in Chi-town.  After last year’s hideous season, Sox fans would’ve been happy with him batting 18 points under .300…but he’s batting 18 points over and has been a real weapon for the Southside Sluggers.
Honorable Mention- Adam Dunn (speaking of hideous seasons, Dunn in talking with Dan Patrick in Sports Illustrated’s most recent issue, talked about how embarrassed he was about last season, but couldn’t figure out why he did so poorly.  He’s seeing the ball better this year, though, is third in HRs & has the second most walks for 1B in the AL.  That’s pretty good for a guy that K’s as much as he does.)
Rolaid’s Relief Man– Fernando Rodney
He has the second most saves (25) in the AL, has a 0.93 ERA & a 0.75 WHIP.  I think he’s more important to his team because his team’s offense is more anemic than some of the other mentions, so he HAS to come up big.  I thought about mentioning him as the Comeback Player of the Year, but really is the best this year with Mo injured.
Honorable Mention- Jim Johnson (he has the most saves (26), 1.21 ERA, & 0.75 WHIP.  He has really impresseed this year and you could honestly flip a coin for who the best is.  I like them both, but lean toward Rodney because of his team.)
Biggest Surprise– Baltimore Orioles
The improvement that this team has made through their Manager, General Manager, player/personnel-wise and the desire to win at any cost is impressive, exciting and very surprising.  For them to be where they are in the standings at this point in the year, I don’t think anybody expected…even most of the O’s fans.
Honorable Mention- Chicago White Sox (this is very surprising, but I think even people in Chicago are more shocked in Baltimore than their Sox.  Great start…keep it up.)
Biggest Disappointment– Detroit Tigers
Everybody thought that Detroit would’ve had the AL Central locked up at this point, but have faltered early and is making a run at it right now.  Still though, they’ve been disappointing in their rotation.  Verlander has been himself, but haven’t got what they expected to get from Scherzer, Porcello, and Fister has been injured.  With them “getting back on the right” Matt Foley style, then I expect them to make it interesting in Aug-Sept.
Honorable Mention- Boston Red Sox (if you saw the line-up they used against the Yanks this weekend you would’ve thought that Papi & AGon were injured and having a rehab start in Pawtucket.  That’s how injured and unrecognizable the BoSox are.  The reason why they don’t win is because of the injuries, but they should be better.  They should make a turn-around when they get Ellsbury, Crawford, Lackey & Pedroia healthy.)
NL
Andrew McCutchen
MVP– Andrew McCutchen
Pittsburgh has a good, solid starting rotation and bullpen…they have NO offense.  Cutch is the straw that stirs the drinfor the Bucs.  I think he’s the best CF in the game, he plays with fire & swagger and has the ‘Burgh in first place for the first time since ’97.  If you think I’m crazy, look at the numbers at the Break…this guy is deserving of the award without a doubt.
Honorable Mention- Joey Votto (Cincy has a good line-up and a solid rotation, but he’s the firestarter in Cincy.  The franchise gave him an enormous contract and he’s reciprocated that with having a tremendous season.  He will get some votes, but my vote goes to Cutch.)
Cy Young Award– R.A. Dickey
He might not be starting the All-Star Game for strategic reasons, but he has been the best pitcher in the NL so far this year.  He was on a crazy roll earlier this season and has had some struggles recently, but many pitchers have slumps in their year.  As long as he picks it back up, he should be in contention to win it.
Honorable Mention- Johnny Cueto/Gio Gonzalez (I think both of these guys have had great years and you could argue it, but I just think that Dickey has had a much better year than them hands down that it didn’t matter to me who I put here…he gets it.)
Rookie of the Year– Bryce Harper
Just like Trout, who else has had the type of year this kid has brought at 19…nobody but Mantle has done what these guys have done.  No one else even close, so no Honorable Mention.
Manager of the Year– Clint Hurdle
Who expected the Pirates to be in first place in the NL Central at the All-Star Break?  Hurdle has taken the team expected to finish fourth in that division to first.  Not bad considering in other divisions they probably would’ve been picked last.  He has them finding ways to win and doing it the right way.  He did a great job in Colorado and is repeating that in PA.
Honorable Mention- Davey Johnson & Don Mattingly (both have young teams, both have been plagued by injuries and both are tearing up their divisions when nobody expected them to.  I think the award will come down to one of these three in the end.)
Most Improved Player– James McDonald
Here is another young bright spot for Pittsburgh this year.  He’s 9-3, with a 2.37 ERA & a 0.97 WHIP…that’s really good for a guy his age and just coming into his own in the League.  He HAS to pitch well to win because of how weak Pittsburgh’s offense has been most of the time.  With that kind of pressure, he has stepped up and helped make them a contender.
Honorable Mention- Lance Lynn (from working out of the bullpen on & off last season, to being one of his staff’s best, this young right hander has made a name for himself in StL and in Major League Baseball.  Good stuff, good location & good focus have got him to where he is right now.)
Comeback Player of the Year– A.J. Burnett
No, I’m not from Pittsburgh and they’re not my favorite team, but they are honestly one of the big stories in baseball right now.  They get a guy who everyone thought was washed up from NYC and helps make his team a contender.  He’s 10-2 for crying out loud!!  How can he not get this award…unless there’s a tie.
Melky Cabrera
When I heard that KC traded Melky for Jonathan Sanchez, I thought it was highway robbery…for KC.  Shows you how much I know.  I thought Sanchez would be their future ace, which you can’t completely give-up on…can you?  Melky has had an incredible year and everyone in the Bay area probably thinks he should get it.  Why not both?  One has had more of an incredible turn-around…but the other guy has had such an amazing season so far that you can’t forget about him.  So, I won’t forget about either.  Two winners!!
Honorable Mention- Aaron Hill (after turning his season around last year in Arizona, many thought that the D-backs overpaid to keep him in the Desert.  Now, they look like geniuses since he has turned it around and hit for TWO cycles this year.)
Rolaid’s Relief Man– Craig Kimbrel
He might be young, but he’s already proved to be lights out in the 9th.  He might not have as many saves right now as others, but he’s a top 3 closer and can slam the door when he’s called into the game.  ‘Nuff said.
Honorable Mention- Huston Street (don’t look at his 13 saves in measuring this award, because he’s saved half of the Padres wins…not really, but when he comes in the game he finishes it.  He doesn’t get hit, he doesn’t give up runs, he takes care of business.  Don’t believe me, look at his numbers.  Street is a very good closer.)
Biggest Surprise– New York Mets
I didn’t think these guys would win over 65 games this year.  For them to be contenders in the NL East…that’s baffling.  Terry Collins really could be considered Manager of the Year, but because I think his team is slipping and won’t hold up I gotta go with one of the other guys.  He has done a miraculous job of keeping the Mets in the race.  On paper, these guys look sad…but they’ve grinded out wins and are trying to bring it all together.  Remember, these guys were just bankrupt!!  How are they doing what they’re doing?  Enormous surprise.
Honorable Mention- Los Angeles Dodgers (another from red to black teams that shouldn’t be contending.  LA has more weapons than NY does and that’s why they come in second.  When you have Matt Kemp, Andre Ethier, Clayton Kershaw & Chad Billingsley then you should be able to pound out some wins.  NY has David Wright & an oft-injured Johan Santana…c’mon, which one do you think is more likely to win?)
Biggest Disappointment– Miami Marlins
When you go build the newest, state of the art, brightly decorated monstracity and then go into Free Agency and you pull in some of the biggest fish in the sea (pun intended), then you better produce wins.  Miami has been producing disappointment since the first game of the season…they were no-hit into the 7th inning!  Since then, they’ve made some runs, but are falling majorly short.
Honorable Mention- Arizona Diamondbacks (for a team that was picked by nearly everyone to win the NL West they have tanked.  The D-backs have a ton of talent and should be winning games and if not in first, then in contention for first.  Because they didn’t go spend a ton of money to win, although they did make some trades, their roster hasn’t changed a lot.  They should be winning.)
   This is the way things have played out to this point in the season.  I believe that the second will bring some changes.  I think Weaver will continue his dominance as will Hamilton, Trout, McCutchen, Harper, Kimbrel & McDonald.  I also think that Detroit & Boston will make a run, the Mets will fall off, and big names will get dealt before the trade deadline.  Keep checking out Guy’s Nation for the MLB Trade Deadline Projections.