Josh Hamilton named player of year by his peers

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The players have spoken, and according to them, Josh Hamilton is the best among them.

The Texas Rangers center fielder, who has tormented the New York Yankees with four home runs in the ALCS, has been named Sporting News’ player of the year, as selected by a panel of 326 Major League Baseball players.

Hamilton is a fine choice, hitting .359/.411/.633 with 32 home runs and 100 RBIs despite playing only 133 games this season due to injuries. He also plays a mean – and aggressive – center field, which is part of the reason for his injuries. (Stop running into walls!)

While you could make an argument for the likes of Miguel Cabrera, Carlos Gonzalez, Joey Votto and Albert Pujols, to name a few, it’s tough to gripe about Hamilton ultimately being the choice.

Also announced were the top pitchers (Felix Hernandez, Roy Halladay), rookies (Austin Jackson, Jason Heyward), managers (Ron Gardenhire, Bud Black), comeback players (Vladimir Guerrero, Tim Hudson) and relievers (Rafael Soriano, Heath Bell), as well as an All-Star team, which you can check out here.

Getting back to Hamilton, it’s nice to see the former No. 1 draft pick begin to realize his promise. While there is no need to glorify or over-dramatize the man, we can still point out the long journey he has taken to reach this point, fighting an ongoing battle with drug and alcohol addiction along the way. It must be rewarding for him to be recognized by his peers for having such a remarkable season.

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Seattle Mariners to make a “full-court press” for Shohei Ohtani

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Mariners general manager Jerry Dipoto said in a team-sponsored podcast the other day that the M’s will make a “full-court press” for Shohei Ohtani. To that end, Dipoto said that the M’s would be willing to let the two-way star to pitch and to hit, which is something Ohtani is interested in doing in the United States. Not all clubs are likely to let him do this, with most likely seeing him as a starting pitcher only.

Ohtani, who is expected to be posted by his Japanese team, the Nippon Ham Fighters, possibly as early as today, can sign with anyone he wants. He is, however, subject to the international bonus pool caps, so the bids on him will be somewhat limited. The Texas Rangers and New York Yankees have the most money available: $3.535 million for the Rangers and $3.5 million for the Yankees. The Twins ($3.245 million), Pirates ($2.266 million), Marlins ($1.74 million) and Mariners ($1.57 million) are the only other teams with more than $1 million left. Twelve teams — including the Dodgers, Cubs, Cardinals and Astros — are limited to a maximum of $300,000, having met or exceeded their caps for this signing period already.

Ohtani, however, is said to be less motivated by money than he is by finding the right situation. While a lot of guys say that, the fact that Ohtani is coming over to the U.S. now, when his financial prospects are limited, as opposed to waiting for two years when he is not subject to the bonus caps and could sign for nine figures, suggests that he is telling the truth. As such, a team like the Mariners that is willing to allow him to hit and pitch could make up for the couple of million less they have in bonus money to spend.

As for how that might work logistically, Dipoto said that the team would be willing to play DH Nelson Cruz a few days in the outfield to accommodate Ohtani, allowing him to DH on the days he’s not pitching. That might be . . . interesting to see, but given how badly the Mariners could use a good starting pitcher, they have an incentive to be creative.

Ohtani, 23, suffered some injuries in 2017, limiting him to just five starts and 65 games as a hitter. In 2016, however, he hit .289/.356/.547 with 22 homers in 342 at-bats and went 11-3 with a 3.24 ERA, and a K/BB ratio of 146/51 in 133.1 innings as a starter.

Five clubs have more money to spend on Ohtani than the Mariners do. None of those teams are on the west coast, which some Asian players have said in the past they preferred due to faster travel back home. The Mariners, owned for a long time by a Japanese company which still retains a minority interest in the club, and long the home for high-profile Japanese players such as Ichiro and Hisashi Iwakuma, likely have a better media and marketing reach in Japan than most other teams as well, which might be a factor in his decision making process. Is all that enough to sway Ohtani?

We’ll find out over the next couple of weeks.