Brandon Webb, Arizona's 22-game winner, and Major League strikeout king Tim Lincecum are up against CC Sabathia, the left-hander who tendered 12 compelling weeks after the Brewers acquired him from the AL's Indians.
The sport's awards showcase will continue through next Tuesday, with distribution of the major hardware as determined by a voting panel of 10-season-plus veterans of the august Baseball Writers Association of America.
This is the time for curtain calls in front of a tribunal of the nation's appreciative fans.
And, remember: These are all regular-season honors; the games may have went on through October, but the voting stopped with the final out on Sept. 30.
The ongoing awards timetable, spotlighting the perceived top two "finalists" for each, followed by the checklist of recipients:
Nov. 11: NL Cy Young Award
The sentiment for CC Sabathia's 12-week work in Milwaukee (11-2, 1.65, seven complete games) makes this an extremely interesting contest. Primarily because the league did not lack full-season excellence.
Arizona's Brandon Webb was a shoo-in for his second Cy until descending in late-August into a three-start losing streak during which he was hit hard (21 runs in 13 2/3 innings) but he still wound up with 22 wins, and no one has had more in the Majors since 2002. Take Sabathia out of the equation, and the other main contender is San Francisco's Tim Lincecum (18-5, 2.62), whose 265 strikeouts were 59 more than anyone else in the league (Dan Haren).
Nov. 12: AL and NL Managers of the Year
Tampa Bay's Joe Maddon may as well be running in the old Soviet Union; there isn't even anyone else on the AL ballot. When you win the game's toughest division and 97 games with a team that had never won more than 70 before, you shouldn't have to share the podium. But, if there has to be a Ralph Nader in this election, it is Mike Scioscia, who drove a deficient Angels team to 100 wins.
Sorry, Charlie (Manuel), but Lou Piniella is the one who ended the regular season on an NL high, and another Cubs postseason implosion won't keep him from his third Manager of the Year Award (he earned two of them in the AL, with the 1995 and 2001 Mariners). Jerry Manuel was unable to punctuate his turnaround job with the Mets with at least a Wild Card but is still a threat, since the NL Central support for Piniella will work against the Cards' Tony La Russa.
Nov 13: AL Cy Young Award
Cliff Lee is considered the surest thing in the entire awards field, but picking his top, albeit down-track, competition is the tough part. The wonder of reaching 20 wins for the first time in his 18th and possibly final season may push Mike Mussina past Roy Halladay.
But Lee is untouchable. One season after nearly pitching himself into oblivion (5-8, 6.29), the left-hander logged a remarkably consistent 22-3 record for a Cleveland team that went 57-74 in others' starts. Should Lee indeed win an award that last year went to his ex-teammate CC Sabathia, the Indians would become the first AL team to produce different back-to-back Cy Young Award winners since the 1996-97 Blue Jays, with Pat Hentgen and Roger Clemens.
(This day will also bring announcements of both leagues' Silver Slugger squads, recognition of the best offensive players at each position.)
Nov. 17: NL Most Valuable Player
So, how is the Philadelphia three-peat looking? Chase Utley's chances of succeeding teammates Ryan Howard and Jimmy Rollins aren't nearly as bright as they were two months into the season.
Utley will still draw some votes, but most of the big ones will go to Albert Pujols (.357, 37 homers, 116 RBIs) and Howard, who shook off an inconsistent summer to carry the Phillies to the wire -- he hit .352 in September, with 11 homers and 32 RBIs. Just in case -- Howard's .251 batting average would be 16 points below the previous low for an MVP (.267, by Marty Marion of the 1944 Cardinals).
Nov. 18: AL Most Valuable Player
Whoever does win this award should send a word of thanks to Carlos Quentin. The Chicago outfielder played his last game on Sept. 1 before a self-inflicted broken wrist, and still wound up with 36 homers and 100 RBIs. But missing the stretch is a death knell for MVP hopes, and that bell probably tolled for Dustin Pedroia, the hyperactive and ultra-confident Boston second baseman.
The Angels' record-setting closer is a candidate, but 62 saves may not help Francisco Rodriguez as much as the historical bias against relievers hurts him. Ultimately, Josh Hamilton's bang in Texas wasn't compelling enough to overcome playing on a losing team.
Monday: AL and NL Rookies of the Year
Tampa Bay's Longoria became the first unanimous winner of the AL award since Boston shortstop Nomar Garciaparra in 1997. He had abetted the Rays' miracle title drive with his 27 homers and 85 RBIs, both highs among the league's rookies. Chicago second baseman Alexei Ramirez was runner-up, after posting comparable power numbers (21 homers, 77 RBIs), and was followed in the top five by Boston outfielder Jacoby Ellsbury, Royals infielder Mike Aviles and Tigers starting pitcher Armando Galarraga.
Soto became the first catcher to take the NL prize since Mike Piazza in 1993, after catching 136 games and cranking 23 homers with 86 RBIs -- both highs for a Cubs rookie since Hall of Famer Billy Williams' own Rookie-of-the-Year season of 1961. The Reds' Joey Votto attracted the other first-place nod and finished second, ahead of the Braves' Jair Jurrjens.