Tag:Ryan Braun
Posted on: September 25, 2011 11:03 pm
 

NL MVP? Give me a day (or three)

I see Scott Miller went with Ryan Braun over Matt Kemp for National League MVP.

Today I agree with him. Yesterday I didn't. Friday I did.

He had to decide today, because our editors demanded a column. I have until Thursday, the day after the regular season ends.

Braun or Kemp?

Their numbers are similar. Braun took his team to the playoffs. Kemp played in a tougher ballpark, and with much less support in the lineup.

I've heard the arguments. I've heard from Kemp fans who say I'm crazy to even consider anyone else, and from Braun fans who want to know how I could vote for someone whose team hasn't played a meaningful game in months.

Normally, I wouldn't. Until last week, I barely considered Kemp as MVP.

He's having a special season. He deserves to be considered.

As of today, I'm not voting for him. Tomorrow, maybe I am.

All that matters is what I think Thursday. And we're not there yet.

As for the other awards:

AL MVP: An equally tough choice, but Scott's right, it's Justin Verlander. No single player has dominated this season the way he has.  I was a Curtis Granderson supporter when September began, I've been swayed by Miguel Cabrera, Robinson Cano and Jacoby Ellsbury, but it's Verlander who should (and likely will) win.

NL Cy Young: I hate to go against Roy Halladay, but I love to go against Scott. So it's Clayton Kershaw, in a very, very close call.

AL Cy Young: I love to go against Scott, but I'm not crazy. It's Verlander, and it's not close.

NL Manager of the Year: Kirk Gibson, and with apologies to Ron Roenicke, who did a fantastic job, it's not close.

AL Manager of the Year: Joe Maddon, whether or not his Rays end up in the playoffs.

AL Rookie of the Year: Jeremy Hellickson.

NL Rookie of the Year: Craig Kimbrel.


Posted on: September 23, 2011 11:40 pm
 

The hit that won the division -- and maybe more

It was the hit that clinched the Central.

And maybe the MVP, too?

It sure felt that way, as Ryan Braun stood there with his bat held high in the air. It felt that way, as Braun's blast hit the center-field scoreboard, and as the Brewers celebrated their first division title in 29 years.

It felt as if Braun had done something special, and he had -- even if his three-run home run simply clinched a division crown.

The MVP race will go on for a few more days. Matt Kemp could still win a Triple Crown, and that would make him hard to ignore.

The National League Central race is over, over because Braun's three-run eighth-inning home run gave the Brewers a 4-1 win over the Marlins, while Alfonso Soriano's three-run homer gave the Cubs a 5-1 win over the second-place Cardinals.

It's over, and you can bet that title means a lot more to Braun than even an MVP would. He's been a Brewer since he was drafted in 2005, he went through the wild-card season in 2008 and he signed a contract that runs through 2020.

He knows how the fans have responded, knows how owner Mark Attanasio has responded. He knows that the Brewers could have traded free-agent-to-be Prince Fielder last winter, and that instead of doing that, they traded for Zack Greinke and Shaun Marcum.

General manager Doug Melvin went all-in, trading prospects, just as he had to get CC Sabathia in that wild-card season.

That year, the Brewers won just one playoff game, losing to the Phillies in the first round. And no one complained.

This time, they're no doubt aiming higher, and no doubt believe they can get past the Phillies and everyone else in the National League.

They'll note the similarities in the way they clinched, with a Braun home run giving the Brewers a win, and then with everyone staying around to watch the scoreboard before the celebration could begin.

But that team wasn't as good as this one. All the Brewers who were there will tell you that.

Braun was good then (in his first full big-league season), but not as good as he is now, when he's leading the league in hitting and near the top in home runs and RBI.

He may be the MVP. He may have clinched it with the dramatic home run Friday night.

We don’t know that yet. We do know he clinched the division crown.

And that's not bad.
Posted on: July 9, 2011 8:37 pm
Edited on: July 9, 2011 8:50 pm
 

Finally, McCutchen makes it to All-Star Game

Stop complaining about Andrew McCutchen not making the National League All-Star team.

He is on the team. He was added Saturday night after Brewers outfielder Ryan Braun told Major League Baseball that he won't be able to play in Tuesday night's game in Phoenix. Braun has missed the last seven games because of a sore left leg.

Braun led all players in fan balloting for the NL team. McCutchen was 16th among outfielders in that same fan vote, but there was an immediate outcry when he was left off the team -- and another outcry when manager Bruce Bochy chose Andre Ethier to replace the injured Shane Victorino.

McCutchen certainly has numbers worthy of All-Star status, with a .291 batting average, 13 home runs, 49 RBI and 15 steals. He's an exciting player and has played a big part in the Pirates' better-than-expected first half.

Posted on: July 9, 2011 5:44 pm
Edited on: July 9, 2011 8:46 pm
 

All-Star Game is losing star power

Try making a list of players who could get you to turn on the television just to watch them play.

Albert Pujols? Justin Verlander? Alex Rodriguez? Felix Hernandez? Jose Reyes? Chipper Jones? Derek Jeter?

You see what I'm getting at?

For all the debate over whether Bruce Bochy snubbed Andrew McCutchen, the real developing problem with Tuesday night's All-Star Game is that, intentionally or not, it's the game itself that is getting snubbed.

All-Star Games need star power. All-Star Games need stars.

The game's greatest stars gathering in the desert, or whatever that annoying TV promo has told us for months.

Or some of the game's greatest stars. Or a few of the game's greatest stars.

I'm not assigning fault here. I'm not suggesting that we've headed back to the 1990s, when too many stars did all they could to avoid the All-Star Game.

Pujols didn't make the team because he had a sub-par first half, got hurt and plays a position filled with other outstanding players. Verlander and Hernandez made the team but are pitching for their own teams on Sunday and thus will be ineligible to pitch on Tuesday.

A-Rod and Chipper both have bad knees and may both end up having surgery.

Ryan Braun, who got the most votes of any player in the National League, has a sore left leg and will miss the All-Star Game, too.

At least Braun's injury allowed Bochy to add the deserving McCutchen to the team, which Bochy did Saturday night.

The reasons for the absences really don't matter. The problem for baseball is that an All-Star Game that has already seen fading interest is now going to be played without so many stars who people would watch.

Mariano Rivera? CC Sabathia? Cole Hamels? Matt Cain?

It's true that Jeter's decision to pull out of the game (citing the calf injury that forced him to the DL for three weeks) allowed Cleveland's Asdrubal Cabrera to be the rightful American League starter at shortstop. It's true that Cabrera is having a far better season than Jeter, is far more "deserving."

But Jeter just became the 28th player with 3,000 career hits.

Who do you think the average fan is more likely to tune in and watch, Derek Jeter or Asdrubal Cabrera?

There will be great players in Phoenix. But there will be so many great players missing.

Too many.

It's no one's fault. But it is too bad.

Posted on: June 28, 2011 8:50 pm
 

Braun: At this point, Prince is MVP

NEW YORK -- Prince Fielder is already set to hit the free-agent jackpot this winter.

Imagine if he hits the market as the National League's Most Valuable Player.

Fielder has huge numbers, and teammate Ryan Braun set the MVP campaign going Tuesday, saying, "At this point, Prince has probably been the MVP in the National League. The only other guy in the conversation is probably Matt Kemp."

Mets fans would likely argue on behalf of Jose Reyes (but who knows if he'll even be in the National League by the end of the year). And with half a season to go, any number of other players could merit consideration.

But Fielder entered play Tuesday with a 1.037 OPS (second to Kemp), 21 home runs (one behind Kemp) and 68 RBI (leading the league). He had 41 extra-base hits and 44 strikeouts.

"He's been incredible," Braun said.

Brewers people say that Fielder has been able to avoid talking about free agency, in large part because the Brewers are in first place, but also because there's no real hint of an attempt by the team to sign him.

It's basically a given that Fielder will play elsewhere next year, but it's also a certainty that Fielder has given his all for the Brewers this year.

"He's had a great attitude and a great outlook," general manager Doug Melvin said. "He hasn't lost any focus. I talked to [agent] Scott Boras this spring, and we agreed that the best thing for the team and for Prince was to just worry about [the contract] later."

Boras will have plenty of time to make his case. And by then, perhaps the binder will include an MVP award, as well.


Posted on: May 12, 2011 6:52 pm
 

3 to watch: The Verlander edition

Ryan Braun remembers Justin Verlander's first no-hitter. He was there.

So no, Braun wasn't surprised to see Verlander throw a second no-hitter last Saturday in Toronto. And no, Braun won't be surprised if some day Verlander throws another one.

"Any starting pitcher who is throwing 100 [mph] in the eighth inning or the ninth inning should put himself in position to throw a no-hitter sometime," Braun said this week. "As far as dominant stuff goes, he's as good as any pitcher I've ever seen."

Braun saw Verlander's first no-hitter, in June 2007, but he didn't play in the game. He was in his first weeks in the major leagues, and Brewers manager Ned Yost gave him that night off.

Yost now manages the Royals, which means he'll see Verlander again on Friday night, in the Tiger right-hander's first start since no-hitting the Blue Jays.

Verlander has great history against the Royals, including throwing his first big-league shutout in Kansas City in 2006. He's 10-2 in 16 career starts against the Royals, with a 2.58 ERA.

He's never thrown a no-hitter against them. Not yet.

"On his good days, he's at the top of the league stuff-wise," said Craig Counsell, who went 0-for-4 with two strikeouts in Verlander's first no-hitter. "And he's able to maintain that special velocity through the game."

Despite his success against the Royals, this Kansas City team may not be the most likely opponent if you're looking for another Verlander no-hitter. Current Royals players have hit a combined .312 against Verlander, with Billy Butler one of Verlander's toughest opponents at .406 (13-for-32).

And how did Verlander do in his first start after his first no-hitter?

Not bad. He beat the Phillies, 7-4, allowing three runs on seven hits in six innings. But there was no real no-hit threat, as Verlander allowed a second-inning single to Abraham Nunez.

On to 3 to watch:

1. The American League Central could be getting interesting, now that the Tigers have won eight of their last nine and the White Sox have won four of their last five. The Tigers are now just percentage points behind the second-place Royals, going into the series that will begin with Verlander against Luke Hochevar in Royals at Tigers, Friday night (7:05 ET) at Comerica Park.

2. The last time the Red Sox sent Josh Beckett to the mound against the Yankees, they were 1-7 and it already felt like must-win time. Things aren't as desperate now. Then again, the Sox just lost two in a row in Toronto, John Lackey gave up nine runs, and once again Boston is three games under .500. And they're in New York. So yeah, maybe it is must win, especially when Beckett takes the mound against CC Sabathia for Red Sox at Yankees, Saturday night (7:10 ET) at Yankee Stadium.


3. It's Cardinals-Reds time again, so that means it's time for more interesting tweets from Reds second baseman Brandon Phillips, right? As of late Thursday afternoon, there hadn't been any, but we'll keep watching, all the way through Cardinals at Reds, Sunday afternoon (1:10 ET) at Great American Ball Park. As of now, the Cardinals are still saying that Sunday's game is the last one that ailing manager Tony La Russa will definitely miss, but stay tuned on that, too. Meanwhile, acting manager Joe Pettini did his part to play down the importance of this series, saying Thursday, "It's early in the year, so it's just another series."


Posted on: April 21, 2011 8:10 pm
Edited on: April 22, 2011 12:18 am
 

Braun is good, but is he $21 million a year good?

Every year he's played in the big leagues, Ryan Braun has been listed on at least one MVP ballot.

He's good. But is he $21 million a year good?

Is he so good that the Brewers should have extended his contract for five years, 4 1/2 years before his current deal expires?

I'm happy for Braun, one of the good guys in the game. But I understand why eyebrows are being raised around the game about his new five-year, $105 million contract, which doesn't even kick in until the 2016 season.

I also understand how dangerous it can be for a mid-market team to wait before trying to sign a star player to an extension.

Look what happened with Albert Pujols.

The Rockies had exactly that in mind when they extended Troy Tulowitzki's contract last winter, when Tulowitzki still had three years plus a club option remaining on his previous deal. If they waited, the Rockies worried, their franchise player might just get too expensive for them to keep, or too tempted by free agency.

Tulowitzki became the first big-league player signed through 2020. Now Braun is the second.

If Tulowitzki wins an MVP or two between now and 2014, when the new part of his deal kicks in, he could easily be worth more than the $20 million per year (from 2015-2019) that the Rockies signed him for. Same goes for Braun, whose new deal has an average annual value of $21 million.

But even if the Tulowitzki and Braun deals look team-friendly by then, they're not bad deals for the player. Not at all.

For one thing, they get security, and get paid even if they get hurt or don't perform. For another, they get more money up front. Braun's new deal included a $10 million signing bonus.

It's still a ton of money for a player the Brewers could have waited a year or two to extend. The $21 million average annual value is the second-highest ever for an outfielder, behind Manny Ramirez's two-year, $45 million deal with the Dodgers.

Braun is very good, one of just seven players to start the last two All-Star Games.

Is he good enough to warrant this big a commitment, good enough that the Brewers had to sign him to an extension with 4 1/2 years to spare?

Obviously, the Brewers thought so.


Posted on: April 10, 2011 7:30 pm
Edited on: April 10, 2011 7:31 pm
 

3 to watch: The most favored opponent edition

Nine games in, the Phillies have the same record they had after nine games last year. They're 7-2, the best record in the National League.

But nine games in, the Phillies have scored 10 fewer runs than they did in the first nine games last year.

Does that mean they really do miss Jayson Werth and Chase Utley? Or does it just mean that they haven't played the Nationals yet?

They do miss Werth and Utley, or at least they should miss them eventually. But it is worth noting that the Phillies played six of their first nine games against Washington last year, and that they scored 50 runs in those six games.

The only reason we're bringing this up now is that Werth left the Phillies to sign with the Nationals last winter, and this week in Washington he'll play against his former team for the first time.

And if the Phillies were off to a slow start, there would no doubt be plenty of talk about how much they miss Jayson Werth.

Instead, Werth is hitting .200 for the Nationals, and the Phils are averaging 6.6 runs a game without him.

And that's without any games against Washington, the team the Phils pounded for 107 runs in 18 games last year.

The 107 runs were the most the Phillies scored against any opponent, but they weren't the most any team scored against any opponent last year.

The Twins scored 130 runs in their 18 games against the Royals (helped by a 19-1 game), and the Brewers scored 125 in 18 games against the Pirates (helped by back-to-back 20-0 and 17-3 wins).

And this week, while the Phillies play the Nationals, the Twins will play the Royals and the Brewers will play the Pirates.

Is there any doubt about the theme for this week's 3 to watch:

1. Ryan Braun is the National League's early home run leader, with four in the first 10 games of the season. And he hasn't even faced the Pirates yet. Braun hit six of his 25 home runs last year against Pittsburgh, the team he'll face in for the first time this year in Brewers at Pirates, Tuesday night (7:05 ET) at PNC Park . Braun has homered off each of the scheduled Pirates starters this week, with one in 16 at-bats against Kevin Correia (Tuesday), one in 30 at-bats against Paul Maholm (Wednesday) and two in 16 at-bats against Jeff Karstens (Thursday).

2. The Twins are off to a slow start. Joe Mauer is off to a slow start. But the Twins haven't seen the Royals yet, and neither has Mauer. Last year, Mauer hit an incredible .516 against the Royals, with 17 RBI in 15 games. He gets his first chance of 2011 in Royals at Twins, Tuesday night (8:10 ET) at Target Field .

3. John Lannan is 29-30 with a 3.87 ERA in 86 career starts against everyone but the Phillies. John Lannan is 0-8 with a 6.09 ERA in 11 starts against the Phillies. He gets another chance -- or the Phillies get another chance -- in Phillies at Nationals, Wednesday night (7:05 ET) at Nationals Park . Bad news for him: He's matched up against Roy Halladay, who allowed one run in 23 innings in his three starts (all wins) against Washington last year.


 
 
 
 
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