Hunter Pence

Former-Astro Hunter Pence named Astros MVP

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This is fun. The Houston chapter of the Baseball Writers Association of America votes on the Astros MVP every year. And then, later this winter, there’s a banquet held in his honor which also serves as a fundraiser for team charities and as an unofficial kickoff to the 2012 season.  And the winner of the MVP award: Hunter Pence, who was traded from the team in July.

Richard Justice of the Houston Chronicle has a major problem with this, and I can’t see a single word in his column with which I disagree.

Pence was not as valuable to the team overall as Carlos Lee and maybe some other guys who were actually on the team all year instead of half of it.  More to the point, Justice sees the vote as the local writers’ way to embarrass the Astros and team management for their awful year.

But the stuff with which I agree the most is the righteous noise Justice brings regarding the role of the BBWAA in this modern age, it’s increasing irrelevance now that teams have increasingly usurped the news dissemination business — and it is a business — and given that in many instances the best writers covering each team (i.e. the MLB.com beat writers) aren’t even allowed in the BBWAA.  It’s a story of institutional rot, and Justice freakin’ nails it.  And it means way more coming from him on the inside than it means coming from any of us who have said some similar things about it on the outside over the years.

The actual workaday members of the BBWAA — the men and women who cover the teams on a daily basis and vote on the league-wide postseason awards– are, for the most part, a sharp bunch who do their job well and honor the institution to which they belong.  But the greater membership, which contains hundreds of people who haven’t covered the game for years yet still retain Hall of Fame voting rights and play gatekeeper for the overall organization, is a mess. And it leads to stuff like this.

Report: Astros remain in contact with the Athletics on Sonny Gray

OAKLAND, CA - AUGUST 06: Sonny Gray #54 of the Oakland Athletics pitches against the Chicago Cubs during the first inning at the Oakland Coliseum on August 6, 2016 in Oakland, California. (Photo by Jason O. Watson/Getty Images)
Jason O. Watson/Getty Images
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The Astros remain in contact with the Athletics on starting pitcher Sonny Gray, Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports reports. The Astros have added Charlie Morton this offseason, but the club has been trying to add a big-name starting pitcher to put at the top of the rotation behind Dallas Keuchel.

Gray, 27, was limited to 22 starts in the 2016 season due to a forearm issue. His stats left a lot to be desired, as he finished with a 5-11 record, a 5.69 ERA, and a 94/42 K/BB ratio over 117 innings. Considering how Gray pitched in the previous three years, he’s a good bet to bounce back.

Gray is under team control through 2019, which is a big draw for the Astros. Needless to say, the Athletics would want a haul in terms of prospects. Gray will earn $3.575 million in 2017, having avoided arbitration in his first year of eligibility.

President Obama Welcomes the Cubs to the White House

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As we noted last week, The Chicago Cubs took the unusual step of not waiting until the summer after winning the World Series to make their customary White House visit to meet the president. They did it today, seeing President Obama a few short days before he leaves office.

Despite the fact that Obama is a White Sox fan, he met the Cubs with diplomacy and grace. It’s almost as if he’s been in that business for the past eight years. In return, he was given some gifts by the Cubs: Theo Epstein presented Obama with a No. 44 Cubs jersey, a tile from the center field scoreboard at Wrigley Field, and a lifetime pass to Wrigley as well.

Obama is staying in D.C. after he leaves office this week, hanging around so his daughter can finish high school in the same place she started. Even so, he’s likely going to be back to Chicago a good bit over the rest of his life, so he’ll likely be able to put the free pass to work. Assuming it comes with, like, six companion passes for his Secret Service detail.