Jacoby Ellsbury: one play does not an MVP make. Or lose.

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In last night’s Orioles-Red Sox game Robert Andino hit an inside the park homer. Big play. Probably the biggest of the game.  It was a ball that looked like Jacoby Ellsbury was going to catch, but he didn’t.  Here’s the play. It was a great job getting to it, but yeah, you want to see him squeeze that with so much on the line.

But was it more than just an unfortunate play for the Red Sox? Was it the sort of play that changes the character of Ellsbury’s season?  That seems ridiculous, but in a world where people think that his one home run on Sunday night against the Yankees was enough to give him the MVP, it’s inevitable that someone will seize on this one play and make a sweeping pronouncement about it too.

An inevitability borne out on CSNNewEngland last night by Steve Buckley and Lou Merloni, who think that Ellsbury’s failure to catch that ball meant the world.  “Good outfielders make those plays in late September,” Buckley said.  “An All-Star-caliber, American League MVP makes that play,” added Merloni. Here’s the video.

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Note that each of them then agree that, yeah, if the Red Sox make the playoffs, Ellsbury is still their guy.

Call me crazy, but the only thing sillier than saying that the MVP award is contingent on how your team does is saying that it’s contingent on one play among thousands in a six-month-long major league season.  If you subscribe to that notion you’re not giving out an MVP award. You’re giving out a “highlight of the year” award.

It’s a long season. The full season — not just its best and worst moments — matters.  On the basis of the full season an MVP vote for Jacoby Ellsbury is completely defensible. Depending on how much you value his defense compared to Jose Bautista’s, it may actually be compelled. But it’s certainly not something that one play can or should bestow or take away from the guy.

Cards’ Pujols hits 700th career home run, 4th to reach mark

Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports
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LOS ANGELES – St. Louis Cardinals slugger Albert Pujols hit his 700th career home run on Friday night, connecting for his second drive of the game against the Los Angeles Dodgers and becoming the fourth player to reach the milestone in major league history.

The 42-year-old Pujols hit No. 699 in the third inning, then launched No. 700 in the fourth at Dodger Stadium.

With the drive in the final days of his last big league season, Pujols joined Barry Bonds (762 homers), Hank Aaron (755) and Babe Ruth (714) in one of baseball’s most exclusive clubs.

It’s been a remarkable run for Pujols. This was his 14th home run since the start of August for the NL Central-leading Cardinals, and his 21st of the season.

Pujols’ historic homer was a three-run shot against Dodgers reliever Phil Bickford. The ball landed in the first few rows of the left-field pavilion, the same location his two-run shot touched down the previous inning off left-hander Andrew Heaney.

Pujols received a prolonged standing ovation from the crowd – he finished out last season while playing for the Dodgers. He took a curtain call, raising his cap in acknowledgment.

The fans chanted “Pujols! Pujols!” They finally sat down after being on their feet in anticipation of seeing history.

Pujols snapped a tie with Alex Rodriguez for fourth on the list when he hit career homer No. 697 against Pittsburgh on Sept. 11.

Reaching 700 homers seemed like a long shot for Pujols when he was batting .189 on July 4. But the three-time NL MVP started to find his stroke in August, swatting seven homers in one 10-game stretch that helped St. Louis pull away in the division race.

“I know that early in the year … I obviously wanted better results,” Pujols said after he homered in a 1-0 victory over the Chicago Cubs on Aug. 22. “But I felt like I was hitting the ball hard. Sometimes this game is going to take more away from you than the game (is) giving you back.

“So I think at the end of the day you have to be positive and just stay focused and trust your work. That’s something that I’ve done all the time.”

Pujols has enjoyed a resurgent season after returning to St. Louis in March for a $2.5 million, one-year contract. It’s his highest total since he hit 23 homers for the Angels in 2019.

He plans to retire when the season ends.

Pujols also began his career in St. Louis. He was selected by the Cardinals in the 13th round of the 1999 amateur draft and won the 2001 NL Rookie of the Year award.

The Dominican Republic native hit at least .300 with at least 30 homers and 100 RBIs in each of his first 10 seasons. He helped the Cardinals to World Series titles in 2006 and 2011.

He set a career high with 49 homers in 2006 – one of seven seasons with at least 40 homers. He led the majors with 47 homers in 2009 and topped the NL with 42 in 2010.

Pujols left St. Louis in free agency in December 2011, signing a $240 million, 10-year contract with the Angels. He was waived by the Angels in May 2021, and then joined the Dodgers and hit 12 homers and drove in 38 runs in 85 games.