- Alex Rodriguez is the AL MVP and Albert Pujols is the NL MVP. I agree strongly with both picks. In other news, the Pope is not Catholic.
- Just kidding. Not only do I agree with both MVPs this year, I agreed with both picks last year (Vlad Guerrero and Barry Bonds). I've worked my way back to 1980 documenting seasons and can't find any other consecutive seasons where I agreed with both the AL and NL MVP. But that's more semantics. I'm not happy simply because Pujols won (although that's part of it), but because Andruw Jones didn't. This isn't because of any personal animosity, but rather because Albert's defeat of Andruw represents the victory of reason over idiocy. It's not a victory that I anticipated. I thought it would be a close vote, yes, but I expected Andruw winning the award, with Pujols a close second and Derrek Lee a distant third. As it is, Albert got 378 points to Andruw's 351. A close finish to be sure. Albert got 18 1st-place votes, Andruw got 13, and Derrek Lee got 1 (I'd like to think that Lee's 1st-place vote came from a brave sabermetrician, as opposed to a biased Chicago voter). The Top 10 is rounded out by Morgan Ensberg, Miguel Cabrera, Carlos Delgado, Pat Burrell, Chris Carpenter, Brian Giles, and Jimmy Rollins. Not a bad job of voting, if I do say so myself. Hopefully this is a sign of hope for the future and not some fluke; hopefully voters are getting smarter.
- The Yankees re-signed Hideki Matsui to a 4-year, $50 million deal. I think it's a good move for the Yankees, who need somebody else in that outfield. Matsui's a fine, fine hitter, and he's just 31, so giving him $12.5 million a year isn't unreasonable at all. Now if the Yanks can just find a center fielder without overpaying.
- I've heard some bizarre stories about some plans for the off-season some clubs are circulating. I've heard that the Yankees, if they can't find a center fielder, might just move Matsui over and find a replacement in left (it's easier to find a LF than a CF). The problem is this: Matsui, as a left fielder, isn't awful. Matsui, as a center fielder, is. And improving defense should at least be somewhere on the Yankees' priority list. Of course, the easiest solution is the one that will never happen: shift Jeter to center, move A-Rod back to shortstop, and find a bargain at third base. Jeter isn't such a great shortstop, but would be a better fit in center. A-Rod is a great shortstop. But the Yankees won't do that, because they (and the entire mainstream sports world) have convinced themselves that Derek Jeter is an excellent defender. No one can suggest otherwise without suffering an e-mail assault. I guess you can't blame Brian Cashman. If he tried to move Jeter, he'd be lucky if the fans only burned him in effigy.
- I've also heard talk about clubs signing Rafael Furcal to play some other position besides shortstop. This is about as intelligent as talking a young Johnny Bench into being a full-time DH. Furcal is one of the best shortstops in baseball, and he'd be an amazing boost to any team defensively (and offensively, to a lesser extent). The Cubs will probably just keep him at shortstop, but I've heard that the Mets (if they signed him) would put him at second and put Jose Reyes at short. Suuurrrre. And maybe the Cardinals will bring Dick "Dr. Strangeglove" Stuart out of retirement to play third base and put Scott Rolen on the bench. It's not that extreme, I suppose, but gosh.
- The MLB has instituted a new penalty system for steroids. I should point out that it is not an entirely new policy per se, just a new set of penalties. Although I'm sure Bud Selig & Don Fehr will act like this solves the entire problem. But penalties are only half the problem; priority one should be making the tests more effective. BALCO head Victor Conte remarked that any half-intelligent big-leaguer could beat the current testing system. Not only that, but it simply can't do all that we ask it to. The MLB has outlawed HGH, yes. But it's an utterly toothless rule, because you can only test for HGH in blood. And the MLB tests are urine only. Yay, team.
- As for the penalties themselves, I think they're just right. 50 games is a lot for a first-time offender, but deterrence is the ultimate aim of any test. And these guys will hopefully think twice before risking nearly 1/3 of their salary. It's 50 games for the first offense, 100 games for the second offense, and a lifetime ban for the third offense. It sounds harsh, but there's simply no excuse for a 3-time offender. I do worry about false positives, as people seem to think all these tests are 100% accurate. But you have to find the line between firmness and fairness, and I think this is close. Although we can hopefully avoid another case like the Mike Morse fiasco. Morse plays for the Mariners and was suspended this year for testing positive on a steroid test. It became clear that Morse's positive was a residual from steroids he had taken quite a while ago. He had actually already been suspended under the minor league penalties. So it's quite possible served two penalties for one crime. That's just silly. Some people said, "Well, he knew what he was doing, and he deserves the consequences." Hogwash. If the principle of double jeopardy is good enough for Sam Waterston on Law & Order, it's damn good enough for Bud Selig.
- Lots of rumors abounding as to who's going where. Early word appears to be that a lot of teams are going to try to fill their needs through trades, forsaking what some feel could be an off-season or ridiculous contracts. As far as free agents go, I haven't heard much reliable info. Ask Peter Gammons, he knows what happens before it happens.
- I'll be back soon with the (just-completed) look at whether there's a correlation between keeping a World Championship team intact and future success. Later, I plan to take a division-by-division look at each team's needs going into the off-season, and their early outlook for next season.
On a personal note, I wanted to mention my sadness at the untimely passing of Eddie Guerrero. Eddie was a WWE wrestler, and put aside your preconceived notions right now, because I always thought Eddie was special in many ways. If this blog is about anything, it's about not making snap, uninformed decisions. And the decision to marginalize Eddie because of his profession is a thoughtless one. I just saw Dean Malenko's comments about Eddie, and I got a lump in my throat. Eddie was one of the truly special ones, and we're all going to miss him. Our best go out to his wife and 3 kids, as well as all his friends and family.