The awards: MOST VALUABLE PLAYER--Don Mattingly’s dominance of the league’s offensive statistics gives him the nod over the Kansas City Royals’ George Brett, New York Yankees teammate Rickey Henderson and the Angels’ Donnie Moore.
Mattingly led the league, as of Thursday, in RBIs, total bases, doubles, extra-base hits and game-winning RBIs. He was fifth in homers, fourth in batting average, second in hits and second in slugging percentage.
Those favoring Brett can argue accurately that Brett seems isolated in the Kansas City lineup when compared to Mattingly, who is surrounded by offensive threats. Brett has drawn 99 walks, of which 33--two shy of the league record--have been intentional. He has still gotten his bat on the ball often enough to rank second in the league in average, second in on-base percentage and first in slugging percentage. He has equaled his career high in homers with 25, and will soon pass 100 RBIs.
Nevertheless, Mattingly’s numbers are among the best in all the years for a franchise that has some of the best numbers in baseball history. Mattingly’s 47 doubles, for example, are the most by a Yankee since Lou Gehrig had 47 in 1928. His 135 RBIs are the most by a Yankee since Roger Maris had 142 in 1961, which was the most since Joe DiMaggio had 155 in 1948.
“I know their numbers are amazing, but I never heard of Lou Gehrig until I came to the Yankees,” Mattingly said. “Honestly, at one time I thought Babe Ruth was a cartoon character. I was more aware of Reggie and Catfish and Nettles.”
CY YOUNG AWARD--Kansas City’s Bret Saberhagen will seek his 20th victory Monday night against the Angels. The Yankees’ Ron Guidry is already there. Each has had a similar impact on his team’s success, but Saberhagen’s consistency, when weighed against the inconsistency of his offensive support, seems to earn him the edge.
ROOKIE OF THE YEAR--A difficult decision, but the facts that Milwaukee Brewers shortstop Earnest Riles is still flirting with .300, has hit .323 with runners in scoring position and continues to play solid defense--all while facing the pressure of replacing Robin Yount--give him a slim advantage.
There are three other candidates, all of whom would be legitimate award winners: Brewer left-hander Ted Higuera, Chicago White Sox shortstop Ozzie Guillen and Texas Rangers center fielder Oddibe McDowell, who has rebounded from a 1-for-24 start to hit 18 homers and steal 25 bases.
COMEBACK OF THE YEAR--Gorman Thomas, recovering from a rotator cuff injury that threatened his career, has hit 32 homers and driven in 86 runs as the Seattle Mariners’ designated hitter. Milwaukee third baseman Paul Molitor, limited to 13 games last year by an elbow injury that required a transplant similar to the one performed on Tommy John, had 160 hits and a .300 average in 130 games. His more demanding position earns him the vote.
EXECUTIVE OF THE YEAR--Mike Port could have sat back, said he was handcuffed by his ownership’s austerity and youth movement, and let the bid for a division title slip away. Instead, in his first year as the Angels’ general manager, he boldly traded with Pittsburgh for John Candelaria, then acquired Don Sutton from Oakland, braving the contention that the Angels had dumped their youth movement and returned to a policy of win at all costs.
It seems certain that the Angels would have expired without Candelaria and Sutton, but this is an award that Port must share with Toronto’s Pat Gillick, who successfully rebuilt the Blue Jay bullpen last winter and is to be saluted for his shrewd use of trades and the minor-league draft in a patient development of the overall team.
MANAGER OF THE YEAR--Easy. The Angels’ Gene Mauch. No one has made better use of mirrors since Alice found Wonderland.
Twenty-eight saves and an earned-run average of 1.55, the league’s best, may not earn Donnie Moore the Cy Young or MVP awards, but it won’t hurt his bargaining power as a potential free agent.
Now making $375,000, Moore is expected to seek a four-year contract of more than $4 million, according to a source who requested anonymity. He will also seek deferments and annuities, which the Angels oppose.
Moore will be eligible for free agency when the season ends. Agent David Pinter, reached at his New York office, was reluctant to comment because the current priority is on the club’s bid for a division title.
He said there would be no talks until the season was over. He seemed to suggest, however, that Moore will definitely file for his free agency, accepting other offers before choosing. “Donnie loves it in Anaheim,” Pinter said. “He’s found a home. If the club comes in with an offer he can’t refuse, he’ll sign and stay. He doesn’t want to have to move again, but what generally happens when a player goes through the entire season without being signed is that he responds to the club’s first offer by saying thank you, then he goes out to test the water.
“Donnie can’t and won’t do anything until he first hears from the Angels, but I tend to think he’ll test the water. At this point, considering the type of year he’s had, why shouldn’t he?”
League sources asking anonymity said that Angel scouting director Larry Himes and Kansas City minor-league director Dick Balderson are the top candidates to replace the departed Hal Keller as general manager of the Mariners next year.
Mariner owner George Argyros, appearing at a hearing the other day to seek concessions in his Kingdome lease, said, “In 100 years of baseball, never has a team been successful in its first 10 years of existence.”
The Royals won three division titles in their first 10 years; the Mets won a World Series in their eighth year, and Toronto, created in the same year as the Mariners, are on the verge of winning a division title in their ninth year. The Mariners are still looking for their first winning season.
The Blue Jays would rather play the Angels than the Royals in the playoffs.
It’s not just that Toronto was 7-5 against the Angels this year, contrasted with 5-7 against the Royals. It’s that Kansas City left-handers Charlie Leibrandt, Danny Jackson and Bud Black were a combined 5-0 with a 1.78 ERA against Toronto.
Much has been written about Carlton Fisk’s dedicated use of weightlifting in overcoming an abdominal muscle pull that weakened his performance last year.
Tuesday night in Anaheim, when the 37-year-old Fisk reached 100 RBIs for only the second time in his career, the Chicago White Sox catcher laughed and said: “If I had two RBIs for every 300 pounds I lifted, I’d have 2,000 RBIs now.”
Darrell Evans may be wishing that the Niekros were triplets. He can’t get enough of Phil and Joe. Evans was 8 for 11 against them this year, and hit 4 home runs. The Detroit Tigers won five of six decisions from the Niekros, scoring 33 runs in 28 innings.
The Yankees publish a bimonthly magazine for fans and media. The Oct. 17 issue carries a story about Ed Whitson’s battle with his pitching problems early in the year. The headline on the cover: “Ed Whitson Fights Back.”
No disclaimers from Billy Martin.