Mid-Season MVP: Alex Rodriguez
With apologies to Jorge Posada, Gary Sheffield and Derek Jeter, Rodriguez narrowly earns the prize here. The only categories that Rodriguez leads the team in are homers and steals, but he's right there in every single other offensive stat and the defense he plays at third base puts him over the top for me. Nobody expected A-Rod to be this good at third this soon, but there he is, making his case for a gold glove award. Add to that 22 home runs, 58 RBI, 61 runs scored and 18 stolen bases (already as many as he's had since 1999, when he stole 21 for the year) and you've got the makings of an MVP. The only thing we could ask for is that he stop striking out so much (at 71, he's on pace to set a new career high).
Honorable Mentions: Posada, Sheffield, Jeter, Matsui.
MLB MVP: Scott Rolen, Cardinals
Mid-Season Cy Young (Starters Division): Javier Vazquez
Sadly, this race isn't even close. In a season when the rest of the team's starters have barely bothered to show up, Javier Vazquez is quietly putting together an excellent season. Widely unheralded because he played in Montreal, Vazquez is still flying under the radar screens of most people. But come on, let's start paying closer attention. His 3.56 ERA leads the rotation, and is almost 60 points better than the next closest guy (Kevin Brown). The league is hitting just .233 against him and he easily leads the staff in innings. He probably won't win a Cy Young this season, but he's been the Yankees' ace so far in 2004.
Honorable Mentions: Nobody.
MLB Cy Young: Jason Schmidt, Giants
Mid-Season Cy Young (Relief Division): Mariano Rivera
At the beginning of last season, everyone and their mother was writing Rivera off. Claiming that he was getting old, that he was brittle, that there was no way his frail-looking body could hold up under another season. But last year was Mariano Rivera's best of his career, and he capped it off with yet another dominant postseason. So what does the all-time Yankees saves leader do for an encore? He gets better. Rivera leads the AL in saves with 32, is second to Cincinnati's Danny Graves (33 saves) for the MLB lead and has posted a 0.99 ERA in 45.1 innings. Sure, the strikeouts are down slightly and he's walked a few more batters, but Rivera's been dominant all season long.
Honorable Mentions: Tom Gordon, who is probably responsible for a good part of Rivera's success, deserves more than just an honorable mention.
MLB Cy Young: Rivera
Mid-Season Rookie of the Year: Brad Halsey
Halsey wins mainly because of a lack of competition (Bubba Crosby being the only other real rookie on the team), but he has definitely shown some promise if you look past his gaudy ERA. In four starts, Halsey went 1-2 with a 7.23 ERA before being returned to the minor leagues. It's no easy task being a rookie in New York, and it's no easy task filling in for a guy like Kevin Brown, but Halsey was sharp in his first outing and decent in the others. His 8.2 strikeouts-per-nine-innings statistic is second-best on the team behind Tom Gordon among players with at least 15 innings.
Honorable Mentions: Crosby.
MLB ROY: Lew Ford, Twins
Best Mid-Season Moment: Derek Jeter's diving catch against Boston
There are very few players in baseball willing to give up their body to make a play, and very few players in baseball that are willing to do that on a daily basis. Jeter's stunning catch helped seal a three-game sweep against the Red Sox in the beginning of July, and it helped solidify his place as team captain. In one of the craziest regular-season games in history, Jeter made the standout play.
Honorable Mentions: Sheffield's 10-pitch at bat (6/30/2004) that resulted in a go-ahead RBI double and featured eight consecutive foul balls; Kenny Lofton's game-tying pinch-hit home run against the Padres with two out in the bottom of the ninth (6/13/2004); Ruben Sierra's game-tying single against Troy Percival and the Angels (5/11/2004); Sierra's pinch-hit two-RBI double in the bottom of the eighth against Oakland that scored both the tying and go-ahead runs to cap a six-run Yankee comeback inning (4/27/2004).
Mid-Season LVP: Jason Giambi
Giambi's quite simply not pulling his weight. The Yankees are on the hook for a ton of money guaranteed to Giambi through the 2008 season ($81 million counting this season, to be exact) and to say they aren't getting their money's worth would be a vast understatement. Giambi has been sidelined by various injuries (ankle, parasites, knee, etc) and has managed to put up just a .241 batting average with just 35 RBI. By comparison, Ruben Sierra and Tony Clark, making a combined $1.75 million this year, have 32 and 31 RBI respectively. And Clark is a better defender. Giambi needs to start playing like the former MVP that he is, or he'll be an enormous albatross around the Yankees' neck for the next five years.
Dishonorable Mention: Enrique Wilson
MLB LVP: Juan Gonzalez, Royals
Mid-Season Cy Old: Gabe White
White was good last season. Good enough to earn a new contract from the Yankees. But in 2004, whenever he took the mound, hitters jumped for joy. Before being traded back to the Reds recently, White had allowed an opponent's batting average of .355, an ERA of 8.27 and a WHIP of 1.94. He retired every batter he faced in just five of his 24 appearances, and a few of those times he was asked only to get one or two outs.
Dishonorable Mention: Felix Heredia
MLB Cy Old: Bartolo Colon, Angels
Biggest Mid-Season Surprise: Tony Clark
Yeah, Clark's hitting just .234 and actually has more strikeouts than several Yankees who play more often, but he also has ten home runs, eight doubles, 31 RBI and an .816 OPS. Not bad for a guy that nobody expected to be on the team once Travis Lee came off of the DL. What happened for real? Lee went down for the season after just a few at bats, and Clark has been playing semi-regularly due to Giambi's injuries. Clark has been excellent at first base all year long and has come up big in a few key situations at the plate. What more can you ask for?
Honorable Mention: Miguel Cairo; Orlando Hernandez returning from the DL.