First-quarter awards: NL Rookie of the Year

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heyward swinging.jpgA one-man race, right? Jason Heyward was practically handed the award a couple of weeks into the season, and though he’s hit a bit of a rough patch over the last week, he’s still batting an exceptional .274/.399/.540 with 28 RBI. That’s definitely Rookie of the Year material.
But what no one expected was that there’d be a pitching equivalent: Jaime Garcia has been a revelation for the Cardinals, opening the season 4-2 with a 1.42 ERA that ranks second in the National League.
Let’s take a look at the legitimate candidates at the quarter pole:
Jason Heyward: .274/.399/.548, 8 HR, 28 RBI in 113 AB
Gaby Sanchez: .294/.386/.468, 4 HR, 18 RBI in 126 AB
David Freese: .305/.378/.458, 3 HR, 24 RBI in 131 AB
Ian Desmond: .279/.326/.443, 3 HR, 18 RBI in 122 AB
Jaime Garcia: 4-2, 1.42 ERA, 36/16 K/BB in 44 1/3 IP
Mike Leake: 4-0, 3.09 ERA, 33/20 K/BB in 46 2/3 IP
Jonathon Niese: 1-2, 4.79 ERA, 33/18 K/BB in 41 1/4 IP
Hisanori Takahashi: 3-1, 3.12 ERA, 33/14 K/BB in 26 IP
This isn’t to say that John Ely, Ike Davis and others won’t factor in later, but given their limited action to date, they don’t have a real case for any honors right now.
Heyward and Garcia are still the obvious standouts, with Leake, Sanchez and Freese next in line. That Freese plays the tougher defensive position (albeit not quite as well) and has the bigger RBI total probably gives him a bit of an edge over Sanchez as the No. 2 hitter.
Leake, with six quality starts in seven tries, is a big reason the Reds are a half-game in front of the Cardinals at the moment. Still, his numbers don’t measure up with Garcia’s.
So, Heyward versus Garcia. Heyward has been the big bat in an Atlanta outfield that’s been otherwise totally void of power the last couple of years. He’s leading the team in both homers and RBI. He’s getting on base at an excellent clip, playing fine defense in right field and handling lefties about as well as righties. He’s pretty much the perfect rookie, and the Braves would be lost without him.
That said, Garcia has been even better to date. He’s gone at least six innings in all seven of his starts and allowed more than two runs just once — and those extra two he gave up in the one “poor” start were both unearned. The Cardinals are just 4-3 in his outings, but that’s because they’ve scored a total of two runs in the losses. He’s second in not only the NL in ERA, but also the majors as a whole.
That makes Garcia the choice in my book. Heyward remains the heavy favorite to be the NL Rookie of the Year, of course. Garcia not only isn’t this good, but he’s also a significant injury risk. Still, for a quarter of the season, he’s been one of baseball’s top performers.
First quarter NL ROY
1. Garcia
2. Heyward
3. Leake

Mets GM Brodie Van Wagenen has kissed Rob Manfred’s ring

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Let’s take a trip back to early last February. The hot stove season was as cold as ice. Despite spring training being less than two weeks away, scores of players remained unsigned and rumblings emerged that, perhaps, collusion was to blame.

The players were frustrated and there were reports that they were approaching the union to ask what, if anything, they could do about it. Some suggested some sort of wildcat strike or work slowdown or whatever. None of that seemed feasible or legal, but guys were getting desperate. And not just players. One agent, Brodie Van Wagenen of CAA, took to Twitter to suggest something novel along these lines: a potential spring training boycott:

There is a rising tide among players for radical change. A fight is brewing. And it may begin with one, maybe two and, perhaps, 1,200 willing to follow. A boycott of Spring Training may be a starting point if behavior doesn’t change.

There was a lot more to that — Van Wagenen issued a whole statement attached to his tweet taking the owners to task and clearly implying that he believed the owners were acting less-than-scrupulously — but I can’t remember what it said and I can’t check because, at some point between then and now, Van Wagenen deleted it.

Probably because he is now the general manager of the New York Mets, putting him on the side of management, not players. Probably because he now, ultimately, answers to Rob Manfred. The same Rob Manfred, Ken Davidoff of the New York Post reports, met with Van Wagenen at the just-concluded owners meetings down in Atlanta.

Based on Davidoff’s report — which deals specifically with Van Wagenen’s February tweet — it sounds like they have come to an . . . understanding about it all. Manfred:

“Brodie called me right after he accepted the job,” Manfred said during a news conference. “We had a really good conversation. I think that he understands the concerns that a comment like that raises amongst our group. But I have every confidence that he’s going to conduct himself in a way that will make him a really productive member of the baseball family.”

“Don Corleone, I am honored and grateful that you have invited me to your daughter… ‘s wedding… on the day of your daughter’s wedding. And I hope their first child be a masculine child. I pledge my ever-ending loyalty,” Van Wagenen did not add but may as well have.