Lost in the World Series and Bonds bashing, and everything else that characterized this double-ninja-awesome baseball season, was that the game ushered in a huge crop of young stars. Here, four of 'em —Brewers third baseman Ryan Braun, Diamondbacks center fielder Chris Young, Dodgers first baseman James Loney, and White Sox center fielder Jerry Owens —weigh in on a host of basebally topics.
…on what they learned this season.
Braun: That physically, it's a real grind. You learn to play through injuries. Emotionally, it's a roller coaster at times.
Loney: I learned how a lot of the veteran guys go about their business, about the level of consistency it takes. I learned that you have to have fun. Sometimes people get so caught up in trying to do so well, they forget that.
Owens: You can't worry about what people think or say. Ever since I stopped doing that and just let things come naturally, success came with it.
Young: It's a long, long season [laughs]. If you stay even-keeled, the numbers will be there.
…on the state of major league baseball circa October 2007.
J.O.: The way the NL races unfolded is good for the game. Teams were in it until the very last day. Fans love that. There's parity. It's not like one team is going to be loaded every year.
R.B.: It's about the big pennant races. You saw the same thing I did—the fans were going crazy. We feed on that.
C.Y.: There are so many guys out there doing great things. Alex Rodriguez and Prince Fielder, 50 home runs each. Prince was the youngest guy to do it.
…on the toughest part about being a major league player.
R.B.: The travel and the grind of the season, 162 games in 180 days. Half the time I don't know what time zone I'm in.
J.L.: There's no tough part for me. I love doing this [laughs]. What's hard is going back out there every day and fighting to get better. As a hitter, if you're great at this, you're still failing two out of every three times.
J.O.: At the major league level, there's a lot more than the game going on. The media, the fans—it's a lot more mental than people realize. And you do all of it while trying to hit 95-mph fastballs.
…on the best part about being a major league player.
C.Y.: The games, just getting to play. When we were kids, this was our dream. I wasn't a high-round draft pick. In the minor leagues, [the major leagues] seem so far away. When I got here and looked up and realized I made it, that was just a great moment.
R.B.: The competition. That you get to compete at the highest level and have the chance to prove yourself.
J.L.: The opportunity to win a World Series. That's it for me.
…on fans' misperceptions.
J.O.: That we're never going to make any mistakes. We're under the magnifying glass. Everything we do is amplified.
J.L.: Maybe they expect you just to be happy to be here, which is not the case. When you get up here, you want to be the best. It's harder to stay up here than just to get here.
C.Y.: We're all just normal guys. People think that maybe we're cocky or have some kind of different thought process. I'm just a normal guy. I enjoy hanging out and sitting at home.
R.B.: How much time we put in. If a game's at 7 o'clock, it's not like we show up at 5. We put in nine-hour days. For a 7 P.M. game, we're there at 2 P.M. and don't leave until 11 at the earliest.
…on their favorite places to play outside their home parks.
C.Y.: I love San Diego—that's where I played my first major league game. The atmosphere and the weather are great. And Yankee Stadium this year—wow.
J.L.: I like Colorado, because I had nine RBIs in a game there last year [laughs]. The Wrigley Field atmosphere is a lot of fun.
R.B.: We have a little rivalry with the Cubs now, so Wrigley's great. The fans are rowdy, but they have lots of respect for tradition and the history of the game.
J.O.: Cleveland, because I've had a lot of success there. Also, growing up, my idol was Kenny Lofton. It was an honor to roam the same center field that he did for so long.
…on the best player they've seen.
J.L.: Matt Holliday, he's just amazing. Ichiro, I have no idea how he does the things that he does with the bat.
J.O.: Not everybody plays the same game. Watching Magglio Ordonez hit is great—he puts on a show every day. He does it so effortlessly, like he's not even trying. Torii Hunter is a highlight reel waiting to happen. Grady Sizemore and Curtis Granderson hit for power and average and play a gold-glove center field. They probably don't know I'm watching them. I want to get to where they're at someday.
C.Y.: My favorite growing up was Ken Griffey Jr. Gary Sheffield and Alex Rodriguez, both have it all. With Alex, the ball jumps off his bat differently from anybody else. Look how controlled his swing is at all times. You don't see him out in front or taking bad swings.
…on the best pitcher they've faced.
R.B.: Jake Peavy and John Smoltz, for their consistency and their competitiveness. They never give in. They hit their spots and get ahead of hitters.
C.Y.: I don't face him, but Brandon Webb has the best sinker I've ever seen. I watch it from center field and think, I have no idea how anybody hits that.
J.L.: John Smoltz is one of the toughest. Matt Cain has incredible stuff.
J.O.: C.C. Sabathia. Being left-handed, I'm already behind the eight ball with him. And that's before you factor in that he throws 97 mph.
…on their World Series prediction.
J.L.: Oh man, that's tough. I don't know. Maybe Boston.
J.O.: The Yankees, given the lineup they have, are hard to pick against. But I think it's going to be an NL team. The races have been so close, it's like the Playoffs started for them before the season ended. Maybe the Cubs?
R.B.: I would've liked for it to be us, but we didn't find a way to win those last few games. It's very unpredictable. A team just has to find a way to get in and get hot.
C.Y.: I would like to think it'll be us. So much of it depends on who's pitching.
…on what they'll do when the season ends.
J.L.: Sleep, probably. Two straight weeks.
R.B.: Man, just relax. Give my body some time to recuperate. I'll take a solid two or three weeks off, then I'll start going back at it hard at the beginning of December.
C.Y.: Nothing. Some guys gain weight during the season—I happen to lose it. So at some point I'll start putting it back on.
J.O.: I'll go home and rest, but I'll start getting antsy in a few days. By Thursday, I'll be out there doing stuff. Spring training is going to be here sooner than we think.