Before delving into dissecting the 2012 season for the Texas Rangers and looking ahead to potential off-season moves by Jon Daniels and Company, it’s time to cast my votes for the Baseball Bloggers Association post-season honors. Seeing as this blog concerns itself for the most part with the American League, my votes will be cast strictly for the American League honorees.
CONNIE MACK AWARD (Best Manager)
Four weeks ago, I was totally prepared to waste my vote. I had a litany of reasons why Ron Washington of the Texas Rangers should finally get his due. After the last four weeks and even more specifically the last four games, there’s no way my rationale applied anymore. There are three other candidates: Buck Showalter of the Orioles, Bob Melvin of the A’s and Robin Ventura of the White Sox. At season’s start, I had all three of those teams pegged to finish at or near the bottom of their divisions. The White Sox faded at the end, which is about the only reason I eliminated Ventura from the discussion. From a Rangers perspective, I have reasons to vote for both Melvin and Showalter. What swung my vote in the end was how one pitching staff kept going, no matter the obstacles thrown in their way. Starter suspended? Plug someone else in. Ace gets cracked in the skull by a line drive? Here’s another guy. The guy coming back from the DL goes back to the list after five starts? No problem! My vote goes to Bob Melvin.
WILLIE MAYS AWARD (Ouststanding Rookie)
You know, if I really wanted to drive up traffic on my site, this would be the easiest way to do it: Come up with a heartfelt, at least sane-sounding argument why Mike Trout of the Los Angeles Angels WASN’T worthy of this award because of the accomplishments of (Insert A Rookie Player’s Name Here). Then watch the sparks fly as reader after reader blasts that choice, then tweets all his or her friends to send their vitriol my way as well. Yep, sure-fire way to increase traffic to the site.
Not gonna do it. No doubt. Mike Trout. But feel free to tweet all your friends and tell them to visit my site anyway.
GOOSE GOSSAGE AWARD (Outstanding Reliever)
You know what? My man Joe Nathan had himself a pretty darn good year in 2012. He only blew three saves all year. It sure didn’t help that the last one he blew turned out to be at the worst possible time, in the last week of the season. So I have to go with Fernando Rodney of the Tampa Bay Rays. Yet another guy that comes out of the blue in Tampa and regains his past glory. Outstanding season.
WALTER JOHNSON AWARD (Top Pitcher)
Lots of choices here. Justin Verlander of the Tigers. Jered Weaver of the Angels. David Price of the Rays. Earlier this season, I sang the praises of Matt Harrison and bemoaned the fact he wouldn’t get much serious consideration for the award because he’s not a strikeout pitcher and argued those type of pitchers should get MORE consideration because it makes it even harder to make that upper echelon. Well, you know what? Weaver doesn’t have that blistering fastball either and his K rate isn’t where Verlander’s and Price’s are and he did just fine too. My friends Kristen and ICE will be happy with my second vote towards an Angel this year. Jered Weaver is my vote here.
STAN MUSIAL AWARD (Top Player)
There are constant arguments here on an annual basis and 2012 is no exception. The main question is this: How do you define this award? I always ask this because I do find a distinction between calling someone the Player of the Year and the Most Valuable Player. The year he won 27 games, Steve Carlton was easily a Player of the Year. Some would say since his team finished in dead last place that didn’t qualify him to considered the Most Valuable Player (let alone because he was a pitcher). So it is with this award. There are tribes in two camps. There’s the Mike Trout camp and the Miguel Cabrera camp.
Trout had a rookie season for the ages in 2012 and accomplished things in combination that no rookie had ever done before. Cabrera was Cabrera, which means the best player in baseball over the past five years. Trout has a higher WAR. Cabrera plays for a team in the post-season. Trout accomplished what he did despite starting the season in the minor leagues. Cabrera was hotter in September when the playoff push came. Trout was a better defensive player. Cabrera had more power. I could go back and forth all day. In the end, putting your team over the hump for the playoffs when they were all but dead just three weeks from the finish line won out. Miguel Cabrera gets my vote. If Anaheim had made the post-season, my vote would have been different.
Forget that the Rangers are 13 games over .500. Forget that they have a 4 game lead in the AL West. Forget that two starting pitchers and a reliever turned starter are on the DL. Forget that Josh Hamilton has missed the last three games due to a stomach virus. Forget all that, because the big problem in Arlington is cookies.
I’m not talking about tossed cookies, which apparently has been prevalent in the Rangers clubhouse over the past month or so due to a stomach virus that has affected almost everyone on the team. No, I’m talking about the cookies discussed in the fourth inning of every televised Rangers game.
It has become a tradition on Rangers telecasts for color analyst and Rangers Hall of Fame member Tom Grieve to thank the various fans who drop off cookies and treats that are shared with the entire contingent in the press box at Rangers home games. The media eats it up, so to speak, and the fans must too, because they keep bringing them and Grieve accommodates by thanking them, each and every one.
The problem is, now that the Rangers are 2-time AL Champions, attendance at the ballpark has gone up (20 sell-outs on the season thus far). Higher attendance means more people bringing cookies, to the point it takes almost the entire fourth inning, top and bottom, to get through the list of treat providers.
This doesn’t sit well with the viewers who just want to watch the game. It isn’t the experience of watching the game that’s important, it’s the game itself. And when the Rangers have runners on second and third with nobody out in a scoreless tie, why it’s just unfathomable that Grieve would continue the cookie talk at such a crucial junction of the game!
While I agree that maybe needing six outs to thank so many people means the cookie thing is getting close to a breaking point, I’d like to point out to Rangers fans that the broadcasters we watch on a regular basis don’t have a monopoly on features that bug a hefty percentage of their viewers.
After talking with some of my fellow Baseball Bloggers Alliance members, here are some of their “Cookie Talk” equivalents:
Michael Clair at Old Time Family Baseball tells me the Twins have a “Circle Me Bert” tradition, where fans make fools of themselves to try to get Bert Blyleven to circle them on his telestrator.
Michael Lynch over at Seamheads says the big thing on Seattle Mariners’ broadcasts has to do with fans getting “Rally Fries” from color analyst Mike Blowers. Here’s his take: “Allegedly he started doing this in 2007 when a fan dropped his fries while trying to catch a fly ball. Blowers bought the guy new fries, causing other fans to start bringing signs to the games asking if they could get fries too. Apparently the Mariners had a habit of rallying after the fries were delivered, hence the name “Rally Fries.”
Food is a favorite subject on Yankees TV games, according to William Tasker at Flagrant Fan. Tasker says play-by-play man Michael Kay not only loves to talk about what Paul O’Neill is eating when O’Neill is the color guy, he also delves into the fruit John Flaherty is eating and the triathlons he’s competing in when Flaherty is the analyst.
Here’s a taste of Detroit Tigers games, courtesy of Jennifer Cosey at Old English D: “I am a serious fan of the Tigers, and our broadcast team is Rod Allen and Mario Impemba. There is a Rod Allen drinking game that hinges on certain catch phrases used ad nauseam, such as:
when Rod calls a pitch a “slide piece” or “change piece”
When a player does something good and Rod says “I see you ______!”
Last but not least in the BBA Post-Season Awards is the Stan Musial Award for Player of the Year.
Last month, while returning to the Rio Grande Valley from Arlington, where I saw my beloved Rangers top the Mariners in the next to last home game of the season, I tuned as usual into MLB Radio on XM. At the time, they were having a grand debate: Did Justin Verlander deserve to be in the discussion for AL MVP? I don’t remember who the two hosts of the program were, but one was adamant that Verlander, as a pitcher, should not be considered. He was a pitcher, he only starts every fifth game and there’s no way someone who starts every fifth day should be considered right alongside everyday players.
Here’s the kicker, though. This same co-host was asked several questions concerning the upcoming playoffs. Every time he was asked a question about the Tigers chances in the playoffs, he would answer by talking about the Tigers advantage because of Justin Verlander and, conversely, how the Tigers wouldn’t have a chance without Verlander. So apparently, he was saying if he starts every fifth game, he should not be considered for MVP, but it all changes when he’s in a situation to pitch every fourth game. I couldn’t help but laugh.
Seriously, what is the big deal about this? As far as I’m concerned, if a pitcher has a season in which he has so outperformed every other pitcher in the league, why shouldn’t he be considered for an MVP Award? It only happens once every decade or so, maybe even less than that. In all my time of following major league baseball, the only AL pitchers I can think of that would have to be part of the discussion for any one year would have included Denny McLain for his 30 win season of 1968, maybe Ron Guidry for the year he went 25-3 for the Yankees and Verlander this year. That’s three pitchers in 43 years. You’re going to get bent out of shape over something that happens so seldom? In the National League, I would probably have considered Bob Gibson the year he had a 1.12 ERA. Despite being on a last place team, Steve Carlton’s 27 win season for the Phillies has to be one of the singularly best accomplishments of all time. He literally won almost half of his team’s games. But he shouldn’t be considered because he wasn’t an everyday player? Hogwash!
I’m not voting Verlander as #1 on my BBA ballot, but he does have a place there. I don’t care if he only played in 20% of his team’s games. His production in those games and the final result are what earns him the right to be considered.
Herewith is my official ballot for the Stan Musial Award:
1) Curtis Granderson, New York Yankees: Yes, he only hit .262, but on a team of stars, it was his increased production in 2011 (41 HR, 119 RBI) that helped pace the Yankees to the best record in the American League.
2) Miguel Cabrera, Detroit Tigers: If I based the award on post-season play in addition to the regular season, Cabrera would probably be #1. We’re just looking at regular season play, though, so despite another MVP-caliber campaign (.344 BA, 30 HR’s, 105 RBI), Cabrera finishes second once again.
3) Adrian Gonzalez, Boston Red Sox: It didn’t take long for Gonzalez to become one of the most feared hitters in the AL (.328 BA, 27 HR, 117 RBI). If not for the Bosox collapse at the end of the season, A-Gon might have rated a little higher as well.
4) Jose Bautista, Toronto Blue Jays: Bautista had another great year, leading the league in home runs and adding an over .300 batting average with a ton of walks thrown in for good measure. In my mind, what kept Bautista from finishing higher was his RBI total (103 RBI with 43 HR). They looked kind of low for someone with as many home runs as Bautista had.
5) Justin Verlander, Detroit Tigers: Yes, he deserves to be here. Easily the best pitcher in the AL in 2011, leading the league in wins, innings pitched and strikeouts.
6) Jacoby Ellsbury, Boston Red Sox: A perfect combination of power and speed, Ellsbury was an incredible threat in the Red Sox line-up, hitting .321 with 32 HR’s, 105 RBI and 39 steals.
7) Michael Young, Texas Rangers: Young had personal bests in batting average (.338) and RBI’s (106), while seeing time as DH and playing all four infield positions. Don’t scoff at his low power numbers. You won’t find very many players in either league over the last ten years to get over 100 RBI’s with less than 15 home runs. Young has now done it twice, this time with only 11 long balls. He also topped 200 hits for the sixth time.
8) Robinson Cano, New York Yankees: He could’ve been a Texas Ranger, but Texas took Alfonso Soriano instead in the A-Rod deal, only because they believed Ian Kinsler was going to be a pretty good player. They were right about Kinsler, but boy, can you imagine a Rangers line-up with Cano (.302 BA, 28 HR, 118 RBI)? Scary, right?
9) Asdrubel Cabrera, Cleveland Indians: .273 with 25 HR’s and 92 RBI. From a shortstop. Cabrera was a big reason the Indians stayed in the AL Central race up to mid-September. He played pretty good defense too.
10) Adrian Beltre, Texas Rangers: After a monster September, Beltre ended 2011 at .296 with 32 HR’s and 105 RBI while playing stellar defense at third base. Beltre might have been given strong consideration for MVP had he not missed almost a month with a hamstring injury.
There’s the top ten. Interestingly enough, you’ll find no mention of Josh Hamilton, last year’s MVP. He still was right around .300, he still was right around 100 RBI. Yet even Rangers fans would probably list him no better than third for team MVP. Just goes to show how potent that Rangers line-up is.
Every year, the Baseball Bloggers Association honors MLB’s best pitchers in the NL and AL with the Walter Johnson Award.
As an AL team blogger, it’s my privilege to place my votes for the AL version of the Johnson Award.
This year it’s not even close. In fact, with a required five pitchers on the ballot, it’s actually kind of tough to fill out the 4th and 5th this year. Quite frankly, they’d be so far below #1 you might scoff at some of them.
At best this was a two pitcher race. In the #1 slot is Justin Verlander of the Detroit Tigers. Verlander was head and shoulders above the pack in the AL, achieving the pitching Triple Crown: leading the league in wins, strikeouts and ERA. Verlander won six more games than CC Sabathia, the AL pitcher who finished second in wins. His 250 strikeouts was 20 better than #2 James Shields and his 2.40 ERA just nosed out Jered Weaver’s 2.41. Add in an opponents batting average of just .192 against a pitcher who threw 251 innings and a WHIP of 0.92 and you’ve got the makings of an award winner, probably by unanimous consent. Verlander is the easy choice for #1.
The closest to achieving what Verlander did, in my mind, was my #2 pick Jered Weaver. He barely lost out to Verlander for the ERA crown, compiled an 18-8 record and a 1.01 WHIP. Had Mike Scioscia not deemed it necessary to pitch Weaver on three days rest on a couple of occasions down the stretch in an attempt to catch the Rangers in the AL West, Weaver may have won the ERA title in 2011. The three days rest thing didn’t work for him too well.
The third through fifth positions could easily be restacked and reconfigured, because I think they’re all just about equal.
Number 3 on the list is the Comeback Pitcher of the Year: James Shields of the Tampa Bay Rays. Shields had a miserable 2010. Even though he had a respectable 13 wins, his ERA was a sky-high 5.18, leading the AL in the negative categories of hits allowed and Earned Runs allowed. To say he turned it around in 2011 hardly does Shields justice. He had three more wins and three fewer losses, finishing at 16-12. He threw 46 more innings than he did in 2010 while giving up 51 LESS hits and a whopping 39 LESS earned runs. He struck out 225 batters, threw 4 shutouts and led the AL with 11 complete games.
In the 4 spot, I put a pitcher that had a much better year in the end than I expected him to have: CC Sabathia of the Yankees. While Sabathia is a workhorse year in and year out, I’ve never really thought of him as a low-ERA kind of guy. And yet, there he was at the end of 2011, with an ERA right at an even 3.00, second in the league in wins with 19 and second in strikeouts with 230. A pretty good year. It will be very interesting to see if Sabathia decides to opt out of the last year of his Yankees contract in the off-season.
Rounding out the list, I’m going to mention a Texas Ranger: CJ Wilson. There are all kinds of other players I could mention at this point: Jose Valverde, Ricky Romero, Dan Haren, etc. As mentioned earlier, though, does it really matter? Nobody I put here would have any chance of finishing first in the voting. I don’t think anyone that ANYBODY puts in this position has a chance of finishing first. Or second. Or probably even third. So I’ll go with my team and name CJ. His post-season hasn’t been very memorable, but he put together a fine campaign with 16 wins, a sub-3.00 ERA and over 200 strikeouts. So there, I said it and I’m not taking it back!
So there you go, my official ballot. To recap:
1. Justin Verlander, Detroit Tigers
2. Jered Weaver, Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim
3. James Shields, Tampa Bay Rays
4. CC Sabathia, New York Yankees
5. CJ Wilson, Texas Rangers
You see, when I started thinking about the All-Star teams, I started to think about who I’ve seen in games against the Rangers. After all, they’re my team. That led me to this thought: What if I chose the American League All-Stars based solely on how they’ve done in 2011 against the Texas Rangers? This probably came to mind after seeing Michael Cuddyer hit two three-run bombs over the weekend for the Twins against Texas pitching. So before I present my real picks for the All-Star Game, here’s who would be going to the game based on their performance against my team this year:
Catcher: That would be that no-brainer Brayan Pena of the Kansas City Royals (.429, 3 HR, 10 RBI)
1st base: None other than the Toronto Blue Jays’ Adam Lind (.412, 3 HR, 8 RBI)
2nd Base: OK, a little obvious here. Robinson Cano of the NY Yankees (.208, but with 2 HR and 6 RBI)
3rd Base: That perennial All-Star Mike Aviles of the Kansas City Royals (.357, 2 HR, 5 RBI)
Shortstop: The third Royal on the list, Alcides Escobar (.310, 0 HR, 3 RBI). Not so much for the bat as the incredible defense he’s played against the Rangers this year. He’s even put Elvis Andrus to shame with the glove!
Outfield: Josh Willingham of the Oakland A’s (.304, 3 HR, 8 RBI)
Outfield: Another obvious choice- Curtis Granderson of the NY Yankees (.450, 5 HR, 8 RBI)
Outfield: The inspiration for this column, Michael Cuddyer of the Minnesota Twins (.636, 2 HR, 8 RBI)
Designated Hitter: The Blue Jays’ Juan Rivera gets the honor (.500, 2 HR, 5 RBI)
Kind of a different All-Star team, don’t you think? I’d be interested to hear from others on the teams they’d come up with strictly based on performance against their teams. Let me know and I’ll be glad to share the results!
My real All-Star picks come tomorrow.