November 14, 2014 [LINK / comment]
As many people have been expecting, at least since mid-summer, Los Angeles Dodgers pitcher Clayton Kershaw was selected by the Baseball Writers Association of America to receive both the National League Cy Young Award and the Most Valuable Player Award for 2014. It's the same dual honor that Tigers pitcher Justin Verlander was given (for the American League) in 2011, when Kershaw also received the NL Cy Young award. The last such occurrence in the National League was 1968, when Cardinals pitcher Bob Gibson achieved that high distinction. Kershaw's ERA was only 1.77, the lowest in the NL since 1995, when Greg Maddux had a 1.63 ERA. Unfortunately for the Dodgers, Kershaw went 0-2 in this year's NLDS.
Meanwhile, the Los Angeles Angels' center fielder Mike Trout received the American League MVP Award -- the youngest player in history to win by unanimous vote, in fact. He was AL Rookie of the Year in 2012, the year that Bryce Harper won that award on the NL side. The last time a single metropolitan area claimed both leagues' MVP awards was 2002, when Barry Bonds (Giants) and Miguel Tejada (Athletics) did it. See MLB.com.
In a test of skill and determination, Kershaw emerged victorious on September 2 against the Nationals' best pitcher this year, Doug Fister. The Nats won the other two games in that series, however, and that really marked their superb late-season push toward the divisional championship. (See September 5 blog post.)
According to "MASN Dan" Kolko, Anthony Rendon finished fifth in voting for NL MVP, "the highest a Washington Nationals player has ever landed on the NL MVP ballot!" Not bad for a youngster! But if he was regarded so highly, as someone noted, why wasn't he chosen for the All-Star Game? Wait till next year!
In the American League, Cleveland Indians pitcher Cory Kluber won the Cy Young Award, edging Mariners pitcher Felix Hernandez, who won that award in 2010. MLB.com. (Perhaps the drubbing Hernandez received at the hands of the Nationals on August 29 was what made the difference.)
Little did I realize when I saw the Indians play the D-Backs in Phoenix on June 25 (see my July 31 blog post, and the box score at baseball-reference.com) that their starting pitcher would end up being the Cy Young winner. Kluber gave up four hits and no runs over seven innings at Chase Field that day, helping the Indians beat the Diamondbacks 7-1. Had I been aware of how good he was, I would have taken a closeup photo of him. D'oh!
Jacob deGrom of the New York Mets, and Jose Abreu of the Chicago White Sox, won the NL and AL Rookie of the Year Awards, respectively. DeGrom chalked up a 9-6 record and a 2.69 ERA as a starting pitcher, and has a very promising future. (See MLB.com.) [Abreu won by a landslide on the AL side, though some questioned whether a 27-year old should qualify as a rookie; he previously played in Cuba.] It's good news for both teams, which have struggled in recent years.
As a testament to his steady, patient leadership, and perhaps to the talent of the team, the Washington Nationals' Matt Williams won NL Manager of the Year. I (and probably others) had raised doubts about his chances after the questionable decisions [he] made in NLDS (see October 11), but the awards are evidently supposed to reflect regular season performances, to make it fair for all teams. [One move by Williams early in the season established his authority in the dugout: He benched Bryce Harper for failing to hustle. Then in August he voiced support for Harper when reporters asked if he might be sent down to the minors during a batting slump. There's little doubt that Williams enjoys strong support from his team, which fully expects another big push toward the postseason next year, and in years after that.]
Two years ago, the Nationals' Davey Johnson won the NL Manager of the Year Award, and he won on the AL side when he managed the Orioles in 1997. For a while in 2005, when the Nationals were leading the NL East Division, it seemed that perhaps Frank Robinson might be up for Manager of the Year.
Here's a nice video montage that summarizes all of the "best" players and managers from this year, including a video clip of Williams' gracious statement: MLB.com.
Baltimore and Kansas City dominated the 2014 American League Golden Glove awards. For the Orioles it was J.J. Hardy, Adam Jones, and Nick Markakis, and for the Royals it was Eric Hosmer, Alex Gordon, and Salvador Perez. On the National League side, Cardinals catcher Yadier Molina earned a Gold Glove for the seventh year in a row. This was the second year that the Gold Gloves have been based on statistics from the Society for American Baseball Research (25 percent) as well as the (traditional) MLB managers and coaches (75 percent). See MLB.com.
The only top recognitions received by Washington Nationals players this year were the Silver Slugger awards. Shortstop Ian Desmond won his for a third time, and third baseman Anthony Rendon won his for the first time. Desmond hit 24 home runs and 91 RBIs, leading the Nationals in both categories, and has had hit at least 20 home runs and stolen at least 20 bases for a remarkable three years in a row. Rendon was close behind in homers and RBIs, besides excelling defensively. He has become a worthy successor to Ryan Zimmerman at third base. See MLB.com. Not surprisingly, Giants Pitcher Madison Bumgarner won the Silver Slugger at his position, having hit two grand slams this year!
Wouldn't you know it, I get a very helpful tip from Jonathan Karberg about certain erroneous details in my Busch Stadium II diagrams, so I made a few tweaks, and before you know it, I had discovered some serious discrepancies. (It was just three weeks ago that I last updated those diagrams.) Most significantly, I had to move the front edge of the grandstand along the foul lines forward by about six feet. Eegads! That reduced foul territory from about 25,100 to 22,700 square feet. Other changes included reducing the size of the upper-deck entry portals (note the small lateral staircases on either side of each one), shrinking the bullpens slightly, rendering the bleachers and table seating areas in center field more accurately, reconciling the profiles with the main (top-down) diagrams, and putting in the row of shrubs in front of the bleachers in the 1997 version.
I also (belatedly) updated the text on the Davenport Field page, calling attention to the success (and near-triumph) of the University of Virginia Cavaliers at the 2014 College World Series in Omaha. I'll do a new page with a diagram of TD Ameritrade in the early months of 2015.
Here's a few things I noticed on Facebook recently:
Which MLB team has "the most tortured" fans" -- i.e., those who have suffered prolonged frustration, indignity, and/or bad luck? At sportsonearth.com, Will Leitch does a semi-serious ranking based on a thorough review of each team's (and franchise's) history. Of course, the Chicago Cubs ranked #1, not having won a World Series for the past 106 years. The Washington Nationals and the Seattle Mariners (#10) are the only two MLB franchises with zero World Series appearances, and yet somehow the Washington Nationals are ranked at #17. WTF? Apparently, being robbed of a team for an entire generation doesn't factor into their equation.
Want to know who the "9 Most Hated Players In The MLB" are? Take a look at bluelionsports.com. Spoiler alert: Bryce Harper comes in at #2, just behind A-Rod.
I try to avoid worrying about trade rumors, especially far-fetched ones, but one such rumor this week rattled my nerves. Supposedly, Nationals pitcher Jordan Zimmermann was the subject of discussions over a possible trade with the Chicago Cubs. Nats GM Mike Rizzo denied it, obligatorily. See MLB.com.
Finally, pop star Taylor Swift will perform in concert at Nationals Park on Monday, July 13, 2015. OMG!!! As noted on October 29, there seems to be a correlation between her release of new albums and the San Francisco Giants winning the World Series.