Beyond Nova Nation: Corey Marine picks ’08 award winners

Corey Marine


Albert Pujols

Imagine the Saint Louis Cardinals lineup without Pujols batting third or clean-up. What do you have? An average lineup. Insert No. 5, and you now have pitchers letting batters put the ball into play in hopes of having the bases empty when Pujols comes up for another at bat. Arguably the best hitter in baseball, the 28-year-old first baseman from Santo Domingo is just coming into the prime of his career and has yet to hit under 30 home runs in a season. His power, his ability to hit for average in addition to hitting the long ball and his cat-like prowess make him a solid all-around first baseman. There is no one in the National League who means more to his organization than No. 5 on the Cardinals.


Dustin Pedroia

If there is one word to describe the Boston Red Sox second baseman, the word of choice would most likely be “scrappy.” Standing at 5-feet-9-inches and 180 pounds, Pedroia has come through in the clutch for the BoSox time and time again, doing it all with a swagger only a player of his stature can provide. When opposing managers are calling for a player to be walked in front of David Ortiz, there is something special about that player, and all the other teams know it.

NL Cy Young:

Tim Lincecum

Second only to Brandon Webb in wins in the NL with 17, boasting an ERA under 2.50 and standing as the MLB’s strikeout leader, the young Lincecum is defining himself as one of the league’s elite young pitchers. The hard-throwing right hander is the face of the San Francisco Giants franchise in a rebuilding stage and should continue to anchor the rotation for seasons to come.

AL Cy Young:

Cliff Lee

The best story in the Majors this year belongs to Cleveland Indians pitcher Cliff Lee. After an injury-plagued ’07 season, when he struggled greatly and was sent down to the Minors, Lee came back with a great ’08 season. The 30-year-old southpaw is dominating offenses with control, location and pitch selection because he does not have an over-powering arm. He leads the league in ERA and wins, despite the inconsistency of an underachieving Indians offense.

NL Rookie:

Geovany Soto

One of the first looks Chicago Cubs fans got of Geovany Soto came last season in the first round of the playoffs against the Arizona Diamondbacks. In his first playoff at bat, Soto hit a two-run shot over the left field wall. Now the Cubbies’ starting catcher, Soto has shown the ability to control a game from behind the plate, as well as contribute offensively, showing some pop in his bat with over 20 home runs and over 85 RBIs. This up-and-coming star catcher has already been part of some memorable moments, including catching the All-Star Game at Yankee Stadium this past July, hitting an inside-the-park home run and most recently, catching Carl Zambrano’s no-hitter in Milwaukee.

AL Rookie:

Evan Longoria

In an age of overhyped, young talent jumping to the pro-level too soon (I’m looking at you, Sebastian Telfair and Michelle Wie), the Tampa Bay Rays did the right thing with Longoria. They slowly transitioned him as he became their starting third baseman, and their patience is paying its dues. Longoria has proven to be a great player at the hot corner, flashing talent with his glove, making smart decisions at the plate and coming up big for Tampa Bay in walk-off fashion. With his power already on display, a solid batting average for a rookie and an All-Star Game appearance, the sky appears to be the limit for this third baseman. Look for Longoria to be a major element of the Rays organization as it continues to try to transform what was considered the laughing stock of the league into a winning franchise.

NL Manager:

Jerry Manuel

In a controversial move that put general manager Omar Minaya and the New York Mets organization in a negative light in the media, the move from Willie Randolph to Jerry Manuel appears to have been the right choice. What was once an under-achieving ball club is now in playoff contention, fighting for control of the NL East crown. It is possible that Manuel’s presence was exactly what the Mets needed to inspire the team to play better ball. Prior to the move, the clubhouse was divided, the bullpen was in a greater state of disarray and shortstop Jose Reyes was playing uninspired baseball that had many baseball analysts questioning his commitment to the team. Now, first baseman Carlos Delgado (an openly anti-Willie delegate) seems to have turned his season around without having to be shipped out to a different team. Maybe all the Metropolitans needed was someone to light a fire under their bellies, and Manuel seems to have done just that.

AL Manager:

Joe Maddon

In this turn-around season for the Rays, it is hard to look at their success and say Maddon was not a major contributing factor. Managing veterans while teaching young players how to win is no easy task for any manager. The leader of this group of young talents has definitely provided a good example, all while garnering the respect of his veterans in arguably the toughest division of all of baseball.