Ryan Howard got a second place MVP vote. That actually happened.

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It has become ritual for we blogger-types to scan the awards ballots to find the oddities, outliers and outrages of the BBWAA vote, so I dutifully do so now.  No real outrages here.  Any reasonable person figured that Votto, Pujols and maybe — maybe — Carlos Gonzalez were your huckleberries, and they finished 1-2-3.  So to the extent there is any reason to complain here it’s of the “downballot snarking” variety, not the “this is outrageous!” variety. To wit:

  • Ryan Howard got a second place vote, a third place vote a fourth, two fifths, two sixths and a seventh. He’s a poor defensive first baseman who ranked 17th in OPS, yet he beat out Buster Posey on the ballot.  I know he’s a popular player and everything — and I would never say that he’s not a good player — but is there a player in the league for whom there is a greater disconnect between perceived value and actual value?
  • Roy Halladay was sixth. I haven’t thought hard about it, but it sort of feels right.  He didn’t have a case or anything, but I want voters to get back to seriously considering pitchers for the MVP.  There will come a season soon when someone goes, like 24-4 with 300 strikeouts and a low walk total. When he does, I want that guy to win the MVP.
  • Ubaldo Jimenez got a fourth place vote, but no other votes.  No man is an island. Except, that is, for the man who voted Jimenez fourth.
  • Dan Uggla got five votes. I can now officially taunt Marlins fans by saying that the Braves traded Omar Infante and Mike Dunn for an MVP candidate.  Wait, that’s silly. There aren’t any Marlins fans.
  • Deep thought: how can Omar Infante beat Joey Votto onto the All-Star team and not be considered more valuable?!  It’s the All-Star game, people!!
  • Adrian Gonzalez was the highest ranked player who got left off of someone’s ballot.  Voters can pick their top ten. I don’t believe that voters have to vote for ten players, however, so that could explain it. I mean, if a voter figured “top three is all that matters”  it makes sense to leave him off. But if the guy who left off Gonazalez actually voted for ten other dudes, that seems a bit nuts to me. UPDATE: reader Whitakk points out that there were 32 10th-place votes cast, so each voter must have turned in a complete ballot.  So someone didn’t think Gonzalez was top-10 material.  Odd.

Like I said: no basis whatsoever for outrage. Votto deserved it in my view, and there were no atrocities on the ballots.  But it’s fun to talk about it all the same, so we talk.

The Giants are winning but they’re still gonna sell

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The state of baseball in general, the state of the National League in particular and the state of the San Francisco Giants as a competitor are conspiring to create what seems like at least a mildly absurd situation.

The Giants, a veteran-laden team that, as recently as this past offseason but definitely within the past couple of years, were at least talking about being on a win-now footing, just swept a four-game series, have won five straight games and have won 12 of 14 to pull themselves to within two and a half games of a playoff spot.

Yet, that’s all for temporary show, because they’re about to sell off. At least according to Jeff Passan at ESPN. Giants president Farhan Zaidi tried to push back on that in a radio interview yesterday, denying that the club has foreclosed the possibility of a postseason push, but I’m not really buying that and I don’t think most people are.

On one level it makes sense to ignore the recent surge and forge on with a rebuild. Sure, the Giants are winning but they’re not exactly good. They’re two and a half out of the Wild Card, but there are many teams ahead of them. There’s a lot of reason to think that they’re playing in good fortune right now and that that, rather than finding some extra gear of sustainable better play, is what’s to credit. Hot streaks can happen at any time but the trade deadline only comes once a year. When you have the best starter available in Madison Bumgarner and the best reliever available in Will Smith, you gotta make those deals. That’s what I’d probably do if I ran the Giants and I think that that’s, wisely, what Zaidi will do.

Still, it’s an odd look, less for the Giants specifically than for baseball as a whole. We may in an era of cheap front offices who don’t like to contend if it means spending money, but it’s unfair to paint the Giants with that brush. They’ve spent money and acquired talent and have done whatever they can to extend their 2010-2014 mini-dynasty a few more years and in doing so they’ve made a lot of fans happy. That team has pretty much reached the end and, even in an earlier, more competitive era, they’d not be properly criticized for starting in on a rebuild. Heck, they’d be excused if they had done it a year or two earlier, frankly.

But, because so many teams have punted on improving themselves, these aging Giants are at least superficially competitive. As such, when they do sell off in the coming days, it’ll look to some like they’re waving a white flag or something when they’re not really doing that. I mean, the Rockies and the Pirates, among other teams, should be much better than they are but didn’t seem all that interested in improving, thereby helping the Giants look better, right? It’s less a knock on the Giants for rebuilding when they’re within striking distance of the playoffs than it is on the rest of the league for allowing a team like the Giants to be within striking distance of a playoff spot.

But that’s where we are right now. An insanely competitive Wild Card race from teams that, on the whole, are rather unconcerned with being competitive. What a time to be a baseball fan.