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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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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