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.

Reds to extend protective netting at Great American Ball Park

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The Reds announced on Thursday that the protective netting at Great American Ball Park will be extended to the end of each dugout in time for Opening Day next season. The press release notes that the current netting meets Major League Baseball’s guidelines and the new netting will go beyond those standards.

The netting “debate” came back on Wednesday when a young fan was struck in the face by a foul ball at Yankee Stadium. The Yankees have done about the bare minimum in installing protective netting, which rightly earned them criticism. Brian Dozier, Todd Frazier, and Didi Gregorius each said yesterday that the netting should be extended. Other teams and Major League Baseball in general received criticism. Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports, for example, said the relative lack of action on MLB’s part is “morally repugnant.”

Zach Buchanan of the Cincinnati Enquirer notes that the Reds had already had this idea prior to Wednesday’s incident at Yankee Stadium.

Orioles don’t intend to trade Manny Machado this offseason

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Orioles third baseman Manny Machado will become eligible for free agency after the 2018 season and is likely to get a windfall. The club, however, isn’t expected to pursue trading their star at the hot corner this offseason, according to Jon Heyman of FanRag Sports.

Machado, 25, has been one of baseball’s best players since debuting in 2012. He had a slow start to the 2017 season, seeing his OPS nearly drop below .700 in early July, but a strong second half has made his overall numbers more than respectable. Machado is batting .264/.318/.484 with 32 home runs and 92 RBI in 651 plate appearances while playing Gold Glove-caliber defense at third base.

Just because the Orioles don’t plan to move Machado this offseason doesn’t mean they won’t try to recoup some value ahead of next year’s non-waiver trade deadline. According to Heyman, a person involved with the Orioles said, “It would take us 35 years to find another player like him.”