PITTSBURGH, SEPT. 22 -- The always lively debates about who deserves to win which postseason award should be more heated than usual this year, as neither league has a clear-cut most valuable player or Cy Young award choice. Here's how one ballot would look:
American League MVP: Rickey Henderson, Oakland Athletics. The game's most disruptive force has taken intimidation by peskiness to new levels in his finest season. If he manages to overtake Kansas City's George Brett for the batting title, Henderson will become the first to lead a major league in hitting and stolen bases and have more than 20 home runs; remarkably, he is second in the AL in slugging.
And, as Angels Manager Doug Rader puts it: "He has set the tone for every game. He's the dominant force in every game." Cecil Fielder's assault on 50 homers for the Detroit Tigers may be baseball's most singular achievement of the season, but Henderson has been most valuable; Kelly Gruber, who has led the Blue Jays' late rush, also merits serious consideration.
National League MVP: Barry Bonds, Pirates. His teammates don't particularly like him, and his icy glare and frequent boastfulness make that understandable. But, despite even the monstrous seasons of teammate Bobby Bonilla and New York's Darryl Strawberry, the numbers make Bonds almost impossible to pass up.
AL Cy Young: Roger Clemens, Red Sox. This may be the tightest and most intriguing battle of them all. The nod here goes to Clemens -- 20-6 with a 1.98 ERA -- but it just as easily could go to Bob Welch, or fellow A's Dennis Eckersley or Dave Stewart, or newly crowned saves king Bobby Thigpen of the Chicago White Sox.
Clemens, however, once again has overpowered and overwhelmed like no one else. Had he been with Oakland, it's not difficult to imagine him winning 30 games.
NL Cy Young: Ramon Martinez, Dodgers. Pittsburgh's Doug Drabek and New York's Dwight Gooden and Frank Viola have gotten most of the attention, but Martinez quietly has outpitched everyone else. No Respect
A trying season for one of baseball's most widely respected players -- stuck in one of the game's most testing environments -- ended last week after Tony Gwynn fractured his right index finger in Atlanta. He'll almost certainly be relieved to get a few months away from the Padres.
He finished the season with a career-low .309 average (that on the heels of three straight NL batting titles) but a career-best 72 RBI. He was one of the few consistent producers on the disappointing-again Padres. But, as usual, he was the object of much abuse.
He was booed by fans for allowing his weight to sneak above 220 pounds. He was criticized by teammates for being selfish. He was humiliated during one team meeting, and Padres officials refused to stop the game in which he got his 1,500th career hit.
The topper came two weeks ago, when he entered the dugout and found a mutilated version of one of his toy-store figurines hanging by its neck from a chain. "I couldn't believe someone would do that," said Gwynn, who complained only briefly last year about being the team's seventh-highest paid player -- then backed off when he saw a controversy approaching.
"It's like someone is testing me," he said. "This whole year has been like a test. People want to see me fail. . . . Well, those people won't succeed. They won't bring me down. I'll be back stronger than ever next year." . . .
Tigers GM Bill Lajoie's seemingly childish resistance to permitting Fielder to join a team that will tour Japan in the offseason may be based upon some reasonable fears.
Lajoie notes Alan Trammell aggravated a shoulder injury on a similar trip before last season -- and went on to hit .243 in 121 games -- and outfielder Al Cowens once was hurt in a charity softball game.
"The club is bound to a guaranteed contract," Lajoie said. "We have to pay the player if there's an injury."
Fielder could become the ninth player to hit 40 or more home runs without stealing a base. . . . Oakland's Mark McGwire would be the first to top 40 homers while hitting below .240. Mets Griping Again
Several players are grousing about Mets Manager Bud Harrelson's handling of pitchers. Particularly irritating, they insist, was a two-day stretch earlier this month when he started rookie Julio Valera against the Pirates, then removed David Cone (who had 12 strikeouts) with a 2-1, seventh-inning deficit the next night against the Phillies.
Valera lost, 7-1, and Jeff Musselman permitted three consecutive hits after Cone's departure in a 4-1 defeat. "I'm not perfect," Harrelson said. "I just want the guys on this team to talk to me about it, not grouse to the press." . . .
Royals Manager John Wathan said he will do all he can to help Brett become baseball's first three-decade batting champion -- including resting him against troublesome pitchers. Phillies outfielder Len Dykstra said he won't be so selective as he pursues the .335 mark Willie McGee left him to chase when he was traded to Oakland.
"That's the wimpy way to do it," Dykstra said of playing only in certain games. "You go out there every day against everyone. Then if you win it, you deserve it."
McGee plays like a golf leader in the clubhouse and watches each day's box scores. "Sure, I check," he said. "I'm a fan too, and this is exciting -- and pretty weird."
Has anyone noticed who's third and closing in on Dykstra in the batting title hunt? Eddie Murray. . . .
The Cubs seem intent on trying reliever Mitch Williams as a starter next spring. Their other primary offseason goal seems to be to trade Jerome Walton, although that would leave center field to unproven Doug Dascenzo and Derrick May.