This past week marked the halfway point for all teams. Now that we are over the hump, I would like to give some mid-season recognition to teams.
Best Team - The Tampa Bay Rays
After sweeping the Red Sox and nearly sweeping a 4 game set against the Royals, the Rays are a commanding 4.5 games up on the Red Sox and possess the best record in Major League Baseball. This team is not the best team on paper and still has not received the best performances from many of their offensive contributors such as BJ Upton, Carl Crawford and Carlos Pena. They can pitch and I fully expect the Rays to be within striking distance for the rest of the season. While I doubt that they will be atop the AL East at the end of the season, things are starting to really roll in their direction after a five game swing in the last eight days.
MVP - Josh Hamilton, Texas Rangers
While making nearly the league minimum, this is another wonderful story that has made 2008 such a great baseball season. Hamilton is hitting .309 with 19 homers and 84 RBI's. He is 12th in average, 2nd in home runs (Sizemore, 22) and leading Justin Morneau by 19 RBI's and has been leading or near the top in all of these categories for the entire season. While it probably won't end up this way, Hamilton has a legitimate chance at the home run and RBI legs of the triple crown and an outside chance at winning the triple crown if he were to get his batting average up around .330 with teammate Ian Kinsler. More importantly, his team is three games over .500 at 46-43 and that is largely due to Hamilton's contribution.
Cy Young - Joe Saunders, Los Angeles Angels of Anahiem
The Angels would be nowhere without the contributions of Saunders, John Lackey and Ervin Santana. Saunders performance of 12-4, 3.04 has been the best of the bunch in 2008. While cases can be made for Cliff Lee and Roy Halladay, Saunders is the pitcher who has done the most for his team. Starting out the season 6-0, he got his team through April and has been very solid since, going less than five innings just once this season. By the end of the season, Scott Kazmir and Josh Beckett may have something to say about this award.
Comeback Player of the Year (tie) - JD Drew, Boston Red Sox / Milton Bradley, Texas Rangers
JD Drew has led the Boston Red Sox to the record they are at right now, without David Ortiz in the lineup. His 16 homers this season already outnumber his 2007 contributions to the World Series winners by five. Winner of the AL Player of the Month for June, Drew has cooled off much like other Red Sox hitters in July. Milton Bradley has been a great contributor to the Texas Rangers this season as well. With a line of .320, 17, 54 and no assaults on teammates, Bradley has really done an excellent job with Texas after injuries slowed him down much of the past couple of years. I had to select both of these players because Drew is truly a comeback player, having struggled through a full season of baseball last year, while Bradley was successful, just coming off injury. Arguments can be made that each feat deserves the award, which is why they are both listed.