Mike Cuellar pitch

Jim Palmer thinks Mike Cuellar lost the 1970 Cy Young Award because of racism


I didn’t watch the Orioles game last night — so someone please tell me if this is inaccurate — but a reader passes along a bit of byplay between Gary Thorne and Hall of Famer Jim Palmer, the color man.  The subject: Mike Cuellar. The issue: why he didn’t win the 1970 Cy Young. Palmer thinks he knows:

Trivia Question: Who was the first Oriole to win the Cy Young Award?

Answer: Mike Cuellar, 1969

Jim Palmer: He should have won two years, 1969 he shared it with Denny McLain, and the next year, how about going 24-8, and you don’t even get a third place vote from one of your beat writers, because you’re not a good interview, because you’re from Cuba and you speak Spanish.

Gary Thorne: Was that the reason given?  Did the writer actually say that?

Palmer: No, but that’s what happened.

Thorne: Oh, okay. Well, I’m not doubting you.

Palmer: 24-8, and you don’t get a third place vote.  Not a second place vote, not a first place vote.  Jim Perry won that year.

Hurm.  Apparently the anti-Cuban bias disappeared for 1969 when Cuellar shared the award with Denny McLain and returned to bite Cuellar the following season.

I’m also sure his snub had nothing to do with the fact that Dave McNally and Palmer himself each also won 20+ games, thereby splitting the vote with their teammate Cuellar in a way that few award votes have ever been so effectively split. Indeed, Palmer himself would have been a better choice than Cuellar that year.

And I’m sure that it had nothing to do with the fact that, won-loss record aside, 1970 was a major step back for Cuellar compared to his 1969 — his ERA was up more than a full run, to a very-average-for-1970 3.48 — and voters often move on to a new face the next year. Especially faces that don’t have the league-leading run support the 1970 Orioles starters had.

Finally, I’m sure it had nothing to with the fact that, quite simply, Jim Perry had a better year than Cuellar did. Perry walked fewer guys, allowed fewer base runners and allowed half-a-run fewer earned runs per game.

Know who really got boned in 1970? Sam McDowell. Dude struck out over 300 guys, pitched more innings, gave up fewer hits and had a lower ERA than Cuellar or Perry. Unfortunately, America had not yet moved beyond its anti-Yinzer prejudice and McDowell — like so many Pennsylvanians before him — suffered because of society’s ignorance.

Palmer may be right that the Baltimore writer he specifically mentioned had something against Cuellar. I have no idea. But it sure as hell didn’t cost him the 1970 Cy Young Award.

Blue Jays narrow GM search to two candidates: Tony LaCava and Ross Atkins

Tony LaCava
AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee

Jon Heyman of CBS Sports reports that the Blue Jays have narrowed their search for a new general manager down to two candidates: current interim GM Tony LaCava, and Indians vice president of player personnel Ross Atkins. Former Jays GM Alex Anthopoulos resigned last month.

LaCava was promoted to interim GM on November 2 and has already made a handful of moves along with new president Mark Shapiro. The club acquired Jesse Chavez in a trade and signed pitchers Marco Estrada and J.A. Happ to multi-year deals.

Atkins worked under Shapiro in the Indians organization for 15 seasons, so it is no surprise that he is a finalist for the open GM position.

The Diamondbacks met with Johnny Cueto’s agent

AP Photo/David Goldman
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Update (7:58 PM EST): Nick Piecoro of the Arizona Republic reports that Diamondbacks GM Dave Stewart met with Cueto earlier this month in the Dominican Republic and made a contract offer that the right-hander turned down. The Diamondbacks maintain interest in the free agent.


Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports reports that the Diamondbacks spoke with Bryce Dixon, the agent of free agent starter Johnny Cueto. However, Rosenthal notes that Cueto’s price tag is expected to exceed the Diamondbacks’ comfort level.

Cueto, 29, is one of a handful of highly touted starting pitchers in this offseason’s free agent class. He is joined by David Price and Zack Greinke, among others. Jordan Zimmermann inked a deal in the neighborhood of $110 million over five years with the Tigers on Sunday morning, which will serve as a barometer for Cueto.

Cueto finished the 2015 regular season, between the Reds and the Royals, with a 3.44 ERA and a 176/46 K/BB ratio over 212 innings. He made 13 shaky starts with the Royals, but outside of a shellacking in Game 3 of the ALCS against the Blue Jays, pitched well in the post-season. Cueto pitched a complete game in Game 2 of the World Series against the Mets, helping put the Royals up two games to none at the time.

As a result of switching teams during the season, Cueto was not eligible to receive a $15.8 million qualifying offer. This means that Cueto, unlike Zimmermann for example, does not come attached with draft pick compensation.

Red Sox president Dave Dombrowski is reportedly trying to trade Hanley Ramirez

Hanley Ramirez
AP Photo/Charles Krupa, File

Nick Cafardo provides this interesting nugget in his Sunday notes column at the Boston Globe

Hanley Ramirez, 1B-DH, Red Sox — There’s now talk in the front office that Dave Dombrowski is trying to move Ramirez in a deal. The Mariners, Orioles, and Angels seem to be the targets, and all three make sense.

Cafardo notes that “there are huge hurdles to cross” before a trade could happen — like how much of Hanley’s remaining salary the Red Sox would have to eat and what positions the soon-to-be 32-year-old is able to play defensively at this point in his career.

Boston’s higher-ups have asked Ramirez to learn first base and drop 20 pounds this winter. Whatever team is looking to acquire him would probably have to be comfortable with him serving primarily as a designated hitter.

Hanley is owed $68.2 million over the next three seasons and he carries a $22 million vesting option for 2019. He batted just .249/.291/.426 in 105 games this past year.

Ben Zobrist is the “Mets’ No. 1 target”

Ben Zobrist
AP Photo/Charlie Riedel

Ben Zobrist posted a cool .809 OPS (120 OPS+) in 126 games this summer between Oakland and Kansas City while appearing defensively at second base, third base, and both corner outfield positions.

His steady bat and defensive versatility make him a fit for just about every club in Major League Baseball, and the defending National League champions are among the teams in hot pursuit …

It’s a little odd to see the rebuilding Braves listed there given that Zobrist is 34 years old, but Rosenthal says the interest stems from a “desire for him to serve as [a] model for younger players” as the club prepares to open a new ballpark in 2017. Wasn’t that supposed to be Nick Markakis‘ job?

Zobrist and his agent Alan Nero are believed to be seeking a four-year deal.