This Great Game Comebacker

The Week That Was in Baseball: November 4-10, 2013
If We Picked the Postseason Awards The Astrodome Faces Its Execution
The AT&T Park A's? The Five Worst Called Pitches of 2013


If We Picked the Postseason Awards
This week, the Baseball Writers’ Association of America will name the winners of the regular season’s primary awards: MVP, Cy Young, Rookie of the Year and Manager of the Year. The votes were tabulated just prior to the postseason, and we made our own choices at roughly the same time. (No, we don’t belong to the BBWAA, but we do have membership status in the IBWAA—The Internet Baseball Writers’ Association of America.)

These picks were made before the list of “nominees” was revealed this past week, naming the top three candidates for each honor from each league. (All of our choices are among the finalists.) Our picks are also listed in our recent Opinion piece reviewing the 2013 regular season, but here they are again with added explanation behind our picks:

AL MVP
Eric’s pick: Miguel Cabrera, Detroit
Ed’s pick: Miguel Cabrera, Detroit

Chris Davis racked up prodigious power numbers (53 homers, 138 RBIs) and Mike Trout had an amazing sophomore season almost every bit as good as his freshman effort, but Cabrera’s total package remains hard to argue against. Plus, without him, the Tigers may not make the postseason.

NL MVP
Eric’s pick: Paul Goldschmidt, Arizona
Ed’s pick: Andrew McCutchen, Pittsburgh

We split on this honor that might be up for grabs between our two choices and several other worthy candidates (
Yadier Molina is the third finalist as released this week by the BBWAA). McCutchen possessed all-around talent that helped the Pirates finally get over the top; Goldschmidt put up the league’s best numbers at the plate and won a Gold Glove on defense, but his presence on an 81-81 team won’t help his chances.

AL Cy Young Award
Eric’s pick: Max Scherzer, Detroit
Ed’s pick: Max Scherzer, Detroit

This may not be so unanimous either, even if Scherzer’s 21-3 record stuck out more than any other comparable stat among AL pitchers; he didn’t even have the best ERA on his own team. Still, he’s likely to win, and we agree.

NL Cy Young Award
Eric’s pick: Clayton Kershaw, Los Angeles
Ed’s pick: Clayton Kershaw, Los Angeles

This should be the award season’s slam-dunk result. After all, it’s hard to argue against a pitcher whose 1.83 ERA is the NL’s best in 18 years. Any chance that Miami phenom
Jose Fernandez pulls off an upset will be reduced by the fact he’ll get consolation honors as the league’s top rookie.

AL Rookie of the Year
Eric’s pick: Wil Myers, Tampa Bay
Ed’s pick: Wil Myers, Tampa Bay

Even though he looked lost in the playoffs (and we mean that literally, if you recall his weird avoidance of a fly ball in center field), Myers was everything the Rays had hoped with his midseason debut. Paced out to a full 162-game season, Myers output equals 42 doubles, 24 homers and 98 RBIs.

NL Rookie of the Year
Eric’s pick: Jose Fernandez, Miami
Ed’s pick: Yasiel Puig, Los Angeles

A disagreement among us, as Ed bleeds Dodger Blue side by opting for Puig, the exciting Cuban whose highlights greatly outweighed his lowlights. Eric chooses Fernandez, who got better with each start as the year moved along and may become the Next Big Thing on a major league mound—if he hasn’t already.

AL Manager of the Year
Eric’s pick: Terry Francona, Cleveland
Ed’s pick: John Farrell, Boston

More dissension. Eric was impressed with the job Francona did in catapulting the Indians from a near-dead experience to the playoffs; but Farrell did the same with a Boston team with more talent and expectations, and gelled the Red Sox to a World Series victory.

NL Manager of the Year
Eric’s pick: Clint Hurdle, Pittsburgh
Ed’s pick: Don Mattingly, Los Angeles

For his job in finally moving the Pirates above the .500 mark—and into the postseason—Eric believes Hurdle should cop the honor. Ed believes in the effort Mattingly put forth (oh great, Ed, another Dodger) probably more so than the Dodgers themselves, but there’s no denying the challenges he overcame to bring the team within a few games of the Fall Classic.

Tear Down the Dome!
Nothing lasts forever. Not even the Eighth Wonder of the World. The Houston Astrodome, which opened in 1965 as an outrageously modern, cutting-edge entry into the sports stadium landscape, was denied a $250 million chance to be saved, upgraded and converted into a convention center in an Election Day loss at the ballot box, all but ensuring a date with an explosives-laden executioner.

While the Astrodome’s place in sports and architectural annals makes one want to preserve it for the sake of preserving history, a little perspective is in order. To some it may seem like it was just yesterday when the stadium opened for the Houston Astros—but that was nearly half a century ago. Think about it: 50 years before that, the words “cutting-edge” could have been applied to new ballparks like Shibe Park and Ebbets Field; at that time, not even the original Yankee Stadium had yet been built.

Hard to believe, but sometime around 2040—some 25 years from now—people may start to talk about what a dump places like Oriole Park at Camden Yards, Turner Field and Rangers Ballpark at Arlington have become. (And we wrote this before Monday's revelations that the Braves plan to abandon Turner Field for a new suburban ballpark in 2017. More on this next week.) One wonders what cutting-edge alternative will be drawn up to replace them. And rest assured: They will be replaced.

A’sT&T Park?
The City of Oakland discovered this past week that you simply don’t mess with MLB. The current home of the A’s may have the upper hand in its battle to keep the franchise from moving 50 miles south to San Jose, thanks to a recently dismissed lawsuit and the neighboring San Francisco Giants’ ownership of territorial rights in Silicon Valley. But in trying to use that leverage to flex their muscles and play hardball in renegotiating a lease with the A’s to stay at the Coliseum, they heard MLB publicly suggesting this: What if the A’s moved across the bay and played their games at AT&T Park, home of the Giants?

Oakland correctly perceived this as a threat and quickly played sweetheart with the A’s, reaching an agreement the very next day to keep the team at the Coliseum while the search for a new ballpark allegedly continues onward.

When the Umpires Really Missed
With over 600,000 pitches to determine balls and strikes throughout the course of a season, the umpires are bound not to get every one right. And Fangraphs has come up with a list of five pitches that they weren’t even close on, topped by a pitch from the Chicago Cubs’ Edwin Jackson determined to be only an inch from the center of the strike zone that was not called a strike. That call, with the Cardinals’ Yadier Molina batting on June 19 at St. Louis, came back to haunt Jackson and the Cubs; a few pitches later, Molina stroked a two-run homer to left field that broke a 1-1 deadlock and put the Cardinals on track for an eventual 4-1 win.

Hot Times at the King’s Castle
It’s been a rough couple of weeks in Felix Hernandez’s domestic life. First, there were revelations that a teammate’s spouse was siphoning items using his wife’s credit card. Then came this past week; the Hernandez family was vacationing in Napa Valley when they received word that a fire had damaged much of their home back in Seattle. The blaze began in the laundry room and spread, though fire crew from three cities quickly put it out. No one was hurt.

Wada Bust
Two years ago, the Baltimore Orioles thought they had a steal of a deal when they signed Japanese pitcher Tsuyoshi Wada to a two-year, $8.5 million deal after the southpaw finished his 2011 campaign across the Pacific with a 16-5 record and 1.51 ERA. But in the end, the Orioles were the ones left empty-handed. Wada tore an elbow muscle early in 2012 and underwent Tommy John surgery, missing all of that season; once repaired, he began a rehab assignment in Triple-A late this year that failed to produce a promotion to the top club. The Orioles had a $5 million option to bring him back for 2014; they declined it. Wada never threw a regular season pitch for Baltimore in the two years he was paid.

Write On, Write On
Election Day this past week included a mayoral race in Boston. Martin Walsh won with 51.6% of the vote, followed closely by John Connolly at 48.1%. The majority of the rest of the votes was for a write-in candidate: The Red Sox’ David Ortiz. Anthony Castrovince of mlb.com tweeted: “Surprised (Ortiz) finished that low.”

The Toughest Save Yet
Eric Gagne was once the king of closers, a fiery fastballer who once saved 84 straight games for the Dodgers without any kind of official hiccup. Then he flamed out under accusations (later proven) of steroid use. Five years after throwing his last major league pitch, Gagne now can’t even close out his own home in the Phoenix area. If you want it and have the money, it’s yours. But hurry…it’s a short sale.

Cooperstown by the Camelback
Oakland manager
Bob Melvin was inducted into the Arizona Fall League Hall of Fame this past week. Yes: The Arizona Fall League actually has its own Hall of Fame.

Auction of the Week
About $1.7 million in memorabilia and awards chalked up by Hall-of-Fame second baseman
Bill Mazeroski were sold via auction this past week; the marquee item on the block was the Pittsburgh jersey he wore when he hit his legendary Game Seven homer to win the 1960 World Series, which sold for $633,000. Parting himself from the jersey hardly left Mazeroski emotionally torn; he said he’d come across it once at home in the 53 years since he wore it.


Bushers Book

Updated on TGG
The team history pages from the Teams section have been updated to reflect the 2013 season; for the first time, it also features our choices for who should belong on the Mount Rushmore of each team as well as some fun quotes and “did you know” bits. In the weeks to follow, we’ll update the Top Ten pages for each team as well, so stay connected.


The Comebacker's Greatest Hits: Click here to look at the TGG Comebacker archive going back to the start of the 2008 season.


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Best and Worst of the 2013 Season

BEST HITTER, AMERICAN LEAGUE
Miguel Cabrera, Detroit Tigers

BA
R
H
2B
3B
HR
RBI
BB
IB
HB
SB
.348 103 193 26 1 44 137 71 19 5 3

Were it not for some late-season maladies and Chris Davis’ unexpected punch in Baltimore, the reigning MVP—likely to win it again—might have nabbed his second straight triple crown, something never done before. In retrospect, Cabrera’s 2013 campaign contained more potency than even last season; he matched his career high in homers and set personal bests in batting average, RBIs and slugging percentage. Cabrera is still only 30, so he could very well maintain this stratospheric level for a number of years to come.


BEST HITTER, NATIONAL LEAGUE
Paul Goldschmidt, Arizona Diamondbacks

BA
R
H
2B
3B
HR
RBI
BB
IB
HB
SB
.302 103 182 36 3 36 125 80 19 3 15

It took barely two years, but the well-built Delaware native completed his rise to stardom as the NL’s most complete offensive force—hitting for average, power and even showing off a little speed with 15 steals. (He also ended the season with a 19-game hitting streak.) The question becomes: Will the 26-year old see his game rise even higher? Goldschmidt doesn’t hold slam-dunk odds of winning the NL MVP given he played for a .500 team, but if voters look elsewhere, trust us—he’ll get more chances down the line.


WORST HITTER, AMERICAN LEAGUE
Brendan Ryan, Seattle-New York

BA
R
H
2B
3B
HR
RBI
BB
IB
HB
SB
.197 30 63 12 0 4 22 19 4 2 4

The 31-year-old shortstop is a whiz with the glove and a fizzle with the bat. For the second straight year, Ryan could not hang over the so-called Mendoza Line (translated: .200) and offered very little power on top of that with a weak .273 slugging percentage. It didn’t matter if he was wearing the uniform of the Mariners or the Yankees (who plucked him away late in the year with the idea that he’d somehow help their playoff charge). Ryan’s a free agent for 2014; he’ll be relieved just to land anywhere.


WORST HITTER, NATIONAL LEAGUE
B.J. Upton, Atlanta Braves

BA
R
H
2B
3B
HR
RBI
BB
IB
HB
SB
.184 30 72 14 0 9 26 41 3 2 12

The older brother of Justin (also a first-year Brave) was never going to be confused for a batting champ, having hit just below .250 in each of his four years at Tampa Bay. But after a horrendous start for the Braves for which he never recovered, .230 or .240 sounds awfully good at this moment. Upton not only lacked for hits, he lacked for power (nine, down from 28 in 2012) and stolen base ability (12, down from 30+ while with the Rays). The Braves better hope he correctly screws his head back on; they owe him $60 million over the next four years.


BEST PITCHER, AMERICAN LEAGUE
Max Scherzer, Detroit Tigers

W-L
IP
H
R
ER
BB
HB
WP
BK
SO
ERA
21-3 214.3 152 73 69 56 4 6 1 240 2.90

The 29-year-old fireballer won his first 13 starts and practically coasted through one start after another, never folding up while teammates always supported him with comfortable run support. He was so sound, he got the Game One assignment ahead of Justin Verlander for the first round of the playoffs. Scherzer is 52-19 over the last three years; after 2014, he becomes a free agent. Do the Tigers have enough money to make Scherzer their fourth $20 million-a-year player?


BEST PITCHER, NATIONAL LEAGUE
Clayton Kershaw, Los Angeles Dodgers

W-L
IP
H
R
ER
BB
HB
WP
BK
SO
ERA
16-9 236 164 55 48 52 3 12 2 232 1.83

Unlike Scherzer, Kershaw had to fight for most of his wins—something of a continuing theme throughout his career. Case in point: On Opening Day, he shut out the Giants and broke a 0-0 tie with a home run of his own. There’s little doubt he may now be hailed as the game’s best pitcher and will likely nab his second Cy Young Award in three years; and like Scherzer, Kershaw will be a free agent after next season. We get the feeling the cash-happy Dodgers will be happy to re-up him for what he wants.


WORST PITCHER, AMERICAN LEAGUE
Joe Blanton, Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim

W-L
IP
H
R
ER
BB
HB
WP
BK
SO
ERA
2-14 132.2 180 96 89 34 4 9 0 108 6.04

The right-hander from Tennessee has always had a reputation for being an innings-eater—but as we often say, what good is that if he spends such frequent time on the mound getting hammered? The Angels probably should have gotten that clue given his 4.58 ERA over five seasons entering 2013; even if they did and crossed their fingers hoping for a positive rebound, they instead got a negative, thunderous thud from Blanton, who failed in every aspect of his game—as opponents hit him for average (.317) power (29 homers) and speed (17 steals in 17 attempts).


WORST PITCHER, NATIONAL LEAGUE
Mitchell Boggs, St. Louis-Colorado

W-L
IP
H
R
ER
BB
HB
WP
BK
SO
ERA
0-3 23.1 28 23 21 20 3 1 0 16 8.01

There was much talk earlier this year of the WBC Curse with numerous participants tourney getting hurt or just falling flat upon return to their club teams. Boggs clearly fell on the list of the latter, following up a solid 2012 campaign as the Cardinals’ set-up man to a disastrous appointment as the team’s closer to start 2013 before being demoted—first to mid-inning duty, then off the team completely. The Rockies took a chance and picked Boggs up, and he showed some return to form—but his St. Louis experience was dispiriting to say the least.


BEST TEAM, AMERICAN LEAGUE
Boston Red Sox (97-65)

How do you erase recent bitter memories of Bobby Valentine, player dissension and clubhouse fried chicken and beer? Boot the manager and the player deadwood and post the AL’s best record. The Red Sox shed the underachieving angst of the last two years and started fresh under seemingly nondescript manager John Farrell and ran away with first place in the majors’ toughest division. Rebounds from David Ortiz, John Lackey, Dustin Pedroia and Jacoby Ellsbury (among many others) didn't hurt.


BEST TEAM, NATIONAL LEAGUE
St. Louis Cardinals (97-65)

When all else fails, there’s the Cardinals. It doesn’t matter if stars come or go, whether St. Louis is a big or small market—the Redbirds will always test you and get a result to please the millions of fans who show up to Busch. The Cardinals rose to the occasion yet again, despite the loss of Chris Carpenter, Jaime Garcia and Jason Motte to injury and Mitchell Boggs (above) to ineptitude. In their place came one impressive rookie hurler after another, buffeted by a lineup that hit out of their minds (.330) with runners in scoring position. It’s just business as usual in Mound City.


WORST TEAM, AMERICAN LEAGUE
Houston Astros (51-111)

Memo from the AL’s other 14 teams to the young, green, bargain-basement Astros: Thanks for allowing us the opportunity to beat you up over and over and over again. Nobody expected rookie manager Bo Porter’s outfit to surprise anyone, but you would have at least thought the team would have gelled and grown up to play some respectable ball as the season wound down; instead, the Astros lost their last 15 games to ensure the franchise’s worst-ever record—and the majors’ worst since the Tigers went 43-119 in 2003.


WORST TEAM, NATIONAL LEAGUE
Miami Marlins (62-100)

To paraphrase Charlton Heston from the early scenes of Planet of the Apes: “You got what you wanted, Jeffrey—how does it taste?” After going for it with a new ballpark and $100 million payroll in 2012, detestable owner Jeffrey Loria went back to basics by slashing veteran talent and turning Marlins Park into a ghost town. Sensational rookie Jose Fernandez gave the Fish some saving grace, but he and the rest of a decent staff was often snakebit by an offense that scored fewer runs (511) in a non-strike season since San Diego in 1971.


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