23-year-old Christian Lopez couldn’t wipe the smile off his face this afternoon. Of course, he was the lucky fan who caught Derek Jeter’s 3,000th hit, a solo home run that landed in the left field seats in the third inning.
Lopez, a Yankees’ fan, attended the game as a gift from his girlfriend. While he could have easily sold the ball for an estimated six figures, Lopez decided to return to the ball to Jeter.
Here was his explanation during an appearance on the YES broadcast of the game, courtesy of the New York Daily News:
“He deserved this,” Lopez said in an interview on the YES Network. “He worked so hard for this. He’s been in the league for so long. I’m not really the kind to take something away from him.
“He earned it.”
While Lopez insisted that he didn’t want anything in return, he hardly walked away empty-handed. He was given four seats in a premium Yankee Stadium suite for the rest of the season – including a potential run at the playoffs and World Series. And according to ESPN New York, he will also get signed baseballs, jerseys and bats, and a chance to meet Jeter.
Not a bad deal, but hasn’t Lopez learned anything from Jeter? He could have dragged out negotiations until they gave him a three-year, $51 million contract with an option for 2014. Sorry, had to do it. In all seriousness, this was a very nice gesture by Lopez and it looks like everybody walked away happy.
In 2016, Red Sox starter Rick Porcello narrowly and controversially eked ahead of then-Tigers starter Justin Verlander in Cy Young Award balloting, winning on points 137 to 132. Verlander was not included at all in the top-five of two ballots, both coincidentally belonging to writers from the Tampa Bay chapter, MLB.com’s Bill Chastain and Fred Goodall of the Associated Press. Verlander had more first-place votes than Porcello, but being left out of the top-five on two ballots was the difference maker.
In the aftermath, Verlander’s then-fiancée Kate Upton fired off some angry tweets, as did Justin’s brother Ben.
Verlander was again in the running for the 2018 AL Cy Young Award. He again finished in second place, this time behind Blake Snell of the Rays. Snell had 17 first-place votes and 169 total points to Verlander’s 13 and 154. There weren’t any ballots that made a big difference like in 2016, but there were two odd ballots from the Tampa Bay chapter again.
If a chapter doesn’t have enough eligible voters, a voter from another chapter is chosen to represent that city. This year, Bill Madden of the New York Daily News was a replacement voter along with Mark Didtler, a freelancer for the Associated Press. Both writers voted for Snell in first place, reasonably. But neither writer put Verlander second, less reasonably, putting Corey Kluber there instead. Madden actually had Verlander fourth behind Athletics reliever Blake Treinen. Didtler had Treinen in fifth place. Two other writers had Verlander in third place: George A. King III of the New York Post and Paul Sullivan of the Chicago Tribune. The other 26 had Verlander in first or second place.
Voting Kluber ahead of Verlander doesn’t make any sense, especially we finally live in a world where a pitcher’s win-loss record isn’t valued highly. Kluber had 20 wins to Verlander’s 16 and pitched one more inning. In every other area, Verlander was better. ERA? Verlander led 2.52 to 2.89. Strikeouts? Verlander led 290 to 222. Strikeout rate? Verlander led 34.8% to 26.4%. Opponent batting average? Verlander led .198 to .222. FIP and xFIP? Verlander led both 2.78 and 3.03 to 3.12 and 3.08, respectively. And while Treinen had an excellent year, Verlander pitched 134 more innings, which is significant.
Upton had another tweet for the occasion: