The Posey and Heyward omitters speak

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Yasushi Kikuchi, the writer who left Buster Posey off his Rookie of the Year ballot, explains himself:

Kikuchi said he left Posey off his ballot because of the late-May promotion. “Obviously it was a tough decision,” Kikuchi said. “To me, Rookie of the Year is the best rookie player throughout the whole season. “On the other hand, I know Buster had a very big impact for the Giants. I know how important his role was to contribute to the Giants winning the championship.”

Like I said before, though I don’t agree with it, I at least understand how someone can have a thought process that goes “the players who were there all season get more credit.”  It’s a crude way to go about things, and in this case I think such an approach steered Kikuchi into the ditch, but I see what happened, and that’s about as much as you can ask.

Dejan Kovacevic is the guy who left Heyward off the ballot.  He did have Posey first, however, so we should probably keep things in perspective.  As for his inclusion of Pirates Neil Walker and Jose Tabata, Dejan has been defending himself on Twitter this afternoon.  Some of his comments, edited slightly for clarity:

Felt very firmly about Posey, thus chose him 1st. Felt Walker/Tabata had strong years, comparable to rest of class . . . Neither Walker nor Tabata is off-the-board choice, as seen from list of NL rookies with 400 PA, ranked by OPS.

At that point Dejan linked to this leaderboard. I guess I understand what he’s saying about Walker and Tabata not being “off the board,” but it’s worth noting that they’re lower on the board in nearly every significant category — including the one he cited, OPS — than Jason Heyward was.  Dejan goes on:

[I] Obviously saw way more of Walker/Tabata than others, but that also gave perspective on them performing at high level in poor lineup/setting . . . Feeling always has been with voting that broadest variety of perspectives bring best results. Few can argue final overall tally, I’d think . . . No one else cast a vote for Walker, an easy-to-make case for a top-three ROY performer. That, to me, underscores importance of local views . . . Local writers will see/appreciate things a player can do that others might not. That counts, for a player’s good facets and bad . . . Felt firmly that my first-hand view of Walker/Tabata merited their ROY votes. I also respect right of anyone to disagree/vote differently.

I appreciate Dejan defending his votes, and — if you look at some of the replies to specific questions to others in his Twitter feed — him being very gracious and polite about it.

Still, while the explanation is welcome, it doesn’t do much to persuade me, to put it lightly. Not that he’s trying to persuade me or anyone else of course. It’s his vote and if he wanted to tell us all to pound salt, he could do so. I disagree with him and think he whiffed badly in this instance, but the same can be said for a lot of these votes, and we’re not entitled to an explanation, even if we want one.

With respect to both Kikuchi and Kovacevic:  the only serious question I ever have when I see an outlier awards vote is whether there was any funny business. Was someone trying to make a political point, or were they not taking their task seriously. While I think Kovacevic saw the vote through black and gold colored glasses, I don’t see any way you can accuse him of funny business here. Same goes for Kikuchi whose vote was principled, even if misguidedly so. In either case, anyone saying silly things like their votes should be taken away (Really Jon?) is off base.

But at the same time, I’m not going to simply wave my hand and say that “everyone is entitled to their opinion.” I mean, they are, but that doesn’t make their opinion unassailable. Opinions can be wrong if they’re based on bad facts and poor reasoning, and in this case, I think Kikuchi and Kovacevic’s were.

Yordano Ventura represented the best and worst of baseball’s culture

BOSTON, MA - AUGUST 28:  Yordano Ventura #30 of the Kansas City Royals delivers in the first inning during a game against the Boston Red Sox on August 28, 2016 at Fenway Park in Boston, Massachusetts.  (Photo by Adam Glanzman/Getty Images)
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It was reported this morning that Royals pitcher Yordano Ventura was killed in a car accident in the Dominican Republic. Former prospect Andy Marte was also killed in a separate car accident. Along with Jose Fernandez and Oscar Taveras, the baseball world has lost a lot of young, exciting talent in a very short amount of time.

Ventura was, like all of us, a complex human being. At his best, he was an exciting, talented, emotive pitcher who featured an electric fastball which sat in the mid-90’s and occasionally touched 100 MPH. At his worst, he was an immature, impressionable kid trying to fit in by exacting revenge against batters he felt had wronged him by slinging those electric fastballs at vulnerable areas of their bodies.

Baseball needed Ventura when he was at his best. It is players like him and Fernandez, not Mike Trout, that bring in new fans to the sport. To baseball die-hards, Angels outfielder Mike Trout is the pinnacle of entertainment because we know he’s an otherworldly talent. But to the average fan, Trout is just another player who hits a couple of homers and doesn’t do anything particularly interesting otherwise. Trout is milquetoast. Ventura was never an All-Star, but fans knew who he was because he made his presence felt every time he made a start. He was fun, if sometimes vengeful.

Ventura’s baseball rap sheet is rather lengthy for someone who only pitched parts of four seasons in the big leagues. Early in the 2015 season, Ventura found himself in a handful of benches-clearing incidents in quick succession. On April 12, he jawed with Trout, apparently misunderstanding the motivation behind Trout yelling, “Let’s go!” Though catcher Salvador Perez intervened, Trout’s teammate Albert Pujols ran in from second base and the benches cleared shortly thereafter. On the 18th, some drama between the Athletics and Royals continued. Ventura fired a 99 MPH fastball at Brett Lawrie, resulting in his immediate ejection from the game. More beanball wars ensued in the series finale the following day. Finally, on the 23rd, Ventura hit White Sox first baseman Jose Abreu with a 99 MPH fastball in the fourth inning. Ventura was not ejected… until after the completion of the seventh inning. Walking back to the dugout, Ventura barked at White Sox outfielder Adam Eaton and — you guessed it — the benches cleared. All told, Ventura was fined for his behavior with the Athletics and suspended seven games for the White Sox incident.

In August 2015, Ventura called Blue Jays outfielder Jose Bautista a “nobody” and accused him of stealing signs. He apologized shortly thereafter. Two months later, during his start in Game 6 of the ALCS against the Blue Jays, Ventura got into it with Jays first base coach Tim Leiper. Nothing happened beyond that, but apparently it was part of the Jays’ plan to try to put Ventura “on tilt.”

Most recently, in June this past season, Ventura hit Orioles third baseman Manny Machado with a pitch. Machado charged the mound and got in at least one punch before the players spilled out onto the field in a blob of royal blue and orange. Ventura was suspended for eight games.

Ventura was by no means a model of civility, but he was a product of baseball’s intransigent culture forcing players to assimilate or be ostracized. The old culture taught players to never show emotion. Hit a home run? Put your head down and circle the bases in a timely fashion or risk taking a fastball to the ribs. Players like Fernandez and Bautista — typically players from Latin countries — challenged those old cultural norms and are, as a result, the vanguard of the new culture. Ventura displayed aspects of each, the worst of the old culture and the best of the new. He was not a one-dimensional person; he was strikingly complex. At one moment willing to use a fastball as a weapon, the next stopping by some kids’ lemonade stand and giving out fist bumps. Baseball is made more entertaining and more interesting by its personalities and Ventura’s was a behemoth, for better or worse. His absence from the sport will be felt.

MLB remembers Yordano Ventura and Andy Marte

BOSTON, MA - AUGUST 28:  Yordano Ventura #30 of the Kansas City Royals delivers in the first inning during a game against the Boston Red Sox on August 28, 2016 at Fenway Park in Boston, Massachusetts.  (Photo by Adam Glanzman/Getty Images)
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Following the tragic passing of 25-year-old Yordano Ventura and 33-year-old Andy Marte, both of whom were killed in separate car crashes on Sunday morning, players and executives from around Major League Baseball expressed an outpouring of grief and support for the players’ families and former teams.

Fans have gathered at Kauffman Stadium in memory of the former pitcher.