Ron Washington, Joe West, Angel Hernandez

Joe Torre talks about umpires, makes very little sense

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Joe Torre was on Colin Cowherd’s radio show yesterday. The topic of discussion: Umpires Gone Wild. Or, rather, the recent dustups between Joe West’s crew and, well, everyone.

Now to be clear, Joe Torre has a tough job here. He has his job mostly because he’s a respected figure who players and coaches and stuff won’t second guess when he metes out discipline or proposes change. He’s been there, and has legitimacy in that world, with those people.

The umpire stuff is a bit different, however, in that they probably view him as the guy they argued with for years, and who may not appreciate their job in an objective fashion. And of course, there’s an entire overlay of labor/union issues with umpires that, if Torre is able to deftly manage, it’s because he picked it up someplace else other than in Major League dugouts for the past 50 years or so.  In light of that, it’s understandable if he treads a bit more carefully when he’s asking about umpiring than if he’s asked about, say, player discipline.

With that caveat, however, can we still agree that this exchange, with Cowherd asking the question and Torre answering, makes no sense:

Do you believe we should tweak the system where a bad umpire in baseball can be demoted?

“I think certainly there is a responsibility with umpires. They are all aware of that. If we find that responsibility isn’t being lived up to then we address it. Does that mean are you going to say that you are going to be fired? No. I think you have to find a number of ways to try to fix it especially if you feel the umpire is talented and I know you are talking about the issue of temperament and stuff like that. In that temperament, the only way, and I’m not trying to be the authority on this, but I managed for 20 years and if you have a player who can sometimes be a problem because of his temperament, but he has a great deal of ability and he can help your club win ball games you gotta try and find a way to make it fit. That’s where I am with the umpires as far as what we can and can’t do? That remains to be seen, but we certainly are aware of it and we are working on it.”

Actually, ballplayers really aren’t given as much latitude when it comes to temperament as people like to think. Sure, as long as they’re producing at a super elite level they’re OK, but the minute they drop off, baseball players with bad attitudes or baggage get shuttled out of the game a bit more quickly than their skill sets might otherwise call for.

But even if that wasn’t true, the comparison between umpires and players in this regard is not an apt one. There are scores, maybe hundreds, of outstanding umpires throughout minor league baseball who could call balls and strikes and safe vs. out just as good if not better than the guys in the majors. Yes, there’s a promotion system like there is with players, but it’s nowhere near the meritocracy that it is for players, as there are so few jobs at the top and so little turnover.

Put simply: there is a huge supply of competent umpiring talent just waiting for the chance to move up, and nowhere near the chasm between the talented and the not-as-talented in the umpire ranks as there is in the player ranks.  In light of that, baseball should be even less tolerant of umps with attitude issues, not more.  They should be treated as what they are: replaceable. At least within reason.

What’s on Tap: Previewing Thursday’s action

BALTIMORE, MD - SEPTEMBER 18:  Manny Machado #13 of the Baltimore Orioles celbrates hitting a solo home run in the sixth inning during a baseball game against the against the Tampa Bay Rays at Oriole Park at Camden Yards on September 18, 2016 in Baltimore, Maryland.  The Orioles won 2-1.  (Photo by Mitchell Layton/Getty Images)
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With each division now spoken for, our attention now turns to the Wild Card races. The Blue Jays hold a one-game lead over the Orioles for the first Wild Card slot in the American League while the Orioles have a one-game lead over the Tigers for the second slot. The Jays and O’s will do battle on Thursday night and each of the four other teams alive in the AL Wild Card race are rooting for the Jays to win. The Yankees and Astros can both be eliminated from Wild Card contention if the Orioles win one more game or if they each lose one more game. The Mariners are also active in the Wild Card hunt, currently two games behind the Orioles.

Over in the National League, the Giants have a one-game lead over the Cardinals for the second Wild Card slot. The Giants get to play the Rockies while the Cardinals face the lowly Reds. The Mets, who currently own the first Wild Card slot, have the night off.

Asterisks denote that the game is relevant to the Wild Card.

The rest of Thursday’s action…

*Boston Red Sox (Henry Owens) @ New York Yankees (CC Sabathia), 7:05 PM EDT

Chicago Cubs (Rob Zastryzny) @ Pittsburgh Pirates (Ivan Nova), 7:05 PM EDT

*Baltimore Orioles (Ubaldo Jimenez) @ Toronto Blue Jays (Marcus Stroman), 7:07 PM EDT

Philadelphia Phillies (Jeremy Hellickson) @ Atlanta Braves (Josh Collmenter), 7:10 PM EDT

*Cincinnati Reds (Dan Straily) @ St. Louis Cardinals (Alex Reyes), 7:15 PM EDT

Minnesota Twins (Kyle Gibson) @ Kansas City Royals (Danny Duffy), 7:15 PM EDT

Tampa Bay Rays (Chris Archer) @ Chicago White Sox (Jose Quintana), 8:10 PM EDT

Los Angeles Dodgers (Julio Urias) @ San Diego Padres (Christian Friedrich), 9:10 PM EDT

*Oakland Athletics (Kendall Graveman) @ Seattle Mariners (Ariel Miranda), 10:10 PM EDT

*Colorado Rockies (Jon Gray) @ San Francisco Giants (Johnny Cueto), 10:15 PM EDT

Who should win the MVP Awards? Who will?

CHICAGO, IL - SEPTEMBER 20:  Kris Bryant #17 of the Chicago Cubs bats during the second inning against the St. Louis Cardinals at Wrigley Field on September 20, 2015 in Chicago, Illinois. The Cardinals defeated the Cubs 4-3. (Photo by John Konstantaras/Getty Images)
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With the regular season ending on Sunday and most of the playoff spots locked up, there’s really only one big thing left to argue about: postseason awards. So let’s spend some time looking at who should win each of the four major awards and who will win them. Which are often totally different things. First up: The MVP Awards. 

Who should win the AL MVP Award? 

We at HBT have tended to lean toward the idea that the best player should win the MVP Award, regardless of whether his team wins or not. It’s not an iron-clad thing, of course. In the past I’ve supported some more narrative-driven MVP candidates and, more importantly, deciding who is “the best player” in an objective sense is not always a cut-and-dried endeavor. Defense is an inexact science. Players often have competing apples and oranges arguments for their candidacies.

If you look at “best overall player” this year, however, it’s hard to say that Mike Trout and his line of .318/.441/.556 with 29 homers and his usual solid-to-outstanding center field defense is not that guy. Yes, his team stinks, and no, his 2016 season isn’t head and shoulders above any number of his other excellent seasons, making him a less-than-sexy choice in a lot of ways. But it’s hard to stand head and shoulders above uniform excellence and no matter what you think of stuff like WAR and all that goes into it, Trout has a 1.5 WAR lead over Mookie Betts according to FanGraphs and 1.3 according to Baseball Reference. It’s a pretty significant separation, especially when you realize that, dang, Betts is having a whale of a season himself (.320/.365/.538).

Still, Trout isn’t a unanimous pick even with the HBT team, which has it this way:

Craig: Trout
Bill: Trout
Ashley: Betts

Who will win the AL MVP Award?

There has been a lot of talk about Betts and his teammate, David Ortiz, splitting the vote, as it were. Maybe that was a thing that happened more often back in the day when narrative-driven awards were more common, but I think today’s BBWAA voters are way more savvy than that. I think that Ortiz will get some votes thrown his way by virtue of his outstanding offensive season (.316/.401/.622, 37 HR, 124 RBI) and the storybook ending to his career, but I think Betts will ultimately carry the day with the better overall and all-around performance. MVP PREDICTION: MOOKIE BETTS.

Who should win the NL MVP Award?

There are a lot of guys putting up years that, under different circumstances, would be MVP worthy. Kris Bryant, Anthony Rizzo, Freddie Freeman, Nolan Arenado, Daniel Murphy, Joey Votto and Corey Seager are all having outstanding campaigns. Most of them are bunched up as far as WAR goes, more so with Baseball-Reference.com’s version, a little less so with FanGraphs. Bryant leads both versions and is putting up outstanding offensive numbers. Murphy, Freeman and Votto are hitting a tad better than him depending on how you measure it, but have less defensive value. Seager’s mix of defense and offense may be closer to what Bryant is doing, although Arenado might have something to say about that. There are a lot of good choices.

Bryant is the best choice, however. His hitting — .293/.387/.560, 39 HR, 101 RBI — is better than the other all-around candidates and his defensive versatility — he’s played all three outfield positions as well as his usual third base — sets him apart. He’s been the best player in the NL this year.

Craig: Bryant
Bill: Bryant
Ashley:Bryant

Who will win the NL MVP Award?

This is one of those years where I suspect our views will match that of the voters. MVP PREDICTION: Bryant, possibly unanimously.