Classic moments in BBWAA buffoonery: Take 1

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Since it seems we’re all set up for at least one and and maybe two potentially lousy choices in AL award balloting, I thought it’d be fun to look at some historical low points.
I’ll take suggestions for future episodes — I could probably do a week’s worth of blogs on 1987 alone — but here’s my personal favorite and a big reason why I don’t let myself get dragged into the discussions like I used to.
The 2005 AL Cy Young Award balloting
1. Bartolo Colon – 118 points – 17 first-place votes
2. Mariano Rivera – 68 points – 8 first-place votes
3. Johan Santana – 51 points – 3 first-place votes
It was a classic example of wins overriding everything else, but it was particularly disgusting in this case.
Let’s just ignore Rivera here. He was his typical outstanding self, finishing with a career-best 1.38 ERA in 78 1/3 innings. However, he did blow four saves and take four losses. He also gave up a career-high six unearned runs. I’m not a big fan of putting closers into the Cy Young mix even in historic seasons, and Rivera’s campaign doesn’t qualify. It was just the game’s most outstanding closer doing his usual thing.
No, this was all about Colon versus Santana. And in every number besides wins, it was a non-contest. Santana had a 2.88 ERA, Colon finished at 3.48. Santana led the league in strikeouts by 27, finishing at 238. Colon finished tied for eighth with Daniel Cabrera at 157. Santana finished second in the league in innings, Colon finished seventh (though it was just a nine-inning difference). Santana was first in WHIP at 0.97, Colon third at 1.16.
Santana’s ERA+, after adjusting for ballpark, was 155, easily tops in the league. Kevin Millwood, who barely edged him out for the actual ERA title, was second at 146. Colon was 11th at 122.
Of course, in the end, only one fact mattered to the vast majority of the voters: Colon won 21 games, leading the circuit by three. Santana finished tied for fifth with 16 victories.
But even if had to be boiled down to wins and losses entirely, the voters still chose blind idiocy. While Santana was credited with only 16 victories, the Twins went 24-10 in his 34 starts. The Angels went 22-11 when Colon pitched. Yes, the Twins, a significantly worse team overall, had a better record in Santana’s starts than the Angels did in Colon’s.
To add a little more perspective, the Twins were 59-69 in games not started by Santana, while the Angels were 73-56 when Colon didn’t pitch.

John Lackey to start Game 1 of the NLDS for the Cardinals

John Lackey
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St. Louis has decided on John Lackey as the Game 1 starter in the NLDS versus the winner of tonight’s Wild Card game, manager Mike Matheny announced.

Lackey led the Cardinals in starts (33) and innings (218) this season while posting a 2.77 ERA and 175/53 K/BB ratio with 21 homers allowed.

Carlos Martinez being out for the playoffs with a shoulder injury took a big rotation option away from Matheny, but Lackey has a 3.10 ERA in 43 starts since joining the Cardinals in mid-2014 and also has a 3.08 ERA in 117 career postseason innings.

He’ll face either the Cubs or the Pirates, in St. Louis. No word yet on the order, but Michael Wacha, Lance Lynn, and Jaime Garcia figure to follow Lackey in the rotation.

The Yankees were booed last night. Did they deserve it?

Masahiro Tanaka

The boos came raining down from the Yankee Stadium faithful last night. They started when Brett Gardner grounded out in the eighth inning. More came later. A lot of it was, no doubt, based on Gardner’s disappointing performance late in the season. A lot of it was because, around that time, it seemed like the Yankees had zero shot whatsoever to mount a comeback. Which, in fact, they didn’t. A lot of it was pent-up frustration, I assume, from a late season skid which saw the Yankees lose their lead in the AL East and wind up in the Wild Card Game in the first place.

Anyone who buys a ticket has a right to boo. Especially when they buy a ticket as expensive as Yankees tickets are. It’s obviously understandable to be disappointed when your team loses. Especially when your team is eliminated like the Yankees were. And last night’s game was particularly deflating, with that 3-0 Astros lead feeling more like 10-0 given how things were going.

But isn’t booing something more than a mere manifestation of disappointment? Isn’t a step beyond? Booing isn’t saying “I’m sad.” It’s saying “you suck!” It’s not saying “I’m disappointed,” it’s saying “you should be ashamed of yourselves!” And with all respect to Yankees fans, the 2015 Yankees have absolutely nothing to be ashamed of.

This was a club expected to miss the playoffs, full stop. Maybe some people allowed for an if-everything-breaks-right flight of fancy, but hardly anyone expected them to play meaningful games late in the year, let alone a playoff game. They were too old. Too injured. There weren’t enough young reinforcements to fill the gaps. Some even went so far as to claim that they were about to spend years in the wilderness.

But then A-Rod broke out of the gate strong. And Michael Pineda had a really nice first couple of months. And Mark Teixeira put up numbers that wouldn’t have been out of place for him several years ago. The bullpen did what it was supposed to do and more, Masahiro Tanaka held together somehow and, eventually, a couple of young players like Greg Bird and Luis Severino came in to reinforce things. The not-going-anywhere Yankees were contenders. And they led the division for a good while. Of course they stumbled late. And of course they lost last night, but by just about any reasonable measure, this was a good team — better than expected — and, unlike a lot of Yankees teams in the past, was pretty darn enjoyable to watch.

Then the boos. I just can’t see how this Yankees team deserved that.

I realize a lot of people in the media have duped a lot of people into thinking that a team with a high payroll is supposed to be dominant. And I realize George Steinbrenner duped a whole lot of people into thinking that anything less than a World Series championship for the New York Yankees is failure. But that’s rhetoric and branding, not reason. In the real world where baseball players play baseball games World Series titles are rare, even for the Yankees. At the end of the season all but one of 30 teams are either at home for the playoffs or went home after suffering a gut-wrenching playoff loss. The Yankees are the most dominant franchise in the history of American professional sports yet they still have finished their year without a title over 75% of the time.

With that as a given, fans are left to judge their team’s performance based on its talent, its health, its heart, its entertainment value and the strength of the opposition which ultimately vanquished it. The Yankees weren’t nearly as talented as many, yet made the playoffs anyway. They were a walking hospital ward, let limped on. They never quit and never got pulled down into the sort of muck a lot of New York teams find themselves in when things start to go sideways. And, ultimately, they were simply beat by a better team. By any reasonable measure the 2015 Yankees were a good story, a successful enterprise, a resilient bunch and no small amount of fun.

It’s OK to be sad that it ended as it did. But that doesn’t deserve to be booed. Not by a long shot.