The 'Boys of Summer' Return
Friday, January 13, 2006

McFarlane Toys delivers again with MLB 15, the newest Sports Picks lineup featuring the brightest stars from Major League Baseball. It's a strong cross-section of big-league talent, providing power, defense, starting and relief pitching and more. Take the rubber bands off your glove and crease your hat a bit -- it's time to play ball!

DERREK LEE: Chicago's first baseman has spent much of his career under the radar, despite winning a World Series with the Marlins in 2004. Lee didn't make national headlines until his Triple Crown chase in 2005. He won the batting title, finished second in the home run chase and trailed down to seventh in RBIs, but Lee's stellar 2005 season landed him his first All-Star selection and Silver Slugger award. While he brings thunder to the plate, the North Side's biggest star also rocks in the field, where his first baseman's mitt turned gold for the second time in 2005.

JOHAN SANTANA: Minnesota brought Johan Santana out of the bullpen for the first four years of his career, but his entry into the starting rotation in 2004 was a revelation. Santana went 20-2 with a 2.69 ERA and 265 strikeouts. While Boston's Curt Schilling won 21 games to deny Santana the "Triple Crown of Pitching," he couldn't keep the Twins ace from landing the Cy Young award as the American League's best pitcher. Minnesota rewarded Santana with a long-term contract, and he proved 2004 was no fluke with a 16-7 mark for an underachieving Minnesota squad in 2005. The future looks bright for the Venezuelan hurler -- I wonder if Florida regrets trading him for Jared Camp...

CHAD CORDERO: The Washington Nationals surpassed expectations in their debut season and defied the odds by winning a slew of one-run games -- Frank Robinson's bullpen turned in night after night of brilliant relief, headlined by closer Chad Cordero's breakout season. Cordero led the National League with 47 saves and earned a trip to his first All-Star Game. His hat brim also led the league in total flatness. Democrats and Republicans can agree on one thing in D.C. -- the ninth inning is safe down at old RFK.

MIGUEL CABRERA: While Florida traded away a lot of their established talent this off-season, there was one star deemed absolutely untouchable. Miguel Cabrera already owns two All-Star selections and a World Series championship and he won't turn 23 until this April. Back-to-back 33-homer seasons have established Cabrera as baseball's best young star, with talent to spare and a future that looks downright scary.

CARLOS DELGADO: How does a player with 30 or more home runs in nine straight seasons get overlooked? After 12 seasons in Toronto, the powerhouse signed a long-term deal to man first base for the Marlins, but the team's subsequent break-up saw Delgado shipped to New York. If media attention has eluded him thus far, Delgado will see plenty of it this season as the new-look Mets look to be serious contenders in the National League East.

ANDRUW JONES 2: 50-homer seasons went out of style recently, with no one cracking that plateau since Jim Thome and Alex Rodriguez in 2002 -- until Atlanta's Andruw Jones crushed 51 home runs to lead both leagues in 2005. With an injury to Chipper Jones and the Braves' roster stocked with rookies, it was Jones who provided the leather and the lumber to capture a record-setting 14th consecutive division title. Jones' unbelievable 2005 saw him make his 4th All-Star Team, while winning his ninth straight Gold Glove and finishing second in National League MVP voting.

RICHIE SEXSON (Surprise Figure): If the lights are bright at SafeCo Field, it's because Richie Sexson is providing the power. The 6'8 slugger celebrated his first season in Seattle with 39 homers and 121 RBIs -- both good enough for sixth place in the American League. Sexson is a "surprise figure" in MLB 15, meaning he isn't listed on the packaging and will be randomly inserted into cases on a limited basis.

Look for MLB 15 at your favorite stores in early June!