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.

Rick Ankiel drank vodka before a start to deal with the yips

9 Apr 2000: Rick Ankiel #66 of the St. Louis Cardinals winds back to pitch the ball during the game against the Milwaukee Brweers at the Busch Stadium in St. Louis, Missouri. The Cardinals defeated the Brewers 11-2. Mandatory Credit: Elsa Hasch  /Allsport
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The story of Rick Ankiel is well known by now. He was a phenom pitcher who burst onto the scene with the Cardinals in 1999 and into the 2000 season as one of the top young talents in the game. Then, in the 2000 playoffs, he melted down. He got the yips. Whatever you want to call it, he lost the ability to throw strikes and his pitching career was soon over. He came back, however, against all odds, and remade his career as a solid outfielder.

It’s inspirational and incredible. But there is a lot more to the story that we’ve ever known. We will soon, however, as Ankiel is coming out with a book. Today he took to the airwaves and shared some about it. Including some amazing stuff:

On drinking in his first start after the famous meltdown in Game One of the 2000 National League division series against the Braves:

“Before that game…I’m scared to death. I know I have no chance. Feeling the pressure of all that, right before the game I get a bottle of vodka. I just started drinking vodka. Low and behold, it kind of tamed the monster, and I was able to do what I wanted. I’m sitting on the bench feeling crazy I have to drink vodka to pitch through this. It worked for that game. (I had never drank before a game before). It was one of those things like the yipps, the monster, the disease…it didn’t fight fair so I felt like I wasn’t going to fight fair either.”

Imagine spending your whole life getting to the pinnacle of your career. Then imagine it immediately disintegrating. And then imagine having to go out and do it again in front of millions. It’s almost impossible for anyone to contemplate and, as such, it’s hard to judge almost anything Ankiel did in response to that when he was 21 years-old. That Ankiel got through that and made a career for himself is absolutely amazing. It’s a testament to his drive and determination.

 

Justin Turner talks “Easy D”

CHICAGO, IL - OCTOBER 22:  Justin Turner #10 of the Los Angeles Dodgers warms up prior to game six of the National League Championship Series against the Chicago Cubs at Wrigley Field on October 22, 2016 in Chicago, Illinois.  (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
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A couple of weeks ago our president wrote one of his more . . . vexing tweets. He was talking about immigration when he whipped out the phrase . . . “Easy D”:

No one was quite sure what he meant by Easy D. Was it the older brother of N.W.A.’s founder? The third sequel to that Emma Stone movie from a few years back? So many questions!

Baseball Twitter had fun with it, though, with a lot of people wondering how they could work it in casually to their commentary:

It wasn’t a scout who did it, but twelve days after that, a player obliged Mr. McCullough:

I have no more idea what Turner was talking about with that than Trump was. We’ll have to wait for the full story in the L.A. Times. But I am going to assume Turner was doing McCullough a solid with that one rather than commenting on the president’s tweet. Either way, I’m glad he made the effort.

And before you ask: yes, it’s a slow news day.