So far, the Major League Baseball season has had several great stories like Josh Hamilton, Kerry Wood and Ryan Ludwick, but as we cruise into the halfway point, who should get the midseason hardware?
The usual suspects are at the top fighting for the first half MVP, CY Young and Rookie of the Year awards but I have a new prize to give out this year.
So to kick things off, the first half awards go to...
Maddest Coach: Willie Randolph
The Randolph coached Mets were the underachievers of the National League. With one of the highest payrolls and young talent, they were unable to shake off their historic collapse from last season. Since Randolph was fired, the Mets have been a totally different ball club, and with their nine game winning streak, they have climbed back in the pennant race.
NL MVP: Albert Pujols
I give the nod to Pujols for one reason: because he has so many young and inexperienced leaders on the team. Sure you can say Troy Glaus and Adam Kennedy have playoff experience but if you look up and down the lineup you see mostly unknowns like Ryan Ludwick, Rick Ankiel, Skip Schumaker and Brendan Ryan.
But pound for pound, Pujols is the best pure hitter in the league and is the only player in the lineup that is guaranteed to produce.
AL MVP: Josh Hamilton
This was a tough choice because there are several deserving players but Hamilton has been arguably the biggest story in all of sports. He is putting MVP numbers with his .310 avg, 21 HRs and 95 RBI and is on pace for 160 RBI. He was able to shake off the demons that haunted him earlier in his career and now showing why he was the No. 1 pick overall in 1999.
With his surprising first half the Rangers sit just six games out of the wild card race as they look to build on their first half success.
NL CY Young: Ben Sheets
This is another tough choice because Brandon Webb and Kyle Lohse are deserving of this as well. Sheets has been the steady performer the Brewers needed to stay in the playoff race. He has a 10-3 record with a 2.85 ERA and a 1.11 WHIP (Walks + Hits divided by Innings Pitched).
Sheets needs to be equally as effective the second half for Milwaukee keep pace with the Chicago Cubs.
AL CY Young: Justin Duchscherer
This reliever turned starter has guided the shoestring budget Oakland A's to a 51-44 first half record and just four-and-a-half games out of the wild card. He has a 10-5 record with a 1.82 ERA and a 0.87 WHIP.
During his first season as a starter, Oakland would be nowhere near the top without him and will have more pressure on him than any other pitcher down the stretch.
NL Rookie of Year: Geovany Soto
This is an easy one to pick so far as Soto has been steady behind the plate for the NL Central division leader. Soto has 16 HRs, 56 RBI and a .288 batting average. Soto was also named to the starting lineup for the NL All-Star team and has been a huge offensive improvement for the Cubs at that position.
AL Rookie of Year: Evan Longoria
This was an equally easy name to pick as Longoria had paced the hot hitting Tampa Bay Rays with 16 HRs, 53 RBI and a .275 batting avg. Playing the hot corner, he's been steady with the glove as well. His bat has helped put the Rays in the division race and should keep them there the second half.