Mariners' Hernandez throws against the Blue Jays in their MLB American League baseball game in Toronto

Your Awards Week Preview

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Starting tomorrow, the Baseball Writers Association of America will announce the winners of the major postseason awards. Tomorrow is Rookie of the Year Awards (both of them), Tuesday is the NL Cy Young Award, Wednesday is both Manager of the Year Awards, Thursday is the AL Cy Young Award, next Monday is the NL MVP and next Tuesday is the AL MVP. All awards will be announced at 2PM Eastern. And of course, we’ll report the winners and analyze the bejesus out of it after it happens.

In the meantime, let’s refresh ourselves on the top candidates and make some predictions while we’re at it:

ROOKIE OF THE YEAR

Who should win: I like Neftali Feliz in the AL, with his dominance making up for the fact that he only pitched 69 innings, but Austin Jackson — much more overall production in less spectacular ways — is a good choice as well.  In the NL it’s a battle between Jason Heyward and Buster Posey. That’s a really close call, as Posey was clearly more valuable defensively because he’s a catcher, but Heyward was pretty good in right too.  Posey was the better hitter thanks to Heyward’s midseason injury and his late swoon, but Heyward played all season, giving him an advantage in overall production. This is probably the toughest call of any award, but if I had to pick I’d probably say Heyward. Yeah, I realize I have a bias, but I’m doing my best to put it aside.  This, for me anyway, is all about that missing month for Posey and the acknowledgment that Rookie of the Year is not about the most valuable rookie, but who had the most outstanding regular season.  All of that said, you won’t hear me complaining if Posey gets it, because the dude was tough stuff this year.

Who will win: Remember: the ballots were sent in before the postseason, so none of the stuff Posey did in the playoffs — or that Heyward didn’t do — counts.  If it did, it would be Posey in a walk.  I think, however, that Heyward will edge him out by a very tight margin.

MANAGER OF THE YEAR

Who should win: I never know what to do with manager of the year. No one can explain a good way to measure the candidates against one another. It usually ends up with a “who did the most with the least” analysis, but there is all kinds of subjectivity that can be brought into that, if for no other reason than it’s hard to figure out exactly what a manager did to make a team overachieve expectations.  We give managers too much credit when they win and too much blame when they lose and likely always will.  Against that backdrop I’ll say that, if I had a ballot, I’d vote for Dusty Baker in the NL and Ron Washington in the AL. Ask me again tomorrow and I might say Bobby Cox and Ron Gardenhire. Ask me on Tuesday and I might say Bud Black and Joe Maddon.  I’m sorta conflicted about the whole thing, really.

Who will win: I’m guessing it will be Baker and Washington. If Bud Black wins, we’ll have to ask if his victory is less about the job he did as manager and more about the pundits’ serious misread of the Padres talent. We all were amazed by them, sure, but maybe we were just wrong, too. Wouldn’t a vote for Black really be about excusing our ignorance of how good that club really was? I mean, the team had a 10-game losing streak late that woofed them out of the playoffs. How many managers win the award when they do that?

AL CY YOUNG AWARD

Who should win: This has been beaten to death already. Felix Hernandez is my choice because wins don’t tell you jack about a pitcher’s value. I won’t rehash the arguments, though, because frankly, I think we’re all tired of it.

Who will win: So much of the Felix Hernandez Truther Brigade’s vehemence was based on our belief that those rotten know-nothings in the BBWAA would get it wrong and give the award to Sabathia. I’ll admit, however, with a month of perspective, we all went a bit nuts on that. The people who vote on the awards don’t write about who should win or lose beforehand. They’re prohibited from doing so. That means all of those people making boneheaded arguments in favor of Sabtahia and David Price are, by definition, non-voters.  I’ve talked to a few writers who have been around this block many times before, and they tend to believe that their voting colleagues actually favor Hernandez. We’ll see, of course, but there is probably some truth to the notion that those who derided Hernandez’s case the loudest are the least representative of the actual voting pool. Color me optimistic: I think King Felix takes this thing.

NL CY YOUNG AWARD

Who should win: Roy Halladay.

Who will win: Roy Halladay.

You were expecting more?  I’m not gonna bother, really, because I think Halladay taking this thing is the easiest call of any award so there’s no use wasting mental effort making a for-the-sake-of-argument case for Ubaldo Jimenez or Adam Wainwright or whoever. Doc was the best. QED.

AL MVP AWARD

Who should win it: Yet another close one, with Josh Hamilton and Miquel Cabrera each being excellent choices. Hamilton will get votes because of his league-leading OPS, his defensive value and the “he carried them to the playoffs” thing, Cabrera will get votes because he had more plate appearances thanks to Hamilton’s late season injury and — oh yeah — had a hell of a year too. If I have a vote I give it to Hamilton, but again, this is not a year where my favored guy not getting it will be an atrocity or anything.

Who will win: I think Hamilton gets it, but it will be close. There are a lot of other viable options for those who would vote against him because of the playing time, such as Robinson Cano and Evan Longoria, so I think the anti-Hamilton vote — to the extent we can call it that — will be split.  Really, though, I’m more interested to see how the downballot candidates do this year, because it might give us a bit of a read on how much the BBWAA is weighing defense these days.

NL MVP AWARD

Who should win: Joey Votto and Albert Pujols had outrageously similar seasons. Really, if you switched their batting lines over at Baseball-Reference.com or something, I bet it would be weeks before any non-obsessives noticed something was amiss.  Pujols is a better defender, but I have a hard time getting animated about defensive differences at first base unless they’re just tremendous.  I give it to Votto, for the reasons explained in the “who will win” section below.

Who will win: Votto, for two reasons. First, his team beat the Cardinals for the division crown, and when all things are equal — as they are here — BBWAA voters will reward the player on the better team. Second, writers like a good story, and more importantly, they like a fresh story. Albert Pujols has hardware already, and for as nice a guy as he is, he’s a bit familiar by now while Votto is new blood in these debates.  I normally discount both of those things when it comes to the awards, but I’d be lying if I said that they didn’t tempt me in this case. Sure, if you can make an argument that clearly puts Pujols above Votto on the objective merits I’ll listen, but I just can’t see it right now. With nowhere else to turn, I find myself seduced by the narrative considerations.  Votto is the man.

While it has become great sport to deride the BBWAA, they’ve actually gotten a lot better at awards choices in recent years.  It’s been a long time since we’ve had a Mo Vaughn or Juan Gonzalez-style clunker in one of the biggies.  And this year, apart from the much-debated AL Cy Young Awards, the candidates all seem pretty plausible.  If I had to guess, I’d say that all of the winners will be deserving ones.  Which will be no fun for blogging purposes, but will be more than worth it.

Murray Chass rightfully nails Major League Baseball on minority hiring

Rob Manfred
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When Murray Chass lays off his vendettas against the people he feels have wronged him, he’s still capable of making some sharp points. Particularly when he’s working in his old bailiwick of the business of baseball.

On Sunday he wrote a blog post about minority hiring in baseball. As in, the nearly complete lack of it, at least in front offices:

Manfred has talked a better job on minority hiring than he has performed. He has created a pipeline program through which members of minorities are supposed to be able to advance into major league front office positions. However, no role models seem to exist as inspiration for younger employees.

In Manfred’s 20 months as commissioner, clubs have hired or promoted 19 high-ranking executives. Eighteen of the 19 are white males. The lone minority is Al Avila, the Tigers’ general manager.

Chass reports that Rob Manfred and, in the past, Bud Selig have leaned on clubs to hire friends or trusted lieutenants but claim they have no power to tell clubs who to hire when it comes to minorities. It’s pretty dang good point.

Moving beyond Chass’ points, it’s worth observing that one way baseball could better populate the executive ranks would be to hire more minorities in entry-level positions. What a better way to become a friend and crony than to have, you know, been there a long time? The game has had a horrible track record in doing this, however, for one simple reason: it pays crap wages for all but the highest of executive positions, pushing away candidates for whom money is, in fact, an object to pursuing a dream in baseball which, by demographic necessity, favors the rich and thus favors whites. Earlier this year MLB launched a pipeline program aimed at getting more minority candidates into entry level MLB jobs. That’s a good start to addressing the problem, but it’s going to take years for that to bear fruit, assuming it ever does.

Back in June Kate Morrison and Russell A. Carleton of Baseball Prospectus wrote a four-part series regarding this very issue, and it’s well worth your time. Among the points made is one that, given his vendettas, Chass surprisingly didn’t make himself: sabermetrics is partially to blame! Go read Kate and Russell’s work on that, but the short version: front offices want MBA/STEM types now, not people with athletic backgrounds. People with those degrees have expensive educations and, in turn, cannot afford to take pennies to work in baseball when they can make far more in other industries, thereby continuing to favor the rich and the white.

I don’t think Rob Manfred or Bud Selig before him or the people who run major league baseball teams are bigots. I don’t think that baseball, as a whole, wants to keep minorities out of top jobs. Chass doesn’t make such a claim either and he, like I, noted the pipeline program.

But baseball is a business rife with cronyism and nepotism which leads those in power to hire friends and relatives, thereby keeping the executive class overwhelmingly male and white. Baseball has shown that, when it wants to, it can lean on teams to make certain hiring choices. Will it do the same to push for greater minority representation in management ranks? Or will it continue to throw up its hands up and say “hey, that’s on the clubs?”

Tim Tebow hits a homer in his first instructional league at bat

PORT ST. LUCIE, FL - SEPTEMBER 20: Tim Tebow #15 of the New York Mets hits a home run at an instructional league day at Tradition Field on September 20, 2016 in Port St. Lucie, Florida. (Photo by Rob Foldy/Getty Images)
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Because of course he did.

It wasn’t just his first at bat, but it was his first pitch. It came off of John Kilichowski, an 11th round draft pick of the St. Louis Cardinals out of Vanderbilt.  The ball went out to left center, off the bat of the lefty Tebow.

Next time, meat, throw him a breaking ball.