Peter King and I take our first crack at the postseason awards

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Peter King is famous for being a football writer, but he’s a big baseball fan too. In light of that, each year he devotes some space in his Football Morning in America column the day after the end of the baseball season to his picks for the postseason awards. He did so again today and they’re all pretty reasonable.

Save one:

AL MVP: 1. Alex Bregman, Houston • 2. D.J. LeMahieu, Yankees • 3. Marcus Semien, Oakland.

I’ve seen a handful of ball writers talking about going with Bregman over Mike Trout in the past couple of weeks, but I’ve not seen anyone who would have Trout fourth behind Marcus Semien of all people. And that’s assuming King would vote Trout fourth.

Now, to be fair, King spends a paragraph before that explaining his criteria, and he is consistent with that criteria: he prioritizes the best player on winning teams, making an exception only if a player on a losing team is so overwhelmingly superior that he can’t be denied. He also seems to adhere to a more literal definition of “value” than most, taking a lot of time to extoll D.J. LeMahieu’s role in covering for injuries on the Yankees, thus crediting his awards case with the “value” it provided to the Yankees. He, likewise, quite reasonably, docks Trout for missing so much time in the season’s final month, giving him only 134 games played on the year.

I think the current crop of BBWAA awards voters have mostly dispensed with the prerequisite that an MVP candidate must come from a postseason-bound club and the majority of them tend to treat “valuable” as a synonym for “best player.” As such, while I do think that many will dock Trout for missing as much time as he did, I don’t think enough will do so with such severity that it’ll cost him the MVP.

We’ll have much more on the awards in the runup to them being handed out in November, but in the meantime, let’s handicap each of the big ones, with reference to King’s selections:

AL MVP
King’s Pick: Alex Bregman
My Pick: Mike Trout
Likely Pick: I think Trout will edge out Bregman and, with respect to Peter, I think he’s gonna leave LeMahieu and Semien in the dust.

NL MVP
Kings Pick: Cody Bellinger
My Pick: Bellinger
Likely Pick: I think it was neck and neck between Bellinger and Christian Yelich before Yelich went down with that knee injury. Given that closeness, the docking for time that Yelich will receive will, I think, be enough to cost him in a way that Trout’s injury will not due to Trout’s bigger lead in the race when he went down.

AL Cy Young
King’s Pick: Justin Verlander
My Pick: It’s close, but probably Gerrit Cole
Likely Pick: It’s an unbelievably close race, but I think Cole’s phenomenal second half will carry it for him. He’s been frankly amazing to watch down the stretch and I think he’ll get a lot of “gee whiz, that was somethin'” sentiment from the voters.

NL Cy Young
King’s Pick: Jacob deGrom
My Pick: deGrom
Likely Pick: deGrom won it with ten wins last year. The fact that he has 11 this year ain’t gonna fool many voters into thinking deGrom is anything less than the best pitcher in the National League.

AL Rookie of the Year
King’s Pick: Yordan Álvarez
My Pick: Álvarez
Likely Pick: Tied for the easiest-to-guess award this year, even if Álvarez only played in 87 games. You get a lot more leeway for that in Rookie of the Year voting. And either way, those were 87 pretty frickin’ amazing games.

NL Rookie of the Year
King’s Pick: Pete Alonso
My Pick: Alonso
Likely Pick: Ah, here’s the other easiest one. No one else has a shot.

AL Manager of the Year
King’s Pick: Aaron Boone
My Pick: Rocco Baldelli
Likely Pick: Baldelli. Boone has done a phenomenal job dealing with injuries, but Yankee managers always have a tough road to win the Manager of the Year Award because voters tend to think, not unreasonably even if somewhat unfairly, that the Yankees SHOULD ALWAYS win. And of course, it’s a narrative award more than an analytical award, and “new guy comes in and takes a 79-win team to the AL Central crowd in his first year” plays better than “manager of 100-win Yankees team leads them to 103 wins the following year.”

NL Manager of the Year
King’s Pick: Brian Snitker
My Pick: Mike Shildt
Likely Pick: Shildt, as (a) Snitker will be penalized by voters’ reluctance to give the award to the same guy in back-to-back years as, again, it’s a narrative award; (b) Dave Roberts will get the same penalty Boone got by virtue of managing the Big Powerful Dodgers; (c) Craig Counsell would be a fine choice but a lot of voters will be like “hey, but he finished behind Shildt and the Brewers actually took a step back” thus making vote Counsell over Shildt make their heads ‘asplode.

If you haven’t guessed by now, I don’t take the Manager of the Year Award very seriously.

Anyway, let’s check back on this stuff in November to see how wrong we all were.

Yankees star Judge hits 62nd homer to break Maris’ AL record

New York Yankees v Texas Rangers - Game Two
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ARLINGTON, Texas – Aaron Judge hit his 62nd home run of the season Tuesday night, breaking Roger Maris’ American League record and setting what some fans consider baseball’s “clean” standard.

The 30-year-old Yankees slugger drove a 1-1 slider from Texas right-hander Jesus Tinoco into the first couple of rows of seats in left field when leading off the second game of New York’s day-night doubleheader.

Maris’ 61 for the Yankees in 1961 had been exceeded six times previously, but all were tainted by the stench of steroids. Mark McGwire hit 70 for the St. Louis Cardinals in 1998 and 65 the following year. Barry Bonds hit an MLB-record 73 for the San Francisco Giants in 2001, and the Chicago Cubs’ Sammy Sosa had 66, 65 and 63 during a four-season span starting in 1998.

McGwire admitted using banned steroids, while Bonds and Sosa denied knowingly using performing-enhancing drugs. Major League Baseball started testing with penalties for PEDs in 2004, and some fans – perhaps many – until now have considered Maris as holder of the legitimate record.

A Ruthian figure with a smile as outsized as his body, the 6-foot-7 Judge has rocked the major leagues with a series of deep drives that hearken to the sepia tone movie reels of his legendary pinstriped predecessors.

“He should be revered for being the actual single-season home run champ,” Roger Maris Jr. said Wednesday night after his father’s mark was matched by Judge. “I think baseball needs to look at the records and I think baseball should do something.”

Judge had homered only once in the past 13 games, and that was when he hit No. 61 last Wednesday in Toronto. The doubleheader nightcap in Texas was his 55th game in row played since Aug. 5.

After a single in five at-bats in the first game Tuesday, Judge was 3 for 17 with five walks and a hit by pitch since moving past the 60 home runs Babe Ruth hit in 1927, which had stood as the major league record for 34 years. Maris hit his 61st off Boston’s Tracy Stallard at old Yankee Stadium on Oct. 1, 1961.

Judge has a chance to become the first AL Triple Crown winner since Detroit’s Miguel Cabrera in 2012. He leads the AL with 131 RBIs and began the day trailing Minnesota’s Luis Arraez, who was hitting .315.

The home run in his first at-bat put him back to .311, where he had started the day before dropping a point in the opener.

Judge’s accomplishment will cause endless debate.

“To me, the holder of the record for home runs in a season is Roger Maris,” author George Will said earlier this month. “There’s no hint of suspicion that we’re seeing better baseball than better chemistry in the case of Judge. He’s clean. He’s not doing something that forces other players to jeopardize their health.”