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East Carolina Hall of Famer and
former baseball coach Keith LeClair.
 (Photo: ECU Media Relations)

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Editor's note: This feature
coordinated by Denny O'Brien.



From The Dugout

By Keith LeClair

Midseason National League "Condos"

Put all the American League awards and jokes behind. Now it's time for the National League mid-season "Condos." Lets go to work and have some knock down, drag out fun — Pedro style.

National League Condos

Most surprising team: San Diego Padres/Los Angeles Dodgers — I couldn't pick one with out the other, since they have been battling it out for first place all year long. The Dodgers are playing great baseball with superb pitching and defense, but as good as they are playing, the Padres just won't go away. Neither has a lot of big name superstars, instead relying on a lot of young and up-and-coming players.

Other teams you could throw into the list would be Atlanta, Pittsburg, Cincinnati and Milwaukee. Nobody thought any of these teams would be in the playoff chase this late, but they are proving money doesn't always guarantee you success, especially with the payroll Atlanta cut after last season.

Most disappointing team: Houston Astros — Everyone just about had the Astros penciled into the World Series after they signed Andy Pettite, and then coerced Roger Clemens into coming out of retirement with a brand new orange Hummer. You ever wonder why athletes who make the most money are given the most free stuff? Well, you can't blame Houston's woes on Roger, but you can say Pettite so far has been a bust.

Maybe the Yankee curse has moved out of Boston and into Houston. Naa, they just added another city to the mix.

Hey, Cubs fans, you aren't getting off this easy, because you all are a close second. In fact, that fan may have cost you another 100 years of misery. But hey, you always have the Boston fans to drown your sorrows with come October.

Manager of the Year: Bobby Cox, Atlanta Braves — Don't even attempt to argue this one with me. It's about time this man gets some credit for being one of the all time great managers. After last season, the Braves basically cleaned house, not resigning Greg Maddox, Gary Sheffield, Javier Lopez, Vinny Castilla, and a host of other role players.

Honorable mention: Jim Tracy of the Dodgers and Tony LaRussa of the Cardinals, both of whom are worthy candidates and have had a great first half. So, not taking anything away from their clubs, but in all due respect, Bobby Cox is the reason the Braves are in first place.

Most Valuable Player: Scott Rolen, St. Louis Cardinals — .328 average, 86 RBI, .405 on base percentage, and without a doubt he is the best third baseman in all of baseball. He does it on both offensive and defensive and that's why he is the All-Star break MVP.

Honorable mention: Albert Pujols, Barry Bonds, and J.D. Drew, who has meant more to his team this season than any other player.

Cy Young: Roger Clemens, Houston Astros — 11-3, 2.62 ERA, 126 K's, 123 innings pitched, .206 opponents' batting average. Not bad for somebody over 40 who just came out of retirement, sort of. Where would the Astros be without that orange Hummer? This man just keeps on rolling along like he is 25.

Honorable mention: Jason Schmidt, Pittsburgh Pirates.

Put-out-the-fire award: Eric Gagne, LA Dodgers — Who else even comes close?

Rookie of the Year: Jason Bay, Pittsburgh Pirates (.302 avg., 13 HR, 40 RBI, 176 AB) and Chad Tracy, Arizona Diamondbacks (.278 avg., 5 HR, 33 RBI, 275 AB.)

Hey, can't argue with these two picks, they are both Pirates. And we all know, "It's all about Pirates supporting Pirates." It's extra special seeing Chad Tracy playing in the big leagues and having such a solid rookie campaign. He will have a long, great career because he works so hard and has the determination to succeed. I can say this, nobody in that Arizona dugout hates losing more than Chad does.

Not trying to slight Jason Bay, because he has had an outstanding rookie campaign after coming over in a trade last year from the Cubs.

Honorable mention: Khalil Greene, San Diego Padres.

Biggest off-season bust: Richie Sexson, Arizona Diamondbacks — Arizona traded four players to Milwaukee, all of which are playing well, for Richie Sexson, and he has been hurt most of the season. In fact he is done for the season with shoulder surgery. To make it even worse, they traded a young first baseman, Lyle Overbay, who is second in the league in hitting with a .346 avg.

Even though Sexson has been hurt, the trade still didn't make much sense, considering he is a free agent at the end of the year and is a one-dimensional player. Chances are, Arizona won't even re-sign him and in the mean time lost four good players for an equivalent of six home runs. Only positive is it opened the door for Chad to get an opportunity to play.

Honorable mention: Andy Pettite.

Best off-season acquisition: J.D. Drew, Atlanta Braves — .312 avg., 23 HR, 61 RBI. With the Jones boys having a down year, J. D. Drew at times has literally carried this team on his back. And to think of the numbers he has put up with nobody hot behind him is astonishing. This certainly was the breakout year for J.D. and it could not have happened at a better time for Atlanta.

Honorable mention: Roger Clemens.

Olympic bat toss: David Ortiz — 53.45 feet to eclipse the mark Lou Pinella set a few years ago.

Biggest sore sport: Carlos Zambrano — He drills Jim Edmonds on purpose and then Edmonds takes him deep, so Carlos hits him again and gets suspended. That was real classy!

Well, that wraps the first half of action up and I will be back next week to give you my insight on the trades and rumors.

If you have a question or comment about the Pirates in particular or baseball in general, get a learned response by firing your best pitch at Ol' Condo. Submit your message by clicking the following e-mail link: E-mail Coach LeClair.

02.23.07 10:27 AM


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