The Wake-up Call Podcast

To listen to the commercial-free broadcast of today’s show on www.sportstownchicago.com you can click here http://snd.sc/LCV8g1 where I give you my take on the highly anticipated Cubs debut of Anthony Rizzo.

The impact of the Kevin Youkilis trade for the White Sox and what he means to their division title aspirations.

And last but not least, the death of the BCS with the news of a 4-team playoff format beginning in the 2014 season.

The Cubs Future is Present

Anthony Rizzo

Anthony Rizzo struggled as a Padre last season hitting just .141 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Now that our long national nightmare is over and Anthony Rizzo is making his Cubs debut Tuesday night at Wrigley Field the pressure is on for him to live up to the lofty expectations.

Burdened with the task of saving the Cubs and rising from the basement of the National League is no small feat for the 22- year old first baseman. Having raked in the minor leagues to the tune of a .343 average with 23 homeruns in 70 games, many Cubs fans are expecting the second coming of Albert Pujols.

Thus is the life of a prospect in the Cubs organization.

An organization that has failed to produce a successful Major League hitter since Mark Grace came to the show 25 years ago.

Corey Patterson, Bobby Hill, Hee- Sop Choi, and Felix Pie are a who’s who list of recent flops that failed to live up the soaring expectations that preceded their call to the big leagues.

Throw in a litany of failed first round draft picks such as Louis Montanez, Ryan Harvey, Ben Christensen, Brooke Kieschnick, Earl Cunningham, and Derrick May, and you see how Cubs fans have seen their share of flops, busts, and disappointments before.

I have been preaching patience when it comes to Rizzo, and there is a contingent of the fan base that realizes he needed more seasoning with the Iowa Cubs based on his failures when called up with the San Diego last year. He hit .141 with the Padres last season with a single homerun.

With the Cubs in year one of a massive rebuilding mode it didn’t make sense to rush Rizzo and risk the potential long-term damage an early promotion can do to a player’s confidence, (Corey Patterson). A revamped hitting approach for Rizzo, one where he lowered the starting point for his hands, and led scouts to believe a more polished and refined Rizzo will not experience the same struggles he had as a Padre.

Fans of the Cubs will be happy if Rizzo shows continued development and provides a spark to a club that has been struggling to find many bright spots in a season that sees the club languishing in the cellar of the National League Central with a record of 25-48, the worst in the Major Leagues.

The Cubs career for Rizzo begins with a start at first base against the Mets as Cubs cross their fingers and hold their collective breath hoping to witness a new face of the franchise, and not the next in the long chapter of unrealized potential among former Cubs prospects.

Follow me on Twitter @PatrickASchmidt

Chicago’s Current Mount Rushmore

English: Brian Urlacher of the Chicago Bears

English: Brian Urlacher of the Chicago Bears (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The city of broad shoulders prides itself on legendary architecture, gorgeous beaches, decadent food, and our professional sports teams and athletes.

The major teams in town, The Cubs, Sox, Bulls, Bears, and Blackhawks have great players on their clubs, but who is the best of the best? 

Evaluating the resumes of the current crop of Second City athletes was difficult and an arduous task, but that is a great thing because that means the pickings weren’t slim, and the city is flush with talented athletes in every sport.

I have comprised four athletes that represent the best the city has to offer who will represent the Mount Rushmore of Chicago.

Brian Urlacher- the Bears linebacker came to Chicago in the 2000 draft out of New Mexico and quickly became a fan favorite making plays en route to winning the Rookie of the Year award.  He holds the record for career tackles made by a Bear, making eight trips to the Pro Bowl and winning the AP Defensive player of the year award in 2005.

The Bears have played the best football the team has seen since the glory days of 1985 with him in the middle of the defensive huddle.  His #54 jersey is seen everywhere in the city and Urlacher became a lock to represent the city after taking the Bears to the Super Bowl during the 2006 season. The Bears are known for their defense and their middle linebackers and Urlacher is destined to join Bill George, Dick Butkus, and Mike Singletary in Canton, Ohio, and the NFL Hall of Fame when his playing career is over.

Paul Konerko- Another veteran to the Chicago sports landscape, Konerko has cemented himself as the best Chicago baseball player in the 21st century.  A bit of a late bloomer who did not experience the love affair that Urlacher had right away.  However, Konerko’s been like a fine wine and aged gracefully as he is currently playing his best baseball at 36 and emerging as a potential Hall of Fame candidate if he continues his career renaissance.

The five-time All-Star has flirted with hitting .400 the first two months of the season as he has led the White Sox into first place in the American League Central.  With more than 400 homeruns as a member of the club and a World Series on his resume the decision to add Konerko to the Mount Rushmore of Chicago is a no-brainer.

Derrick Rose- Unlike the first two stars who had to come to Chicago from college or other organizations, respectively, Rose has been a Chicagoan since birth, winning two state titles at Simeon Academy before his one year at the University of Memphis ended in the championship game vs. Kansas.

Like Urlacher, Rose took home the Rookie of the Year honors after directing the Bulls back into the playoffs.  A lightning quick ascension to the top of the game’s elite has set the optimism sky high for Bulls fans since he donned the Bulls jersey.  An All-Star in just his second season was surpassed when he became the league’s youngest winner of the MVP award in his third season, becoming only the second Bull to win the award.

Rose suffered a torn ACL in his knee during the first round of the NBA playoffs this season, which left the city in a state of sorrow and despair for weeks.  The work ethic and dedication Rose has shown on the court has me convinced that he will regain the explosion and speed that has made him one of the game’s elite players.  The future is still bright for Rose and the Bulls and after signing an extension in the off-season, he will be in his hometown for years to come.

Jonathan Toews- Another young superstar like Rose fills the fourth and final spot on Chicago’s Mount Rushmore.  Toews and Rose represent the next generation of Chicago athletes as Urlacher and Konerko are on the back end of their illustrious careers whereas Rose and Toews are just getting started.  The third overall pick in the NHL draft in 2006 was the runner-up to his teammate, Patrick Kane in rookie of the year honors and won a gold medal at the 2010 Olympics.

However, the single event that qualified Toews for inclusion on this exclusive list is that Toews has done something that Urlacher and Rose are still chasing, that is winning a title in their respective sport.  Toews captained the Blackhawks to the Stanley Cup in 2010 winning the Conn Smythe as the MVP of the postseason in the process.  The 24- year old Center for the Blackhawks signed a long-term extension after winning the Cup and like Rose will have roots in Chicago for the foreseeable future.

Did your favorite make the cut?

Follow me on Twitter @PatrickASchmidt

Patrick is a diehard Chicago sports fan and an avid college football fan, particularly the SEC.  Patrick is the host of “The Wake-up Call,” a weekly sports show on Sportstownchicago.com every Wednesday morning from 8-10.  View his show’s website here.

Cubs draft Albert Almora

The Cubs front office has been preaching the importance of the MLB Draft for the past few weeks, and when Theo Epstein took over as President last fall his mandate was that the Cubs will be a consistent winner built from successful drafts and player development.

On Monday night, the Cubs took the first step towards fulfilling that mandate when the Cubs drafted Florida prep outfielder, Albert Almora with the sixth overall pick in the MLB draft.  Long on the Cubs radar as Theo’s scouting department have watched Almora blossom with Team USA, having been named the MVP in the under-18 Pan Am Games this past summer.

When the Cubs were on the clock presumptive top pick Mark Appel, the power pitcher from Stanford, was still on the board and I had wondered if the Cubs had seen enough of the right hander to be swayed from taking their guy Almora in favor of the polished pitcher.

I would have liked to been in the Cubs war room when they were making their pick to see if Appel was considered, or if they had their mind made up when they woke up that morning.  Nevertheless, Almora is a potential All-Star centerfielder with high character and a good feel for the game.

At 6’2’’ and 170 pounds, Almora figures to add some muscle to his frame and fill out as he makes his way through the Cubs minor league ranks and the early comparisons on him are to that of Baltimore Orioles centerfielder, Adam Jones, who has the Orioles battling for AL East supremacy.

Labeled a five-tool player by experts, and possessing a smooth swing and great hand-eye coordination the sinewy outfielder can hit for 25-plus homers while using his incredible instincts and body control to cover a ton of ground in center field. His arm will be a weapon that opposing runners will have to be made aware of before trying to go from first to third on a single or attempting to score from first on a double.

Almora will be the answer to a trivia question years down the road when people ask who about the first player drafted under Theo Epstein’s watch in Chicago.

Now the Cubs will have to face questions from their fans about why they did not take Mark Appel, whom many had pegged going first overall to the Houston Astros.  He went two picks later to the Pittsburgh Pirates, so the Cubs will be reminded often whether or not they made the right decision taking the precocious prep bat versus the polished power pitcher.

Theo Epstein and Cubs fans are hoping the play of Almora makes the decision to draft him sixth overall look like a no-brainer rather than the second coming of Corey Patterson.

Follow me on Twitter @PatrickASchmidt

Patrick is a diehard Chicago sports fan and an avid college football fan, particularly the SEC.  Patrick is the host of “The Wake-up Call,” a weekly sports show on Sportstownchicago.com every Wednesday morning from 8-10.  View his show’s website here.

Notre Dame 2012 Season Outlook

English: EL PASO, Texas (December 31, 2010) Un...

English: EL PASO, Texas (December 31, 2010) University of Notre Dame quarterback Tommy Rees calls an audible at the 2010 Hyundai Sun Bowl in El Paso, Dec. 31. Rees (15-29, 201 yards, 2 TDs) and the Irish gave blue and gold Sun Bowl fans something to cheer about when they defeated the University of Miami Hurricanes, 33-17. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The story of the 2012 season will hinge largely on the play of quarterback Tommy Rees. Entering summer practice as the presumptive starter after previously splitting time with Dayne Crist, who has since transferred to Kansas to play for former Notre Dame Coach, Charlie Weis, will be counted on running head coach Brian Kelly’s high-octane offense.

Rees, a former Lake Forest prep star shown flashes of greatness last year, but also showed mental lapses and the need for further development as his 14 interceptions indicate, including throwing eight int’s in five ND losses. Kelly will need to harness the talent in the quarterback’s right arm and limit the mistakes for the Irish to hold off Andrew Hendrix and early-enrollee Gunner Kiel.

The freshman from Columbus, Indiana took the circuitous route to South Bend after committing to Indiana then changing his mind to LSU before ultimately deciding to stay close to home and attend the very same university his uncle Blair attended from 1980-83 starting 29 games at quarterback. Kiel will be lurking on the sidelines and if Rees and Hendrix struggle, don’t be surprised to see the 6’4’’ 220 gunslinger taking the snaps for The Irish.

Notre Dame’s quarterbacks will have to cope with the loss of the school’s most productive receiver and first round draft pick of the Arizona Cardinals, Michael Floyd and tailback Jonas Gray, who led the team with 12 rushing touchdowns.

However, The Irish return potential first round pick Tyler Eifert at tight end, leading rusher Cierre Wood, and receivers Theo Reddick and TJ Jones are looking to emerge from Floyd’s large shadow. Incoming freshman Justin Ferguson, a wide receiver from Florida will likely be thrown in the mix in summer practice to see if the 6’1’’ target can help fill the immense void left by Floyd.

On the defensive side of the ball, the Irish will be led by senior Manti Te’o, who returned after bypassing the NFL. The middle linebacker is facing big expectations after turning down the payday the NFL would have provided. One player who has left South Bend is safety Harrison Smith, who was a first round pick of the Minnesota Vikings, and finding his replacement is every bit of a concern as replacing Floyd as the Irish pass defense, who also lose senior cornerback Robert Blanton, has been suspect in recent years.

The remedy for a poor secondary is often a relentless pass rush and the Irish lost one of the more promising defensive ends in the country when freshman All-American, Aaron Lynch decided to take his talents to South Florida. The onus will be on rising sophomore Ishaq Williams, to step into the defensive line rotation and provide the consistent pass rush the Irish front seven will need to create to aid the secondary.

The Irish will not get any relief when looking at the 2012 schedule as familiar foes Michigan, Michigan State, Stanford, Boston College, and USC are all on the docket. Looming large for Brian Kelly’s squad are an October match-up at Soldier Field with Miami, FL (which will provide a large home-field advantage), and a date at Norman, Oklahoma to take on the Sooners.

The Irish leave the comfort of South Bend and travel across the pond to take on the Navy Midshipmen in Dublin, Ireland in the season opener before returning to the States for the home opener vs. The Purdue Boilermakers.

NOTRE DAME 2012 SCHEDULE

09/01 – Navy @Dublin, Ireland
09/08 – Purdue
09/15 – at Michigan State
09/22 – Michigan
10/06 – Miami FL @Chicago, IL
10/13 – Stanford
10/20 – Brigham Young
10/27 – at Oklahoma
11/03 – Pittsburgh
11/10 – at Boston College
11/17 – Wake Forest
11/24 – at Southern California

The schedule features two teams likely to be in the pre-season top 5 in USC and Oklahoma and Michigan and Michigan will possibly rank inside the top 10. Other than those match-ups the Irish may find themselves the favorite in the rest of their games, with the lone exception being the Michigan State game in East Lansing. However, The Irish did defeat the Spartans last season at home.

My early prediction: 9-3

Follow me on Twitter @PatrickASchmidt

Patrick is a diehard Chicago sports fan and an avid college football fan, particularly the SEC. Patrick is the host of “The Wake-up Call,” a weekly sports show on Sportstownchicago.com every Wednesday morning from 8-10. View his show’s website here.

Northwestern Football 2012 Preview

Coach Fitz

Coach Fitz (Photo credit: Markfive)

Memorial Day has passed and the unofficial countdown to college football is underway, and for the die-hard college football fan September 1 cannot come soon enough.  In many ways this is the eye of the hurricane.  The spring semester just wrapped up and the student-athletes have some downtime before summer practices kick off.

This is also the time of year when coaches and athletic directors have to be biting their fingernails and hoping their players are staying out of trouble and out of the back of a police car.

One college that usually does not have to worry about that type of behavior on their campus or from their team is Northwestern University.  Head Coach Pat Fitzgerald has done a fine job in the six years on-the-job after taking over after the sudden passing of Randy Walker.

Fitzgerald carries a 40-36 career record at the university in Evanston, Illinois, and is coming off a season in which the ‘Cats went 6-7 (3-5 in the Big Ten).

Still one of the youngest coaches in the NCAA at 37, Fitzgerald has led his alma mater to four straight bowl appearances; however, they were defeats for the school still searching for the Wildcats first bowl win since the Rose Bowl in 1948.

Around this time last year the Northwestern athletic department was touting senior quarterback, Dan Persa as a Heisman contender.  In fact, Heisman voters received seven-pound purple dumbbells in the mail signifying the number seven Persa wears on his jersey and the fact he is pound for pound one of the game’s best at his position.

Furthermore, a billboard soared over the Kennedy expressway in Chicago with the depiction of Persa and the caption “Chicago’s Heisman Candidate” and a website, persastrong.com, where fans can learn more about the NU signal caller.

After a senior season marred by injuries Persa has since graduated and last year’s jack-of-all-trade Kain Kolter will take the snaps for the ‘Cats in what appears to be a transitional year.

The ‘Cats are projected to return only 12 starters to a team that lost the aforementioned Persa also lost starting RB, Jacob Schmidt to graduation, top WR Jeremy Ebert and TE Drake Dunsmore to the National Football League.   The absence of reliable offensive playmakers will hurt, and the onus will be on the ninth ranked defense in the Big Ten to improve until the offense gets their feet wet.

Fitzgerald and his staff will have to find the next wave of Wildcats to insert into the lineup to have a shot at a fifth consecutive bowl trip.  The schedule will not offer much relief either with a challenging non-conference schedule that includes the road opener at Syracuse before returning home to upstart Vanderbilt and Boston College.

Northwestern catches a break slightly with their conference schedule as Ohio State and Wisconsin are not on the docket this season, but trips to Michigan and Michigan State loom large for a team void of senior leadership.

Depending on how quickly Kolter and the rest of the Northwestern offense replaces the departed seniors it may very well be a rough start to the season and will only get more difficult in conference play.

My early prediction: 4-8.

Follow me on Twitter @PatrickASchmidt

Patrick is a diehard Chicago sports fan and an avid college football fan, particularly the SEC.  Patrick is the host of “The Wake-up Call,” a weekly sports show on Sportstownchicago.com every Wednesday morning from 8-10.  View his show’s website here.

Trading Starlin Castro

English: Starlin Castro of the Chicago Cubs wa...

English: Starlin Castro of the Chicago Cubs waits to bat in 2010. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Rumors that Theo Epstein and the Cubs were shopping Starlin Castro in a trade swirled amid a USA Today report that the club is shopping everyone on the roster with the exception of Jeff Samardzija.

My initial reaction to this article was shock, because I don’t think Theo Epstein would be that foolish to trade a shortstop that is the only legitimate bat in the lineup and represent the very player that Epstein should be building around.

At 22 years old and under team control until 2017, trading Castro should not even be a consideration for a team that needs more players of his ilk to contend in the National League Central division.  Trading him for a bundle of prospects would further alienate a fan base that’s grown tired of waiting til next year.

Having made his ML debut just over two years ago Castro has already eclipsed 400 career hits while hitting over .300.  Far from a finished product he has started to drive in more runs, he is tied with Boston’s Mike Aviles for the lead among shortstops in runs batted in with 32, and is on pace to steal over thirty bases which would eclipse his career high of 22 set last season.

His defense is a work in progress as he has been prone to errant throws and mental lapses, but that’s just par for the course in the developing of a 22- year old in pro sports.

The closest thing the Cubs have to an untouchable, if there is such a thing in pro sports today, is the All-Star shortstop that should be patrolling the left side of the Cubs infield for the next decade and will be a fixture in the line-up when the Cubs are back on top.

Follow me on Twitter @PatrickASchmidt

Patrick is a diehard Chicago sports fan and an avid college football fan, particularly the SEC.  Patrick is the host of “The Wake-up Call,” a weekly sports show on Sportstownchicago.com every Wednesday morning from 8-10.  View his show’s website here.

NFL Guru talks Bears and the State of the Pro Football

English: Matt Forté of the Chicago Bears

English: Matt Forté of the Chicago Bears (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

This morning on my radio show, The Wake-up Call, on sportstownchicago.com I was joined by Russell Baxter, NFL writer/researcher with contributions to Athlon sports, NFL Magazine, FootballPros.com, NationalFootballAuthority.com NFL.com, and ThePostGame.com in addition to his work on his website at www.profootballguru.com.

I had Russell on to put his brain to work which is a veritable encyclopedia of all things NFL.

Rusell and I chatted about the Bears, the NFC North race, Peyton Manning, Andrew Luck and Robert Griffin III, the evolution of the running back position, and you can’t talk about the NFL without mentioning Tim Tebow.

A sampling of the Bears related questions I asked Russell included:

What should Bears fans expect to see from Cutler and Marshall this season?

It’s been awhile since Mike Tice has run an offense, so what type of scheme should we see this fall and how do you envision him and Jeremy Bates co-existing?

There was no player in the NFL that was a greater percent of his team’s offense besides Matt Forte last year, so what are they do to if he holds for any amount of time?

Is Michael Bush capable of being an every down back in the event of a Forte holdout?

How much will Bears first round pick, Shea McClellin help a Bears pass rush that was tied for 30th in the NFL in adjusted sack rate at 5.2%

To hear Russell’s answers to these questions and more, click here for the podcast.

Follow me on Twitter @PatrickASchmidt

Patrick is a diehard Chicago sports fan and an avid college football fan, particularly the SEC.  Patrick is the host of “The Wake-up Call,” a weekly sports show on Sportstownchicago.com every Wednesday morning from 8-10.  View his show’s website here.

American League East: State of the Division

Buck Showalter

Buck Showalter (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The American League East was considered by many to be the best division in baseball.  Heading into the season with the Yankees and Red Sox fielding All-Star lineups and the Rays employing the divisions best Manager, Joe Maddon, and the division’s best pitching rotation, the East figured to have two playoff contenders in the expanded wildcard playoff format this season.

What nobody failed to mention is that the Baltimore Orioles may be one of the two teams to earn a post-season berth.  Tied for first place with the Rays and playing inspired ball under Manager Buck Showalter has Orioles fans optimistic that this isn’t a flash in the pan start to the year.

With budding stars in Adam Jones and Matt Wieters carrying a line-up which also features JJ Hardy, Chris Davis, and Nick Markakis, the Orioles believe they can compete with the big boys of the division into September.

The Yankees are in third place, but will not be counted out from making a run at the division just yet.  Mark Teixeira is starting to get hot and display his All-Star bat.  Derek Jeter leads the AL in hits.  Curtis Granderson is mashing homeruns, and they have the best second baseman in baseball, Robinson Cano, ready to explode once the weather warms up.  Alex Rodriguez lurks in the line-up and if he stays healthy and gets hot, the line-up will be a nightmare for opposing pitchers to deal with.

Speaking of pitchers, CC Sabathia continues to be the team’s unquestioned ace and have Andy Pettitte throwing well after coming out of his retirement, which has helped offset the season-ending injury to starter Michael Pineda, whom they acquired for Jesus Montero in the offseason from Seattle.

Injuries have hurt the club more than any other team in the division the first two months of the year.  The aforementioned injury to Pineda was a huge blow to a young power arm that was counted on for close to 200 innings of work.

The biggest blow was the loss of Mariano Rivera to a torn ACL and meniscus while shagging fly balls in the outfield during batting practice.  The games best closer was replaced by All-Star set-up man David Robertson who immediately landed on the disabled list as well.  Thankfully for the Yankees they have former closer for the Rays and Braves, Raphael Soriano to fill the void until Robertson gets back.

The Yankees have to be on the minds of the Orioles who will have to contend with the Bronx Bombers this summer to maintain their lofty perch in the best division in baseball.

The division has flipped upside-down when the Rays and Orioles brought up the rear in the AL East with the Yankees and Red Sox dueling to determine who would win the division and who would have to settle for the wild card berth.

This year sees the Red Sox playing 500 ball and having to yet again deal with off-the-field controversies.  Last year it was pitchers eating fried chicken and drinking beer in the clubhouse during games. This year its players clashing with Bobby Valentine as manager, he even questioned long-time Sox third baseman, Kevin Youkilis’ toughness and Josh Beckett golfing days after his start was skipped because of injury.

Fans in Boston have to be second guessing themselves for running two-time World Series Manager Terry Francona out of town this off-season.  The Red Sox have the talent and pedigree to win 90-plus games in the league, but for the reasons mentioned above, it doesn’t seem likely that the team will see post-season action this year.

Canada’s only baseball team is the forgotten team in the division with the upstart Orioles stealing headlines, the darling Rays easy to root for, and the mainstays in New York and Boston having rapid fan bases.

Jose Bautista is the team’s best player having hit a plethora of homeruns the last two seasons, but he is hitting only .224.  The Jays have gotten a nice year from Edwin Encarnacion and with one of the game’s best young players, Brett Lawrie, in the fold the Jays have two pieces to build around Bautista moving forward.

However, the Jays have been trying to build a team since they traded Roy Halladay to Philadelphia three years ago, and are not a prime destination for free agents.  The next season and  a half will be telling for fans as they will either need to trade Bautista to rebuild or give him the necessary protection in the lineup, and a few more arms in the rotation and bullpen to compete with the big dogs south of the border.

Follow me on Twitter @PatrickASchmidt

Patrick is a diehard Chicago sports fan and an avid college football fan, particularly the SEC.  Patrick is the host of “The Wake-up Call,” a weekly sports show on Sportstownchicago.com every Wednesday morning from 8-10.  View his show’s website here

Baseball’s Early Award Winners

Josh Hamilton

Josh Hamilton (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

With the quarter pole of the Major League Baseball season having been passed this week and Memorial Day on the horizon let’s take a look at my award winners at this point of the season.

Predictions sure to be debated and not necessarily an indication of the award winners come the end of the regular season, but let’s take a look at the best hitters and pitchers who figure to be in the conversation come October.

National League MVP: Matt Kemp

Despite missing time on the disabled list with a hamstring injury last year’s runner-up to Ryan Braun in MVP voting played like a man angry he was not elected as the league’s most valuable player in a season in which he almost won the Triple Crown and just missing going off for a 40 homerun/40 stolen base campaign.

Hitting .359 with 12 hr’s with 28 RBI and 29 runs scored the Dodgers Center fielder will look to make up for missed time when he comes off the DL June 1st.

Second Place: Carlos Beltran

Leads the NL with 14 homeruns and is second to Andre Ethier of the Dodgers in RBI with 38 while carrying a batting average of .292 for the reigning World Series Champion Cardinals. Beltran has stayed healthy while providing more than adequate numbers replacing Albert Pujols’ power numbers in the middle of the St. Louis lineup.

AL MVP: Josh Hamilton

Leads all of baseball with his 19 hr’s and 50 RBI and trails his teammate, Ian Kinsler for the ML lead in runs scored with 36. Oh and he’s hitting .378, three points behind Paul Konerko for the league lead and trails Derek Jeter for the lead in hits by two with 62. He’s doing all this for a team in first place by six games. A Triple Crown watch will be going well into the summer for Mr. Hamilton.

Second Place: Adam Jones

The Orioles Center fielder has come into his own this season for the surprising Orioles, who own the best record in the American League. Jones has 14 hr’s, 31 RBI, 33 runs scores, and has swiped seven bags while hitting .310 and playing Gold Glove defense at a premium position. The slugger is rumored to be close to signing an extension with the Orioles after his hot start.

NL Cy Young: Clayton Kershaw

Last season’s winner has picked up right where his 2011 season left off. 4-2 on the year, and his two losses came in which his team gave him 2 total runs of support. Owner of a nifty 1.97 ERA and tied for the league lead with a 0.90 WHIP for the NL West leading Dodgers gives Kershaw the slight edge over Cole Hamels and Brandon Beachy.

AL Cy Young: Justin Verlander

Last season’s AL MVP and Cy Young winner leads both leagues with 75 strikeouts and nearly thew his third career no-hitter two starts ago, coming a mere two outs away from pitching immortality with a third no-no. His 0.81 WHIP is best among starters and has limited opposing batters to a .172 batting average against his arsenal of pitches. Verlander beats out Jered Weaver and the resurgent Jake Peavy

Follow me on Twitter @PatrickASchmidt

Patrick is a diehard Chicago sports fan and an avid college football fan, particularly the SEC. Patrick is the host of “The Wake-up Call,” a weekly sports show on Sportstownchicago.com every Wednesday morning from 8-10. View his show’s website here. And read more of Patrick’s blogs here.

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