Posted on: November 22, 2011 2:04 pm
Edited on: November 22, 2011 3:40 pm
As I wrote on the final Sunday of the regular season, the National League MVP race was so close that I wouldn't decide until the season was over.
When it was, I picked Ryan Braun over Matt Kemp.
So did the majority of the voters, which is why Braun is this year's NL MVP.
Kemp had an outstanding season. So did Braun.
Braun had a huge impact on the pennant race. Kemp, basically through no fault of his own, did not.
The MVP is an individual award, but baseball is a team game. Everything you do is affected by your teammates.
And in my mind, it's hard (but not impossible) to be the MVP when your teammates aren't good enough to help you contend for a championship.
Would my vote have been different had Kemp won the Triple Crown, as he had a chance to do in the final weeks of the season?
It's possible it would have been. You'll never know, because I'll never know. I never had to make that decision.
I had to decide based on what did happen, and what happened was that Braun's great season helped his team to a championship, while Kemp's great season kept his team from losing more games than it won.
3. Prince Fielder. For the first part of the season, he was even better than Braun. For the whole year, Braun got the edge.
4. Albert Pujols. He started slow (for him), and then he was hurt. But he came back strong, and so did his team.
5. Lance Berkman. Without him, the Cardinals would have been buried early.
6. Roy Halladay. The Phillies were the dominant team in the regular season, and their starting pitching was the reason. The problem was that it was hard to separate out one starter.
7. Justin Upton. Great year, great story, but his home-road split (1.033 OPS at home, .767 on road) held him down.
8. Cliff Lee. Based on June (5-0, 0.21) and August (5-0, 0.45), he was the MVP. For the full season, he just makes the ballot.
9. Joey Votto. Didn't repeat his 2010 season, so he won't repeat as MVP.
10. Carlos Ruiz. His numbers are nowhere near MVP-worthy. I gave him a 10th-place vote because of the impact he has on the Phillies pitching, which was so good that if I could have voted for the rotation as a whole, they would have been the MVP.
Posted on: May 26, 2011 2:26 am
Edited on: May 26, 2011 2:27 am
PHILADELPHIA -- Roy Halladay didn't no-hit the Reds.
Wilson Valdez did.
Roy Halladay didn't make this game memorable. Wilson Valdez did.
No one will ever forget the night Halladay no-hit the Reds in the playoffs. And no one will ever forget the night (early morning?) that Valdez no-hit the Reds in the 19th inning.
I know this much: The next time Halladay pitches against the Reds at Citizens Bank Park, I'm there. And you should be, too.
The first time he faced them, Reds starter Travis Wood took a perfect game to the ninth inning. The next time he faced them, Halladay made like Don Larsen.
And Wednesday night -- early Thursday morning -- Valdez made like . . . Roy Halladay?
Well, sort of.
Halladay is the best pitcher in baseball. He has 175 career wins, and a 3.29 career ERA.
Valdez is a utility infielder, who last pitched in some town game in the Dominican Republic, nine years ago. And he now has a 1-0 career record, and a 0.00 career ERA.
He got Joey Votto, Jay Bruce and Carlos Fisher in the top of the 19th, and Raul Ibanez's sacrifice fly in the bottom of the 19th made the Phillies -- and Valdez -- a 5-4 winner in one of the craziest games you'll ever see.
And Wilson Valdez was absolutely the star.
"He's wanted to pitch for a while," said Dane Sardinha, who caught him. "Now I'm sure he'll want to even more. But I'd hang it up right now if I were him. Perfect record."
Valdez was having none of that.
"Anytime they need me," he said.
And why not? He threw one pitch at 90 mph, most of the others at 88-89.
"That's better than some guys," Phillies manager Charlie Manuel said.
Manuel hates the idea of using a position player to pitch. He said he'd never done it. But he ran out of pitchers, Danys Baez had already thrown 73 pitches (easily the most he'd thrown since he became a reliever eight years ago), and Manuel decided it would be too risky to use one of his other starting pitchers.
So Valdez it was, in the 19th inning, at 1 o'clock in the morning.
At first base, Ryan Howard told Reds coach Billy Hatcher, "If he throws anything like he throws it [across the infield] to me, he'll be nasty out there, because he throws sinkers."
Behind the plate, Sardinha put down one finger for a fastball, over and over. Valdez tried to shake him off ("I thought, what is he about to throw," Howard said), but Sardinha put down one finger again.
Votto flied out to center field, but then Valdez called his catcher to the mound. Actually, two catchers, because Carlos Ruiz was playing third base, and he joined the conversation, as well.
"He told me he wanted to throw his other pitches," a disbelieving Sardinha said. "Then he hit [Scott] Rolen with a slider."
In the stands, where a surprising number of fans remained, the crowd got as loud as it had in hours.
"Let's go Wilson!" they chanted. "Wil-son! Wil-son!"
Sardinha -- and Valdez -- went back to the fastball to get Bruce and Fisher, the final Reds pitcher, who threw 95 pitches in 5 2/3 innings and was in the game long enough to get two at-bats.
Then the Phillies scored, and the game was over, just 6 hours, 11 minutes after it began.
"It was a grind," Howard said. "But we got a new spark of life when Wilson went out there."
Valdez was the happiest Phillie around, even happier when a reporter told him he was clocked at 90 mph.
He admitted that he went to the mound with no pressure ("I just thought, throw a strike, because if [Votto] hits a home run, they're not going to say anything. He's a tough hitter.").
He said he was ready to keep pitching if the Phillies didn't score in the bottom of the 19th.
"I could go three more, four more, whatever," he said. "This is something I'm never going to forget."
I'm with him on that. And if you saw it, I'm guessing you are, too.
Two more memorable lines from a memorable night:
Sardinha, on whether Valdez had good stuff: "I told him he did, but it was [just] all right. He had a good sinker, and that was it."
Baez, on his 16th-inning at-bat, when he struck out: "I put on the wrong helmet. I put on a helmet to hit left-handed, and I thought, 'There's something wrong.' And I forgot to put pine tar on the bat."
Manuel, on Valdez: "I put him in against the heart of the order, [to] see what he's got. I think he passed the test."
Posted on: May 16, 2011 9:46 pm
Edited on: May 16, 2011 10:08 pm
NEW YORK -- Joey Votto is the reigning MVP.
Albert Pujols is the best player in the game. Ryan Howard leads the league in RBI.
And Logan Morrison is trying to get Gaby Sanchez elected as the National League's All-Star first baseman.
I guess you can't blame a guy for trying. But you realize, Logan, this isn't going to be easy.
"I'm trying to get the awareness out there," the Marlins left fielder said Monday.
Morrison began his campaign over the weekend on Twitter, at @LoMoMarlins. He plans to continue it daily there, and vowed to take the campaign to the MLB network, and wherever else he can.
"I've got 25,000 [Twitter] followers, and if they all vote 25 times . . . " Morrison said.
If they all vote 25 times, it's still not going to be enough.
"It can't hurt, right?" Morrison said.
And what does Sanchez think of all this?
"He's politically correct," Morrison said. "He says he doesn't care, and just wants the team to win."
For the record, Sanchez is off to a fine start. He's a fine player, and if you didn't read colleague Scott Miller's column about him in spring training, it's still worth reading now.
And, as Morrison helpfully pointed out, Pujols is off to an uncharacteristic slow start. Votto and Howard aren't, but Pujols is.
Anyway, if you want to vote for Sanchez, go right ahead. It would certainly please Logan Morrison.
Just don't expect him to win.
Not at first base. Not in the National League.
Posted on: September 3, 2010 11:02 am
We circle them on the schedule. We ask about the matchups.
We even feature them in 3 to watch.
And then, right before our eyes, the most important series of the summer can fizzle out before they even begin.
And we wonder if they were ever as important as we made them out to be in the first place.
Reds vs. Cardinals?
Remember what happened last time?
Yeah, we remember. In that all-important series last month in Cincinnati, the Reds did all the talking (and some of the fighting), and the Cardinals did all the winning.
Important series, right?
Yeah, except that the Cardinals seem to have forgotten that cliché about how every game is important, about how it doesn't matter if you win the head-to-head meetings if you then lose against somebody else.
Since those three wins at Great American Ball Park, the Cards are 5-13. They've won just one series (against the Giants), and lost five others -- all to sub-.500 teams.
The Reds, meanwhile, have gone 14-4. They've lost just one series (against the Giants), and won five others -- two of them against winning teams.
So now, as the Reds and Cardinals meet again, the Reds come in with an eight-game lead.
There's still plenty to talk about, and perhaps Brandon Phillips will open the series by doing more talking.
There's Albert Pujols vs. Joey Votto. There's Walt Jocketty and Scott Rolen coming back to St. Louis as likely NL Central conquerors. There's Tony La Russa vs. Dusty Baker, and who knows if that's the last time we'll see them go against each other.
And, if you think the Cardinals still have a chance to catch the Reds, there's the point that now this really is the most important series of the summer.
And that's why we're still featuring it in 3 to watch.
1. Five of the last 10 teams to make the World Series had at least a seven-game losing streak at some point during the season. That's not a prediction that the Padres will make it, just a reminder that their current seven-game spin doesn't necessarily doom them to collapse. It does put huge pressure on them in the 10-game homestand that begins with Rockies at Padres, Friday night (10:05 ET) at Petco Park . The first game would be an interesting one, anyway, because for the first time since May, the Padres are going away from their five-man rotation, in this case starting 25-year-old rookie Cory Luebke. For now, Luebke is only giving the other five starters an extra day of rest, but if he pitches well and ends the streak, manager Bud Black will have even more to think about in the days to come.
2. It's hard to blame the Cardinals' collapse on anyone in particular. You certainly can't blame Pujols, who has a 1.142 OPS over the 18 games. And as for the pitching, the Cards' team ERA over the last 18 games (4.15) is better than the Reds' team ERA (4.69) over the same span. But take a look at Adam Wainwright, who might have been the Cy Young leader after his Aug. 11 win in Cincinnati (which left him 17-6 with a 1.99 ERA). Wainwright is 0-3 with a 5.21 ERA in three starts since, heading into Reds at Cardinals, Saturday afternoon (4:10 ET) at Busch Stadium . Travis Wood, Wainwright's 23-year-old mound opponent, didn't face the Cardinals in the series in Cincinnati. In the three weeks since, he's 1-1 with a 6.46 ERA.
3. The Yankees and Rays are both heading to the playoffs, but they say it's important to finish first in the American League East, in part because it means home-field advantage if the two teams meet in the American League Championship Series. In effect, there's the same kind of battle going on this weekend, in a series that ends with Rangers at Twins, Sunday afternoon (2:10 ET) at Target Field . The AL Central-leading Twins head into the series with a 1 1/2-game lead over the AL West-leading Rangers, which means that the Twins would have home-field advantage if these two teams met in the ALCS. The Twins have other things on their mind, with just a 3 1/2-game lead over the second-place White Sox. The Rangers also have something else on their mind: Cliff Lee's back, which was sore enough that Lee had an injection this week in Texas. Lee's scheduled side session Saturday may be as important to them as any of the games they play this weekend.
Posted on: July 3, 2008 12:49 pm
Edited on: July 3, 2008 1:00 pm
Two scouts who watched the Red Sox get swept at Tropicana Field don't agree.
"If you look at the two clubs out there last night, there's no comparison," the first scout said. "And I'm serious. Tampa Bay has a better ballclub."
"It's not even close," the other scout agreed. "In every facet but the closer."
There are still questions about the Rays, particularly about whether their bullpen can hold up (especially if Troy Percival can't stay healthy). And there are those who wonder whether a young team that hasn't been through a pennant race before can survive through August and September.
"The second half is tougher," the scout admitted. "And they have a younger club. But they've got some talented guys, and talent overrides that."
The Rays are in the market for another bat in the outfield, with Xavier Nady the name most mentioned. They're also in on the C.C. Sabathia sweepstakes, even though their rotation is already the best in the division.
Another weakness is at first base, where one scout said that Carlos Pena "looks just like he did when he was playing for Detroit."
As for the Red Sox, they have to be looking for bullpen help.
"If the guys they have don't get any more consistent, I can't see them winning," the scout said. "Other than (Jonathan) Papelbon, there's no one there to rely on, that I can see."
Could the Braves actually be sellers in this month's trade market?
It's almost hard to imagine, because the Braves of recent years have always been a team that goes for it. And despite being five games under .500, the Braves are only six games behind the first-place Phillies.
But one club that has spoken with the Braves said that Atlanta officials intend to meet in the near future and decide whether or not they have a realistic chance of winning. If not, they'll sell, with Mark Teixeira the biggest and most interesting name available.
The Braves don't believe they have any chance of signing Teixeira long-term, and he's a free agent at the end of this season. Teixeira told reporters in Atlanta that he hopes the Braves don't trade him, but with no chance of keeping him past this year.
"It could happen tomorrow, or it might not happen until the 31st," said one person who speaks regularly with GM Mark Shapiro.
The Royals have told teams that they would at least listen on Zack Greinke, because he's one of the few players they have who could bring a big return. "It's going to take three good pieces to get him, but (GM Dayton Moore) will listen," one official said. . . . The Reds have told teams that only five players are off-limits in trade talks. The five? Edinson Volquez, Jay Bruce, Joey Votto, Johnny Cueto and Edwin Encarnacion.