Kevin Brown
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This Day in Transaction History: Orioles sign Kevin Brown

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As a recurring column idea, Bill will expound upon one interesting transaction that occurred on a particular day in baseball history. It won’t always be the most exciting or most impactful transaction, but always something interesting. Feel free to share which transactions stand out to you in the comments.

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On this day in 1995, the Baltimore Orioles signed free agent starter Kevin Brown to a one year deal after he spent the previous seven years with the Rangers. It was a forgettable year for the 30-year-old as he went 10-9 with a 3.60 ERA and 117 strikeouts in 172 1/3 innings of work. After the season, Brown inked a three-year, $12.6 million contract with the Florida Marlins.

Brown’s first year with the Marlins was incredible: He went 17-11 with a 1.89 ERA and a 159/33 K/BB ratio in 233 innings. Along with making the NL All-Star team, he finished 22nd in MVP balloting and was a runner-up to John Smoltz in Cy Young voting. His career was finally taking off.

There has been some laughably bad awards voting, especially before Sabermetrics became popular. Many cite the 2005 AL Cy Young vote as a premium example, as Bartolo Colon won the award simply because he won 21 games. His 3.48 ERA trailed other starters like Johan Santana, Mark Buehrle, and Kevin Millwood. By Wins Above Replacement, per Baseball Reference, Santana was the clear best candidate at 7.2 ahead of Buehrle’s 4.8 and Colon’s 4.0.

The 1996 NL Cy Young vote wasn’t quite as bad, but it was still bad. Smoltz won the award on the back of a 24-8 record despite having an ERA more than a full run higher than Brown’s. Smoltz registered many more strikeouts (276 to 159) and pitched 20 2/3 more innings. Brown had an adjusted ERA – which is to say, ERA adjusted for league and park effects set such that 100 is average – of 215, much better than Smoltz’s 149. In fact, Brown’s 215 ERA+ ranks as the 27th-best pitching season in baseball history among all starters who accrued enough innings to qualify for the ERA title. Brown’s 1996 performance is sandwiched between Hall of Famer Walter Johnson’s 1918 and ’19 performances.

In 1997, the year he helped the Marlins win the World Series, Brown authored a no-hitter against the Giants on June 10. He walked none and struck out seven on 98 pitches. The lone blemish was a Marvin Bernard hit by pitch with two outs in the eighth inning. Interestingly, it’s one of 15 no-hitters done on fewer than 100 pitches.

A common theme of my “This Day in Transaction History” posts is underappreciated players and that is certainly the case for Brown, as the 1996 NL Cy Young voting showed. Some of that was warranted as Brown was named in the Mitchell Report for having bought human growth hormone and Deca-Durabolin, though that was believed to have occurred in the early 2000’s. Brown was also cantankerous, exemplified by two incidents: one in which he broke his hand in anger by punching a wall in 2004 with the Yankees, and another in 2006 when he allegedly brandished a firearm at his neighbor during an argument.

Brown retired with 211 wins in his career along with 2,397 strikeouts and a 3.28 ERA over 3,256 1/3 innings. He was a six-time All-Star who twice won the ERA title. He also racked up 68.2 WAR, per Baseball Reference. Among the 75 Hall of Fame pitchers who logged at least 1,000 career innings, Brown’s WAR would rank 29th, just behind Don Sutton and ahead of pitchers like Jim Palmer, Smoltz, and Bob Feller.

The selectively moralistic Baseball Writers Association of America gave Brown only 2.1 percent of the vote when he became eligible in 2011, dropping off the ballot immediately. Andy Pettitte, by comparison, was also linked to performance-enhancing drugs and has similar career numbers to Brown yet received 11.3 percent of the vote in the last election, up from 9.9 percent in 2019, his first year on the ballot. Brown, like Pettitte, wasn’t the most likeable guy on the planet, but he certainly deserved the 1996 NL Cy Young Award and he deserved better than one-and-done for the Hall of Fame.

Dodgers clinch NL’s top seed, West title with win over A’s

Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports
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Wrapping up an NL West title has become routine for the Los Angeles Dodgers, but in a year in which no one was sure three months ago if there would be a baseball season, manager Dave Roberts wanted his team to still savor the moment.

The Dodgers clinched the NL’s top postseason seed and eighth straight division title Tuesday night with a 7-2 victory over the Oakland Athletics. They are third team to win at least eight straight division titles, joining the Atlanta Braves (14 straight from 1991-2005) and New York Yankees (nine straight from 1998-2006).

“To fast forward a couple months and be crowned NL West champs is a credit to everyone. It should never be taken for granted,” Roberts said. “Truth be told a lot of guys didn’t know we could clinch. We were responsible but I let it know that it has to be appreciated.”

The Dodgers, who own the best record in the majors at 39-16, were the first team in the majors to clinch a playoff berth on Sept. 16. They will open postseason play on Sept. 30 by hosting every game in a best-of-three series against the No. 8 seed.

Los Angeles came into the day with a magic number of two and got help with the Angels’ 4-2 victory over the San Diego Padres.

Instead of a wild celebration on the mound after Jake McGee struck out Sean Murphy for the final out, players briskly walked out of the dugout to celebrate with teammates. Everyone grabbed a division clinching shirt and cap before heading to the mound for a group photo.

The clubhouse celebration was also muted. Champagne was still involved, but it was players toasting each other with a glass instead of being showered in it.

“We talked about it instead of dumping stuff on people. It’s a moment you need to celebrate and we did,” said Corey Seager, who had three hits and one of Los Angeles’ four home runs, “It stinks not being able to do champagne and beer showers because some of the younger guys haven’t been able to experience that.”

Max Muncy, Chris Taylor and AJ Pollock also went deep for Los Angeles, which leads the majors with 104 home runs.

“This whole year has been weird. There’s no other way to describe it,” Muncy said. “It’s sad not to be celebrate as usual but we know there is a lot more at stake.”

Dustin May (2-1) went five innings and allowed two runs on three hits. The 22-year-old red-headed righty set a team record by not allowing more than three earned runs in his first 13 career starts, which include 10 this season.

Robbie Grossman homered for Oakland, which clinched its first AL West crown in seven years on Monday during a day off. The Athletics, in the postseason for the third straight year, currently are the AL’s No. 3 seed.

Mark Canha had two of Oakland’s five hits.

Seager tied it at 1 in the first with an RBI single and then led off the fifth with a drive to center off T.J. McFarland to extend LA’s lead to 6-2.

Muncy gave the Dodgers a 3-2 lead in the third inning with a two-run homer. Taylor and Pollock extended it with solo shots in the fourth off Oakland starter Frankie Montas (3-5).

Grossman quickly gave Oakland a 1-0 lead when he homered off the left-field pole in the first inning. Sean Murphy briefly gave the Athletics a 2-1 advantage when he led off the third with a walk and scored on a wild pitch by May with two outs.

Montas, who allowed only four home runs in his first seven starts, has given up six in his past three. The right-hander went four innings and yielded five runs on seven hits with a walk and three strikeouts.

“They’re a pretty good team that when you make mistakes, they make you pay,” Oakland manager Bob Melvin said. “They’re pretty good laying off and making you throw it over the plate. They made Montas pay, unfortunately.”

Cody Bellinger added two hits for the Dodgers, including an RBI single with the bases loaded in the seventh.

ATHLETICS ADVANCE

The A’s have a team text thread they used to celebrate clinching their first AL West title since 2013 during their off day Monday, when the Mariners beat Houston.

“We didn’t really celebrate too much yet. It’s exciting,” Chad Pinder said. “We wanted to do it on our own terms. We still won the division and that was our goal. It’s nice to know we’ll be playing home for the series.”

TRAINER’S ROOM

Athletics: INF/OF Pinder (strained right hamstring) planned to run at Dodger Stadium and test his leg with hopes of still playing before the conclusion of the regular season. …. RHP Daniel Mengden has cleared waivers and been outrighted to Triple-A Las Vegas. He was designated for assignment after being medically cleared and reinstated from the COVID-19 injured list following a positive test from Aug. 28.

Dodgers: 3B Justin Turner was scratched from the lineup less than an hour before first pitch due to left hamstring discomfort He came off the injured list on Sept. 15 and has not played in the field since Aug. 28. … Joc Pederson was in the lineup at DH after missing five games while on the family emergency medical list. Roberts said before the game that he wasn’t sure if Pederson will remain with the team during the entire postseason.

UP NEXT

Athletics: LHP Sean Manaea (4-3, 4.50) is 4-1 with a 2.25 ERA over his last five starts dating to Aug. 20.

Dodgers: LHP Julio Urias (3-0, 3.49) will make his team-leading 11th start.

AP Baseball Writer Janie McCauley in San Francisco contributed to this story.

More AP MLB: https://apnews.com/MLB and https://twitter.com/AP-Sports