MLB Week 20 Sluggers and Slugs: 2010 NL Rookie of the Year

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MLB Week 20 Sluggers and Slugs: 2010 NL Rookie of the Year

This week, Sluggers and Slugs will rip the cover off of the baseball on the moments from around the diamond.  I’ll shed some light on the week’s most crucial match-ups in both the American and National Leagues.  I will also be giving my two cents on NL Rookie of the Year race.

Week 20 Highlights

The week started off nicely with my prediction that the Philadelphia Phillies would take two of three against the San Francisco Giants and claim the wild card lead in the National League.

The Chicago Cubs had an eventful week, which started off by trading first baseman Derrek Lee to the Atlanta Braves.  The Braves needed help at the corners with Chipper Jones suffering a season-ending knee injury last week and Troy Glaus being as useless as giving canned goods to a homeless person.

That was followed by the unexpected retirement of manager Lou Piniella.  Everyone knew that he was done at season’s end, but a family issue forced him to call it quits after Sunday’s loss to the Atlanta Braves.  The 16-5 loss and for a Cubs team that is 23 games under .500 made it much easier to walk away.

The latest indicator that steroids are beneficial to baseball players made his third return from the DL, as Manny Ramirez went 0-3 on Saturday. Frank McCourt may be pushing for Ramirez to go on waivers, hoping someone will pick up his salary so McCourt can make next month’s alimony payment.

In a fitting transition, the steroids poster child, Alex Rodriguez went on the DL. Rodriguez has performed nicely without the use of steroids, but his body has been falling apart like a couple of four-year-olds playing Jenga.

Stephen Strasburg pulled a muscle in his pitching arm and will likely be shut down for the season.  The only thing that could deliver equal or greater disappointment would be Justin Bieber canceling his tour.

Week 21 Key Match-Ups

Weekday Series

Baseball fans should count their blessings that the Little League World Series is on this week.  At least this way there might be a chance to find some meaningful baseball on television.

Minnesota @ Texas – This is probably the best series of the week.  Minnesota needs to test themselves against a possible playoff opponent.  They are going to win the AL Central by default with the White Sox fading like a bad 90’s haircut.  I think the teams will split the four game series.

Cincinnati @ San Francisco – This series is going to be like food in a third-world country, these teams are desperate for wins.  The Giants can’t afford to fall further behind the Phillies in the wild card race, and the Reds need to maintain their lead on the Cardinals. I have the Giants winning two of three.

Weekend Series

Boston @ Tampa Bay – This is the last hope for Red Sox fans. Their team is admirably fighting like a fish out of water with all the injuries they have suffered.  The Rays are looking to pass the Yankees, despite the fact that they seem to be in a momentary downward spiral.  I like the Rays to pull off a soul-crushing sweep of the Sox.

NY Yankees @ Chicago White Sox – This is the last reason White Sox fans have to go to a game this season.  The good news for White Sox fans is they get to play against AJ Burnett and Javier Vazquez, two guys who look like they’re throwing batting practice balls.  I like the White Sox to take two of three.

Philadelphia @ San Diego – Another possible playoff match-up that should be a good measuring stick now that the Phillies are getting healthy.  It will be interesting to see if the Phillies’ hitting can get the best of the lowest team ERA in baseball.  I like San Diego to get two of three.

NL Rookie of the Year

I wrote an article two weeks ago in which I conducted a league wide Rookie of the Year poll for fans to vote on.  All along I have thought that Jason Heyward was the NL choice with the possibility of Buster Posey stealing my vote if he got the Giants into the playoffs.

Poll results after two weeks, total votes: 587

Jason Heyward – 12.6%

Buster Posey – 35.1%

Mike Leake – 1.4%

Jaime Garcia – 10.7%

Gaby Sanchez – 3.9%

Austin Jackson – 9.2%

Starlin Castro – 12.6%

Other – 14.5%

Heyward entered the major leagues with greater expectations than most young men have about their first sexual encounter.  Both Jones and manager Bobby Cox anointed him the face of the franchise during spring training.

All season long he has done nothing except deliver in situations where it has mattered the most.  Heyward did so again this past week against the Washington Nationals in the bottom of the ninth inning with two outs and man on second.

Heyward was struggling at the plate all day going 0-4 with a strikeout.  When he riffled the game winning single up the middle I immediately tweeted about it, calling him the “Clutch Kid.”

We haven’t seen someone deliver on hype like this since “The Kid,” Ken Griffey, Jr. If you’re going to win ROY honors, you have to deliver, and no time is more important than late in games that are needed to keep the division lead over the Phillies.

The poll question leader Buster Posey is the sexy pick based on his off the chart offensive numbers. Posey is hitting for power and average on a team in desperate need of both.  However, the Giants also need someone to step up and win close games to put them in the playoffs and I have yet to see that from Posey.

Heyward was selected to play in the 2010 All-Star game in Anaheim and it had nothing to do with a popularity contest, it was based on the fact that Braves were having a great season and he was their best player.  This is the same reason why I believe that he will be voted 2010 MLB Rookie of the Year.

Come back next week as I swing for the fences in Week 21 Sluggers and Slugs.

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