American League award races provide intrigue

Baseball’s regular season will come to a close this Sunday, giving award candidates from each league a final chance to secure some annual hardware.

Unlike 2009, where some winners were determined long before season’s end, the races this year will make the final weekend of mostly meaningless baseball an intriguing affair.

Here’s how the races in the American League should shake out:

MVP: Miguel Cabrera [1B], Detroit Tigers

Although an ankle injury has officially ended Cabrera’s season, it’s hard not to give the MVP crown to arguably the best hitter in baseball.

Cabrera has played in 150 games and is leading the AL in RBIs [126] and on-base percentage [.420]. He is also second in home runs [38] and third in slugging [.622].

While September has been the worst month of the first basemen’s season, his consistency throughout the year is stunning despite the Tigers’ disappointing play.

Honourable mention

Texas Rangers slugger Josh Hamilton fought off injuries down the stretch and has been out of the lineup since Sept. 4, but his production pre-injury is certainly worthy of MVP consideration.

Toronto Blue Jays home run machine Jose Bautista also turned heads, but although he leads the majors with 52 long balls and is third in RBIs with 119, a sub par batting average will keep him from garnering many votes.

Cy Young: CC Sabathia, New York Yankees

The Cy Young race is the most captivating battle in the AL as multiple pitchers have put together award-calibre campaigns.

With another dominating performance against the Toronto Blue Jays on Tuesday, Sabathia pushed his record to 21-7 while lowering his ERA to 3.18.

Although Sabathia won’t get another start in the regular season, nor have a chance to reach the 200-strike plateau, his league-leading 34 starts coupled with a .750 winning percentage should be enough to give the hefty lefty his second Cy Young prize.

Honourable mention

The runner-up could be a number of deserving players as Boston Red Sox ace Jon Lester, Tampa Bay Rays youngster David Price and Seattle’s Felix Hernandez have had outstanding seasons.

Rookie of the year: Neftali Feliz [RP], Texas Rangers

Feliz set the rookie record for saves last Saturday when he mowed down four Oakland A’s batters, recording his 38th of the season.

On top of his save total, Feliz boasts a 2.85 ERA and a mind-boggling 0.91 WHIP [walks plus hits per innings pitched].

But the most important factor separating Feliz from the rest of the rookie class is the significance of his role on a playoff-bound Ranger.

The role of closer is one of the toughest positions in baseball, and to perform at the rate the young right-hander did over a span of a season is too good to ignore.

Honourable mention

Tigers’ centre-fielder Austin Jackson was acquired from the Yankees for fan-favourite Curtis Granderson in the off-season.

Based on his inaugural campaign patrolling spacious Comerica Park, Jackson’s popularity will be on the rise in the Motor City.

Not only did he play outstanding defence – currently he has a .985 fielding percentage – he has hit above .300 most of the season—although he slipped to .298 this week—while adding 180 hits and 26 stolen bases.

Manager of the year: Ron Gardenhire, Minnesota Twins

The eight-year manager of the Twins faced what seemed like insurmountable adversity this season,  losing former MVP’s Justin Morneau and Joe Mauer along with all-star closer Joe Nathan for a considerable amount of time.

But Gardenhire took control of a bad situation and led the Twins to their second consecutive AL Central title, including a ridiculous 44-18 span from the all-star break to the division-clinching win Sept. 22.

Honourable Mention

Ron Washington underwent adversity of his own, albeit on a more personal level.

After testing positive for cocaine use during 2009, Washington rode an emotional roller coaster into this season, but the Rangers opted to keep after a heartfelt apology.

Keeping Washington in the fold was a shrewd decision, considering the Rangers will be playing October baseball for the first time since 1999.