The Red Sox were supposed to have three MVP candidates, but it’s down to one now: Jacoby Ellsbury went 4-for-5 with his third homer in six games and four runs scored in Tuesday night’s takedown of the Blue Jays, raising his average to .321.
The 28-year-old Ellsbury is up to fifth in the AL in average, ninth with a .380 OBP and sixth with a .546 slugging percentage. He’s second with 108 runs scored, ninth with 27 homers, ninth with 94 RBI and fourth with 36 steals. He’s now tied with Gonzalez for the AL lead with 321 total bases.
Ellsbury is seven steals behind the Yankees’ Brett Gardner, so it doesn’t look like he’ll become the first player since Ty Cobb with the 1911 Tigers to lead his league in both total bases and steals. However, he’s on pace to become the 18th player in major league history with at least 350 total bases and 30 steals and possibly the 10th to have that many total bases and 40 steals. The last two with 350 total bases and 30 steals were Jimmy Rollins and Hanley Ramirez in 2007. Alfonso Soriano actually did it three times: 2002, 2003 and 2006.
Ellsbury has been particularly amazing since the beginning of July, hitting .346/.403/.651 with 18 homers, 54 RBI and 53 runs scored in 63 games. That’s be 47 homers, 139 RBI and 137 runs on a 162-game pace.
I don’t know if that makes him the AL MVP, but I think he’s joined Jose Bautista and Justin Verlander to form a trio that’s a clear notch above the rest of the pack.
The dust hasn’t quite settled after right-hander Dellin Betances‘ arbitration hearing with the Yankees on Saturday. The case was decided in the team’s favor, awarding Betances with a $3 million salary for the 2017 season instead of the $5 million he initially requested. Yankees’ president Randy Levine held a press conference to voice his outrage over the figure presented by Betances and his agency, saying it had “no bearings in reality” since Betances does not have the elite closer status required for a salary bump of that magnitude.
Needless to say, the comments caused some consternation within Betances’ camp. The reliever publicly addressed the outburst, telling the press that he was prepared to put his differences with the team aside until he heard what Levine had to say. Via MLB.com’s Bryan Hoch:
Players union executive Rick Shapiro and Betances’ agent, Jim Murray, also spoke out in the right-hander’s favor. Shapiro presented Betances’ case during the hearing on Saturday and called Levine’s comments “an absolute disgrace to the arbitration process and to all of Major League Baseball.” In a report from FOX Sports’ Ken Rosenthal, Shapiro added: “The only thing that has been unprecedented in the last 36 hours is that a club official, after winning a case, called a news conference to effectively gloat about his victory – that’s unprecedented.”
Murray spoke exclusively to Rosenthal, accusing the president of effectively bullying the 28-year-old during the arbitration process and claiming that Levine had both mispronounced Betances’ name throughout the hearing and blamed the reliever for “declining ticket sales and their lack of playoff history.” Like Betances, Murray said that the agency was ready to accept the arbiter’s decision and move on before Levine’s decision to air his grievances to the media. “The only person overreaching in this entire situation is Randy,” Murray told Rosenthal. “He might as well be an astronaut because nobody on earth would agree with what he is saying. Even the others in the room would disagree with him.”
Royals’ manager Ned Yost is shaking things up in 2017, starting with left fielder Alex Gordon. Yost told MLB.com’s Jeffrey Flanagan that “every scenario is open,” and expects to utilize Gordon in right and center field this spring while he figures out where to position Jorge Soler and Brandon Moss.
Gordon, 33, hasn’t manned right field since a three-game experiment with the Royals back in 2010 and has yet to play center field during any regular season to date. The focus, however, isn’t on Gordon’s capabilities. Among the three outfielders, he carries the best defensive profile and appears to be the most versatile of the bunch.
According to Flanagan, Soler and Moss are average on defense and will continue working closely with Royals’ coach Rusty Kuntz as the season approaches. One arrangement could see Gordon in center field, flanked by Soler in right field and Moss in left, though Yost foresees Soler taking some reps at DH if his defensive chops aren’t up to snuff.
While Moss is prepared to see starts at either outfield corner, Yost appears to be set on keeping Soler in right field, at least for the time being. The club is hoping for a bounce-back season from the 24-year-old outfielder, who was acquired from the Cubs in December after batting a lackluster .238/.333/.436 and sustaining a slew of minor injuries throughout the 2016 season.