MLB Midseason awards
Now that the All-Star Game is in the rear-view mirror, the second half of the season beckons, promising contested playoff races in both leagues.
But before we look ahead to the final 2 1/2 months of the 2016 season, first, a look back at the first half, with some half-season awards in both leagues.
AMERICAN LEAGUE MVP: Manny Machado, Baltimore
With an emphasis on "valuable'' -- as opposed to Best Player or Player of the Year -- I can't promote Mike Trout. Not with his team languishing near the cellar in the American League West. If I could choose one A.L. player with which to start a team, Trout would get strong consideration. But talented as he is, I find it hard to label him MVP with his team so far out of contention.
There are a number of worthy candidates, including a handful on the Red Sox, including ageless slugger David Ortiz, who is having a season for the ages at 40.
Josh Donaldson, last year's worthy choice, deserves a look, too.
But my vote goes to Machado, who's been the best player for the first-place Orioles, and switched over from third base to short when J.J. Hardy went down with an injury. Yes, it's his original position, but Machado hadn't played it much in the big leagues until his team needed him to do so.
Couple that with his offensive production and Machado is my choice.
AMERICAN LEAGUE CY YOUNG AWARD: Chris Sale, Chicago
Again, no shortage of candidates here. Danny Salazar has emerged as the best pitcher (this year, at least) on Cleveland's talented staff. The Red Sox' Steven Wright is in the conversation with the lowest ERA among A.L. starters, as is Sale's teammate Jose Quintana.
But Sale leads the league with 14 wins -- and as devalued as they've become, that still means something -- to go with a 1.04 WHIP while having the second-highest strikeout total in the league.
Yes, Sale's ERA of 3.38 is higher than some others after a poor last start, but his WHIP, incredible command (just 26 walks in 125 innings) and overall dominance makes him the best starting pitcher in the league.
AMERICAN LEAGUE ROOKIE OF THE YEAR: Nomar Mazara
Unlike a year ago, when the A.L. had two terrific shortstops jockeying for the award -- Cleveland's Francisco Lindor and Houston's Carlos Correa -- this is a less inspiring rookie class.
Perhaps that will change in the second half, as players gain experience and confidence.
For now, Mazara is the pick. He's shown some pop at the plate and athleticism in the outfield, and he's done it for a first-place team.
And come on -- it's cool that there's another player named Nomar in baseball again.
AMERICAN LEAGUE MANAGER OF THE YEAR: Terry Francona
Everyone figured that the Indians would contend on the strength of their stating rotation -- and they have. The rotation has been better than expected.
It was also expected that the offense would struggle, and it has -- especially without Michael Brantley, their best hitter, sidelined with injuries. Brantley was supposed to be back long before this, but he's been available for just 11 games this season.
That hasn't stopped the Indians from leading the A.L. Central by a healthy margin, as Francona deftly mixes veterans like Mike Napoli and younger players, still developing.
NATIONAL LEAGUE MVP: Kris Bryant
Wasn't it only a year ago that the Great Debate raged about whether Bryant should open the season in the big leagues? Some 16 months later, it's clear that only does Bryant belong, but he's become the best hitter on the game's best team.
Further, he's shifted effortlessly between third and left, never letting the position switch affect him.
There are others worthy of being included, such as the Dodgers' lefty ace Clayton Kershaw. But great as Kershaw has been, he hasn't transcended the contributions from an everyday player like Bryant, and the fact that he's currently on the DL hurts his cause, too.
Others in the mix: Matt Carpenter and Brandon Crawford.
NATIONAL LEAGUE CY YOUNG AWARD: Clayton Kershaw
Kershaw has won three of these already, and unless something completely unforeseen takes place -- like his back injury taking far longer to overcome than anticipated -- he would seem a lock for a fourth.
His numbers -- especially his 145-9 strikeout-to-walk ratio -- seem almost cartoonish. And his WHIP of .727 is nearly historic in the modern era.
Sure, Johnny Cueto, Jose Fernandez, Jake Arrieta and others have had outstanding seasons. But in the N.L., there's Kershaw and then there's everybody else.
NATIONAL LEAGUE ROOKIE OF THE YEAR: Corey Seager
Just as his teammate Kershaw is the clear choice for Cy Young, Seager is the runaway choice -- so far -- for the Rookie of the Year.
Seager is hugely talented, with great defensive skills and terrific power.
A few other shortstops are off to nice starts, too. Colorado's Trevor Story assured himself of some consideration after the first week. And St. Louis, which lost Jhonny Peralta at the start of the season to injury, found a nice replacement in-house with Aledmys Diaz.
Neither, however, has had the kind of first-half that Seager has had, nor, for that matter, his potential.
NATIONAL LEAGUE MANAGER OF THE YEAR: Dusty Baker
Some analytic types wailed when Baker was hired, charging that Baker was hopelessly old-school with a history of overworking pitchers.
But Baker has guided the Nationals to first place in the East and to the third-best record in the National League, providing a steady, veteran presence in the dugout, while unifying a club that was coming apart at the seams under predecessor Matt Williams.
Some credit should also go to Joe Maddon for pushing all the right buttons for the Cubs as well as Dave Roberts, a first-year manager who has the Dodgers within striking distance despite a slew of injuries.
Sean McAdam can be followed on Twitter: @Sean_McAdam