© St. Petersburg Times, published September 29, 2002
As exciting as the final days of the 2002 season have been thanks to the National League and American League West races, this season likely will be remembered more for what happened off the field than on.
Negotiators for baseball's owners and players reached a deal on a collective-bargaining agreement hours before the ninth work stoppage was to begin Aug. 30.
Ted Williams, the last man to bat .400, died July 5, yet the ugly legal battle between family members over his frozen remains continues. Over the course of a few days in June, the Cardinals lost pitcher Darryl Kile and Hall of Fame broadcaster Jack Buck.
But that barely scratches the surface.
With the final day upon us, here's a brief look back and a glance ahead at the major postseason awards:
BEST ACQUISITIONS: First baseman Jason Giambi, who left Oakland to sign a seven-year, $120-million contract with the Yankees, has put up better numbers than his pinstriped predecessor, Tino Martinez. Giambi has a higher batting average, more homers, more RBIs and a higher on-base percentage than Martinez did with the Yankees last season.
Traded to Atlanta during the offseason to help protect Chipper Jones and Andruw Jones in the Braves lineup, Gary Sheffield is hitting .304 with 25 homers and 84 RBIs.
WORST ACQUISITIONS: Texas is paying $31-million total this season to Chan Ho Park and outfielders Juan Gonzalez and Carl Everett.
Park has pitched in 25 games and is 9-8 with a 5.75 ERA, and Gonzalez played in 70 games before an injury ended his season in July. Everett is hitting .267 with 16 homers and 62 RBIs in 105 games. Unless the Rangers can unload these guys, they'll pay them $33.15-million next year.
MOST MEMORABLE MOMENT: Nothing surpasses that July evening in Milwaukee when the All-Star Game ended in a tie for the first time since 1961 because both teams were out of pitchers.
Commissioner Bud Selig decided to call the contest with the score 7-7 after the 11th. No winner of the first Ted Williams MVP was named and Selig was booed off the field as fans hurled souvenir seat cushions at his head.
NATIONAL LEAGUE MVP: Giants outfielder Barry Bonds didn't come close to his record 73 homers in 2001, but he leads the league in batting at .370 and has 46 homers and a record 198 walks. Bonds is hitting better than .400 since the All-Star break.
AMERICAN LEAGUE MVP: This is a three-man race among Rangers shortstop Alex Rodriguez, A's shortstop Miguel Tejada and Yankees second baseman Alfonso Soriano.
Rodriguez has the best numbers -- 57 homers, 140 RBIs -- and just think how much worse the Rangers would be without him. That Soriano has been the most valuable player on a team of stars will help his cause. Tejada's timely hitting and fielding were part of the reason Oakland won 20 straight in August and early September.
NL CY YOUNG: Diamondbacks pitchers Randy Johnson and Curt Schilling are nearly identical. Combined they are 47-12 with a 2.73 ERA and 649 strikeouts. But Johnson has a lower ERA (2.32), has allowed fewer earned runs (67) and has more strikeouts (334) than his counterpart.
AL CY YOUNG: Red Sox starter Pedro Martinez, a three-time Cy Young Award winner, leads the AL in ERA and strikeouts.
Teammate Derek Lowe, the converted closer who pitched the first no-hitter at Fenway Park in more than 30 years, was the All-Star starter and has won 21. Oakland's Barry Zito, who has more innings (223 1/3) and more wins (22) than either, will be helped by the fact the A's are going to the playoffs while the Red Sox will be home.
NL ROOKIE OF THE YEAR: At 16-8, Rockies pitcher Jason Jennings finished one win from the team record for a season and missed becoming the first National League rookie to win 20 since Tom Browning did it with the Reds in 1985. Still, Jennings has the most wins by a rookie since Browning.
AL ROOKIE OF THE YEAR: As terrific a season as Baltimore's Rodrigo Lopez has had -- he went 6-0 with a 2.57 ERA in July -- Toronto third baseman Eric Hinske has had an equally impressive one. He is batting .279 with 24 homers, 38 doubles and 83 RBIs.
NL MANAGER OF THE YEAR: Bobby Cox has led the Braves to their fourth 100-win season since 1992. But how about Tony La Russa?
The man navigated his team through the deaths of Kile and Buck and has the Cardinals going to the postseason again despite a patchwork pitching staff. St. Louis ranks second in the NL in batting average, hits, runs and wins and fourth in ERA.
AL MANAGER OF THE YEAR: Oakland, managed by Art Howe, began the season by losing 28 of 53 and has been on a tear since.
Anaheim got off to the worst start in club history (6-14), but somehow didn't quit under manager Mike Scioscia and will be playing in the postseason for the first time since 1986.