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MLB Players Alumni Association announces “Heart and Hustle Award” nominees

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The MLB Players Alumni Assocation announced its annual “Heart and Hustle Award” preliminary winners today. The award is given to one player from each team “who demonstrates a passion for the game of baseball and best embody the values, spirit, and tradition of the game.”

The voters are alumni players with established relationships to each team. The nominees consider the player’s “passion, desire and work ethic demonstrated both on and off the field.” The team winners are all nominees for the overall “Heart and Hustle Award” given in November. Last year’s winner was Todd Frazier.

The team winners for 2017 are:

AMERICAN LEAGUE

NATIONAL LEAGUE

This award has drawn some criticism in the past for playing into old tired stereotypes of what constitutes “heart” and “hustle.” Specifically, old cliches about how it’s the gritty white dudes who worked hard while black and Latino players were more “naturally gifted” and, often, were accused of being lazy loafers (David Eckstein was the first winner, natch). It’s crazy that such assumptions still linger among those who talk about sports, but they do.

In 2015, 22 of the 30 Heart and Hustle winners were white Americans. Last year 21 of the nominees were, meaning that 26.7% of nominees were people of color, foreign born or both. This year 19 of the 30 are. People of color comprised 42.5% of Opening Day rosters. It’s obviously not the MLBPAA’s job to fill some quota — and things are improving slowly — but it’s probably worth observing that the old “hustle” tropes continue to apply to white Americans a bit more liberally than to others.

On a night full of letdowns, Yankees’ defense let them down the most

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Game 4 of the ALCS was a gigantic letdown for the Yankees for myriad reasons. They lost, first and foremost, 8-3 to the Astros to fall behind three games to one. Their fans continued to act boorishly. CC Sabathia exited with an injury, likely the final time he’ll pitch in his career. The offense went 0-for-7 with runners in scoring position.

The biggest letdown of the night, though, was the Yankees’ defense. They committed four errors, their highest total in a postseason game since committing five errors in Game 2 of the 1976 ALCS.

Make no mistake: the two three-run home runs hit by George Springer and Carlos Correa, given up by Masahiro and Chad Green respectively, were the big blows in the game. But the errors contributed to the loss and were downright demoralizing.

The first error came at the start of the top of the sixth inning, when Alex Bregman hit a cue shot to first baseman DJ LeMahieu. LeMahieu couldn’t read the bounce and the ball clanked off of his knee, allowing Bregman to reach safely. He would score later in the inning on Correa’s blast.

The Yankees committed two errors in the top of the eighth, leading to a run. Yuli Gurriel hit another grounder to LeMahieu, which he couldn’t handle. That not only allowed Gurriel to reach safely, but Bregman — who led off with a double — moved to third base. He would score when second baseman Gleyber Torres couldn’t handle a Yordan Álvarez grounder.

Error number four occurred when Altuve hit a grounder to Torres to lead off the top of the ninth. The ball skipped right under his glove. Facing Michael Brantley, Jonathan Loaisiga uncorked a wild pitch which advanced Altuve to second base. Brantley followed up with a line drive single to left field, plating Altuve for another run. Loaisiga would throw another wild pitch facing Bregman but that one didn’t come back to haunt him.

The Yankees can’t control injuries, the behavior of their fans, or how good the Astros’ pitching is on any given night. They can control the quality of their defense. On Thursday, it was a farce, and now they’re staring down the barrel of having to win three consecutive games against the Astros to stave off elimination.