Second straight Silver Slugger for Soto!*
The 2021 Silver Slugger Awards were announced last Thursday, and the Washington Nationals' right fielder Juan Soto was among the three National League outfielders so honored. Soto also won last year, when he led the NL with a .351 batting average. This year he led the majors in RISP batting average (.396), in on-base percentage (.465), and in walks (145). No other qualifying MLB player had more walks than strikeouts this year. Congratulations, Juan!
Elsewhere in the National League, the Atlanta Braves picked up four of the nine Silver Sluggers, and five teams got one such award each. In the American League, the Blue Jays (3) and Red Sox (2) garnered five of the Silver Sluggers, and four teams got one each.
* How's that for a tongue-twister? The announcer in the MLB.com video about that announcement used almost the exact same phrase: "This is the second straight Silver Slugger award for Soto..."
Harper set to become NL MVP
According to an unconfirmed rumor that spread on Facebook today, Hall of Famer Mike Schmidt (who played with the Philadelphia Phillies for his entire 19-year career) has been asked to announce the National League MVP for 2021. That can only mean one thing: Bryce Harper has been chosen as Most Valuable Player. Assuming that is the case, it would be Bryce's second such award, the first being in 2015, when he was elected unanimously. It will be interesting to see how many votes went to Juan Soto, who was my pick.
Rookies of the Year
In the American League, Randy Arozarena of the Tampa Bay Rays was chosen as Rookie of the Year. He became almost a household name as he led that underdog, over-achieving band of misfits from St. Petersburg to their second straight AL East Division title. Last year, when his team made it to the World Series for a second time, he was chosen as American League Championship Series MVP. So how can he be a rookie this year? He only played 23 games in the covid-shortened 2020 season, and 19 games (with the Cardinals) in his actual "rookie" season of 2019. (I wonder how many partial seasons you can play and still be eligible to win Rookie of the Year in your first full season?) His teammate Wander Franco ranked third in voting for AL ROY. In the National League, meanwhile, Jonathan India, who plays second base for the Cincinnati Reds, received 29 of 30 first-place votes to become NL Rookie of the Year. He hit 29 home runs and got 69 RBIs, providing spark for a team that desperately needs it.
Managers of the Year
This year's Manager of the Year awards went to Gabe Kapler of the San Francisco Giants in the National League, and to Kevin Cash of the Tampa Bay Rays in the American League. Kapler not only led the Giants to their first postseason appearance in five years (which I find hard to believe), but to their biggest number of wins (107) in franchise history. That is pretty amazing. For his part, Cash was the second manager ever to win this award two years in a row. Only the Braves' Bobby Cox (2004-2005) did it before. (I picked Dusty Baker on the AL side partly for sentimental reasons, since he served as manager for the Nationals for two years.)
So, that just leaves the AL MVP and both leagues' Cy Young winners to be announced. So far, I'm 3 for 4 in my predictions made last week, or 3 for 5 if you include the all-but-certain NL MVP.
Syndergaard to wear an Angel's halo
I heard about this "breaking news" (?) just before midnight: New York Mets' ace pitcher (and free agent) Noah Syndergaard has signed a one-year contract with the Los Angeles Angels. See ESPN.com. (Why would he sign for just one year, and why so early in the postseason?) A number of other mid-career free-agent superstars signed fat long-term contracts with the Angels, and then -- so it would seem -- they just took it easy and collected their salaries. (I probably shouldn't name names, but several examples come to mind.)