Mike Trout is unanimous AL Rookie of the Year winner

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There’s plenty of room for debate when it comes to this year’s BBWAA awards, but there was one certainly; despite an historically awesome crop of competitors, Mike Trout would win American League Rookie of the Year honors in a landslide.

The official announcement came Monday, with Trout claiming the top spot on all 28 ballots. Yoenis Cespedes finished second, followed by Yu Darvish in third.

Left out of the mix were pitchers Jarrod Parker (13-8, 3.47  ERA), Wei-Yin Chen (12-11, 4.02 ERA), Tommy Milone (13-10, 3.74 ERA), Ryan Cook 2.09 ERA, 14 Sv), Matt Moore (11-11, 3.81 ERA) and Scott Diamond (12-9, 3.54 ERA), all of whom would have strong threats to finish in the top three most years.

Trout hit .326/.399/.564 with 30 homers and 83 RBI last season despite spending most of the first month in the minors. He finished second in the AL to Miguel Cabrera in both average and OPS. He led the league with 129 runs scored and 49 steals.

It would have been a much more intriguing vote had MLB not restored Trout’s rookie eligibility after it was originally ruled to have expired. Trout spent 38 non-September days on the Angels’ active roster in 2011, which is under the 45-day limit for rookies, but he was credited with an extra 17 days of service time because of a quick recall from the minors following a demotion. MLB correctly decided that the extra service time, while officially part of his record, shouldn’t count against his rookie status.

Next up for Trout is a likely second-place finish to Cabrera in the AL MVP balloting. That announcement got a whole lot more interesting today with the news that the BBWAA will be releasing the individual ballots for each award.

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Update: The BBWAA has released the ballots.

MLB Network airs segment listing “good” and “bad” $100 million-plus contracts

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On Wednesday evening, Charlie Marlow of KTVI FOX 2 News St. Louis posted a couple of screencaps from a segment MLB Network aired about $100 million-plus contracts that have been signed. The list of “bad” contracts, unsurprisingly, is lengthier than the list of “good” contracts.

As Mike Gianella of Baseball Prospectus pointed out, it is problematic for a network owned by Major League Baseball to air a segment criticizing its employees for making too much seemingly unearned money. There’s a very clear conflict of interest, so one is certainly not getting a fair view of the situation. MLB, of course, can do what it wants with its network, but it can also be criticized. MLB Network would never air a similar segment in which it listed baseball’s “good” and “bad” owners and how much money they’ve undeservedly taken. Nor would MLB Network ever run a segment naming the hundreds of players who are not yet eligible for arbitration whose salaries are decided for them by their teams, often making the major league minimum ($545,000) or just above it. Similarly, MLB Network would also never think of airing a segment in which the pay of minor league players, many of whom make under $10,000 annually, is highlighted.

We’re now past the halfway point in January and many free agents still remain unsigned. It’s unprecedented. A few weeks ago, I looked just at the last handful of years and found that, typically, six or seven of the top 10 free agents signed by the new year. We’re still at two of 10 — same as a few weeks ago — and that’s only if you consider Carlos Santana a top-10 free agent, which is debatable. It’s a complex issue, but part of it certainly is the ubiquity of analytics in front offices, creating homogeneity in thinking. A consequence of that is everyone now being aware that big free agent contracts haven’t panned out well; it’s a topic of conversation that everyone can have and understand now. Back in 2010, I upset a lot of people by suggesting that Ryan Howard’s five-year, $125 million contract with the Phillies wouldn’t pan out well. Those people mostly cited home runs and RBI and got mad when I cited WAR and wOBA and defensive metrics. Now, many of those same people are wary of signing free agent first baseman Eric Hosmer and they now cite WAR, wOBA, and the various defensive metrics.

The public’s hyper-sensitivity to the viability of long-term free agent contracts — thanks in part to segments like the aforementioned — is a really bad trend if you’re a player, agent, or just care about labor in general. The tables have become very much tilted in favor of ownership over labor over the last decade and a half. Nathaniel Grow of FanGraphs pointed out in March 2015 that the players’ share of total league revenues peaked in 2002 at 56 percent, but declined all the way to 38 percent in 2014. The current trend of teams signing their talented players to long-term contract extensions before or during their years of arbitration eligibility — before they have real leverage — as well as teams abstaining from signing free agents will only serve to send that percentage further down.

Craig has written at great length about the rather serious problem the MLBPA has on its hands. Solving this problem won’t be easy and may require the threat of a strike, or actually striking. As Craig mentioned, that would mean getting the players all on the same page on this issue, which would require some work. MLB hasn’t dealt with a strike since 1994 and it’s believed that it caused a serious decline in interest among fans, so it’s certainly something that would get the owners’ attention. The MLBPA may also need to consider replacing union head Tony Clark with someone with a serious labor background. Among the issues the union could focus on during negotiations for the next collective bargaining agreement: abolishing the draft and getting rid of the arbitration system. One thing is for sure: the players are not in a good spot now, especially when the league has its own network on which it propagandizes against them.