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Bill Madden

Bill Madden: From Aaron Judge to Buck Showalter, handing out our end-of-season awards

NEW YORK — Although the postseason seedings have yet to be decided, with one notable exception — the National League MVP race — we’ve seen enough to determine the deserving individual honors. Everyone has their opinions, many even have actual votes, but here are our picks for baseball’s 2022 awards (Stats through Friday):

American League Most Valuable Player

With all due respect to the great two-way Shohei Ohtani, Aaron Judge is the AL MVP for a number of reasons. Not only did Judge put together one of the greatest single seasons in baseball history, he carried the Yankee offense, which sputtered through much of the season. And without him, the Yankees certainly would not have run away with the AL East the way they did. Judge plays every day, leads the majors in nine different categories and is superb defensively in both right and center field. And yes we know Ohtani’s 15 victories are third-most in the AL and his 34 homers fourth. But he did it for a team that is 15 games under .500 and 31 games out of first place. Any other year Ohtani would probably be the MVP, but this year Judge was far more valuable to the Yankees.

National League Most Valuable Player

The easy choice is Paul Goldschmidt who’s having a career season, leading the NL in OBP, slugging, OPS and total bases as the driving force in the Cardinals’ taking command of the NL Central. But teammate Nolan Arenado has been almost as productive, and if the Mets are able to win the NL East, Edwin Diaz, who’s had one of the most dominant seasons of any closer in history, has to be in the MVP conversation. I suspect, when pushed, Buck Showalter would say Diaz has been his overall most indispensable player this year; that, without him, the Mets would be hard-pressed to even make the postseason. Honorable Mention for Pete Alonso who’s had a monster career season with nearly 20 more RBIs than his nearest NL counterpart, but Francisco Lindor and Jeff McNeil have been equally indispensable to the Mets offense.

American League Cy Young

Much as we admire 39-year-old comebacker Justin Verlander (major league-leading 17 wins, 1.80 ERA), his month-long injury in mid-August opened the door for the White Sox numbingly consistent Dylan Cease, whose 2.06 ERA going into October was second in the majors to Verlander and set a major league record with 14 straight starts of allowing one or fewer runs. Cease was the one bright light in an otherwise miserably underachieving White Sox season. Besides, Verlander’s already won two Cys and his place as a first-ballot Hall of Famer is secure. How much more does he need?

National League Cy Young

The Dodgers’ Julio Urias (17-7, 2.12 ERA going into October) has been dominant but most everyone agrees the most feared and best starting pitcher in the National League is Marlins’ workhorse ace Sandy Alcantara (14-9, 2.28 ERA and a major league-leading 228 2/3 innings and six complete games with a bad team). In this day and age we especially appreciate durability. Special mention: Braves’ No. 3 starter, homegrown Kyle Wright, the majors' only 20-game winner.

American League Rookie of the Year

Despite nagging late-season injuries that took him out of the lineup at a most critical time, we have to go with the Mariners’ 21-year-old wunderkind center fielder Julio Rodriguez, who became the first rookie in history to hit 25-plus homers and steal 25-plus bases. Honorable mention: Orioles catcher Adley Rutschman, who lived up to the advance hype of the overall No. 1 draft pick in 2019 to spearhead Baltimore’s turnaround season, and Steven Kwan, the Guardians’ pint-sized hit man who won an everyday job in their outfield and finished September hitting .302 with 19 stolen bases, 51 RBIs and 219 total bases.

National League Rookie of the Year

As further testament to the best player development system in baseball, Gold Glove-caliber center fielder Michael Harris II, who was slashing .305/.344./531 going into October, is one of eight key homegrown Braves, along with fellow rookie standout, righty starter Spencer Strider. Harris is a budding superstar whose primary competition was Strider (11-5, 2.67 ERA, 202K in 131 2/3 IP) until he went down with an oblique injury in September.

American League Manager of the Year

Despite the remarkable turnaround season the Orioles had under Brandon Hyde, going from 110 losses to 80-plus wins, this may have been the best managing job of all by Hall of Fame-bound Terry Francona. Not too many picked the Guardians to win the AL Central, probably because so many of their players were (and still are) unfamiliar names as the youngest team in baseball. But Francona kept them hovering in second place until Aug. 9 as they quietly matured, before they climbed into first place and never relinquished it, going 12-3 against their prime competitors, the Twins and White Sox, down the stretch.

National League Manager of the Year

Who else but Buck? Showalter changed the entire Mets culture and has kept the Mets in first place (but for one day in April) the whole year, for their first postseason berth since 2016. Honorable mention: The Cardinals’ Oliver Marmol, who won a division title in his first year. But let’s be honest here. If the Mets win the NL East, Buck should be unanimous.

American League Executive of the Year

The rise of the Guardians to AL Central champs is the culmination of President of Baseball Operations Chris Antonetti’s gradual rebuild that began in 2016. In particular, Antonetti made three major trades, all of which worked out splendidly: Francisco Lindor to the Mets that reaped second baseman Andres Gimenez and shortstop Amed Rosario; righty starter Mike Clevinger to the Padres that brought back frontline starter Cal Quantrill, defense-plus catcher Austin Hedges and first baseman Josh Naylor, and Corey Kluber to the Rangers for All-Star closer Emmanuel Clase.

National League Executive of the Year

When he failed to acquire a much-needed lefty reliever at the trading deadline it was all “what have you done for us lately?” for Mets GM Billy Eppler. Forgotten was his stupendous offseason that produced Starling Marte, Mark Canha, Eduardo Escobar, Chris Bassitt and Adam Ottavino, all of whom have made major contributions to the transformation of a 77-85 Mets team in 2021 to potential NL East champions.

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