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Baseball : Canseco, Gibson, Viola and Hershiser Are Ones to Reward

One man’s awards: Most Valuable Player

American League: 1. Jose Canseco; 2. Mike Greenwell; 3. Kirby Puckett.

National League: 1. Kirk Gibson; 2. Darryl Strawberry; 3. Glenn Davis.

Comment: Gibson shouldn’t be the automatic that most voters are making him. His power statistics don’t compare to those of Strawberry or Davis, and he has endured two injury-related dry spells down the stretch.

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Still, there is no diminishing his ability to deliver key runs, nor his impact on the intensity of the Dodgers, who had to dig out of a much deeper hole than Strawberry’s Mets.

Greenwell and Puckett would be MVPs in any other year, but no one else has ever hit 40 or more homers and stolen 40 or more bases, as Canseco did. He powered Oakland’s rout of the West. He has led the Athletics to a major league high 103 wins. You can argue in support of Puckett and Eric Davis, but a convincing case can be made for Canseco as baseball’s best player.

Cy Young

American League: 1. Frank Viola; 2. Dennis Eckersley; 3. Mark Gubicza.

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National League: 1. Orel Hershiser; 2. Danny Jackson; 3. David Cone.

Comment: Hershiser’s streaks of scoreless innings and consecutive shutouts put a final flourish on an award race that was otherwise a tossup among the top three.

Eckersley had a record season in relief for the Athletics, but Viola played such sweet music so consistently that his earned-run average remained in the 2.6 range as he led the league with 24 wins. Anyone who can go 14-2 in the hitters’ paradise that is the Metrodome deserves an award, or a medal.

Rookie of the Year

American League: 1. Walt Weiss; 2. Don August; 3. Bryan Harvey.

National League: 1. Tim Belcher; 2. Chris Sabo; 3. Mark Grace.

Comment: The Angels staged a publicity campaign on behalf of relief pitcher Harvey, but Weiss, shortstop for the division-winning Athletics, played the more significant role. His arrival enabled the Athletics to include Alfredo Griffin in the trade for Bob Welch, and his defensive stability enabled them to avoid breaking up their roster in a difficult mid-season search for another shortstop.

Weiss lifted his average to .251, made only 1 error in his last 68 games and had a total of 15 for the season, half the total made by Griffin and other Oakland shortstops last year.

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Supporters of Harvey and August, the Milwaukee Brewers’ late-blooming starter, may cite Weiss’ selection and scream about the selection of pitcher Belcher over everyday players such as Sabo and Grace in the National League.

Belcher, however, was even better than his 12-6 record and 2.91 ERA would indicate. He had 10 starts in which he failed to gain a decision. For a long period, he teamed with Tim Leary as the front-running Dodgers’ unsung MVPs, helping hold the rotation together, particularly after the loss of Fernando Valenzuela. Belcher also helped sustain the bullpen, saving 4 games when Jay Howell was on the disabled list.

Sabo, the Cincinnati Reds’ third baseman, dropped off significantly in the second half, and it was difficult to separate his final statistics from those of Grace, the Chicago Cubs’ first baseman, and Atlanta Braves infielder Ron Gant.

Manager of the Year

American League: 1. Joe Morgan; 2. Tony LaRussa; 3. Sparky Anderson.

National League: 1. Tom Lasorda; 2. Jack McKeon; 3. Jim Leyland.

Comment: This was no push-button season for the Dodgers. Amid offensive inconsistency and a variety of injuries, Lasorda seemed to have his best year, earning admiration for both his managerial and motivational skills.

The Boston Red Sox simply may have been ripe for a change, but their rousing response when Morgan replaced John McNamara makes it difficult to pick anyone else, though LaRussa is to be applauded for keeping Oakland’s nose to the grindstone. And Anderson, seemingly doing it with mirrors in Detroit, again enhanced his reputation as baseball’s best.

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Executive of the Year

American League: 1. Sandy Alderson.

National League: 1. Fred Claire; 2. Syd Thrift.

Comment: Portrayed as nothing more than a public relations specialist and accused by some clubs of being afraid to pull the trigger, Claire proved otherwise, reshaping a team that finished 16 games under .500 in each of the previous 2 years and is now going to the playoffs. Thrift has been similarly aggressive with the Pittsburgh Pirates, but he has a more formidable division hurdle in the Mets.

Alderson and staff made up their minds that this would be Oakland’s year, and they went after it, bolstering the rotation through the addition of workhorse Welch, and their left-handed hitting by the acquisition of Dave Parker and Ron Hassey.

Comeback of the Year

American League: 1. Dave Henderson; 2. Storm Davis.

National League: 1. Danny Jackson.

Comment: After hitting 15 homers and driving in 47 runs with the Red Sox in 1986, the year of his playoff-perpetuating homer against the Angels, Henderson had a strange season in 1987. He hit only 8 homers and drove in 26 runs and was released by the Red Sox, then was signed and released by the San Francisco Giants.

The Athletics signed Henderson as a free agent in December, and he has responded with a career year, filling a center-field vacancy while hitting .302 with 24 homers and 93 RBIs.

Jackson, who won a total of 25 games with the Kansas City Royals in 1985 and 1986, was 9-18 with them in ’87. His comeback season with the Reds has included 23 wins, 15 complete games and 6 shutouts. The Dodgers’ Tim Leary went from 3-11 to 17-10, but as Leary has said, “I had never done anything before that, so what am I coming back to?”

One man’s predictions: The Playoffs

American League: With comparable pitching and firepower, the Oakland-Boston matchup probably will hinge on which team plays best on the road.

The Athletics are a proven commodity. They were 48-30 on the road and 3-3 in Boston, where The Wall beckons Canseco and Mark McGwire. The Red Sox, on the other hand, are 36-44 on the road and 0-6 in Oakland, where they have lost 11 of their last 12 games. Tab the Athletics in 6.

National League: The Dodger-Met matchup pits baseball’s two best pitching staffs, providing John Tudor is able to pitch for the Dodgers. There is no reason to think the series will be anything but low-scoring and that the Mets are likely to do most of it.

The Dodgers hit .223 over their last 40 games prior to Friday, and the Mets outscored them by more than 70 runs over the course of the season. Also, the Dodgers go in with the psychological burden of having lost 10 of their 11 meetings with New York. Tab the Mets in 5.

One man’s notebook: --Jim Fregosi’s “gut feeling” is that he will be fired as manager of the Chicago White Sox, but unless it happens quickly, longtime buddy Lee Thomas, new general manager of the Philadelphia Phillies, is expected to look elsewhere for a successor to Lee Elia.

St. Louis Cardinals coach Nick Leyva is the rumored front-runner, with the Houston Astros’ Hal Lanier a possibility, depending on what Houston owner John McMullen decides about Lanier, who has a year left on his contract.

--Thomas is expected to begin his rebuilding of the foldin’ Phils by trading Phil Bradley to the Minnesota Twins for Tom Herr. The Steve Bedrosian-for-Jack Clark talks are said to be still alive as well.

--Fregosi seems to remain the leading candidate for the Angels’ managerial vacancy, though it is a team that needs a new heart more than a new manager. The aimless Angels were 7-19 last September and began this final weekend with the same record.

--With Dallas Green’s shadow looming large, Lou Piniella is expected to meet with owner George Steinbrenner in Tampa Tuesday to determine his fate as New York Yankee manager.

Piniella has a 3-year, $1-million contract that will have to be resolved, but his future may be with the Seattle Mariners, who reportedly also are considering Athletic coach Jim Lefebvre as a possible successor to interim manager Jimmy Snyder.

--Bo Jackson will report to the Raiders next week, his 3-year, $1.066-million contract with the Kansas City Royals having expired. He is apparently coming back for more, however.

“Bo loves Kansas City, the Royals’ organization and baseball,” his attorney, Richard Woods, said. “He’ll absolutely be back in Kansas City.”

Said Royal General Manager John Schuerholz of Jackson’s dual pursuit: “It’s worked out fine. I have no complaints. I just happen to feel that if he wasn’t playing two pro sports, he could be even better.”

--In his second full season with the Royals, Jackson became the first player in franchise history to hit 25 homers and steal 25 or more bases. Said George Brett: “Bo’s going to go 40-40 some day. Then after that he’s going to score 40 touchdowns.”

--By doggedly remaining in the American League East race until the final weekend--closing ground, in fact, over the final 2 months--the Milwaukee Brewers earned a purple heart.

Relief ace Dan Plesac missed 5 of the last 6 weeks with tendinitis in his shoulder. Shortstop Dale Sveum broke his left leg Sept. 3. Outfielder Glenn Braggs hasn’t played since June. Greg Brock, Rob Deer, Juan Nieves and Mike Felder all missed a month or more at various points in the season.

Said Manager Tom Trebelhorn: “I don’t think anybody in the first division had more injuries than we did. But I don’t blame anything on that. I just compliment the guys who hung in and kept playing.”

--Jody Davis, traded to the Atlanta Braves, left the Chicago Cubs ranking second to Gabby Hartnett on the Cubs’ all-time list of games caught: 1,756 to 961.

He also left with a “degree of bitterness” over the way he was treated this season, when he attempted to play with a broken toe and ultimately lost his job to Damon Berryhill. Said Manager Don Zimmer: “There are times in a guy’s life when somebody takes your job. Berryhill took his.”

-- Cleveland Indians President Hank Peters, the former Baltimore Orioles general manager, said of Oriole first baseman Eddie Murray: “He deteriorated greatly as a defensive player this year. Whether that’s a deterioration of skills, conditioning or desire I can’t answer, because we haven’t seen the effort.”


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