Hello again everybody...
I'm all discombobulated today. For most of you, you're expecting a “welcome to the end of another week” type message. Only for me, this is technically my Monday. So I honestly have no idea what to say to you in that regard.
Thank the folks who crafted this wonderful new schedule...
(I'm trying to stay positive, honest. I didn't say I was going to be any good at it. But I'm trying.)
Since we've reached the LCS's, I figure it's time to bust out the Sports Take Baseball Awards. Who would I vote for if I got a say in the “Manager of the Year”, “Rookie of the Year”, “MVP” and “Cy Young” awards? Today you get to find out.
Plus, because it's Friday, you'll get your usual dosage of DFTU!
Let's get after it, shall we?
”I always find it more difficult to say the things I mean than the things I don't.”
W. Somerset Maugham (1874 – 1965), English playwright, novelist and short story writer
Words are a double-edged sword. Their intention can be perfectly clear to their author, and yet a reader can perceive an entirely different meaning.
Wait... did I just do a double-quote?!
Time to hand out some hardware...
2009 Sports Take Baseball Awards
AL Rookie of the Year: Rick Porcello, P, Detroit Tigers
Honorable Mentions: Gordon Beckham, IF, Chicago White Sox; Ricky Romero, P, Toronto Blue Jays
Porcello (14-9, 3.96) was dominant out of the gate in 2009, but stumbled around the All-Star break. Not surprising for a rookie pitcher who has to get used to advance scouts preparing hitters for his stuff. What was uncommon about Porcello's campaign was his ability to adjust as a rookie and come back to pitch well down the stretch for a playoff contender.
Beckham (.270, 14, 63) had a good year on a mediocre ball club. Romero (13-9, 4.30) actually had more quality starts (15) than Porcello (11). But both of them played for mediocre ball clubs (and that might be generous). I like to reward the guys who put up numbers on contending teams, so Porcello gets the nod here.
NL Rookie of the Year: J.A. Happ, P, Philadelphia Phillies
Honorable Mentions: Tommy Hanson, P, Atlanta Braves; Chris Coghlan, OF, Florida Marlins
You can basically flip a coin between Happ (12-4, 2.93) and Hanson (11-4, 2.89) and not be wrong. Both put up outstanding numbers, and did so on clubs that were in contention for most of the season.
In the end, I give the nod to Happ because of the distractions he had to deal with in the form of the late-season addition of Pedro Martinez. A lot of rookies would've been rattled and seen a drop off in their performance after that drama. Not Happ. He hung in there and did everything manager Charlie Manuel asked and then some.
Coghlan was the best hitter in the NL after the All-Star break and looks like another fantastic young talent for the Marlins. Which basically means he'll be a Yankee in three or four years, right?
AL Manager of the Year: Ron Gardenhire, Minnesota Twins
Honorable Mentions: Mike Scioscia, Los Angeles Angels; Jim Leyland, Detroit Tigers
I'm going against the grain on this one. I fully expect Scioscia to win the award. And there's certainly an argument to be made in his favor. When a team loses a player (Nick Adenhart) in a tragic accident early in its season, and responds with a 97-win season, that's evidence of some serious leadership.
But I'm giving my vote to Gardenhire. Because when you lose a former MVP (Morneau), your best pitcher in the first half (Slowey), and your biggest free-agent signing (Crede), and still go 17-for-21 down the stretch, win a Game 163 and make the playoffs? You deserve some recognition. Besides, Gardy's gotten screwed out of this award twice. In 2003, he should have beaten out Tony Pena. And in 2004, he got jobbed by Buck Showalter. But I guess when you guide a crappy team to a 3rd place finish, you get some hardware. Oh, and by the way, neither of those guys is still managing. Just thought I'd point that out.
NL Manager of the Year: Jim Tracy, Colorado Rockies
Honorable Mentions: Tony LaRussa, St. Louis Cardinals; Joe Torre, Los Angeles Dodgers
Our first “no-brainer” award on the list.
When Tracy took over the Rockies they were 18-28. Under his guidance they won 74 games and won the NL Wildcard. Taking a team that's 10 games under .500 and finishing with them 22 games over .500? That's all I need to see to vote for the guy.
LaRussa gets a tip of the cap for guiding a team that looked awfully iffy on paper to a division title. Torre had his main power threat suspended for 50 games and still won his division going away. Nice job guys, but you can't match what Tracy did.
AL Cy Young: Zack Greinke, Kansas City Royals
Honorable Mentions: Felix Hernandez, Seattle Mariners; Justin Verlander, Detroit Tigers
Several pitchers had better Win/Loss records than Greinke. But nobody had a better ERA, a better WHIP, and only Verlander had more strikeouts.
Wins are a semi-misleading statistic for a pitcher. A lot of other things can influence a pitcher getting a win or a loss. But the pitcher's directly responsible for ERA, WHIP and strikeouts, so my vote goes to Greinke.
Hernandez will get a good number of votes. His name didn't get mentioned as often as Greinke, Verlander and Sabathia. Whether that's because he plays on the West Coast or not, I don't know. But he had just as many wins as Verlander and Sabathia, and bested them both in ERA and WHIP.
Verlander was the ace on a team that missed the playoffs by one game, and struggled mightily to score runs. That gives him the HM nod over Sabathia.
NL Cy Young: Chris Carpenter, St. Louis Cardinals
Honorable Mention: Tim Lincecum, San Francisco Giants; Dan Haren, Arizona Diamondbacks
Even though it looks like Carpenter's a shoo-in to win the award, this was a pretty close call. Lincecum didn't have as many wins, but nearly equaled Carpenter's ERA, and bested him in strikeouts and strikeout-to-walk ratio.
In the end, I can't vote against a guy with the league's best ERA, second-best WHIP (he finished .004 behind Haren) and the second-best win total. Plus, his ability to do all that while missing time with an injury has to be factored in.
Haren gets an HM nod for leading the league in WHIP, and being one of the few bright-spots on an otherwise dismal Diamondback squad.
AL MVP: Joe Mauer, C, Minnesota Twins
Honorable Mention: Mark Teixeira, IF, NY Yankees; Ichiro Suzuki, OF, Seattle Mariners
Another no-brainer here.
When you lead the league in hitting, on-base percentage, slugging percentage, OPS and runs created and manage to help lead your club to a 17 for 21 home-stretch and get into the playoffs via a dramatic Game 163 win? You win an MVP. Hands down. No doubt.
Why Derek Jeter was getting pub over Teixeira is beyond me. Jeter may be the unquestioned leader of the team with the best record in baseball, but Tex was a huge part of the difference between the 2008 Yankees that finished third in the East and the 2009 Yankees that won the division. He led the league in home runs, RBI and total bases.
Suzuki finished second in the batting race and led the league in hits.
NL MVP: Albert Pujols, IF, St. Louis Cardinals
Honorable Mentions: Prince Fielder, IF, Milwaukee Brewers; Hanley Ramirez, IF, Florida Marlins
Perhaps the least difficult pick of all.
Where would you like to start? Led the league in on-base percentage, slugging percentage, OPS, runs scored, total bases, home runs, and intentional walks. Finished second in doubles. Finished third in hitting, RBI, and walks.
You want to vote against this guy? I sure don't.
Fielder led the league in RBI and finished second to Pujols in home runs. I don't much like the guy, but when you put up those numbers and are the only player in the league to go 162 games, I have to give you a tip of the cap.
Ramirez led the league in hitting and was Top 10 in RBI and OPS. He'll have a chance at his own MVP trophy one day. Maybe when he's a Yankee after Jeter retires. Oops, did I say that?
So there you have them. I didn't vary much from the conventional wisdom, but if you have any complaints, feel free to share them.
Finally, it's Friday. So we've got to get to everybody's favorite segment:
Dan's Favorite Teams Update
I pretty much put a bow on the Twins season on Monday, so we move on with the Fall/Winter favorites!
Wisconsin Badgers: The Badgers are 5-1 (2-1 in the Big Ten). Currently they are 3rd in the conference standings.
I referenced it briefly on Wednesday, but last Saturday's game against Ohio State was pretty demoralizing. It can fairly be said that in most aspects, Wisconsin out-played Ohio State. But when you make the kinds of critical mistakes that the Badgers did, you can't argue it too vociferously.
Junior quarterback Scott Tolzien had been a pleasant surprise for the Badgers, but made at least two awful decisions that led directly to 14 points for the Buckeyes.
And while I'm decidedly not amongst the “Fire Bret Bielema” crowd, I do think that he needs to bring in some help coaching the special teams. I watched them kick 4 straight times to a Gopher kick returner who gashed them every time. Giving up that return for a touchdown at Ohio State was the last straw. Don't be stubborn Bret. Get some help.
This week, the Badgers host a dangerous Iowa Hawkeye club. After a shaky opening week win over Northern Iowa, they've beaten Arizona, Penn State and Michigan en route to a 6-0 (2-0) record.
Still, the Badgers are at home, with a chance to bounce back from that headache-inducing defeat. And somehow they're 2.5-point favorites.
Hopefully Camp Randall will be kind to Bucky. But I'm cringing at the thought of another post-Ohio State tailspin like we saw last year.
The game kicks off at 11am central time on ESPN. Tune in and see what happens!
Minnesota Wild: The Wild are 1-4-0, good for 2 points and 5th place in the Northwest Division.
Growing pains or lack of talent? That's the question.
The Wild have clearly struggled in the first couple of weeks of the season. I certainly didn't expect the transition to Todd Richards' system to be an easy one, but I didn't expect it to be this bad either.
On the other hand, maybe their road-heavy schedule has played a role in the rough start? Their only win came in their only game at home so far. And they don't return til Wednesday.
I'd love to make excuses, but the truth is the Wild have looked downright sloppy, especially early in games. And if they don't find a way to fix that, this could be a VERY long season.
The Wild have their first back-to-back games of the season tonight and tomorrow. They're in Edmonton tonight and finish the road-trip in Vancouver tomorrow.
At 15th in the conference, they can't get much worse, right? Right?!
That's going to wrap things up for today. Have a great weekend (yours, not mine) and I'll be back with you on Monday with all sorts of news and notes from the weekend.
Until then, thanks for reading!