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.

Mariano Rivera to get his plaque in Monument Park on August 14

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The greatest closer in history is going to get the ultimate honor the New York Yankees bestow on August 14. That’s when Mariano Rivera will get his plaque in Monument Park at Yankee Stadium before a game against the Rays.

There was some chatter in the last year or two about whether the Yankees were somehow lowering their standards out there, what with guys like Tino Martinez getting honored. But if that’s something you care about it won’t matter in this instance. Rivera would’ve been worthy even if the old snobby ways had held and only inner-circle types got a plaque, what with him being a key member of five World Series-winning teams and his status as the all-time saves leader in the regular season and the postseason.

The Yankees retired Rivera’s No. 42 in 2013. He’ll get his plaque in August. Then, on the first ballot for which he is eligible, he’ll be voted into the Hall of Fame, likely with a percentage in the mid-to-high 90s.

Dodgers “trying to trade” Alex Guerrero

Alex Guerrero
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Alex Guerrero is a potentially good right-handed bat without a position to play in Los Angeles, so Ken Rosenthal of FOXSports.com reporting that the Dodgers are “trying to trade” him makes sense.

Guerrero, who signed with the Dodgers out of Cuba for $28 million in October of 2013, spent last season in the majors hitting .233 with 11 homers and a .695 OPS in a part-time role that generated 230 plate appearances. He logged a total of just 355 innings defensively, mostly as a left fielder and third baseman.

Guerrero could be intriguing–particularly to an American League team for whom his defense isn’t much of an issue–because he hit .329 with 15 homers and a 1.113 OPS in 65 games at Triple-A in 2014 and was consistently a .300 hitter with an OPS around 1.000 in Cuba. He’s also 29 years old, so Guerrero is no doubt looking to play regularly.

The New Zealand World Baseball Classic team performs the Haka

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It’s World Baseball Classic time again. Just the qualifying rounds. The actual tournament happens in 2017. Qualifiers will happen in Sydney, Australia, Mexicali, Mexico, Panama City, Panama and Brooklyn, N.Y., periodically, between now and September.

The Sydney round just got underway yesterday, so yes, some actual baseball is going on. As I’ve written and ranted before, the WBC is not my favorite thing that happens in baseball and certainly not the most important thing, but it’s pretty fun. Especially when there are displays of enthusiasm and pageantry and the like.

Such as the Haka, which basically every New Zealand sports team does and which never gets old:

 

Down in Sydney, the Australia, New Zealand, Philippines and South Africa teams are competing in a six-game, modified double-elimination format. In the other three qualifying rounds, Mexico, Czech Republic, Germany, Nicaragua, Colombia, France, Panama, Spain, Brazil, Great Britain, Israel and Pakistan will compete. Each qualifying round puts one representative in the WBC.

Those four qualifiers will compete in the WBC itself against countries that performed well enough in the past that they need not submit to qualifying: Canada, China, Chinese Taipei, Cuba, Dominican Republic, Italy, Japan, Korea, Kingdom of the Netherlands, Puerto Rico, United States and Venezuela.

Someone make sure Jon Morosi is well-hyrdrated. It’s gonna be a long year.

Yovani Gallardo and the Orioles are both “optimistic” about a deal

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Multiple reports Wednesday had the Orioles and free agent right-hander Yovani Gallardo deep in negotiations on a multi-year deal. Nothing has been finalized yet, but Brittany Ghiroli of MLB.com says “both sides appear to be pretty optimistic still.”

Ghiroli adds that the “ball is in the Orioles’ court,” although that may simply reveal her likely source to be Gallardo’s agent. Whatever the case, Baltimore is apparently now willing to forfeit their first-round draft pick to sign Galllardo and he may lead to a domino effect in which they also forfeit a second-round draft pick to sign outfielder Dexter Fowler.

The idea being that if you’re going to cough up the 14th overall pick to sign a mid-level free agent with spring training right around the corner you might as well cough up a lower draft pick to sign a second one. Gallardo has shown signs of decline, including a big dip in strikeout rate, but he logged 184 innings with a 3.42 ERA for the Rangers last season.