Look for Tigers’ talent to sweep major awards

By Dave Fultz

The opening week of baseball is finally upon us and I couldn’t be more excited. Fans finally get to watch games instead of hearings and read box scores instead of the Mitchell Report.

I was thinking about putting out a complete joke of a column today – in the spirit of April Fools’ Day, of course.

This would be a column where I tell you that Henry “Hank White” Blanco is primed for an MVP run and Will Ohman and his 30-foot curve will take the Cy Young for the Braves.

That was going to be this week’s Baseball 101, until I realized I didn’t have enough material to be funny for the whole column. In light of my prodigious lack of humor, here come my real picks for ’08.

AL MVP: Miguel Cabrera

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    The Tigers’ new third baseman has always been a masher, but this year the young Cabrera’s numbers will jump into the stratosphere.

    The slugger who turns just 25 years old this April is already the owner of a ridiculous .930 career OPS (on-base percentage plus slugging) and has averaged more than 30 home runs and 110 RBIs over the last four years.

    Finally back on a contender with a solid lineup around him, Cabrera should put up even more of the gaudy statistics – like RBIs and runs scored – that win MVP awards.

    All this, added to the fact that the Tigers finally have a legitimate shot to take the pennant in the American League, make Cabrera an easy pick in this spot.

    His top challengers: A-Rod, Manny Being Manny and Big Papi.

    NL MVP: David Wright

    One of the most interesting things I noticed while researching for this column was the similarity between the career numbers of the Mets’ Wright and Rockies slugger Matt Holliday.

    Holliday was robbed of an MVP in ’07 when he hit .340 with 36 HR, 137 RBI and a 1.012 OPS. This was a jump from a 2006 season that looked eerily similar to Wright’s 2007, in terms of numbers.

    Does this mean Wright is on schedule for a massive jump in productivity for ’08? Maybe, maybe not. Would I be willing to bet on it and give Wright the nod? Of course.

    His top challengers: Holliday, the newly vegetarian Prince Fielder, and Ryan “not the temp” Howard.

    AL Cy Young: Justin Verlander

    Verlander is the best pitcher 25 or under and is ready to stake his claim as one of the best in the game. The former first-round pick and Rookie of the Year tossed a no-hitter last season and has the stuff to throw that well every time he takes the mound.

    Verlander went 18-6 last season, threw more than 200 innings, struck out about three times as many batters as he walked and now the Tigers have added Cabrera to their everyday lineup.

    With stuff like his and that offense behind him, Verlander could rack up more than 20 wins and wrap up the Cy Young before September. He’s really that good.

    His top challengers: C.C. Sabathia, Big Game Beckett and Doc Halladay.

    NL Cy Young: Jake Peavy

    It seems as if everyone and their mother is picking Johan Santana to win this one after his offseason move to the Mets, but don’t count Peavy out.

    He has been the best pitcher in the NL for some time now. Peavy didn’t just win the pitcher’s Triple Crown last season, he ran away with it. He won 19 games, struck out nearly four times as many batters as he walked, and had a major-league best 2.54 ERA.

    Santana has plenty of high-pressure miles on his arm and this just might be the season he breaks down. It certainly would be consistent with the Mets’ luck lately.

    Either way, I’m picking Peavy to become the first since The Big Unit (1999-2002) to take home consecutive Cy Young Awards.

    His top challengers: Santana, a more focused Big Z and Brandon Webb.

    Rookie to Watch

    Rookie of the Year is such a tough one to call. No one ever knows which rookies will be good and which will be great, and that is where the line is drawn for this award. I’ll just toss out a few names to watch for.

    In the NL, we’ve got Jay Bruce, Homer Bailey, Geovany Soto and Cameron Maybin.

    In the AL, there are Evan Longoria, Clay Buchholz and Joba Chamberlain. These are just a few of the rookies who will make this season great.

    Who knows what will happen this summer? No one does.

    I’ve given it my best shot and if I’m way off base, I can just say this whole thing was an April Fools’ joke, right?

    Dave Fultz is a junior in Media. He can be reached at [email protected].