Luke Graham's column appears periodically in the Steamboat Today. Contact him at 970-871-4229 or lgraham@SteamboatToday.com.
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Steamboat Springs As we hit the midway point of the Major League Baseball season, several things have become apparent.
The local ball club isn't half bad. The managerial change of Clint Hurdle to Jim Tracy has done wonders. What hasn't totally been seen and doesn't get enough credit is the work pitching coach Bob Apodaca and hitting coach Don Baylor have done.
Apodaca has been criticized from everywhere. But his work with Ubaldo Jimenez, Jorge De La Rosa and Jason Marquis has been nothing short of amazing. Although many of the team averages still aren't eye-popping, Baylor has proven his ability to work with all the young hitters in the lineup.
But what are the Rockies chances? Who are the first half Most Valuable Players and Cy Young Award winners? And of course, who wins it all?
First to the Rockies. I think they have the best team built for a long run at the wild card. The team will be battling the second-place team from the NL East (Atlanta, New York, Philadelphia and Florida), the second-place team from the National League Central (St. Louis or Milwaukee) plus San Francisco from its own division.
First thing, the Rockies are better put together than any of those teams for a deep run. The one problem is within their division. Dropping recent series to the Dodgers and Diamondbacks can't happen again. But here's saying the Rockies win the wild card and look pretty good in the playoffs with a top three rotation of Jimenez, Marquis and Aaron Cook. Plus, the bats are bound to wake up.
American League MVP - Minnesota's Joe Mauer. The best pure hitter in the game. Mauer has a chance to flirt with a .400 average, while showing legitimate power for the first time in his career. There isn't even a close second.
NL MVP - St. Louis' Albert Pujols. The best baseball player in the league. No contest. Pujols is going to make a run at the Triple Crown. He's third in average (.332), first in home runs (31) and first in RBIs (83). There's not a scarier hitter in the National League.
AL Cy Young - Toronto's Roy Halladay. All he does is produce quality starts and wins. Look at his past 10 starts. Only once did he not go six innings and that was when he left because of injury. He's on the trade block now and could make an instant favorite out of anybody. It would take a haul to get him, but wouldn't it be nice to see him back in his home state of Colorado again?
NL Cy Young - San Francisco's Tim Lincecum. Funky delivery and best starter in the National League. Near the top of the game in every pitching category. He's one of the main reasons the Giants still are in the playoff hunt.
2009 World Series Champion - Unfortunately, it's the Red Sox or the Yankees. I just don't buy that the Dodgers have enough starting pitching. If either of the baseball bad guys get Halladay, they're the favorite. If not - and on a hunch - I'll go with Steinbrenner's crew to beat the Dodgers in six.