x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 24 January 2018

Half glass full for these performers

The All-Star break, just concluded, traditionally marks the halfway point of the baseball season.

The All-Star break, just concluded, traditionally marks the halfway point of the baseball season. It also signals the impending non-waiver trade deadline that comes at the end of this month. But before we get too far ahead in forecasting the second half, let us take a look back at the first half and the players who dominated their respective leagues. Individual awards, of course, are determined by a full season's worth of play, but here are the leaders at the midpoint:

American League or AL's MVP: Torii Hunter (LA Angels) Others may have gaudier numbers, but no player was truly more valuable to his team than Hunter, whose peerless leadership was never more necessary than this season when the Angels were rocked by the death of young teammate Nick Adenhart. Hunter helped keep the team together during a most trying time, and, on the field, contributed his defensive excellence. With the Angels missing Vladimir Guerrero for much of the first half, Hunter was also their best run producer.

National League or NL's Most Valuable Player: Albert Pujols (St Louis Cardinals) The best player on the planet, Pujols is having a typically excellent season with little support from the rest of the St Louis line-up. Factor in that he is the best defensive first baseman in NL and even led the Cards in stolen bases and you come to the realisation that there is not anything in the game that Pujols cannot do.

His list of achievements seems to grow by the day, but none is more impressive than this: barring injury, he will become the first player in history to hit 30 or more homers and knock in 100 or more runs in each of his first nine seasons. AL Cy Young Award: Zack Greinke (Kansas City Royals) Greinke's personal story is one of the most compelling in recent memory. A top prospect, he made it to the major leagues at 20, only to walk away from the game because of depression and an anxiety disorder. This year, he realised his potential and has won 10 games for a team lodged near the bottom of its division.

NL Cy Young Award: Dan Haren (Arizona Diamondbacks) Tim Lincecum (San Francisco Giants), last year's winner, is a deserving candidate, but Haren pitches in a better ball-park for hitters, has limited opposing batters to a .189 batting average - 25 points lower than Lincecum - and does not have a supporting cast. AL Rookie of the Year: Ricky Romero (Toronto Blue Jays) A former No 1 draft pick, Romero seemed like a bust until taking advantage of some injuries to the Toronto pitching staff and earning a spot in the rotation. Pitching in the game's toughest division, Romero has seven wins.

NL Rookie of the Year: Colby Rasmus (St Louis Cardinals) As is the case in the AL, the field of candidates is somewhat lacking. Rasmus's numbers are somewhat modest but on a team desperate for offence beyond Pujols, Rasmus has contributed punch and played a dynamic centre field. AL Manager of the Year: Don Wakamatsu (Seattle Mariners) Ron Washington deserves consideration for keeping the Texas Rangers in the race in the AL West, but Wakamatsu is a first-year manager who took over a 100-loss team from a year ago, one beset with internal friction and cliques.

NL Manager of the Year: Joe Torre (LA Dodgers) Torre's training in New York served him well this season as he dealt with potential distractions. The Dodgers had the best record in the league when Manny Ramirez was suspended for using a banned substance and when he returned, just before the break, the Dodgers were still the NL's top team. Through it all, Torre kept the Dodgers focused. @Email:smcadam@thenational.ae