Matt Harvey is the “New York Bureau Chief” for The Players’ Tribune

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We’ve talked about The Players’ Tribune before. That’s the website Derek Jeter has created in order to give athletes a direct platform for publishing their views and stories and things. Some stuff there is good, some stuff not as good. It’s like a lot of outlets. Bonus points for being unique and having some ambition.

One of the more talked-about things regarding The Players’ Tribune in its first few months, however, are the titles given to the athlete contributors. Lots of “editors” and “senior editors” and the like. This despite the fact I seriously doubt Kobe Bryant or whoever is actually doing any editing or management for The Players’ Tribune. Whenever a new post is put up there, some journalists on Twitter will make a crack about the “editor” title claimed by the athlete. I’ve joked around a bit in this regard myself.

But with the latest installment — this one from Mets pitcher Matt Harvey about his year recovering from Tommy John Surgery — I think I have figured out something about how these titles work. I think they’re about the athletes trolling journalists:

source:

“New York City Bureau Chief” is fantastic. Partially because it makes me imagine an actual news bureau of elite athletes someplace in New York, barking at each other like Walter Burns and Hildy Johnson. But mostly because I am coming to believe that the purpose of these titles is to mock actual journalists. The senior editors and columnists who pass judgment on the players by virtue of their positions. I bet a lot of players think very, very little of these guys, and view criticism from a lot of them as mere arguments from presumed authority rather than reasoned critiques. So they’re turning the tables a bit, giving themselves titles and daring the press to mock them. Go follow some reporters on Twitter and you’ll see them quite frequently oblige the athletes in this regard.

Not that it’s some Important Statement. Athletes have better things to do than fight with the media. It’s just some impish table-turning on a group of folks many athletes consider to be annoyances at best, enemies in some cases.

More of this, please. Don’t stop at “Bureau Chief.” I want to see a ballplayer call himself a something-or-other “emeritus” before the end of spring training.

Two injured MVPs is a major bummer for baseball

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Last week Christian Yelich‘s season ended with a fractured kneecap. At the time he went down he was neck-and-neck with Cody Bellinger — I think a tad behind, though people may reasonably differ — and, at least by my reckoning, a hair or three above Anthony Rendon, Ketel Marte and Pete Alonso in the race for the NL MVP Award. As I wrote last week, I think that means Bellinger is going to walk away with the hardware when the winner is announced in November. Yelich’s injury will prevent him from making a late season surge to surpass Bellinger, but I think it would’ve taken a surge for him to do it.

Over the weekend we learned that Mike Trout’s season is over as well. He’ll be having foot surgery to deal with a nerve issue causing him pain. At the time he went down he was the clear frontrunner to win his third MVP Award. Unlike Yelich, I’m pretty sure Trout will still win the trophy. Sure, Trout hasn’t played since September 7, meaning that he’ll miss more time than Yelich will, but strained articles stumping for alternative candidates notwithstanding, his lead in the MVP race was more secure.

Trout’s 2019 ends with him setting a career high in homers with 45 and slugging percentage at .645—both of which lead the American League. He likewise leads the league in on-base percentage (.438), OPS (1.083), and in both Baseball-Reference.com’s and FanGraphs’ versions of WAR at 8.3 and 8.6, respectively. With just under two weeks to go it seems likely that Jorge Soler of the Royals will pass Trout for the home run lead, but he’s not an MVP candidate himself. Alex Bregman will likely pass him in walks. Trout seems pretty certain to finish with his lead in all or most of the other categories intact. That’s an MVP resume even if he’ll only have played in 134 games. To give the award to anyone else would be an exercise in narrative over reason. Something born of a desire to reward a guy — like, say, Bregman — for playing on a winning team as opposed to his individual accomplishments. Sure, voters are allowed to do that, but they’ve mostly eschewed such tendencies in recent years. It’d be a surprise if they backslid.

Even if Yelich’s and Trout’s injuries aren’t likely to radically change the MVP race — again, I think the NL’s was Bellinger’s to lose — they’re both still lamentable separate and apart from the fact that all injuries stink. Lamentable in a way that, unfortunately, creates a downer for baseball as it gets ready for the postseason.

The Brewers won the game in which Yelich went down and have won four of five since then. In so doing they have remained close in the race for the second Wild Card and currently stand one game back. They also have an insanely favorable schedule the rest of the way, exclusively facing the weak sisters of the National League in the Padres, Pirates, Reds and Rockies. Even so, it’s no gimmie — those Reds and Rockies games are on the road, and Great American Ballpark and Coors Field makes those bad teams better — and the reward at the end of this is likely to be a one-game play-in. You want your best player in any and all situations and the Brewers don’t have theirs. And won’t, even if they make the postseason and even if they win the Wild Card game. Having one of the game’s brightest stars on crutches for the playoffs is not something anyone at the league office wants.

The Angels have no such postseason concerns and haven’t had them for most of the season. Once again they’re terrible. As they have been for almost the entirety of Trout’s career. They’ve made the postseason only once in his career — back in 2014, losing the LDS in three games — and do not appear poised to put a winner on the field any time soon. Trout is still in his prime, obviously, but like all players he’ll either slow down or break down eventually. Given the state of the club, I’m not sure I’d put a ton of money on them being good, let alone consistently good, while Trout is still the best or even one of the few best players in baseball. The upside to me seems to be an Al Kaline situation with the Tigers, in which the team finally put it together behind him only after he began to age and miss time to injuries. Having the best player in baseball outside of the playoffs looking in is not something anyone at the league office should want either.

Yet here we are.

Injuries happen. Every contender is missing at least one and in some cases several important players. But for one MVP candidate to miss the postseason this year and another one to miss the postseason every year is a major bummer for a league that has a tough go of it marketing itself even under the best of circumstances.