This Great Game Comebacker

The Month That Was in Baseball: November, 2017
Houston Astros, World Champions The Death of Roy Halladay
So Long, Bobby Doerr and Jim Rivera


Best and Worst of the Week

BEST HITTER, AMERICAN LEAGUE
Aaron Judge, New York Yankees

BA
R
H
2B
3B
HR
RBI
BB
IB
HB
SB
.284 155 154 24 3 52 114 116 11 5 9

We’ll spare you the “judge” analogies (you know, “all rise,” etc.) because they’ve all been used to death by now, and just admit that the king-sized rookie’s display arguably ranks as baseball’s greatest debut. You name it, Judge did it; he broke Mark McGwire’s home run rookie record, scored and knocked in over 100 runs, walked over 100 times, won the Home Run Derby, and so on. Once the awards season kicks in, he’s a shoo-in for AL Rookie of the Year and a strong candidate to win the AL MVP. Granted, he’s a late bloomer of sorts—at age 25, he’s older than Bryce Harper—but opposing pitchers must shudder to think what this guy has in store as he likely matures. Perhaps the Yankees will be a stronger magnet for top free agent pitchers—not for the money or pinstriped prestige, but because they won’t have to face this guy.


BEST HITTER, NATIONAL LEAGUE
Charlie Blackmon, Colorado Rockies

BA
R
H
2B
3B
HR
RBI
BB
IB
HB
SB
.331 137 213 35 14 37 104 56 9 10 14

Yes, we know—take the lumberjack-bearded center fielder out of Coors Field and put him in, say, San Francisco, and he doesn’t post the kind of numbers as he did in a Rockies jersey. Or maybe he would; we’ll just never know until he gets traded to the Giants. In the meantime, we’ll acknowledge the mile-high advantage but still put our faith in a guy who sparked the Rockies to their first postseason since 2009 with prodigious, all-around flair. While Blackmon did hit better at Denver—everybody does—he still was strong enough on the road to merit this honor. Has he peaked? He turns 32 in 2018, his walk year before becoming a free agent; now that Colorado has wiped Jose Reyes off the books, it might be a good time to lock Blackmon up.


WORST HITTER, AMERICAN LEAGUE
Adam Engel, Chicago White Sox

BA
R
H
2B
3B
HR
RBI
BB
IB
HB
SB
.166 34 50 11 3 6 21 19 0 8 8

If Rookie of the Year awards were handed out solely for defensive excellence, then the 25-year old outfielder would be a lock. But you got to hit, too—and that’s where Engel’s contributions to the rebuilding White Sox hit a brick wall. His batting average and on-base percentage were the lowest among major leaguers with at least 200 at-bats, and nobody struck out more (117) in as few at-bats (301). Here’s some advice for Engel when he shows up in Arizona for spring training: Skip the fielding drills and spend lots of time in the batting cage.


WORST HITTER, NATIONAL LEAGUE
Michael Saunders, Philadelphia Phillies

BA
R
H
2B
3B
HR
RBI
BB
IB
HB
SB
.205 25 41 9 2 6 20 11 2 1 0

After putting up productive numbers for Toronto in 2016, Saunders was grabbed by the Phillies for $8 million as part of their veteran stability movement for 2017. Like most of those moves, it failed—but in Saunders’ case, it failed spectacularly. The 30-year-old outfielder started off okay, but his game collapsed to the point that the Phillies released him by mid-June. He went back home again to Toronto to end the season, but his Philadelphia tenure is one he would have to file under ‘repressed memories.’


BEST PITCHER, AMERICAN LEAGUE
Corey Kluber, Cleveland Indians

W-L
IP
H
R
ER
BB
HB
WP
BK
SO
ERA
18-4 203.2 141 56 51 36 4 5 0 265 2.25

The 31-year-old Indians ace may have laid an egg in the postseason, but they give Cy Young honors for what you do in the six months prior—or four months, in Kluber’s case. After an iffy April and an absent May owing to back issues, the right-hander righted the ship and was dominant through September, posting a 15-2 record with a sensational 1.59 ERA over his last 23 starts. It gets better; he struck out 224 batters during this stretch—while walking just 23. His five complete games and three shutouts tied Ervin Santana for the major league lead, and he might have won 20 for the first time had it not been for the month-long layoff. To all those Indians fans brooding over how soon it will be before Kluber becomes too expensive to stay, relax; he’s under Cleveland control through 2021.


BEST PITCHER, NATIONAL LEAGUE
Max Scherzer, Washington Nationals

W-L
IP
H
R
ER
BB
HB
WP
BK
SO
ERA
16-6 200.2 126 62 56 55 4 11 0 268 2.51

This was a very tight call with Clayton Kershaw and Stephen Strasburg in the mix, but in the end we had to give it to Scherzer, who sabermetrically owned the edge over the other two. Yes, Kershaw had more wins and a lower ERA, but Scherzer had the majors’ lowest opposing average (a remarkable .178) while only Corey Kluber had a lower WHIP (walks and hits allowed per inning) than Scherzer’s 0.90. Finally, the 33-year old’s fastball remained ablaze, averaging near 95 as he led the NL with 268 strikeouts. All this, while battling various maladies and lack of run support, posting seven quality starts without a win. Let’s hope the arm doesn’t blow out anytime soon, because he’s a marvel to watch.


WORST PITCHER, AMERICAN LEAGUE
Chris Tillman, Baltimore Orioles

W-L
IP
H
R
ER
BB
HB
WP
BK
SO
ERA
1-7 93 125 86 81 51 11 4 0 63 7.84

In the four years prior to 2017, when all else failed for the Orioles’ rotation—and it failed often—there was Tillman, a stabilizing presence with a knack for picking up wins. The 2017 campaign was to be the championing crescendo for the Anaheim native, ready to further impress at age 29 before hitting free agency. Then came this. He missed April with a shoulder injury, returned in May and won his first start with five shutout innings—and then failed to win any of his remaining 18 starts as he got lit up on a regular basis. The Orioles’ faith in Tillman became so tentative that they moved him to the bullpen toward season’s end, with little rebound. All along, Tillman has contended that he’s felt good—which might only scare potential bidders this coming winter even more.


WORST PITCHER, NATIONAL LEAGUE
Jordan Lyles, Colorado-San Diego

W-L
IP
H
R
ER
BB
HB
WP
BK
SO
ERA
1-5 69.2 96 61 60 22 4 4 0 55 7.75

The right-hander from South Carolina manages to stick around the big leagues because of a tantalizing fastball, but at some point all the ugly numbers that surround his velocity will lead teams to start shying away from him. That point may be near. Lyles started the year demoted from the rotation in Colorado, and struggled from the bullpen—allowing 11 homers in 46 innings—before being released in July; the Padres picked him up, exiled him for a month at Triple-A El Paso, then auditioned him in the San Diego rotation in September with disastrous results (five starts, 9.39 ERA). The best hope for Lyles, who’s been spinning his wheels on the mound for seven years, is to be reinvented as a hard-throwing set-up reliever. But it’s just not going to happen until he simply figures how to get guys out.


BEST TEAM, AMERICAN LEAGUE
Cleveland Indians (102-60)

Cleveland’s early exit from the postseason certainly is the sour cherry on top of a 2017 regular season campaign full of sweet memories. And the later in the year it got, the sweeter those memories were. After playing musical chairs with AL Central foes for first place through the season’s first half, the Indians grabbed the top spot late in June, barely hung onto it for a few weeks and then, boom—the team charged up the afterburners with a record 22-game win streak so dominant, they hit more home runs than they allowed total runs. Likely AL Cy Young recipient Corey Kluber highlighted a staff that nearly became the first in major league history to average 10 Ks a game while walking fewer batters than anyone else; at the plate, Jose Ramirez’s continued maturation reached MVP levels to lift the offense. Unlike Indians teams of recent past, the core of this unit isn’t due to be broken up by budget restrictions, so expect this roster to remain quite competitive for a few years to come.


BEST TEAM, NATIONAL LEAGUE
Los Angeles Dodgers (104-58)

The Dodgers were supposed to be good this year, but not like this. The extra boost didn’t come from Logan Forsythe (.226) or teenage pitching phenom Julio Urias (0-2, 5.40 ERA in five starts), but instead they came completely out of nowhere with Seattle reject Chris Taylor and rookie basher Cody Bellinger, whose sweet, upper-cut swing broke the NL rookie record for homers with 39. With these two firmly in tow—and sophomore pilot Dave Roberts deftly exploiting the minimized DL timespan to give players crucial rest—the Dodgers became a force that simply could not be reckoned, turning a middling start into an uncanny midseason burst of supremacy in which at one point they won 52 games in a 61-game stretch. A head-scratching slump (16 losses in 17 games) to start September took them off a record pace for wins, but they quickly bounced back from it and secured the majors’ best record.


WORST TEAM, AMERICAN LEAGUE
Detroit Tigers (64-98)

At the beginning of the year, we picked the Diamondbacks, Royals and Tigers as three teams we felt would go into full-bore tank mode if they didn’t get off to an inspiring start. So, one out of three ain’t bad. Hard to believe this was a team that clung to the .500 mark as late as June 7, but an eight-game skid later in the month was the signal for Tigers management to start dismantling—and boy, did they ever. Before you knew it, their two top hitters (J.D. Martinez, Justin Upton), top ace (Justin Verlander) and top reliever (Justin Wilson) were all gone, traded to better teams. And that’s not saying much, because by season’s end, everyone else was better than the Tigers, thanks to a woeful (13 wins in their last 53 games) finish. The silver lining: They get the #1 pick in the amateur draft next spring.


WORST TEAM, NATIONAL LEAGUE
San Francisco Giants (64-98)

The Giants’ season looked good for about eight innings, before Mark Melancon wasted two Madison Bumgarner homers and blew a save on Opening Day. It went all downhill from there. Bumgarner inexplicably jumped on a dirt bike and crashed, costing him three months; the rest of the rotation heavily underperformed; the bullpen sagged as Melancon was never 100%; and the offense never got the memo that home runs were back in vogue, as 126 major leaguers went deep more than Brandon Belt, who led the Giants with a paltry 18. The team got so desperate, it brought back Pablo Sandoval—who rewarded them with a franchise-record string of 39 hitless at-bats. It’s a miracle that manager Bruce Bochy’s fragile heart didn’t totally give out after all of this. Overall, it’s such a shock that a highly revered organization has dropped into such an abyss.


Wild Pitches

Yes, They Can’t Believe This Really Happened
(November 2017 Edition)

Consider Better Security
While the Dodgers’ Yasiel Puig was watching his team lose Game Seven, somebody or something was not watching his nearby home—which was robbed of some of his jewelry. It’s the second time this year he’s had his house broken into and pilfered.

Proposal Cam
During the Astros’ on-field World Series celebration, shortstop Carlos Correa got down on a knee and proposed to his girlfriend, former Miss Texas USA Daniella Rodriguez. Thank goodness she didn’t say no.

Betting the Bed
Back in May, Houston mattress baron Jim McIngvale promised rebates to anyone who bought at least $3,000 in product from his stores if the Astros won the World Series. Six months and an Astros championship later, McIngvale will pay out $10 million to customers who took up his offer.

O Lucky Man
A week in the life of Justin Verlander, November 2017 version: He wins the World Series and marries Kate Upton. Life is sweet.

Because, Sports Talk
A day after Roy Halladay’s death, Boston sports talk radio co-host Michael Felger thought it would be a good time to go on an extended rant, criticizing what he perceived as Halladay’s irresponsible display of daredevil flying. “He got what he deserved,” Felger concludes. A day later, he apologies.

Next Time, Try the Women’s-Only Fundraiser
For the second straight year, the World Series trophy became a casualty of excessive celebration when it “slid off” a table at a “men’s only” museum fundraiser in Houston. Some of the flagpoles were bent but later straightened out.

Mr. 300
Boston outfielder Mookie Betts bowled a perfect 300 at the World Series of Bowling in Reno, Nevada—yet was ousted early in the tournament.

How About a Francesca!?
Responding to a caller’s suggestion, New York sports talk host Mike Francesca said he could take on the job of Yankees manager, which is currently vacant. In the age of Trump, we guess anything’s possible.

Oh, We Get It!
The agent for Shohei Ohtani cleared up the confusion over whether the Japanese phenom’s last name should be spelled Ohtani or Otani (as we and others previous had). So now we have the answer: It’s Ohtani.

He Said What?
“Y’all came to the wrong house.” So tweeted Tampa Bay pitcher Chris Archer in response to being asked to give a surprise PED test, adding, “I ain’t mad though, I want a clean sport.”

Steely Dawn
Pirates star Andrew McCutchen named his newborn son Steel.

We’re Not Voting on the MVP Here
The Yankees’ Aaron Judge got 10 write-in votes in the New York City mayoral race.




Wednesday, November 1
For the first time in their 56-year history, the Houston Astros are world champions of Major League Baseball. They complete their quest with a 5-1 victory over the Dodgers at Los Angeles in the first Game Seven played between two 100-game winners in the Fall Classic since 1931.

The Astros waste no time getting on the scoreboard, notching two runs in the first and three in the second, the last two of those runs courtesy of George Springer’s record-tying fifth World Series homer. (Springer will win series MVP honors.) Allowing all five runs for the Dodgers is Yu Darvish, who for the second time in two Fall Classic outings can’t make it past the second inning. It could be argued that Houston starter Lance McCullers Jr. is equally off the mark, but he miraculously gets through 2.1 innings without allowing a run before his own removal, despite conceding three hits and hitting a Series game-record four batters.

Crazy as the World Series to this point has been, many wonder if the Astros’ 5-0 lead is safe, but after McCullers Jr.’s exit, the suspect Houston bullpen clamps down; Charlie Morton, who started and pitched very well in Game Three, throws the final four innings and allows only a run on two hits to earn a big-time save. That’s especially reassuring to the Astros, as four Los Angeles relievers combine to shut down the Astros in the 7.1 innings after Darvish’s exit—including four scoreless from Clayton Kershaw.

The Dodgers lose the World Series despite hitting better (.230 average to Houston’s .205), bashing more home runs (15-10) and posting a better ERA (4.45, to the Astros’ 4.64).

The Astros’ triumph leaves the Texas Rangers, Milwaukee Brewers, San Diego Padres, Seattle Mariners, Colorado Rockies, Tampa Bay Rays and Montreal Expos/Washington Nationals as the only existing MLB franchises yet to win a World Series; of those teams, the Mariners and Nationals are the two who haven’t even made it to the Fall Classic.

So much for the fabled Sports Illustrated cover jinx. As the Astros celebrate, social media brings up a cover of a 2014 issue featuring Springer and the proclamation: “Your 2017 World Series Champs.” The story inside is about how the Astros were building themselves back up after spending a number of years in last place.

Los Angeles rookie slugger Cody Bellinger strikes out three times in a 0-for-4 performance, giving him 17 for the series. Not only does that set a World Series mark, but adds to the 29 he suffered in the postseason—beating, by two, the previous record set just last month by the New York Yankees’ Aaron Judge. Both Bellinger and Judge are expected to be runaway winners of the Rookie of the Year award in their respective leagues.

Dodgers reliever Brandon Morrow makes a brief Game Seven appearance, striking out Alex Bregman to finish the second after Darvish’s departure. Morrow thus becomes only the second pitcher (Oakland’s Darryl Knowles being the other, from 1973) to appear in all seven games of a World Series.

This is the first time both starting pitchers failed to make it through the third inning of a World Series Game Seven. For the entire postseason, starting pitchers averaged 4.7 innings per outing, surely an all-time low—and down from the 5.1 registered in 2016.

The Dodgers did not win a modern World Series until 1955, snapping a 51-year drought; from 1955 through 1988, they won six world titles; in the 30 years since, they have not won again.

Thursday, November 2
The free agent season begins with Justin Upton sticking around with the Los Angeles Angels for $106 million—$89.5 million from an existing contract and an additional fifth year tacked on for $17.5 million. The 30-year-old outfielder had his most prolific year to date in 2017, hitting .273 with career highs in 35 home runs and 109 RBIs split between the Angels and Detroit Tigers.

In Miami, agent Bartolo Hernandez and trainer Julio Estrada receive prison sentences of, respectively, four and five years for their involvement in an operation smuggling Cuban baseball players such as Jose Abreu and Leonys Martin into the United States. The two received a hefty cut of the players’ eventual major league salaries, and the network they set up was sometimes inhumane; Martin recalls that he was nearly kidnapped while forcibly holed up in Mexico awaiting entry into America.

Friday, November 3
The City of Houston holds a celebratory parade for the World Series champion Astros. Players and executives are ferried through a rectangular loop that ends at City Hall, where various members of the team give a crowd estimated at over 500,000 their thanks. Pitcher Dallas Keuchel asks, “Houston, what the hell took us so long to win a World Series?”

It’s Option Day as teams and players choose whether to exercise options in their contracts for 2018. Saying yes is the Pittsburgh Pirates to Andrew McCutchen ($14.75 million) and Cleveland to Michael Brantley ($11.5 million); saying no is Miami to Ichiro Suzuki ($2 million) and the Los Angeles Angels to veteran closer Huston Street ($10 million). Among those players who hold control over their 2018 options and beyond, the Yankees’ Masahiro Tanaka decides not to opt out of a deal that will pay him $67 million over the next three years, while Washington catcher Matt Wieters—who had a subpar 2017—makes the easy choice to activate the $10.5 million option for next season.

Saturday, November 4
The option parade continues with two more big names making news. The Giants’ Johnny Cueto, who after a superlative 2016 campaign was stunted by injuries in 2017, decides to remain in San Francisco rather than opt out of the last four years of his contract. In Toronto, the Blue Jays decline the team option on slugger Jose Bautista, potentially ending his 10-year tenure with the team. The 37-year-old Bautista, who in 2017 hit a paltry .203 with 23 homers and 170 strikeouts (his previous career high: 116), would have been owed $17 million in 2018; he’ll have to settle for a $500,000 buyout and free agency.

Sunday, November 5
The Dodgers decline a $17.5 million option for 2018 on outfielder Andre Ethier, preferring to buy out the remainder of his contract at $2.5 million. Ethier, who was sidelined until September with a herniated disc, was the longest tenured Dodger at 12 years; only six other players have been with their ballclubs longer.

Monday, November 6
Nine imminent free agents receive last-gasp qualifying offers of $17.2 million to stay one more year with their incumbent teams. They include Kansas City’s Eric Hosmer and Mike Moustakas, the Cubs’ Jake Arrieta and Wade Davis, St. Louis’ Lance Lynn, Colorado’s Greg Holland, Tampa Bay’s Alex Cobb and Cleveland’s Carlos Santana. Ten days later, all nine players will refuse the offer and become free agents.

The top three “finalists” from each league for the major postseason awards are revealed. There are few surprises on the list except for one; in the NL Most Valuable Player selections, Colorado’s Charlie Blackmon—who had a historic year leading off for the Rockies and voted TGG’s NL hitter of the year (see right) was left off the list. Two possible reasons as to why: One, he plays at mile-high Coors Field—where the bulk of his stats were accrued—and two, he might have had to compete for votes with teammate Nolan Arenado, who some believe was also snubbed. The three NL finalists for the honor are Arizona’s Paul Goldschmidt, Cincinnati’s Joey Votto and Miami’s Giancarlo Stanton. We’re guessing that with Blackmon out of the way, the MVP is now Stanton’s to lose. Find out by reading below on November 16.

The Cardinals release closer Trevor Rosenthal, who saved 45 and 48 games, respectively, from 2014-15 but has since struggled; he is likely to miss the entire 2018 season as he recovers from Tommy John surgery this past summer.

Tuesday, November 7
Roy Halladay, a two-time Cy Young Award winner, author of both a perfect game and no-hitter (in the same season, 2010) and current placeholder on two of TGG’s top pitchers’ list (for the Phillies and Blue Jays), is killed at the age of 40 in a plane crash off the west Florida coast near St. Petersburg. He was flying an experimental plane called the ICON A5, of which only some 20 have been built—one of them having already killed the plane’s designer in another crash.

A stoic personality on the mound and easygoing off it, Halladay was arguably considered the best pitcher of the new century’s first decade; we picked him as such in our wrap of the 2000s. He had a unique start to his career, coming within one out of a no-hitter in his first start in 1998—but two years later found himself lost and sunk down to Class-A ball after posting a 10.64 ERA for Toronto. Within a couple of years he rebounded back to ace form and stayed there, winning Cy honors for the Blue Jays in 2003 with a career-high 22 wins. Four times, in fact, Halladay would top 20 wins, and he gained another Cy in his brilliant 2010 debut with the Phillies, a season which included a no-hitter of Cincinnati in the NLDS—only the second no-hit effort ever thrown by a pitcher in a postseason. Halladay was the ultimate workhorse for his time, leading his league seven times in complete games—collecting nine in four separate seasons. In the 21st Century, he went the distance 65 times; Livan Hernandez is second, at 39. Overall, Halladay compiled a 203-105 record for a .659 winning percentage; only four pitchers in the modern era have more wins and a higher win percentage.

Eligible for the Hall of Fame in 2019, Halladay’s chances for enshrinement were good; at the risk of sounding callous, they’ll likely better now.

A day later, video emerges from a nearby boater who witnessed the accident and suggested that Halladay was flying erratically low to the water, perhaps even “showboating.”

The 2017 Gold Gloves are handed out for defensive excellence, with a number of first-timers. The biggest surprises lie behind the plate where the Reds’ Tucker Barnhart and the Angels’ Martin Maldonado earn their first honors. Others rewarded for the first time include Minnesota second baseman Brian Dozier and outfielder Byron Buxton, and Miami outfielder Marcell Ozuna. Three players earn their fifth Gold Glove: Colorado third baseman Nolan Arenado, Cubs outfielder Jason Heyward and Kansas City outfielder Alex Gordon.

Wednesday, November 8
Venezuela native Daniel Flores, a 17-year-old catching prospect recently signed for $3.1 million by the Red Sox, passes away after a battle with cancer. Although he had yet to play any organized ball in America, Flores was already listed as the fifth-highest prospect in the Red Sox’ organization and was being compared to the Yankees’ Gary Sanchez.

Friday, November 10
It’s official: Shohei Ohtani, the 23-year-old “Babe Ruth of Japan” who’s excelled at both hitting and pitching for the Nippon Ham Fighters, declares his intention to play in America for 2018. In 525 at-bats over the last two seasons, Ohtani has hit .326 with 30 home runs and 98 RBIs—while in 72 pitching appearances over the last four years, he’s 39-15 with a 2.30 ERA. Thigh and knee injuries kept his 2017 activity limited. Because he’s under 25, he is subject to MLB’s international money pool rules which limit how much teams can spend on foreign talent; as such, sources say that the Texas Rangers currently can offer him the most money, at $3.5 million.

Saturday, November 11
Former All-Star pitcher Josh Beckett is arrested in Texas after allegedly storming a stage at a country music club and tackling one of the players—who is said to suffer a torn rotator cuff and other shoulder injuries. Needless to say, Beckett was reportedly drunk at the time of his charge.

Monday, November 13
To no one’s surprise, the Yankees’ Aaron Judge and Dodgers’ Cody Bellinger are named the AL and NL Rookies of the Year, respectively. Both are unanimous selections, the first time both recipients have been chosen as such in the same year.

Two of baseball’s 10 oldest living ex-players pass away. Hall of Famer Bobby Doerr, who was the oldest, dies at age 99. Playing 15 years for the Red Sox until back problems forced him to retire at 33, Doerr was an exceptional second baseman who set plenty of fielding records (since broken), including a stretch of 414 straight games without committing an error. He could hit, too—batting a career .288 with 223 home runs; six times, he knocked in over 100 runs, including a career-high 120 in 1950 for a Red Sox team that’s the last to hit over .300. In our “They Were There” interview with Doerr a few years back, the Los Angeles native and Oregon retiree talked of playing with Ted Williams, Lefty Grove, Jimmie Foxx, and catcher-spy Moe Berg; he called the Red Sox’ championship curse “a bunch of baloney.” “We weren’t cursed,” he said. “We just didn’t have enough good starting pitchers, that’s all.”

Doerr was the last living ex-major leaguer who played in the 1930s.

There is also news of the death of 96-year-old Jim Rivera, a contributing member of the “Go-Go” White Sox of the 1950s. The left-handed hitting outfielder didn’t debut in the majors until the St. Louis Browns brought him in at age 30 in 1952, after spending five years of a life sentence in an Atlanta prison for attempted rape while in the Army. Traded midway through his rookie season to Chicago, Rivera showed off his speed and grit, routinely stealing 20 bases in a time when such a tactic was anathema; he also led the AL with 16 triples in 1953. As his career wound down, he got his one and only chance to play in a World Series—but went 0-for-11 against the Dodgers in the White Sox’ 1959 five-game defeat.

Carlos Beltran calls it a career at age 40. A Rookie of the Year in 1999 for Kansas City, the switch-hitting Beltran emerged as an all-around force, hitting for solid average and power, running swiftly and effectively on the basepaths and collecting 143 assists in the outfield as a winner of three Gold Gloves. Beltran’s career totals include nine All-Star Game call-ups, 2,725 hits, 435 home runs, 1,587 RBIs, 1,582 runs scored and 312 steals; his 86.4% stolen base percentage ranks third all-time among those with at least 200 attempts. Such numbers will certainly merit consideration for the Hall of Fame, but he’s no shoo-in given that he never led the league in any offensive category; that he played for seven different teams—none for more than seven years—doesn’t help his chances. But at least he finally got a World Series ring, playing for the Astros in 2017.

Alex Anthopoulos is given a four-year contract to become the Atlanta Braves’ new general manager in the hopes that he can provide stability to an Atlanta front office that has been wreaked apart by dissension and MLB investigation. The Montreal-born Anthopoulos served as the GM of the Toronto Blue Jays from 2009-15, and for the last two years has worked in the Dodgers’ front office as Vice President of Baseball Operations.

Tuesday, November 14
Arizona’s Torey Lovullo and Minnesota’s Paul Molitor are rewarded, respectively, with the NL and AL Manager of the Year awards. Lovullo, in his first season guiding the Diamondbacks, turned the team from a 93-game loser to a 93-game winner in 2017, reaching the NLDS before being swept by Los Angeles; he accrued 18 of 30 first-place votes to easily outpace the Dodgers’ Dave Roberts. Molitor had it a little tougher in winning his honor, also netting 18 first-place votes but surviving Cleveland’s Terry Francona in the point count, 112-90.

Lovullo is third different Diamondbacks manager to win the award in the last 11 years. Bob Melvin was honored in 2007, followed by Kirk Gibson in 2011.

Those who didn’t think Molitor was deserving of the award—people like us—point out that although the Twins’ 85-77 record in 2017 was a 26-game advance from 2016, it was also only a two-game advance over Moiltor’s rookie 2015 season. In a sense, Molitor was only getting his team back to normal after a horrible off-year.

Wednesday, November 15
The Nationals’ Max Scherzer, despite fewer wins and a higher ERA than Clayton Kershaw, easily outdistances the Dodgers’ ace to take NL Cy Young Award honors for the second straight year. Scherzer gets 27 first-place votes out of 30—Kershaw earns the other three—with a dominating season that included top NL rankings in WHIP, batting average allowed and strikeouts. It’s the third overall Cy for Scherzer; only four other pitchers have won more.

The AL Cy goes to Cleveland’s Corey Kluber, who cops the second of his career with 28 first-place votes; Boston’s Chris Sale gets the other two. No other pitcher places higher than third on any ballot.

The Oakland A’s trade Ryon Healy—apparently made expendable at first base with the emergence of rookie slugger Matt Olson—is traded to Seattle for a pair of minor leaguers. The trade fills a hole at first for the Mariners—only the Twins hit fewer home runs at that position in 2017—while the A’s may be taking a risk in losing one of their more consistently productive players of the last two years; in 845 career at-bats, Healy has hit .282 with 49 doubles, 38 homers and 115 RBIs.

Thursday, November 16
In the fourth tightest vote in MVP history, the Marlins’ Giancarlo Stanton—heavily rumored to be on the trading block—wins the NL award by a 302-300 margin over Cincinnati’s Joey Votto. Both players receive 10 first-place votes; Arizona’s Paul Goldschmidt picks up four first-place nods while finishing third overall, and two Rockies—Nolan Arenado and Charlie Blackmon—finish fourth and fifth, respectively. The Cubs’ Kris Bryant, who won 2016 honors, polls seventh and picks up a first-place vote from Atlanta BBWAA rep Mark Bowman of mlb.com. Stanton is the first MVP winner in the Marlins’ 25-year history.

Only two votes in NL MVP history were tighter: The 1979 tie between Willie Stargell and Keith Hernandez, and the one-point difference between Marty Marion and Bill Nicholson in 1944.

It’s worth noting that Stanton and Votto both played for teams with losing records in 2017.

The AL MVP vote is more relatively one-sided for Houston second baseman Jose Altuve, who garners 27 of 30 first-place votes and wins easily over second-place Aaron Judge of the Yankees and third-place Jose Ramirez of the Indians. This is Altuve’s first MVP and the second for the Astros, following Jeff Bagwell’s performance from the strike-shortened 1994 campaign.

Saturday, November 18
The Arizona Fall League comes to a conclusion with the biggest news not being the congrats given to the Peoria Javelinas—AFL teams are basically “you pick ‘em” collection of future stars—but the continued rise of Ronald Acuna. The majors’ top minor league prospect, the 19-year-old outfielder from Venezuela currently in the Atlanta farm system is named MVP of the AFL after hitting .325 with seven home runs in 23 games. This, after burning up all three levels of the minors this past season as he rapidly made his way through to the Triple-A level and collectively hit .325 with 31 doubles, eight triples, 21 homers, 82 RBIs and 44 steals. Watch out for him in 2018.

What’s even more impressive than Acuna’s abilities is that he'll remain Atlanta property; see November 21 below.

Monday, November 20
On the day that the Hall of Fame releases its ballot for 2018, it also announces that individual voter ballots will not be made public—overruling the Baseball Writers Association of America, which votes for the players and was 90% in favor of public accountability. No reason is given for the Hall’s decision, but it’s assumed it doesn’t want the distraction of voters who would have to explain why they voted or didn’t vote for Candidate X—like the three who didn’t put Ken Griffey Jr.’s name on last year’s ballot.

Among the 19 candidates added to the 2018 HOF list who are likely to get major attention are Chipper Jones, Jim Thome, Omar Vizquel, Johan Santana and Chris Carpenter.

A jersey wore by Jackie Robinson during his legendary 1947 rookie season for the Brooklyn Dodgers sells at an auction for $2.05 million, shattering the record price for a postwar jersey; the previous record holder was a 1955 rookie uniform worn by future Dodgers ace Sandy Koufax. The all-time price for a jersey regardless of era is $4.4 million for a top worn by Babe Ruth during his initial 1920 campaign for the Yankees.

Tuesday, November 21
The Atlanta Braves are hit hard as MLB announces its punishment upon the team for excessive spending on international players. Thirteen prospects within the Braves’ organization are declared free agents, including highly touted 17-year-old Kevin Maitan from Venezuela; John Coppolella, recently fired as the team GM, is banned from the game for life while international scouting chief Gordon Blakeley is banned for a year; the Braves lose their third-round pick in the 2018 amateur draft; and they will not be able to spend fully on international players until 2021. The total expenditure for the 13 players the Braves signed—and have now lost—is $16.48 million.

Curiously avoiding punishment is veteran front office executive John Hart, who in theory oversaw all of this but denied any wrongdoing. Hart quietly announced his retirement last week.

Coppolella is the fourth person currently banned from the game. The others are Pete Rose, former Mets reliever Jenrry Mejia and former St. Louis employee Chris Correa, currently doing jail time for his role in hacking into the Astros’ computers.

The final hurdle for Japanese wunderkind Shohei Ohtani to sign with a MLB team for 2018 is cleared. The players’ union had objected to posting rules recently agreed to between MLB and its Japanese counterpart, Nippon Professional Baseball, and successfully fought to get them amended. Overall, the agreement includes less compensation for Japanese teams and shorter windows for players to be eligible for signing with a MLB team.

Wednesday, November 22
Forbes.com reports that baseball will see record revenue for the 15th straight year, surpassing $10 billion for the first time ever. This, despite the fact that MLB had its lowest overall attendance since 2003.

Friday, November 24
Former pitcher Miguel Alfredo Gonzalez, who pitched six games for the Philadelphia Phillies in 2014, dies in a car accident in his native Cuba at the age of 34. Gonzalez was sought after to the point that he was rumored to be worth $60 million on the international market when made available in 2013, but instead signed a three-year deal for $12 million with the Phillies. He never won a game either in the majors or minors, going a collective 0-7; he was 0-1 with a 6.75 ERA over five career appearances with the Phillies, all coming in 2014.

Sunday, November 26
The first free agent signing of note this offseason takes place as Texas signs veteran pitcher Doug Fister to a one-year, $4 million deal. Outside of a run of strong starts in late August and early September, Fister was off the mark in 2017, finishing with a 5-9 record and 4.88 ERA overall.

Monday, November 27
Monetary shares for all postseason teams are publicly released, with the world champion Astros getting a record portion of the loot at $438,902 per full share—easily topping the record of $388,606 accrued by the 2014 San Francisco Giants. A full share for the NL champion Dodgers, who the Astros beat in seven games, is worth $259,722. The eight teams that didn’t make it to the World Series collect as well, with the two LCS losers (Yankees and Cubs) earning roughly over $130,000 per share, the LDS losers (Arizona, Washington, Cleveland and Boston) netting roughly $35-40,000 per share, and the two wild card losers (Minnesota and Colorado) getting nearly $19,000 per share.

Reports of Hisashi Iwakuma’s end as a Seattle Mariner are, again, greatly exaggerated. But, the 36-year-old pitcher will have to work to gain a spot on Seattle’s 2018 roster after signing a minor league contract. Iwakuma failed to win any of six starts in 2017 (with a 4.35 ERA) before going down for the season with shoulder issues. In six years with the Mariners, he’s 63-39 with a 3.42 ERA that’s the second best in team history among pitchers with 500 innings thrown.

Wednesday, November 29
Veteran reliever Yusmeiro Petit signs a two-year deal with the Oakland A’s for $10 million. The right-hander turned in his best effort yet in 2017 for the Los Angeles Angels, posting a 5-2 record and career-low 2.76 ERA in 60 appearances.

Thursday, November 30
With Fernando Rodney a 40-year-old free agent, the Diamondbacks look elsewhere for a new closer and pick up Tampa Bay reliever Brad Boxberger in a trade. The 29-year-old Boxberger led the AL with 41 saves in 2015, but he was more of a set-up man for the Rays over the past couple of seasons in part due to injuries.


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