Andrew McCutchen claims NL MVP award in landslide

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The Pirates have their first NL MVP since 1992 after Andrew McCutchen received 28 of the 30 first-place votes on Thursday to easily top Arizona’s Paul Goldschmidt for the award.

Goldschmidt finished second with 242 points to McCutchen’s 409. He was second on 15 of the 30 ballots. Yadier Molina finished third with 219 points. He got the two first-place votes that didn’t go McCutchen, both coming from St. Louis Post-Dispatch scribes.

After Molina were Matt Carpenter (194), Freddy Freeman (154), Joey Votto (149), Clayton Kershaw (146), Hanley Ramirez (58), Carlos Gomez (43), Jay Bruce (30), Craig Kimbrel (27) and Shin-Soo Choo (23). Goldschmidt and Gomez were the only players in the top 12 not to be part of a playoff team.

Barry Bonds was the Pirates’ previous MVP, winning in 1990 and 1992. Before that, Willie Stargell was co-MVP with Keith Hernandez in 1979 and Dave Parker won the award in 1978.

McCutchen hit .317/.404/.508 with 21 homers, 84 RBI and 27 steals to lead the Pirates’ on their surprising postseason run last season. He had even better numbers in 2012 (.327/.400/.553, 31 HR, 96 RBI), but he settled for one first-place vote and a third-place finish in the MVP balloting then with the Pirates winning 15 fewer games (79-83 to 94-68).

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.