The BBWAA honors Bill Conlin; shoots down cool idea for a reliever award

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The Baseball Writers Association of America had their big annual meeting this morning.  Two things of note happened:

  • The writers honored Philly writer Bill Conlin with the J.G. Taylor Spink Award.  This is what people refer to when they say that someone has been elected to the “writer’s wing of the Hall of Fame.”  There is no wing. There’s a plaque. Good for Conlin, but I’d be lying if I said that his baseball writing over the past couple of decades was Hall of Fame worthy. Oh well, not my club.
  • A proposal by Jayson Stark to make an end-of-year award for relief pitchers was rejected.

I hadn’t thought about a reliever award much until I just heard Stark talking about it to someone, but I think it’s a great idea.  The one objection people have offered to it is that it would turn into an award to the saves leader or something, further glorifying an all-too-glorified statistic, but I disagree. Look what the end-of-year award debates have done for pitchers wins.  When there are stakes to it, thinking gets focused and progress is made. At least recently. Just ask Felix Hernandez, Zack Greinke and Tim Lincecum.

Oh well. Neat idea, Mr. Stark. I bet it happens eventually. I bet they name it the Mariano Rivera Award.

Astros push ALCS to Game 7 with 7-1 stunner against Yankees

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There’s just something about playing in your home ballpark. The Astros decimated the Yankees at Minute Maid Park on Friday, riding seven scoreless innings from Justin Verlander and a pair of big runs from Jose Altuve to win 7-1 and force a Game 7 in the American League Championship Series.

Through the first four innings, however, the teams looked equally matched. Luis Severino no-hit the Astros through 3 2/3 innings, losing his bid on Carlos Correa‘s line drive single in the fourth. The Astros returned in the fifth to do some real damage, drawing two walks and plating the first run of the night with Brian McCann‘s ground-rule double off of the right field wall. Things didn’t get any easier for Severino. Jose Altuve lined a two-RBI base hit into left field, upping Houston’s advantage to three runs.

Verlander, meanwhile, muted the Yankees’ offense with seven innings of five-hit, eight-strikeout ball. While he didn’t come close to matching his complete game effort in Game 2, he was still plenty dominant against a struggling New York lineup. No player reached past first base until the sixth inning, when a pair of base hits from Chase Headley and Didi Gregorius gave the Yankees their first runner in scoring position. That didn’t last long, though, as Gary Sanchez grounded out on a 3-0 slider to end the inning.

In the seventh, Houston’s ace got into another spot of trouble. He walked Greg Bird on six pitches to start the inning, then plunked Starlin Castro on the wrist. Aaron Hicks struck out, in part thanks to a questionable call by home plate umpire Jim Reynolds, but it was Todd Frazier who presented the biggest threat after returning an 0-1 fastball for a 403-foot fly out to left field. Luckily for Verlander, George Springer was there to bail him out with a leaping catch at the wall.

The Yankees kept things exciting in the eighth, too. Aaron Judge ripped his third postseason home run off of Brad Peacock, taking a 425-footer out to the train in left field to spoil the Astros’ shutout. That was the only real break the Yankees got, however, as Altuve, Alex Bregman and Evan Gattis returned in the bottom of the inning to tack on another four runs, including Altuve’s solo shot off of David Robertson:

Ken Giles handled the ninth, expending 23 pitches and giving up a base hit and a walk before retiring Frazier and Headley to end the game. Thanks to Houston’s winning efforts, the two teams will compete in their first seven-game Championship Series since 2004 — and this time, at least one of them is guaranteed to come away with a win.

Game 7 of the ALCS is set for Saturday at 8:00 PM ET. Houston right-hander Charlie Morton (14-7, 3.62 ERA) is scheduled to face southpaw CC Sabathia (14-5, 3.69 ERA).