Howard wins NLCS MVP after record-setting run

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Ryan Howard failed to drive in a run last night for the first time in this year’s playoffs, but it didn’t stop him from being named NLCS MVP after hitting .333/.524/.933 with two homers and eight RBIs in the Phillies’ five-game series win over the Dodgers.
Howard’s streak of consecutive playoff games with an RBI was snapped at eight, which ties him with Lou Gehrig and Alex Rodriguez for the all-time record (pending what A-Rod does tonight).
He also joins the following list of this decade’s NLCS MVP winners:
2009 – Ryan Howard
2008 – Cole Hamels
2007 – Matt Holliday
2006 – Jeff Suppan
2005 – Roy Oswalt
2004 – Albert Pujols
2003 – Ivan Rodriguez
2002 – Benito Santiago
2001 – Craig Counsell
2000 – Mike Hampton
Lots of big names on that list, with the occasional Suppan or Counsell thrown in as a reminder of how unpredictable the playoffs can be. Philadelphia is the first NL team to play in back-to-back World Series since Atlanta in 1995 and 1996, and the NLCS MVPs those two years were Javy Lopez and … Mike Devereaux.

Dan Straily suspended five games, Don Mattingly one for throwing at Buster Posey

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Clark Spencer of the Miami Herald reports that Marlins pitcher Dan Straily has been suspended five games and Don Mattingly one game for throwing intentionally at Giants catcher Buster Posey on Tuesday in San Francisco. Straily plans to appeal his suspension, so he will be allowed to take his normal turn through the rotation until that matter is settled.

Everything started on Monday, when the Marlins rallied in the ninth inning against closer Hunter Strickland. That included a game-tying single from Lewis Brinson, who pumped his fist and yelled in celebration. Strickland took exception, jawing at Brinson who was on third base when the right-hander was taken out of the game. Strickland went into the clubhouse and punched a door, breaking his hand.

The next day, Giants starter Dereck Rodriguez hit Brinson with a fastball, which prompted warnings for both teams. Mattingly came out to argue with the umpires about the fairness of issuing warnings right then and there. On his way back to the dugout, Mattingly apparently said, “You’re next” to Posey, who was standing around home plate. The next inning, Straily hit Posey on the arm with a fastball, which led to immediate ejections for both him and Mattingly.

Neither Rodriguez nor Giants manager Bruce Bochy were reprimanded, which is ludicrous because it was plainly obvious Rodriguez was throwing at Brinson. But neither team had been issued warnings. Essentially, Major League Baseball is giving free reign for teams to get their revenge pitches in. Furthermore, Straily’s five-game suspension is hardly a deterrent for throwing at a hitter. The Marlins could simply give Straily an extra day of rest and it’s like he was never suspended at all.

Beanball wars are bad for baseball. It puts players at risk for obvious reasons. When players have to miss time due to avoidable injury, self-inflicted (in the case of Strickland) or not (if, for example, Posey had a hand or wrist broken from Straily’s pitch), the game suffers because it becomes an inferior product. That’s, of course, second behind the simple fact that throwing at a player is a tremendously childish way to handle a disagreement. When aimed intentionally at another human being, a baseball is a weapon. That’s especially true when it’s in the hands of someone who has been trained to throw anywhere from 90 to 100 MPH.

Commisioner Rob Manfred has spent a lot of time trying to make the game of baseball more appealing, such adding pitch clocks and limiting mound visits. He should spend some time addressing the throwing-at-batters problem.