Some additional thoughts on NL Manager of the Year

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A couple people have said that I came down a little hard on Bud Black in my Manager of the Year post.  I certainly didn’t mean to, and if I did, I apologize. I have nothing against Bud Black and I think he did a great job.  I can’t argue with his winning, nor will I.  Really, I was just using his win as a means by which to explore the way in which managers are evaluated.  I could have easily used a devil’s advocate device — like  I did with the Padres’ 10-game losing streak —  in the cases of Dusty Baker, Bobby Cox, or Charlie Manuel.  All of them did things last year that at times made you scratch your head. Many of their moves, if cast in a certain light, could be shown to look bad.

But stepping back from that rather academic point, it’s worth noting that there were arguments in favor of all of the vote-garnering candidates in the NL.  Briefly:

  • Black: though maybe we undersold the Padres, even an optimist couldn’t have guessed them to be in it until the last weekend. Plus, I’ve always believed that a manager has his biggest impact on bullpen management, and Black certainly did a great job with the Padres’ bullpen, which ended up being the best in baseball;
  • Dusty Baker: the same expectation game applied to him, as not many people picked the Reds to finish highly. I had them a distant second before the season started, but I was drinking a little bit of the Reds Kool-Aid.  And while it may have stretched over two seasons, Baker deserves a lot of credit for Joey Votto’s development into an MVP candidate. His handling of Votto’s anxiety issues last year was expert, and I could easily see many managers screwing that up. There are few managers whose players speak more highly of them than Baker’s do of him;
  • Bobby Cox: Scratching away the “one for the road” considerations that I feel have no place in this award, a case could certainly be made for Cox on a “most with the least” basis. At least for the second half of the season when the Braves lost player after player, and still held on to a playoff spot thanks to duct tape and baling wire.  In all honesty, though, there was a lot of luck there and the Padres’ collapse helped a lot.  He’d maybe get a third place vote from me — maybe fourth — but I can see why he’s in the conversation;
  • Charlie Manuel: I don’t know that he should have won, but I thought he’d get more consideration than he did. The Phillies were injured all year, and Manuel did a great job keeping that operation together.  In the end, though, he was hurt by (a) the feeling that the Phillies were already the most talented team in the NL to begin with; and (b) the Oswalt trade. That trade and the Three Aces stuff ended up setting the narrative for the second half of the Phillies season, not Manuel’s genius. Though, obviously, it’s a lot more complicated than that.  Managers of the most talented teams have won the award. So too have managers of the team that has made the big trade. I think Manuel deserved better.
  • Brad Mills: they started so poorly and then traded off all of their veteran talent, yet after the first couple of weeks of the season, Mills’ Astros matched all but the very top teams in the NL.
  • Bruce Bochy: Some of the sharpest minds in baseball, ahem, wrote them off in June, but he rallied the troops, righted the ship, mixed six more metaphors and led the team to the NL West title (votes were in before the playoffs began).

So they all had their merits. And in the end, I’m back where I began: If given an MVP or Cy Young ballot tomorrow I’d have no problem filling them out. But I have no idea how to go about valuing candidates for the Manager of the Year Award. I look forward to reading some of the voters’ explanations — especially Christina Kahrl’s over at Baseball Prospectus, who had a MoY vote — to see how they went about it.

Marcus Stroman named World Baseball Classic MVP

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United States starter Marcus Stroman was named Most Valuable Player of the World Baseball Classic after helping lead the U.S. to its first ever WBC title on Wednesday night in an 8-0 victory over Puerto Rico. Stroman flirted with a no-hitter through six innings, but gave up a double to lead off the seventh before being relieved by Sam Dyson.

Stroman also pitched 4 2/3 scoreless innings against the Dominican Republic in Pool C play on March 11. He struggled in Pool F play against Puerto Rico last Friday, surrendering four runs in 4 2/3 innings.

The WBC MVP award understandably goes to a player of the winning team. However, Wladimir Balentien of the Netherlands deserves special mention. In 26 at-bats during the WBC, he hit a double and had a WBC-high four home runs, 12 RBI, and 12 runs scored while putting up a .615/.677/.1.115 batting line. That’s MVP-esque as far as this tournament is concerned.

U.S. blanks Puerto Rico 8-0 to win first World Baseball Classic title

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The United States handed Puerto Rico its first loss in the World Baseball Classic, winning 8-0 for its first title in the fourth iteration of the tournament.

Puerto Rico starter Seth Lugo was matching Marcus Stroman zero-for-zero through the first two innings, but the U.S. broke out for a pair of runs when Ian Kinsler deposited a two-run home run just beyond the fence in left-center at Dodger Stadium. The U.S. tacked on two more in the fifth on RBI singles from Christian Yelich and Andrew McCutchen, pushing the lead to 4-0.

Meanwhile, Stroman was dealing. The right-hander, normally seen in a Blue Jays uniform, held Puerto Rico hitless through his first six innings, giving up just a lone walk. The U.S. put together a long rally in the top of the seventh, scoring three runs on three hits, two walks, and a hit batter. Stroman came back out for the seventh but immediately served up a double down the left field line to Angel Pagan. U.S. manager Jim Leyland immediately lifted Stroman from the game, bringing in Sam Dyson who escaped the inning without any further damage.

Pat Neshek allowed a leadoff single to Yadier Molina to begin the eighth, but induced a double-play, then worked around a two-out walk by striking out Kenny Vargas to end the frame.

In the ninth, David Robertson took over. He induced an infield pop-up from Enrique Hernandez. After Pagan singled up the middle, Francisco Lindor sharply grounded out to Eric Hosmer at first base for the second out. Finally, Robertson closed it out, inducing Carlos Correa to ground out to third base, making the U.S. 8-0 victors over Puerto Rico to win the World Baseball Classic.

Puerto Rico had an admirable run, defeating Venezuela, Mexico, and Italy to get out of Pool D undefeated. Then, in Pool F, it beat Venezuela again as well as the U.S. and the Dominican Republic to move to the semifinals. It narrowly edged Netherlands 4-3 in the semifinals to get into the finals.

The U.S. lost to the D.R. but beat Canada and Colombia to get out of Pool C. In Pool F, the U.S. lost to Puerto Rico and defeated the D.R again as well as Venezuela. The U.S. took down Japan in the semifinals to advance to the finals to play Puerto Rico.

The U.S. joins Japan (twice, 2006 and ’09) and the Dominican Republic (2013) as countries to win the World Baseball Classic. The 2017 tournament was a rousing success, setting attendance records, drawing over one million fans to ballparks to take in the games. It will hopefully encourage commissioner Rob Manfred and others to make a concerted effort to make the 2021 tournament bigger and better.