Josh Lueke

Josh Lueke is a rapist. How often does that bear repeating?

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Roy Hobbs said that some mistakes you never stop paying for. Maybe it should be that way. In terms of social stigma, at least, if not in terms of actual punishment. That’s what Rays’ reliever Josh Lueke — who plead down sexual assault charges to a false imprisonment with violence conviction — has learned over the years.

He has learned that no matter how long ago you paid the criminal price for your actions — in his case an extremely light 42 days in jail for what were undeniably odious and criminal actions which can only be logically defined as rape even if they were legally characterized as something less — people may still hold you socially accountable for many more years. This we have come to see with websites, with ballpark signs and with chants by fans whenever he comes into games. We have also seen it in the form of responses to those who would ask that we stop talking about Lueke’s history and instead marvel at how he has “persevered” through “adversity.”

Of late, a number of people have taken to pointing out on Twitter, each and every time Lueke comes into a game, that he is, indeed, a rapist. Of late a number of other people have responded that that first group of people should just drop it already and stop mentioning that fact. They do so less as a defense of Lueke’s tender sensibilities — as far as I’ve seen he ignores it and none of those who wish the matter would be dropped online are actually defending Lueke personally — than as an exclamation of the pointlessness of constantly mentioning it or, in some cases, as a matter of mental fatigue at having to discuss it all again.

It’s an interesting little debate, but one which Stacey Mae Fowles — a rape survivor — sees as not so little at all. Today she writes at Deadspin about why it’s necessary to remind baseball fans of Josh Lueke’s past:

Because most survivors never have the opportunity to name their attackers, I have to disagree with the suggestion that tweeting is a futile endeavor—naming Lueke is most certainly accompanied by its own sense of empowerment. My own fear may prevent me from calling out my attacker in a public forum, but at least I can remind the baseball community that we have failed victims every time Lueke comes up to pitch. The fact that others don’t see it as a meaningful action is entirely meaningless to me. You can volunteer and you can donate money, but the most significant acts when it comes to dismantling a culture that forgives rape is to name those who commit it and support those who endure it. The irritation this man faces each time the chorus of condemnation rises is wholly insignificant when held up against the plight of survivors, and it may be wise for those who dismiss the messages as a “waste of time” to think for a moment that rape victims might have different thoughts on what does and doesn’t constitute a waste of time.

Is it unfair to Lueke? Not in any way I can see. He is not subject to any more criminal sanctions nor, per our Constitution, should he be. But nor is he immune from criticism for his past. And more importantly, nor is society immune from reminders of how poorly we have dealt with rape as a crime, treated some rapists as something less than criminals and done grave disservices to rape victims as people suffering from trauma and often forced to endure more after the crime has already taken place.

I don’t beat the Lueke drum that often because there are plenty of people who do so who are more informed and in a better position to do it. But I don’t begrudge Stacey and anyone else who does.

Go read her post. Read it all before commenting. And think about it a bit before you do.

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.