After being the architect of a team which went from worst to first in the American League East and scored an eventual World Series victory over the Cardinals, Red Sox general manager Ben Cherington has been voted as the Sporting News Executive of the Year.
The award was voted on by a panel of 31 MLB executives prior to the postseason. Cherington was presented with the award tonight at the GM Meetings in Orlando, Florida.
“I’ve always felt this award is about the organization, not the GM,” Cherington told Sporting News. “I understand the GM is receiving it, and I’m happy to receive it, but I’m proud of the organization. This is for everyone who works for us and went through a tough time in 2012, and committed to making things better, getting things right. I’m not sure it was necessarily a World Series outcome we had in mind, but we were fortunate that the people in our clubhouse accomplished great things. It was fun to be a part of.”
Pirates general manager Neal Huntington finished second and had a very strong case for the award, but MLB executives were understandably impressed by Boston’s rapid turnaround. The makeover really began last August when Cherington unloaded the contracts of Adrian Gonzalez, Carl Crawford, and Josh Beckett to the Dodgers, which gave him the flexibility to sign Mike Napoli, Shane Victorino, Koji Uehara, Stephen Drew, Jonny Gomes, Ryan Dempster, and David Ross over the winter. The signings all paid dividends while players who were injured or underperformed in 2012 bounced back. He also acquired Jake Peavy in a midseason deal to fortify the rotation. While Cherington was recognized by his peers for his success this evening, Red Sox manager John Farrell is the odds-on favorite to be named the American League Manager of the Year by the BBWAA tomorrow night.
After 71 years, the Cubs are headed back to the Fall Classic.
The dominance with which Clayton Kershaw attacked the Cubs in Game 2 of the NLCS was nonexistent in Game 6 as the Dodgers’ ace loaded the bases to start the first inning and scattered five extra bases and five runs over five frames. By the time Dave Roberts pulled his starter in the sixth inning, Kershaw was sitting on a Game Score of 33, the lowest he’s mustered since the start of the 2015 season. Only one of his strikes came via curveball, and whether he was having difficulty locating his off-speed stuff or felt more confident with the fastball-slider combo, it was the fewest curves he’d seen land for strikes all year (per David Adler).
Where the Dodgers were able to give Kershaw the edge in Game 2, they found themselves powerless against opposing hurler Kyle Hendricks. Hendricks turned out 7 1/3 scoreless frames with two hits and six strikeouts, preserving the Cubs’ second shutout of the postseason and the first since they bested the Giants in Game 1 of the NLDS. After his 1-0 loss to the Dodgers early in the NLCS, seeing the MLB ERA leader turn out a gem was a relief for the Cubs, especially one as spectacular as an 88-pitch two-hitter.
With Hendricks effectively stymieing the Dodgers’ best attempts to get on base, the Cubs played to their strengths at the plate. Kris Bryant and Ben Zobrist cleared the bases in the first inning for a two-run lead, followed by a Dexter Fowler RBI single in the second. Willson Contreras came through in the fourth inning for the Cubs, lifting an 87 m.p.h. slider to left field for his first home run of October, while Anthony Rizzo hit his second homer of the postseason on a 1-1 fastball in the fifth.
Neither bullpen allowed a single run from the sixth inning onward. Dodgers’ right-hander Kenley Jansen took the ball from Kershaw in the sixth, scattering four strikeouts over three innings and denying the Cubs so much as a single baserunner through the end of the game. Aroldis Chapman, meanwhile, issued just one walk in 1 1/3 scoreless frames, inducing a Yasiel Puig double play to clinch the Cubs’ 17th franchise pennant.
With the win, the Cubs will face off against the Indians in Game 1 of the World Series on Tuesday at 8 PM EDT. And, in case you needed a reminder:
So much for Clayton Kershaw posing a threat tonight. The Cubs got their knocks in early and often against the Dodgers’ ace during Game 6 of the NLCS, racking up three runs in the first three innings before rookie catcher Willson Contreras unleashed his first postseason home run in the bottom of the fourth inning.
According to MLB.com’s Phil Rogers, Contreras became the 10th Cub to homer in the 2016 playoffs, following big hits by Addison Russell, Anthony Rizzo, Dexter Fowler, Miguel Montero, David Ross, Jake Arrieta, Kris Bryant, Travis Wood, and Javier Baez. Of the ten home run hitters, Contreras joins catchers David Ross and Miguel Montero as yet another backstop capable of driving the long ball (and, less importantly, as another player capable of a sweet, sweet bat flip).
Rizzo, whose last homer was a deep drive to right field off of Los Angeles right-hander Pedro Baez in Game 4 of the NLCS, piled on Kershaw’s five-run outing with another home run in the bottom of the fifth inning. Kershaw called it a night after five frames, and the Cubs currently lead the Dodgers 5-0 in the sixth inning.