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Picking the highs, lows of the 2010 baseball season

What a strange year to pick an MVP. Do you go with the Rangers' Josh Hamilton, who was having a monster season until he missed most of the past month with an injury? Or do you go with the Tigers' Miguel Cabrera, who put up huge numbers for a noncontending team? Or, you could split the difference and take the Yankees' Robinson Cano, who put up good numbers for a good team. Yes, Cabrera's power numbers are better than Hamilton's coming into the weekend: 38 HRs compared to 31 and 126 RBIs compared to 97. Hamilton was hitting .361 to Cabrera's .328. In the end, when it's this close, the question is this: Whom would you rather have this season? The answer: Hamilton. It seems strange not to just fill in Albert Pujols' name and move on to the next award. Pujols is a three-time MVP and won the award the past two seasons. He's putting up big numbers again, leading the NL in homers and RBIs while hitting .315 coming into the weekend. And if we're starting a team today, Pujols would be our first pick. But this time, the Cardinals' disappointing season hurts him. Maybe that's not fair, but players on teams that are headed to the postseason do get a little extra credit. Because of that, our pick is someone no one thought would be an MVP before this season: first baseman Joey Votto, the chief reason the Reds are headed to the postseason for the first time since 1995.
Cy Young
There's a big push out there for the Mariners' Felix Hernandez, whose record has hovered around .500 because he plays for a crummy team. Everyone talks about how he had it easy pitching in the weak AL West as opposed to the Yankees' CC Sabathia and the Rays' David

Price, but here are some startling numbers for you: Hernandez was 3-0 with a 0.35 ERA against the Yankees and 5-1 with a 0.63 ERA against the AL East. Meantime, Sabathia won 21 games, but 10 of those came against last-place teams. Hernandez might be the best pitcher in baseball, but how can you give this award to a player who won so few games? This might seem like a homer pick, but our choice is Price, who won 19 games, gave up just about a half-run less a game than Sabathia and was the Rays' rock in the rotation all season.

This was Rockies ace Ubaldo Jimenez's award to lose halfway through the season, but lose it he did with a so-so second half. The Cardinals' Adam Wainwright won 20 games, but he wasn't great down the stretch, either. Meantime, the Phillies' Roy Halladay had another amazing season, including going 11-3 to start the second half. Halladay is our pick to become the fifth pitcher to win the award in both leagues.
Rookie of the year
A couple of Rays players are briefly in the conversation with pitcher Wade Davis and catcher John Jaso, but neither is really a finalist. The Tigers' Austin Jackson collected his 180th hit of the season last week and came into the weekend with a crack at batting .300 for the year. But our choice is Rangers closer Neftali Feliz, who had converted 38 of 41 saves coming into the weekend. This is a two-kid race, and neither is Nationals pitcher Stephen Strasburg, who seemed like he was well on his way to being rookie of the year until he was sidelined by an arm injury. Really, you can flip a coin between the Braves' Jason Heyward, top left, and the Giants' Buster Posey, bottom left. Their power numbers are fairly close, but remember Posey didn't get called up until two months into the season. The former Florida State standout has hit for a better average, while Heyward is a better baserunner. Offensively, Posey has been a touch better. But here's what puts it over the top: Posey has spent most of the season catching, the most demanding position on the field. Our choice: Posey.
Manager of the year
We're tempted to list the Rays' Joe Maddon just to tick off all those people who criticize him. Plus, Tampa Bay's record says flat-out that he's doing a good job. We love the Twins' Ron Gardenhire, but our pick is the Rangers' Ron Washington. The sentimental pick is the Braves' Bobby Cox, who says this will be his last season. Atlanta has been a surprise, and Cox has done a nice job, but even though they may miss the playoffs, the Padres had a stunning season under Bud Black. He's our choice.
Most surprising team
The Rangers were a bit of a surprise, but they benefited from every other team in that West Division falling apart. So we'll go with the Twins. For some dumb reason, we're always amazed when the season comes to an end and the small-market Twins are in the playoffs. Maybe the Reds going to the playoffs for the first time in 15 years really shouldn't be a surprise. You could see they had the makings of a good team. Too bad the Padres' postseason hopes have faded, but it doesn't erase what a turnaround they had after going 75-87 a year ago. That's our choice.
Most surprising player
The Blue Jays' Jose Bautista had never hit more than 16 homers in six MLB seasons. He had a mind-boggling 54 coming into the weekend. Weird, huh? Pat Burrell, what the heck? In 146 games in two seasons with the Rays, Burrell hit 16 homers with 77 RBIs. His career looked over. Then he goes to the Giants and in his first 93 games belts 18 homers with 51 RBIs.
Most disappointing team
The Red Sox had a disappointing season, but that was due to injuries more than anything else. The White Sox, Tigers and Angels also failed to meet expectations. But the biggest disappointment? The Mariners. A bunch of offseason moves didn't pan out, and instead of competing for a division title, they made a run at 100 losses. Mets, Dodgers, Cubs. Take your pick.
Most disappointing player
The Mariners' Chone Figgins has picked it up of late, but the former Brandon High standout still will end up finishing with a batting average about 30 points lower than the .293 he hit in eight seasons with the Angels. The Dodgers' Matt Kemp has seen his average drop nearly 50 points and his OPS drop nearly 100 points from a season ago.

St. Petersburg Times staff writer Tom Jones wraps up the 2010 major-league baseball season.

Three biggest stories of the season

1. Umpire Jim Joyce blows call at first base to cost the Tigers' Armando Galarraga a perfect game and starts the debate about using replay in baseball.

2. Nationals pitcher Stephen Strasburg strikes out 14 in his big-league debut but pitches only 12 games before being lost for a year with elbow surgery.

3. The Rays clinch their second playoff spot in three years but continue to struggle with attendance issues.

Picking the highs, lows of the 2010 baseball season 10/02/10 [Last modified: Monday, October 4, 2010 1:20pm]
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