Let me start off with this disclaimer: I am not a member of the BBWAA nor do I play one on television. But I pride myself on my knowledge of baseball, and, therefore, feel quite strongly on railing against the powers that be on a few of this year’s MLB awards finalists. In both leagues, there was at least one major injustice, and it calls into question whether some of these so-called experts were simply trying to outsmart themselves or were giving in to peer pressure. Let me have at it with this Festivus “airing of grievances” now:
It’s probably not terribly surprising that Zach Britton didn’t crack the list of finalists. I understand that, but only to a small degree. If you don’t believe that relievers should be win the award, don’t even make them eligible for it. But if you are under the belief that Cy Young should go to the best pitcher — regardless of his role — then Britton should be right there at the top. His 2016 campaign for the history books will only net him the Mariano Rivera Award for relief pitcher excellence, but tell me the last time you saw a pitcher put up the kind of numbers that Britton did? I have no problem with Rick Porcello or Corey Kluber taking the hardware home, or even Justin Verlander, although his presence smacks a tad bit of favoritism. Verlander was a bit of a surprise addition to the mix, but he led the American League with 254 strikeouts and also was tops in WHIP (1.001). Porcello was stellar from start to finish, and Kluber carried a decimated Indians rotation all the way to Game 7 of the World Series. But what about Britton?
The Baltimore southpaw closer set a Major League record for lefties by opening — and ultimately ending — his season with 47 saves without blowing one. He set another MLB record with his 0.54 ERA, the lowest ever for a pitcher with at least 50 innings under his belt. He was arguably as valuable to his team as any pitcher in either league, and gave up one run over his final 58 appearances (yes, you read that right). Not one of the three Cy Young finalists had an ERA under 3.00, yet Britton’s was nearly one-sixth of that mark.
Again, I don’t think you can technically go wrong with any of the three AL finalists, but the real travesty here is the hypocrisy of the voting process. Clearly, voters held Britton’s place in the bullpen against him despite excellence never before seen in the closer role. The other awards in the AL appear to be headed in the right direction — I have zero qualms with Jose Altuve, Mookie Betts, or Mike Trout as the league MVP, nor even with Gary Sanchez among the Rookie of the Year finalists despite playing only two months at the big-league level.
But with Britton’s exclusion, the “experts” got it wrong. Way wrong.
Could someone out there please explain to me the criteria for winning Manager of the Year? Seriously, because I don’t think I really know anymore now that the New York Mets’ Terry Collins isn’t even a finalist, when really he should win the award altogether.
Okay, so it’s really a shocker that the three finalists were all skippers of division-winning teams, isn’t it? (Please note the blatant sarcasm). I think that given the San Francisco Giants’ nearly-epic second half collapse, Bruce Bochy’s exclusion was about the only thing the voters got right. But what the heck were they thinking by not going with Collins?
Let’s examine the facts: the Chicago Cubs’ Joe Maddon won the award last year, and is a media favorite because he buys media members beers and stuff like that. But he had about as talented a team to work with as baseball has seen in years. The Los Angeles Dodgers’ Dave Roberts did a magnificent job in navigating a group of perennial underachievers through a three-month absence of Clayton Kershaw, but it’s hard to give too much credit to the guy commanding the team with baseball’s biggest payroll (upwards of $227 million).
And then there is the Washington Nationals’ Dusty Baker. Back on the scene after a two-hear hiatus from managing, Baker led the Nationals to a 95-win, NL East division-winning campaign. But again, Baker had plenty of pieces to work with, so you can’t really heap too much praise upon him.
But Collins? All he did was take a rag-tag, injury-decimated team that was falling off the map entirely in late August and turn them into the NL’s top wild card team. The Mets finished on a 27-13 blaze, and did so with about half a roster of guys I guarantee you the average fan has never heard of. David Wright and Lucas Duda missed most of the season, and then the team lost Neil Walker in August as well. Wilmer Flores and Travis d’Arnaud also missed time, and Yoenis Cespedes disappeared briefly during the summer. And that wasn’t even the half of it.
Before the season, why were many people picking the Mets to make a return trip to the World Series? Something about a pretty decent, young rotation, right? You know, some guys named Harvey, deGrom, Matz… Well, that didn’t quite pan out, as all three were on the shelf by the time October rolled around. That left only Noah Syndergaard (another awards-season snub) to anchor the rotation, while Cespedes was forced to do the heavy lifting on offense. Even that could have been avoided, but the team’s big trade-deadline acquisition, Jay Bruce, struggled so badly he was actually benched briefly in late September.
And yet through all of this, with the likes of T.J. Rivera, Robert Gsellman, Seth Lugo, Rene Rivera, and Kelly Johnson thrown into the fire, the Mets surged past the St. Louis Cardinals and even the Giants to host the wild card game at Citi Field.
That leads me to believe that either the voters have some sort of New York bias (certainly not out of the question), or they know something that I don’t about Collins (maybe he admitted that he just sits on his hands all game and lets the players manage?). Either way, this was a botch job for the ages.