Edwin Díaz, Josh Hader named Relievers of the Year

Edwin Diaz
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Mariners closer Edwin Díaz and Brewers left-handed reliever Josh Hader were selected as the recipients of the AL and NL Reliever of the Year awards, Major League Baseball announced Saturday. It marked the first time either pitcher had received the distinction.

Díaz, 24, completed his first All-Star campaign with the Mariners in 2018. He earned league-best totals with 57 saves and 65 games finished, and placed second only to Athletics closer Blake Treinen with a 1.96 ERA and 3.5 fWAR across 73 1/3 innings, both career-high marks. Not only was he the second-ever pitcher to record 50+ saves and 100+ strikeouts in a single major-league season, but his 57 saves also established a new all-time record for most saves by a Puerto Rican pitcher in MLB, edging out the 43-save record Roberto Hernández set with the Rays in 1999.

Hader, also just 24 years old, rounded out his second season in the majors with a 2.43 ERA, 12 saves, and career-best 2.7 fWAR in 81 1/3 innings. His 143 strikeouts were the most among any reliever in the majors, and the most by a left-handed reliever in any MLB season, too. The lefty’s stellar year on the mound still has a shadow hanging over it, however, as he found himself at the center of considerable controversy in July when a number of racist, homophobic, and misogynistic tweets were uncovered during the All-Star Game, for which the Brewers ultimately decided not to issue a formal punishment.

Until 2018, neither the Mariners nor the Brewers had seen a single pitcher receive the Mariano Rivera AL Reliever of the Year and Trevor Hoffman NL Reliever of the Year awards, respectively. The Red Sox’ Craig Kimbrel and Dodgers’ Kenley Jansen took home the awards in 2017.

Biden praises Braves’ ‘unstoppable, joyful run’ to 2021 win

Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports
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WASHINGTON — President Joe Biden said the Atlanta Braves will be “forever known as the upset kings of October” for their improbable 2021 World Series win, as he welcomed the team to the White House for a victory celebration.

Biden called the Braves’ drive an “unstoppable, joyful run.” The team got its White House visit in with just over a week left before the 2022 regular season wraps up and the Major League Baseball playoffs begin again. The Braves trail the New York Mets by 1.5 games in the National League East but have clinched a wildcard spot for the MLB playoffs that begin Oct. 7. Chief Executive Officer Terry McGuirk said he hoped they’d be back to the White House again soon.

In August 2021, the Braves were a mess, playing barely at .500. But then they started winning. And they kept it up, taking the World Series in six games over the Houston Astros.

Biden called their performance of “history’s greatest turnarounds.”

“This team has literally been part of American history for over 150 years,” said Biden. “But none of it came easy … people counting you out. Heck, I know something about being counted out.”

Players lined up on risers behind Biden, grinning and waving to the crowd, but the player most discussed was one who hasn’t been on the team in nearly 50 years and who died last year: Hall of Famer Hank Aaron.

Hammerin’ Hank was the home run king for 33 years, dethroning Babe Ruth with a shot to left field on April 8, 1974. He was one of the most famous players for Atlanta and in baseball history, a clear-eyed chronicler of the hardships thrown his way – from the poverty and segregation of his Alabama youth to the racist threats he faced during his pursuit of one of America’s most hallowed records. He died in January at 86.

“This is team is defined by the courage of Hank Aaron,” Biden said.

McGuirk said Aaron, who held front office positions with the team and was one of Major League Baseball’s few Black executives, was watching over them.

“He’d have been there every step of the way with us if he was here,” McGuirk added.

The president often honors major league and some college sports champions with a White House ceremony, typically a nonpartisan affair in which the commander in chief pays tribute to the champs’ prowess, poses for photos and comes away with a team jersey.

Those visits were highly charged in the previous administration. Many athletes took issue with President Donald Trump’s policies and rhetoric on policing, immigration and more. Trump, for his part, didn’t take kindly to criticism from athletes or their on-field expressions of political opinions.

Under Biden, the tradition appears to be back. He’s hosted the NBA champion Milwaukee Bucks and Super Bowl champion Tampa Bay Buccaneers at the White House. On Monday he joked about first lady Jill Biden’s Philadelphia allegiances.

“Like every Philly fan, she’s convinced she knows more about everything in sports than anybody else,” he said. He added that he couldn’t be too nice to the Atlanta team because it had just beaten the Phillies the previous night in extra innings.

Press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre was later questioned about the team’s name, particularly as other professional sports teams have moved away from names – like the Cleveland Indians, now the Guardians, and the Washington Redskins, now the Commanders – following years of complaints from Native American groups over the images and symbols.

She said it was important for the country to have the conversation. “And Native American and Indigenous voices – they should be at the center of this conversation,” she said.

Biden supported MLB’s decision to pull the 2021 All-Star Game from Atlanta to protest Georgia’s sweeping new voting law, which critics contend is too restrictive.