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Blake Snell, Jacob deGrom win 2018 Cy Young Awards

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The 2018 Cy Young Award results are in. Your winners are Blake Snell of the Rays in the American League and Jacob deGrom of the Mets in the National League.

Snell, 25, won a major league-best 21 games with only five losses and posted an AL-best 1.89 ERA with 221 strikeouts and 64 walks in 180 2/3 innings. The lefty is the first member of the Rays to win the Cy Young Award since David Price in 2012. Snell and Price are the only Cy Young winners in Rays history.

Snell received 17 first-place votes and narrowly finished ahead of Astros ace Justin Verlander in total points with 169. Verlander had 13 first-place votes and 154 total points. Indians ace Corey Kluber finished a distant third with 71 points. Also receiving votes were Chris Sale of the Red Sox, Gerrit Cole of the Astros, Trevor Bauer of the Indians, Blake Treinen of the Athletics, Edwin Díaz of the Mariners, and Luis Severino of the Yankees.

The 2018 AL Cy Young Award debate was anything but one-sided. While Snell had the ERA edge over the competition, Verlander pitched about 35 more innings and led the league with 290 strikeouts. Interestingly, neither writer from the Tampa Bay chapter voted for Verlander higher than third place. Mark Didtler, an AP freelancer, had Verlander third while Bill Madden of the New York Daily News had Verlander in fourth place behind Blake Treinen. If a chapter doesn’t have enough members, a member from another chapter will represent that city. Madden was a replacement voter.

For the first time since 2015, Max Scherzer is not the NL Cy Young Award winner. As expected, deGrom took home the hardware despite a 10-9 record, showing that the BBWAA electorate has, generally, gotten with the times by not regarding win-loss records as highly as they used to. deGrom put up a historically great and best-in-baseball 1.70 ERA along with 269 strikeouts and 46 walks over 217 innings. deGrom and Zack Greinke (1.66 in 2015) are the only pitchers to post a 1.70 ERA or lower dating back to 1996. It had only been done four other times since 1969: by Greg Maddux twice (1994-95), Dwight Gooden (1985), and Nolan Ryan (1981).

deGrom almost won the award unanimously, receiving 29 of 30 first-place votes with 207 total points. Scherzer got the other first-place vote with 123 total points. The Phillies’ Aaron Nola finished in third place with 86 points. Also receiving votes were Kyle Freeland of the Rockies, Patrick Corbin of the Diamondbacks, Miles Mikolas of the Cardinals, Josh Hader of the Brewers, Mike Foltynewicz of the Braves, and Jon Lester of the Cubs.

deGrom is the first Met to win the Cy Young Award since R.A. Dickey in 2012. Other Cy Young winners from the Mets include Dwight Gooden (1985), and Tom Seaver (1969, ’73, ’75).

Whitewash: Rob Manfred says he doesn’t think sign stealing extends beyond the Astros

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Rob Manfred said today that he believes the sign-stealing scandal which has taken over the news in the past week does not extend beyond the Houston Astros. His exact words, via Jeff Passan of ESPN:

“Right now, we are focused on the information that we have with respect to the Astros. I’m not going to speculate on whether other people are going to be involved. We’ll deal with that if it happens, but I’m not going to speculate about that. I have no reason to believe it extends beyond the Astros at this point in time.”

This is simply incredible. As in literally not credible.

It’s not credible because, just last week, in the original story in The Athletic, it was reported that the Astros system was set up by two players, one of whom was “a hitter who was struggling at the plate and had benefited from sign stealing with a previous team, according to club sources . . . they were said to strongly believe that some opposing teams were already up to no good. They wanted to devise their own system in Houston. And they did.”

The very next day Passan reported that Major League Baseball would not limit its focus to the Astros. Rather, the league’s probe was also include members of the 2019 Astros and would extend to other teams as well. Passan specifically mentioned the 2018 Red Sox which, of course, were managed by Alex Cora one year after he left Houston, where he was A.J. Hinch’s bench coach.

Add into this the Red Sox’ pre-Cora sign-stealing with Apple Watches and widespread, informed speculation on the part of players and people around the game that many teams do this sort of thing, and one can’t reasonably suggest that only the Houston Astros are doing this.

Which, as I noted at the time, made perfect sense. These schemes cannot, logically, operate in isolation because players and coaches change teams constantly. In light of this, players have to know that their sign-stealing would be found out by other teams eventually. They continue to do it, however, because they know other teams do it too. As is the case with pitchers using pine tar or what have you, they don’t rat out the other team so they, themselves, will not be ratted out. It’s a mutually-assured destruction that only exists and only works if, in fact, other teams are also stealing signs.

So why is Major League Baseball content to only hang the Astros here? I can think of two reasons.

One is practical. They had the Astros fall in their lap via former Astro Mike Fiers — obviously not himself concerned with his current team being busted for whatever reason — going on the record with his accusation. That’s not likely to repeat itself across baseball and thus it’d be quite difficult for Major League Baseball to easily conduct a wide investigation. Who is going to talk? How can baseball make them talk? It’d be a pretty big undertaking.

But there’s also the optics. Major League Baseball has had a week to think about the report of the Astros sign-stealing and, I suspect, they’ve realized, like everyone else has realized, that this is a major scandal in the making. Do they really want to spend the entire offseason — and longer, I suspect, if they want a thorough investigation — digging up unflattering news about cheating in the sport? Do they really want to be in the bad news creation business? I doubt they do, so they decided to fence off the Astros, hit them hard with penalties, declare victory and move on.

Which is to say, it’s a whitewash.

It’s something the league has tried to do before. They did it with steroids and it didn’t work particularly well.

In 1998 Mark McGwire, that game’s biggest star at the time, was found to have the PED androstenedione in his locker. It was a big freakin’ deal. Except . . . nothing happened. Major League Baseball planned to “study” the drug but most of the fallout was visited upon the reporter who made it public. It was accompanied by some shameful conduct by both Major League Baseball and the baseball press corps who eagerly went after the messenger rather than cover the story properly.

Four years later Ken Caminiti and Jose Canseco went public with their PED use and said drug use was widespread. MLB’s response was slow and, again, sought to isolated the known offenders, singling out Caminiti as a troubled figure — which he was — and Canseco as a kook — which he kind of is — but doing them and the story a disservice all the same.

The league eventually created a rather toothless testing and penalty regime. Congress and outside investigative reporters filled the void created by the league’s inaction, calling hearings and publishing damning stories about how wide PED use was in the game. Eventually Bud Selig commissioned the Mitchell Report. Some ten years after the McGwire incident baseball had at least the beginnings of a sane approach to PEDs and a more effective testing plan, but it was pulled to it kicking and screaming, mostly because doing anything about it was too hard and not very appetizing from a business and P.R. perspective.

And so here we are again. Baseball has a major scandal on its hands. After some initially promising words about how serious it planned to take it, the league seems content to cordon off the known crime scene and refuses to canvass the neighborhood. Sure, if someone gratuitously hands them evidence they’ll look into it, but it sure sounds like Rob Manfred plans to react rather than act here.

That should work. At least until the next time evidence of cheating comes up and they have to start this all over again.