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Surprised to see Ryan Howard winning the Most Valuable Player award. I had a debate with Matt from Diamondhacks on measuring Howard's value, but I think even he might be slightly surprised by the result here. It's only the second time since 1987 that the NL MVP has played on a team with 85 victories or less in a full season - Larry Walker took it for the 83-win Rockies in 1997. That year was also the last occasion neither the NL MVP nor the Cy Young (Pedro for the Expos that season) were on playoff teams.

There seemed little doubt about the top two - 31 of the 32 voters chose Howard and Pujols - but Howard was chosen as #1 by twenty of them. Over at Viva El Birdos, Larry made a convincing argument for Pujols, but it seems that BBWAA writers dig the long-ball, just as much as chicks... This is the comment on the above story I liked: "So, keep this in mind kids, if you can swing for the fences EVERYTIME YOU BAT, be a defensive liability and not get your team into the playoffs, you too can be the MVP." LOL.

It's still an amazing run for Pujols, who has now finished in the top four for MVP, the first six years of his career. That's unique: I believe the closest is DiMaggio, who was in the top eight the first seven years. All-time, the only two players who have had a better stretch over six consecutive active seasons than Pujols are Ted Williams between 1941-49 (he missed 1943-45, for some reason...) and Yogi Berra, who was in the top four for seven straight years, from 1950-56. I think if Pujols hadn't had that spell on the DL, he'd probably have taken it.

Irritating, though, to see Trevor Hoffman named on sixteen ballots, while Cy Young winner Brandon Webb was on zero. Hell, even Chris Carpenter received a seventh-place vote - wonder which city that writer works in? :-) But if Alfonso Soriano can be listed by three-quarters of voters, playing up a storm in the doldrums of a 91-loss team, why can't Webb get some love? I know there's the usual, and justifiable, reaction against voting for starting pitchers as MVP. That said, look at the back end of the ballot, and there are some baffling selections to be found there. Certain writers appear to have filled in their forms while holding a crack-pipe in the other hand.

Nomar re-signs with the Dodgers; nobody called that in the Free Agent pick-em contest, so the standings there remain unchanged. I have, however, added the standings to the bottom of the article, just below the updated list of players. That way, everything is in one place and it's easier to keep current. Five down, ten to go. Outside of our list, looks like the line of questionable signings by the Mets continues, with them signing Moises Alou for next season: there's a player whose stats are ripe for collapse.

Meanwhile, the D'backs made a number of changes to their 40-man roster. Normally, at this time of year, the changes would be to protect players from the 2004 draft class from being selected in the Rule 5 winter draft - or "getting Uggla'd" as it will henceforth be known, mournfully, to D'back fans. But, the changes in the Collective Bargaining Agreement extended by a year the period before our farm animals become eligible for Rule 5, so this winter, they don't need protecting. So, added instead were infielders Alberto Gonzalez, Emilio Bonifacio, Danny Richar and Brian Barden, outfielder Carlos Gonzalez and pitchers Evan MacLane and Jailen Peguero.

Most of these are at least familiar in passing, either as Sidewinders (Barden), trade components (MacLane, whom we got from the Mets in exchange for Shawn Green) or simple a high degree of uber-prospectness (Carlos Gonzalez). The name that stands out, in a "Who?" kinda way, is Peguero. According to Nick Piecoro in the Republic, "Peguero, 25, who signed recently as a minor league free agent, had a strong season in the Houston organization and has pitched well in the Dominican Winter League, prompting the Diamondbacks to protect him."

He did have a great record at AA. posting a 0.70 ERA in 38.2 innings, with a 48:16 K:BB ratio; At Triple-A, things slid a little, with a 3.47 ERA in 36.1 innings, and the K:BB slid to 30:18. He also allowed the final two runs when Tucson won the PCL Championship in Round Rock: Brian Barden and Robbie Hammock went deep, back-to-back off him in the seventh.

A sadder move - at least for the player concerned - was the designation of Randy Choate for assignment. He was supposed to be the franchise LOOGY, when signed to a two-year, $1.3m deal in early 2005. But much like Mike Koplove, that contract turned out to be albatross-shaped, and he spent most of the time as an exceedingly well-paid minor-leaguer. Choate has only pitched 23 major-league innings in the two years since that point, allowing 14 earned runs. A younger, better, cheaper alternative called Doug Slaten appears to have been the final nail in Choate's coffin...

The same article also mentions Andy Green's apparently imminent departure for pastures Japanese, with the Nippon Ham Fighters. We get paid; he gets to play, and his boyish charm will probably be a big hit with the Japanese ladeez. Unless there's a Mrs. Green, of course, in which case, I hear the shopping is very good in the Ginza. :-)