HBT First-Half Awards: American League MVP

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With no baseball on Wednesday or Thursday, we’re taking stock of the best performances of the first half of the season by handing out midseason awards. Maybe someday we’ll have the budget for an actual Midseason Award Trophy, but for now they merely get our kind and admiring words. Next up: American League MVP.

Aaron Gleeman‘s ballot:

1. Mike Trout, Los Angeles Angels
2. Manny Machado, Baltimore Orioles
3. Josh Donaldson, Toronto Blue Jays

Angels center fielder Mike Trout is the reigning MVP and, in my opinion, also should have won the award in 2012 and 2013. He’s having perhaps his best season yet, leading the league in homers, slugging percentage, and runs scored–and OPS, among players not on the disabled list–while playing an up-the-middle position defensively and playing it well. It just doesn’t get any better in terms of all-around value. We’re seeing something truly special in Trout, who may end this season as the most valuable player in the history of baseball through age 23.

Manny Machado of the Orioles and Josh Donaldson of the Blue Jays are much different players stylistically, but they’re both providing very good offense and elite defense at third base. They narrowly beat out Indians second baseman Jason Kipnis and injured Tigers slugger Miguel Cabrera to round out my top three, with a little nod to the handful of starting pitchers who also warranted strong consideration for their great first halves.

Craig Calcaterra‘s ballot:

1. Mike Trout, Los Angeles Angels
2. Jason Kipnis, Cleveland Indians
3. Manny Machado, Baltimore Orioles

It’s Mike Trout’s world and we’re all just living in it. He’s probably going to win the MVP award again and, like Aaron said, it should probably be his fourth. And contrary to the bizarre anti-Trout narrative so many people feel obligated to perpetuate, saying Trout is the best player in the game does not require one to know the first thing about advanced metrics. He’s leading the league in homers and runs. He’s slugging better than anyone. He has scored more runs and has more total bases than anyone. He plays eye-popping center field. His skills and numbers are such that they would be every bit as understood by an awards voter in 1935 as they are in 2015, and to suggest otherwise makes you sound silly.

Beyond him things get fun. Miguel Cabrera is an all-offense candidate, but a really good one. His calf injury will take him out of the actual MVP conversation — and he doesn’t make my top three here — but one must nonetheless tip their cap to how dang good he was in the first half.

But when it comes to actually casting a ballot, I am an all-around-player partisan, and Jason Kipnis’ all-around game has been second best to only Trout’s this year in the AL in my view. After a sort of slow start he has been astounding at the plate this year while playing a nifty second base while rapping doubles off the wall, walking a heck of a lot for guy with only six homers and playing every dang day. As I wrote yesterday, the Indians aren’t dead yet and have a chance to make some noise in the second half. The fact that they’re not totally dead yet with everything else that has gone wrong has an awful lot to do with Kipnis.

Manny Machado and Josh Donaldson are also having fantastic seasons, of course. But we decided to only go top three, so there we are.

Ex-Angels employee charged in overdose death of Tyler Skaggs

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FORT WORTH, Texas — A former Angels employee has been charged with conspiracy to distribute fentanyl in connection with last year’s overdose death of Angels pitcher Tyler Skaggs, prosecutors in Texas announced Friday.

Eric Prescott Kay was arrested in Fort Worth, Texas, and made his first appearance Friday in federal court, according to Erin Nealy Cox, the U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Texas. Kay was communications director for the Angels.

Skaggs was found dead in his hotel room in the Dallas area July 1, 2019, before the start of what was supposed to be a four-game series against the Texas Rangers. The first game was postponed before the teams played the final three games.

Skaggs died after choking on his vomit with a toxic mix of alcohol and the powerful painkillers fentanyl and oxycodone in his system, a coroner’s report said. Prosecutors accused Kay of providing the fentanyl to Skaggs and others, who were not named.

“Tyler Skaggs’s overdose – coming, as it did, in the midst of an ascendant baseball career – should be a wake-up call: No one is immune from this deadly drug, whether sold as a powder or hidden inside an innocuous-looking tablet,” Nealy Cox said.

If convicted, Kay faces up to 20 years in prison. Federal court records do not list an attorney representing him, and an attorney who previously spoke on his behalf did not immediately return a message seeking comment.