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Commentary : Post-Season Awards Appear Settled

United Press International

The race for this year’s major awards should provide just minor suspense.

Kirk Gibson just about has a lock on the National League MVP award while Cincinnati’s Danny Jackson will have to take the rest of the month off to give anyone else a chance to win the NL Cy Young award.

Frank Viola of Minnesota is a lock for Cy Young in the American League, where the MVP award should go to either Jose Canseco of Oakland or, possibly, Minnesota’s Kirby Puckett.

Races for baseball’s major awards were quite crowded a month ago -- reflecting the standings. But the picture has cleared, just as the pennant races themselves have.

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The New York Mets have just about wrapped up the NL East but their top MVP candidate, Darryl Strawberry, tailed off along with his team’s attack in the d half of the season. No MVP for Darryl.

Dwight Gooden has a distant shot at the Cy Young but Jackson’s been clearly superior thus far. Gooden may not reach 20 wins. Jackson has. LA’s Orel Hirshiser could sneak through if Jackson falters.

Angeles is leading the NL West and Gibson has played the most noticeable part. The Dodgers outbid Detroit for his services on the premise he would fill an offensive hole and his winning attitude would rub off on the rest of the Los Angeles team.

Hitting near .300 most of the season, Gibson is one of the few free agents worth what it cost to get him.

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Boston fans boom Mike Greenwell for MVP in the AL but this is the year for either Canseco or Puckett.

Canseco has a chance for bases first 40-40 season (home runs and stolen bases) while Puckett has a slight chance to unseat Wade Boggs as batting champion. Canseco’s lead in RBI isn’t that much considering the disparity in home runs.

Canseco has a significant lead in runs scored but is not hitting nearly as much. Puckett, who doesn’t walk at all, trails in slugging percentage by only a small margin.

You almost have to give the edge to Canseco because Oakland will unseat the defending World Champion. But there would be no shame in a vote for Puckett.

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Viola has a lock on the AL Cy Young. Roger Clemens of Boston is trying to pitch over physical problems that have diminished his effectiveness. He will not win his third straight pitching award.

Rookie of the Year has come down to two players in both leagues. Shortstop Walt Weiss could give Oakland its third straight rookie winner unless California relief pitcher Bryan Harvey upsets him. Mark Grace of Chicago has better credentials but Cincinnati’s Chris Sabo had the terrific first half and the benefit of exposure in the All-Star Game.

Harvey has excellent relief statistics and is a primary reason the Angels rose from the dust of a poor start. But Weiss has performed defensively for the Athletics. He hasn’t hit much, but he has been a plus player for Oakland and shows signs that he may mature as a hitter in a couple seasons.

Grace has the advantage of playing in Wrigley Field half the time but has been a consistent hitter ever since the Cubs ran Leon Durham off first base to make room for him.

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Sabo still has a ton of doubles but has not hit well in the second half.

Oakland and Los Angeles should provide the league Manager and General Manager of the Year.

Tony LaRussa has done an excellent job of keeping Oakland on top all season. Winning when you’re supposed to is not easy.

The Athletics’ GM, Sandy Alderson, did an excellent job of addressing the club’s needs in the offseason -- getting pitching help and someone to sandwich between right-handed hitting Canseco and Mark McGwire.

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Tommy Lasorda of the Dodgers has kept his team on top through the uncertainties of spring and the demands of the summer. Like Oakland’s Alderson, Los Angeles GM Fred Claire identified the Dodgers’ needs and then went out and got solutions. The pitching and hitting are stronger than a year ago and the traditionally atrocious defense has markedly improved.

Those are the likely winners with three weeks to go. They should win unless they stop to pat themselves on the back.


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