Stepping to the plate

Ryne Sandberg
Yahoo! Sports

I had the opportunity to speak to Congress on Wednesday on behalf of and in support of Major League Baseball's new proposed substance abuse policy. And after sitting down with other Hall of Famers and commissioner Bud Selig over dinner, I got the feeling that all of us were on the same page.

We realize there is a huge problem in baseball. We realize that steps need to be taken to rid the sport of performance-enhancing drugs and restore the integrity of the game.

The players association needs to realize that its players are role models and the youth of America look up to them for guidance. As of now, I don't think the current policy is "scaring" any players into not using steroids. I think it was a good first step, but more can be done.

Commissioner Selig's new plan is on the right path and it's time for the players association to step up and agree to the terms. I would anticipate that some sort of compromise can be made in the next few weeks, but it is clear what baseball needs – a plan that will be more strict and work to bring back the integrity of the game.

On to this week's mail. Almost all of it had to do with my choices for the American League awards and the National League awards.


No way is Ortiz the MVP. He is a gamer I will grant you that. Alex Rodriguez is the MVP. He plays the field and his numbers are right with Ortiz in almost every category. His glove has preserved a least three games in the last few weeks alone. He also steals bases from time to time making him "equal" with Ortiz in extra base hits.

Todd Beaman
Essex Junction, Vt.

You know, more than anyone, that I'm a National League guy. However, I think Ortiz (even just as a DH), is more valuable to the Boston Red Sox than A-Rod is to the New York Yankees. The Yankees have other sluggers in the lineup (Gary Sheffield, Hideki Matsui and Jason Giambi), who can pick up the slack when the club is down. However, other than Manny Ramirez, Ortiz doesn't have that much support, and he continues to lead the best offense in the AL.

If being a well-rounded player is important to being an MVP (as you mentioned in your NL awards column), how did you ever come up with Ortiz as the AL's MVP? You remember him – the guy that can't run and doesn't even try to field.

Ray Fish
Fortville, Ind.

If needed, Ortiz could play first base and be adequate enough to play every day. There have been plenty of MVPs who are not great fielders but who have hit well all year.

I agree with all your picks except for one: NL MVP. How in the world can you overlook what Andruw Jones did this year for the Atlanta Braves?

Ken Levy
Ketchikan, Alaska

I agree that Andruw Jones has had a great year on one of the best teams in the NL. However, I still can't overlook what Albert Pujols has done. He is a complete hitter that hits for average and power and scores runs left and right.


How can you dismiss Johan Santana as an AL Cy Young candidate? You don't even mention his name, yet the statistics clearly show he is the best AL pitcher this year. Santana leads the league in ERA, WHIP, Ks and oppoents' batting average. His run support against Jon Garland and Mark Buerhle is about 1.5 runs less per game, yet he has almost caught up with them in wins. There is no doubt he would have 22 to 23 wins if he were on the Chicago White Sox.

Darren Dressen
Fremont, Calif.

I'm sorry that I missed mentioning Santana. He has been great this year, but I really saw this as a three-man race with Buehrle, Garland and Colon leading the way.

I normally respect your opinions here at Yahoo! Sports, but your American League Cy Young Award analysis is laughable. So much so, that in listing all the contenders, you omitted the winner. The reason the Yankees have a slight edge on the rest of baseball this season, and for the past decade, is not because of their $200 million payroll. It's because of their closer, Mariano Rivera, the best pitcher in baseball, and this year's AL Cy Young winner.

Judy Marcoux
Gloversville, N.Y.

Mariano Rivera is a great closer and a Hall of Famer, for sure. However, with the dominant performances by Buehrle, Garland and Colon, I would find it hard to give him the award.

Bartolo Colon's numbers speak for themselves. If you're going to point out Buehrle's stats for an isolated period, you have to represent Colon's significantly more robust season stats. How much more "consistent" can a pitcher be than to rack up 20 wins in a season and get 154 Ks? Is this because he's fat?

Jack Mehoffen
Edinburgh, Scotland

Because he's fat? Are you kidding me? I honestly have nothing against Colon. He's had a great year, but there's another pitcher who has had a better year – Mark Buehrle.


With the Astros taking the wild-card spot almost a certainty, how could you overlook Phil Garner for NL Manager of the Year? At the risk of sounding too biased (I admit I am biased somewhat), the job Garner did after the Houston Astros started 15-30 is nothing short of alchemy. Since that 15-30 start, they have gone 72-41.

David Smitherman

Garner has been great this year. He has the Astros on the verge of making the playoffs. But he didn't have to deal with the issues that Bobby Cox had to deal with. Cox has taken a young Atlanta Braves team and turned them into winners.


While I am a Yankees fan and I enjoy seeing Robinson Cano as your pick for AL Rookie of the Year, I must ask why you didn't choose Toronto Blue Jays left-hander Gustavo Chacin. As of Wednesday, he is 12-9 with a 3.82 ERA and 118 Ks. Are these numbers not worthy for a Rookie of the Year award?

Chris Calabrese
Watertown, Conn.

A 12-9 record with an ERA close to 4.00 doesn't get you the Rookie of the Year. Cano has been consistent all year and deserves the award.

A's closer Huston Street should be Rookie of the Year.

David Dunning

Street actually was my second choice for the award. And I probably would have picked him about a month ago. However, his ERA has gone up in September, while Cano has been great all month.

I have to disagree with your choice for NL Rookie of the Year. Willy Taveras deserves this honor. Unlike Jeff Francoeur, he played from Day 1 of the season and filled in an important gap in the Astros' batting lineup that has been missing for years: a leadoff hitter who can get on base, steal bases and score runs. The Astros have won more than 70 percent of their games in which Taveras has scored at least one run. As Willie goes, so goes the Astros.

Gary Currier
Austin, Texas

I've seen Taveras play a few times and he has great potential. However, I still think he strikes out too much for a leadoff hitter. If he can cut down on the Ks, he'll be a great player.

You missed this one badly – your NL Rookie of the Year should have been Ryan Howard of the Philadelphia Phillies. I'll check back in with you in about five years when Howard is still tearing up the NL!

Bob Leposki
Flourtown, Pa.

Howard has been a savior for the Phillies. They needed someone to step up when Jim Thome went down, and he did just that. But Francoeur has batted .306 this year and sparked the club to the division title. The Phillies probably won't be making the playoffs, and Howard has batted almost 20 points lower than Francoeur.


How can you consider Jason Giambi the AL's Comeback Player of the Year? Giving him an award like that is saying he battled and fought through something. He did battle and fight, but it was because he cheated. Every problem he had was caused by his steroid use. So why on earth does he deserve this award? Is it because he finally had to play by the rules like everyone else and he performed average like everyone else?

D.J. Marler
Chicago, Ill.

I honestly believe that Giambi is going about it the correct way. When he started taking steroids, MLB had no official policy on steroid use. He later realized that he was doing something wrong and apologized and asked for forgiveness. I don't condone the use and I think it's a horrible thing, but I would hope that other players who have taken steroids can learn from Giambi and come clean. They might be given a fresh start.

How about Oakland Athletics second baseman Mark Ellis for AL Comeback Player of the Year? … With a .319 average, he'd be third in the league in hitting if he had 50 more at-bats. He came back from a serious shoulder injury, too.

Brian A. Wright
Pleasanton, Calif.

I respectfully disagree with Ken Griffey Jr. as NL Comeback Player of the Year. Andy Pettitte of Astros would be my choice. Pettitte went from an injury-plagued 6-4 last year to going 17-9 this year with a 2.42 ERA. Without Pettitte, the Astros would not be ahead in the NL wild card.

Wayne McCarthy
Southington, Conn.

Another great choice, but I don't think people wrote off Pettitte like they had written off Griffey. Nobody expected a thing from Griffey, but he came back and played great. I never expected Pettitte not to come back. He just had an off year.

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