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#pounditTuesday, November 30, 2021

Baseball

Noah Syndergaard’s jersey number with Angels sparks sensitive topic

Noah Syndergaard

Noah Syndergaard is revealing the jersey number that he will wear for the Los Angeles Angels next season, and it is sparking a sensitive subject.

Syndergaard appeared Friday on Angels Radio AM830’s “The Sports Lodge” and said that he will be wearing No. 34 for the team. While that is the jersey number that Syndergaard has worn for his entire career, it is also the number that belonged to former Angels pitcher Nick Adenhart.

In 2009, Adenhart and friends Courtney Stewart and Henry Pearson were killed by a drunk driver in Fullerton, Calif. Adenhart was just 22 years old. While the No. 34 jersey was never officially retired by the team, no Angels player has worn it since then.

Syndergaard added during his appearance on “The Sports Lodge” that he is hoping to honor Adenhart by wearing the number.

“I just want to honor his name and wear that jersey with pride,” Syndergaard said of Adenhart.

The reaction of Angels fans to the news was definitely a mixed bag. Some approved of Syndergaard using it as a way to pay tribute to Adenhart while others were more conflicted.

On one hand, Syndergaard was already wearing the No. 34 jersey elsewhere and is only on a one-year contract with the Angels. But on the other hand, he seems to appreciate the significance of the number in Anaheim and have a genuine desire to honor Adenhart. It is definitely a delicate subject with no one right answer. But regardless, Adenhart will always remain close in the hearts of all those in the Angels organization.

Photo: Aug 4, 2019; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; New York Mets starting pitcher Noah Syndergaard (34) reacts against the Pittsburgh Pirates during the first inning at PNC Park. The Mets won 13-2. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Carlos Correa may lose interest from 1 team for key reason

Carlos Correa

There appears to be plenty of interest in free agent shortstop Carlos Correa, but another team may be hesitant to pursue him for one major reason.

Correa is expected to seek upwards of $300 million in free agency, and that price tag is proving to be a bit much for some teams. That includes the Detroit Tigers, according to MLB Network’s Jon Heyman. The Tigers “love” Correa but are reluctant to offer that sort of contract due to their array of needs.

The Tigers would make for a good fit for Correa. They need a shortstop and are managed by former Astros skipper A.J. Hinch, and that connection has already fueled rumors. However, if Correa’s price tag remains high, the Tigers may just look elsewhere.

Correa should be popular even if the Tigers are reluctant to pursue him at his current price. However, it may concern him that some other teams appear to have the same issue.

Photo: Aug 4, 2020; Phoenix, Arizona, USA; Houston Astros shortstop Carlos Correa against the Arizona Diamondbacks at Chase Field. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Noah Syndergaard takes shot at Mike Francesa over criticism

Noah Syndergaard

Noah Syndergaard’s departure from the New York Mets is not proving to be an amicable one.

Syndergaard was the subject of some discussion in New York after his decision to sign a one-year contract with the Los Angeles Angels. Syndergaard was once viewed as a long-term ace for the Mets, but has hardly played since 2019 after undergoing Tommy John surgery.

That sentiment was echoed by iconic New York radio host Mike Francesa, who tweeted Friday that the Mets are “better off” without Syndergaard and haven’t had him for years. Syndergaard took notice of that comment and fired back with a burn of his own.

In Syndergaard’s defense, it’s not entirely his fault his Mets career went the way it did. When he was fully healthy, he was outstanding. Unfortunately, that just didn’t happen often enough. He was a non-factor in 2020 and 2021, and missed most of the 2017 season as well.

Francesa has a point too. Given that injury history, there would have been no point to the Mets leaning on Syndergaard, and it certainly sounds like the Mets felt that way. Still, Francesa makes himself an easy target sometimes, and the former Mets pitcher is happy to get his shots in.

Cleveland Guardians have eerie mishap on first day of merchandise sales

Cleveland Guardians logo

The Cleveland Guardians finally began selling merchandise on Friday, and unfortunately things did not go off without a hitch.

Workers were hanging the new Guardians sign at the team’s official Progressive Field store when there was a major mishap. The facing that the sign was being mounted to broke, and the sign went crashing to the ground. Tom Withers of The Associated Press shared some photos:

As Withers noted, no one was injured.

The Guardians were supposed to begin selling their new merchandise on Monday, but the launch was pushed back. There was speculation that the delay may have been caused by a lawsuit that has been filed against the franchise.

Between the lawsuit and the broken sign, the Guardians have experienced a few hiccups with their rebranding. They had better hope that is not a reflection of how the product on the field might look.

Mike Trout has nice message for teammate Shohei Ohtani after MVP result

Mike Trout

Mike Trout and Shohei Ohtani form a great 1-2 punch on the Angels. They also share another cool honor together.

Ohtani was announced on Thursday as the AL MVP, an award he won through a unanimous vote. He became the fourth Angels player in history to win AL MVP, joining Trout, Vlad Guerrero, and Don Baylor.

Trout (in 2014) was also the most recent unanimous AL MVP selection, so the two are among just 11 unanimous AL MVP selections in baseball history.

Trout missed most of the 2021 season due to a calf injury, meaning he got to witness Ohtani’s special season as both a player and spectator. He sent a nice message Thursday to honor Ohtani, noting it was “special” to watch Ohtani.

Trout is spot on.

Ohtani was regularly accomplishing things we hadn’t seen in years. He crushed 46 home runs, stole 26 bases and led the league with eight triples. He also went 9-2 with a 3.18 ERA and 156 strikeouts as a pitcher. He put up a special season, one we might not see again.

Photo: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

Juan Soto shares classy note after losing MVP vote to Bryce Harper

Juan Soto in a Nats hat

Juan Soto did not appear to have any hard feelings after losing the NL MVP vote to Bryce Harper.

The Baseball Writers’ Association of America on Thursday released the results of their AL and NL MVP votes. While Shohei Ohtani was the unanimous winner in the AL, there wasn’t as much of a landslide in the NL.

Harper took 17 of the available 30 first-place votes to win the award. Soto came in second with 274 total points and had six first-place votes. Harper was the clear winner, with Soto actually finishing closer to third-place winner Fernando Tatis Jr. than Harper.

Soto posted a classy note on Instagram regarding the vote.

“Congratulations to my former teammate @bryceharper3. Enjoy your second MVP, much love! Thank you for everything…I’ll see you next year!!!!” Soto wrote.

Harper and Soto were teammates on the Nats in 2018. Harper then signed with the Philadelphia Phillies after that season, while Soto and the Nats went on to win the 2019 World Series.

There were questions about whether Harper was living up to his contract with Philly. Some can still debate that matter, but he quieted a lot of doubters by winning his first MVP award with his new team (and second career NL MVP award).

Though Soto had a very nice season batting .313 with a league-high .465 on-base percentage, the Nats’ last-place finish in the NL East likely hurt his cause. Conversely, the Phillies finishing second in the NL East likely helped Harper’s claim to the award.

Photo: Jul 30, 2021; Washington, District of Columbia, USA; Washington Nationals left fielder Juan Soto (22) in the dugout before the game against the Chicago Cubs at Nationals Park. Mandatory Credit: Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports

Shohei Ohtani joins Mike Trout as unanimous AL MVP winner

Shohei Ohtani hitting

Shohei Ohtani on Thursday was named AL MVP, which was an honor he was expected to receive. What was less certain was whether the voting would be somewhat fractured. The answer is: it wasn’t.

Ohtani received all 30 1st-place votes, making him a unanimous AL MVP selection. He is the first unanimous AL MVP since Mike Trout in 2014 and the 11th overall.

According to the BBWAA, here are all the unanimous AL MVP winners:

Hank Greenberg (1935), Al Rosen (1953), Mickey Mantle (1956), Frank Robinson (1966), Denny McLain (1968), Reggie Jackson (1973), Jose Canseco (1988), Frank Thomas (1993), Ken Griffey Jr. (1997) and Mike Trout (2014).

There have been seven unanimous NL MVP selections.

While this has happened a number of times previously in history, it still only occurs maybe about once per decade on average, making it a special honor.

Ohtani is a special player who had an extremely special season — one he may not even be able to replicate the rest of his career. He was deserving of the special recognition that comes from being a unanimous MVP selection. He is the fourth player in Angels franchise history to receive the honor, joining the aforementioned Trout, as well as Don Baylor and Vladimir Guerrero.

Another cool note about the vote is that Vladimir Guerrero Jr. finished second in voting. He became the first ever son of a former MVP to receive an MVP vote. Maybe one day they will become the first father-son combination to win MVP awards.

photo: Joe Comporeale-USA TODAY Sports

Baseball writer makes Twitter private after bizarre Manager of the Year vote

Mike Shildt in the dugout

One baseball writer is going off the grid after producing a ballot that looked like it was straight out of a Manny Pacquiao-Timothy Bradley fight.

San Francisco Giants manager Gabe Kapler won NL Manager of the Year for 2021 after earning 28 out of 30 first-place votes. It was almost a no-brainer after the Giants won an MLB-best 107 games and their first division title since 2012.

Somebody forget to tell Mitch Stacy of the Associated Press though. Not only did Stacy not have Kapler in first place (giving the vote instead to former St. Louis Cardinals manager Mike Shildt) — it turns out that he did not even have Kapler in his top three at all. Stacy instead chose Milwaukee’s Craig Counsell and Atlanta’s Brian Snitker to round out his picks. For some reference, Kapler finished no worse than second on any other ballot.

After getting some presumed backlash for his ballot, Stacy set his Twitter account to “private,” which means that only confirmed followers can see or respond to his tweets. You can see for yourself the setting on Stacy’s page.

Manager of the Year is typically based on the regular season, which explains why Kapler was higher on every other ballot than Snitker, whose team won the World Series. That makes Stacy’s vote even more head-scratching since no candidate he picked even came close to Kapler’s 107 wins. Perhaps Stacy, who covers the Cincinnati Reds, voted based on seeing Shildt and Counsell more often in the NL Central division.

In any event, voters will often explain a pick that goes against the grain. But it looks like we will have to wait for the explanation Stacy gives, if any at all.

Oct 9, 2019; Atlanta, GA, USA; St. Louis Cardinals manager Mike Shildt (8) looks on before game five of the 2019 NLDS playoff baseball series against the Atlanta Braves at SunTrust Park. Mandatory Credit: Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports

Shohei Ohtani explains how league has tried to adjust to him

Shohei Ohtani

Shohei Ohtani is a once-in-a-century mythical baseball creature, and he is forcing the rest of the league to adjust on the fly.

At a recent news conference in his native Japan, the Los Angeles Angels two-way star explained how Major League Baseball has tried to adapt to him.

“My numbers did drop after the All-Star break, but my batting was actually getting refined toward the end of the year,” he said, as translated by Reddit user Love2JarJar. “The second half home runs were hit while pitchers were locating their pitches very well against me. I was able to choose the pitches carefully and could hit the few, occasional easy ones into the stands.

“I had a lot of easy pitches thrown at me in the first half, and couldn’t square up with a quite a lot of them,” Ohtani continued. “Me being able to hit that many home runs despite that really shows how many easy pitches everyone was giving me. In the second half I was given almost nothing, but I still had to concentrate, draw a walk, and be ready to crush that one easy pitch. The home runs I hit in those circumstances were completely different from those I hit in the first half.”

The 27-year-old Ohtani clobbered 33 home runs in the first half of the year, which was the best in baseball at the time. But he hit just 13 home runs the rest of the way and finished the season third in the league in that category. Ohtani also walked nearly twice as often in the second half as he did in the first half. It sounds like pitchers simply stopped giving him anything good to hit whatsoever. Even so however, Ohtani still managed to piece together some truly impressive at-bats.

The Angels are expected to get sluggers Mike Trout and Anthony Rendon back from injury next season. That means that opponents should no longer be able to pitch around Ohtani, and he could have an even better 2022.

Photo: Aug 21, 2018; Phoenix, AZ, USA; Los Angeles Angels pitcher/designated hitter Shohei Ohtani in the dugout against the Arizona Diamondbacks at Chase Field. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Carlos Correa’s notable meeting sparks free agency rumors

Carlos Correa

Carlos Correa is perhaps the hottest name on the free agent market, which means his every move is being watched by fans and baseball figures alike. On Thursday, Correa had one particularly notable meeting that sent some into a frenzy.

The star free agent shortstop was spotted in Houston on Thursday having lunch with Detroit Tigers manager A.J. Hinch. It’s no secret that the Tigers plan to be aggressive in free agency, and are also in need of a shortstop.

It’s worth noting that Correa played for Hinch in Houston, so it’s not as if this is out of the blue. ESPN’s Jeff Passan did confirm that the pair had breakfast, and talked so much they stayed until lunch. Passan did make clear, however, that no deal is imminent between Correa and the Tigers.

That said, it makes sense for there to be mutual interest here. Beyond the preexisting tie between Hinch and Correa, the shortstop has signaled his willingness to join a rebuilding team.

On the other hand, Correa has sent some hints about other potential places of interest. It looks like it might be a while before he comes to a decision.

Photo: Aug 4, 2020; Phoenix, Arizona, USA; Houston Astros shortstop Carlos Correa against the Arizona Diamondbacks at Chase Field. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports