Bagels and Jocks: A Weekly Examination of the Jewish Sports World- Monday, November 19, 2012
I know that Thanksgiving lies only three days ahead, and I am thankful for many things—within the sports world, and the much more important real world. Still, I am in partial mourning over the end of the Major League Baseball season, capped by the big hardware awarded last week by the Baseball Writers Association of America (BBWAA). It’s time to examine their official picks versus my own preferences that I shared in recent editions of Bagels and Jocks.
Please note a few things:
- My picks (B&J) were preferences, not predictions (good alliteration?)
- Awards were only based on the regular season
- I will have more to say tomorrow (in my Gold Notes column) about what I term the turf/gang war between the Reds (the new stat people) and the Blues (the traditionalists)
THE NATIONAL LEAGUE AWARDS
MANAGER OF THE YEAR
BAGELS AND JOCKS: 1. Davey Johnson (Nationals) 2. Dusty Baker (Reds) 3. Bruce Bochy (Giants)
BBWAA (Official Results): 1. Johnson; 2. Baker; 3. Bochy
We were in total agreement, although I was surprised that Johnson won 23 of the 32 first-place votes. I expected it to be much closer, and could make a case for any of the three to win. Congrats to Johnson, although I would not argue with anybody who says that the somewhat low-profile Bochy is now the best skipper in the game.
ROOKIE OF THE YEAR
BAGELS AND JOCKS: 1. Bryce Harper (Nationals) 2. Wade Miley (Diamondbacks) 3. Todd Frazier (Reds)
BBWAA: 1. Harper; 2. Miley; 3. Frazier
Another 1-2-3 agreement, although I didn’t expect it to be quite so close between Harper and Miley (112-105 in total points)
CY YOUNG AWARD
BAGELS AND JOCKS: 1. R.A. Dickey (Mets) 2. Clayton Kershaw (Dodgers) 3. Craig Kimbrel (Braves) 4. Johnny Cueto (Reds) 5. Gio Gonzalez (Nationals)
BBWAA: 1. Dickey; 2. Kershaw; 3. Gonzalez; 4. Cueto; 5. Kimbrel
Dickey, completing a dream season, won quite handily over Kershaw, capturing 27 of the top spots on the ballot. The writers and I agreed on the members of top five, but Kimbrel and Gonzalez were flipped around Cueto.
BAGELS AND JOCKS: 1. Buster Posey (Giants) 2. RYAN BRAUN (Brewers) 3. Yadier Molina (Cardinals) 4. Andrew McCutchen (Pirates) 5. Chase Headley (Padres)
BBWAA: 1. Posey; 2. Braun; 3. McCutchen; 4. Molina; 5. Headley
BRAUN’s 2012 season was incredibly good, as his statistics were nearly at the same level (and better in some respects) as those that won him the 2011 MVP. He did so despite increased scrutiny and the absence of Prince Fielder hitting behind him. He would have been a good choice again, but the writers got this one right as well. Buster Posey won the batting title and had excellent power stats—in a pitcher’s ballpark, and as a catcher. I was surprised that Posey was chosen (no pun intended) on 27 of the 32 ballots and Braun only got three nods. Still, I would have made the same selection, and it was good to see that none of the 32 writers had Braun lower than fourth.
THE AMERICAN LEAGUE AWARDS
MANAGER OF THE YEAR
BAGELS AND JOCKS: 1. Bob Melvin (As) 1. Buck Showalter (Orioles)
BBWAA (Official Results): 1. Melvin; 2. Showalter
I saw this as a two-man race, and simply could not decide between the two. They both managed extraordinarily well, as their relatively small-market clubs edged out some of the big boys this year. In a close vote, Melvin took 16 of the 28 top spots; Showalter took the other 12. No other manager took a first or a second spot.
ROOKIE OF THE YEAR
BAGELS AND JOCKS: 1. Mike Trout (Angels) 2. Yoenis Cespedes (As)
BBWAA: 1. Trout; 2. Cespedes
As terrific as Cespedes was this year (in most years, he would win the award) if Trout did not win unanimously, there would have to be an investigation. No investigation was needed. More on Trout in just a bit.
CY YOUNG AWARD
BAGELS AND JOCKS: 1. David Price (Rays) 2. Justin Verlander (Tigers) 3. Jered Weaver (Angels) 4. Felix Hernandez (Mariners) 5. Fernando Rodney (Rays)
BBWAA: (Same exact order)
On my unofficial ballot, I needed to flip a coin to decide between Price and Verlander. It came up in Price’s favor, and I wonder if some of the BBWAA scribes employed the same method. This was the closest vote of all, with Price awarded 14 firsts, 13 seconds and a third, and last year’s winner drawing 13 firsts, 13 seconds and two thirds.
BAGELS AND JOCKS: 1. Mike Trout (Angels) 2. Miguel Cabrera (Tigers) 3. Josh Hamilton (Rangers) 4. Robinson Cano (Yankees) 5. Adrian Beltre (Rangers)
BBWAA: 1. Cabrera; 2. Trout; 3. Beltre; 4. Cano; 5. Hamilton
All of these players had monster (yes, that’s a sports adjective) seasons, but it became clear that this vote would come down to Cabrera and Trout. Again, that’s taking nothing away from Beltre, Cano and Hamilton.
This vote, more than any other, re-ignited a debate between the so-called traditionalists who favor the tried-and-true stats, such as batting average, homers and RBI and the reformers who favor advanced analytical stats such as WAR, WPA and UZR. Cabrera’s candidacy came to represent the old guard (and indeed, he won the Triple Crown, the first player to do so in 45 years) who, in most cases, could not understand how someone who led the league in all three iconic categories, while leading his team to the postseason could not win. Writers, such as MITCH ALBOM, of the Detroit Free Press, ESPN and multiple-best-seller fame, was one of the prominent voices who took up for Miggy.
In Trout’s corner were a variety of baseball/political voices such as Keith Olbermann and the less bombastic NATE SILVER (you know, the “538” guy who correctly picked all 50 states’ electoral choices in that other November election…years after he helped revolutionize baseball statistical models).
My own take was that a powerful case could be made for either player. I chose Trout, who was second in batting average, led the league in runs scored and excelled in center field.
I framed the discussion this way:
Here is the dilemma: Trout—a rookie who just turned 21 in August—was the first player ever to hit at least .320 with 30 homers and 45 stolen bases. Cabrera became the first player to win a Triple Crown (league leader in batting average, home runs and RBI) since 1967. So, who gets the nod from Bagels and Jocks? I’m thinking, I’m thinking…
In Cabrera’s favor, how do you overlook a Triple Crown winner who led his team to a division title when his closest competitor was not able to carry his team to the playoffs? In Trout’s favor, he led the league by a great margin in runs scored and swiped the most bases despite spending most of April in the minor leagues. His team, although finishing out of the money, had more wins than the Tigers despite playing in a tougher division. And while their offensive numbers are fairly similar, Trout is a much better baserunner and possibly (already) the league’s best defensive centerfielder. Is that enough to beat the first Triple Crown winner since 1967? Yes, if by the slimmest of margins.
This turned out to be the only one of the eight categories where my own preference differed from the BBWAA’s. Among the writers, it wasn’t even that close. Cabrera was awarded 22 firsts and 6 seconds; Trout snagged 6 firsts, 21 seconds and one third.
What does this mean? Was it a blow to the stat geeks, who pointed out that Trout beat Cabrera (and sometimes, quite handily) in the type of analytical stats that purport to put a single number on who is the better/best all-around player. I’m not sure if this was a blow to the sabermatricians, although many of them are up in arms that the writers could keep their head in the sand while these advanced numbers are being used by a majority of general managers and scouts.
In a nutshell, I did not need the advanced numbers to tell me that Trout is the better all-around player. Still, how can you ignore a Triple Crown winner who was the marquee player on a playoff team? One brilliant player got the nod over another one, even though I would have reversed the order.
Life and baseball goes on—even if there will be no MLB action for a few months.
On that bittersweet note, it is time to sign off from today’s edition of Bagels and Jocks. See you next Monday right here. Please feel free to share some dialogue below. If you would like to bring another Jewish athlete, mover-and-shaker (or issue) to my attention, please reply below or contact me by e-mail.
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About the Author: An author, speaker and custom writer from Cherry Hill, NJ, Matt loves to entertain people through his writing and public speaking. Laughs, Smiles and just enough Wisdom reach his audience through the magic of his written and spoken words. More about Matthew