The Week That Was in Baseball: August 29-September 4, 2011
And the Nominees for MVP Are... • A Bad Case of Déjà Vu for Roger Clemens
From Brooklyn to Los Angeles...To Mao? • The Payroll Manager of Sherwood Forest
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The 2011 Mid-Season Report Card
MVP Candidates: Do the Pitchers Have a Chance?
Below are the top players from each league who make up the best candidates for this year’s awards.
Justin Verlander, Detroit. The big 28-year old right-hander has been on the rampage since a ho-hum 2-3 start in April; he’s 19-2 since with a 2.04 ERA. He’s not a runaway leader in all major pitching categoriesusually a prerequisite for any pitcher winning the MVPbut without him, are the Tigers in first place?
Jose Bautista, Toronto. He likely won’t match the 54 homers and 128 RBIs he collected last season, but he’s still having a better year with a batting average 50 points above his career average and a major league-leading 109 walks on top of that. But because he’s a member of a Blue Jay team that seems eternally chained to the .500 mark, his chances aren’t too promising.
Adrian Gonzalez, Boston. We saw big things for the former Padre this year, surrounded by an all-star cast of hitters playing in a far more hitter-friendly ballpark than Petco Park. Overall, he’s fulfilled the promise with a major league-leading .340 averagealthough his 23 home runs are a bit fewer than we imagined. That latter fact will hurt his MVP chances, but certainly don’t count him out.
Miguel Cabrera, Detroit. Just another average year for Cabrera, on pace to hit .320 with 30 homers, 100 RBIs and 100 walks. It’s strange, but we think voters will pass on him because it’s just more of the samebut, more realistically, because he’s bound to lose votes to teammate Verlander.
Jose Valverde, Detroit. The Tiger closer has virtually no chance for either the MVP or the Cy, especially when one of his teammates answers to the name Verlander. But it should be noted that he’s saved all 40 of his save opportunities. Dominant? Not necessarily. Valuable? Definitely.
Ryan Braun, Milwaukee. The 27-year old slugger is having a complete year, on pace for a .330 average, 30 homers, 100 RBIs, 100 runs, 40 doubles and perhaps 40 steals. His Brewers are all but likely to win the NL Central, and his chances hinge on how many other voters side with more prodigious (but also more relatively one-dimensional) teammate Prince Fielder.
Roy Halladay, Philadelphia. There’s a lot of noise being made of the Phillie ace’s chances to win the MVP, but he’s in a dogfight just to earn the NL Cy Young Award with Los Angeles’ Clayton Kershaw, having just as good (if not better) a year. And besides, the Phillies are so good right now, it could be argued that they win the NL East even without Halladay.
Joey Votto, Cincinnati. The reigning NL MVP is putting up similar numbers, but the Reds are out of the playoff picture and, hey, he already won once.
Matt Kemp, Los Angeles. Last year’s underachieving failure is overachieving this year; with a September power surge, he could become baseball’s fifth 40-40 man. But because the Dodgers aren’t going anywhere, he’ll likely have to settle for a Silver Slugger.
Craig Kimbrel, Atlanta. The NL Rookie of the Year award should already be his, with a rookie-record 42 saves, a .168 batting average allowed and nearly 17 strikeouts per nine innings pitched. He’s part of a terrific Atlanta bullpen, and that’s the problem for his MVP chances; he’s not the only one lifting the Braves toward a second straight playoff spot.
Barry Up, Roger Down
In California, the Federal Government announced it would not retry Bonds for the three perjury charges that a jury failed to reach a verdict on, content that he’ll be sentenced in December for the one count he was declared guilty on: The obstruction of justice charge stemming from testimony during the 2003 BALCO grand jury hearing. Bonds’ lawyers plan to appeal that verdict to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals.
Meanwhile out east, a federal judge reluctantly agreed to a retrial of Clemens for alleged perjurious statements he made regarding his own steroid use. The first trial came to a very early and stunning end when Federal prosecutors stumbled out of the gate, introducing inadmissible evidence in their opening statement. Judge Reggie Walton grudgingly bought the Feds’ plea that the evidence in question was brought in by mistake and set a retrial for next April.Fatigue over these trials has long since set in with the general public, much of whom believes that the Feds have bigger crooks to tackle than lying baseball players. (If only they had this kind of zeal going after the Wall Street criminals who ruined America’s economy three years ago.) Most people outside of the courtroom will likely care little for a second Clemens trial, and those who do will probably cast the former pitcher in a more sympathetic light as he gets hounded anew by determined government prosecutors.
The People's Republic of Chavez Ravine?
And in Los Angeles, news of a possible savior for the Dodgers emerged with a $1.2 billion cash offer to embattled, bankrupt owner Frank McCourt. The frontman of this group is Bill Burke, founder of the Los Angeles Marathonbut the interesting aspect is that much of the financial muscle behind the offer comes from China. Major League Baseball is said to be skeptical of the offer, saying it could be a ruse to keep McCourt in charge of the Dodgers, while the Chinese connection worries somewith the Los Angeles Times’ Harold Myserson writing that an actual sale to the group would make the Dodgers the “very symbol of the decline of American capitalism.” From Brooklyn to Los Angeles to…Mao?
This Week's Challenger to Joe DiMaggio
Now Playing at TGG
Now Replaying at TGG
A Day-by-Day Review of the Week:
Tuesday, August 30
Roy Halladay pitches seven innings of two-hit shutout ball and clears the bases on a sixth-inning double to help the Philadelphia Phillies glide past the Reds at Cincinnati, 9-0. Halladay’s three RBIs give him nine for his entire career.
Wednesday, August 31
Atlanta closer Craig Kimbrel earns the save in the Braves’ 3-1 win over Washington and breaks the major league rookie mark (set just last year by Texas’ Neftali Feliz) for the most saves by a first-year player at 41.
Former Oakland Athletic Jack Hannahan hits two home runsthe first the 3,000th ever hit at Cleveland’s Jacobs/Progressive Field, hosting its 1,400th major league game, and the second in the bottom of the 16th to give the Indians a 4-3 win over the A’s. Despite the loss, Oakland pitchers strike out 19 batters and, during one stretch through overtime, retire 24 straight Indian batters.
Thursday, September 1
In the midst of a rough third inning, Kansas City starting pitcher Danny Duffy doesn’t make life any easier for him when he throws a wild pitchduring an intentional walk, moving the one runner on base (Detroit’s Miguel Cabrera) to third. The bizarre incident doesn’t hurt Duffy, as he strikes out Alex Avila to end the inning. The Royals go on to defeat the Tigers, 11-8.
Friday, September 2
Yankee pitcher Ivan Nova wins his eighth straight startand improves to 11-0 over his last 12 startsin New York’s 3-2 win over Toronto at Yankee Stadium. The 24-year old rookie’s ERA during the latter stretch is 3.43, as the Yankees have averaged nearly eight runs a start during this time; his last loss was three months ago when the Angels defeated him on June 3, 3-2.
The Angels are routed by Minnesota at Anaheim, 13-5, as scheduled ace starter Jered Weaver is away attending the funeral of his grandfather. In his place, Tyler Chatwood gives up six runs on five hits and five walks in less than four innings. The loss drops the Angels 4.5 games back of the AL West-leading Rangers.
Saturday, September 3
The Detroit Tigers deal a crippling blow to the Chicago White Sox’ fading postseason hopes by scoring five runs over the final three inningsthe last three of them on two ninth-inning homers, the last of those a walk-off solo shot by Miguel Cabrerato complete a 9-8 comeback win. The loss sends the White Sox 7.5 games back of the front-running Tigers with 26 games to play.
Washington pitcher Tom Milone, just called up to the majors for the first time, hits a home run on the first pitch of his first major league at-bat, a three-run shot off the Mets' Dillon Gee in the second inning. He is the eighth pitcher in major league historyand the first since St. Louis' Adam Wainwright in 2006to homer on the first pitch he sees. The surprising blast is part of a bittersweet evening for Milone; he is removed from the mound in the fifth inning with the Nationals leading 5-4, two outs away from earning credit for the win. The Mets come back to take a slim lead, but the Nationals win it in the bottom of the ninth, 8-7.
Sunday, September 4
Robin O'Connoror Robin Hood?
Wounded of the Week
TGG Goes to CafePress
The Comebacker’s Greatest Hits