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#pounditFriday, December 3, 2021

Baseball

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

Alex Rodriguez shuts down Kelly Bensimon dating rumors

Alex Rodriguez with sunglasses on

There have been a few different rumors about Alex Rodriguez’s dating life since he and Jennifer Lopez called off their engagement, but the former MLB slugger has denied the latest.

Mara Siegler of Page Six was told by a source this week that Rodriguez has been trying to score a date with “Real Housewives of New York City” star Kelly Bensimon. The report claims A-Rod has asked Bensimon out multiple times and that the two “have a cute and flirty text relationship.”

A rep for Bensimon confirmed that she and Rodriguez have been chatting.

“They’ve been having a fun text relationship for the last couple of months,” the rep says. “She thinks he is charming and a gentleman.”

A-Rod, however, claims he and Bensimon have discussed nothing more than business. Bensimon is a real estate agent, and Rodriguez’s reps told E! News that she reached out with a business proposal like many others have done.

“[Kelly] reached out on a real estate opportunity and that is it,” Alex’s rep put it bluntly. “There are no flirty texts, there is nothing there. A lot of people reach out to him for business purposes. Mr. Rodriguez is laser-focused on running Arod Corp, Timberwolves and being a present father for his daughters.”

Rodriguez and Lopez split earlier this year, reportedly over the music icon’s trust issues. J-Lo has since rekindled her relationship with Ben Affleck. A-Rod was said to be dating an NFL sideline reporter at one point, but apparently that fizzled out.

Photo: Feb 2, 2020; Miami Gardens, Florida, USA; Alex Rodriguez on the sidelines before Super Bowl LIV between the Kansas City Chiefs and San Francisco 49ers at Hard Rock Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

AL Cy Young voter explains controversial Gerrit Cole decision

Gerrit Cole

Robbie Ray almost became the 19th unanimous Cy Young winner in MLB history … the key word being “almost.”

The veteran lefty took home the AL Cy Young Award on Wednesday, placing first on 29 of 30 voting ballots. The lone defector was MLB.com’s Jason Beck, who had Ray in second place behind New York Yankees ace Gerrit Cole. The four-time All-Star Cole finished second on every other ballot.

Beck took to Twitter to explain his decision. Though he declined to mention which ones specifically, Beck said that over a dozen metrics he used to make his decision all weighed in Cole’s favor.

Ray led the American League in a number of traditional categories, such as ERA (2.84), WHIP (1.05), games started (32), innings pitched (193.1), and strikeouts (248). That appears to have put him over the top in the eyes of every other voter. But Beck likely relied on more niche metrics like FIP, strikeouts-to-walks ratio, and fWAR, where Cole was superior to Ray.

Shane Bieber was the unanimous AL Cy Young winner last season, but you have to go all the way back to Justin Verlander in 2011 for the last time that it happened before that. Ray will just have to settle for 29 of 30 first-place votes though. But at least Beck’s Cy Young vote was not quite as costly as this one from a couple years ago.

Photo: Feb 14, 2020; Tampa, Florida, USA; New York Yankees pitcher Gerrit Cole (45) throws during a spring training workout at George M. Steinbrenner Field. Mandatory Credit: Jonathan Dyer-USA TODAY Sports

Baseball fans have 1 big complaint about NL Cy Young Award

Corbin Burnes

Few would dispute that Corbin Burnes had a fantastic season for the Milwaukee Brewers, but there are a number of people unhappy that he claimed the NL Cy Young Award.

Many fans were upset to see Burnes beat out Philadelphia Phillies ace Zack Wheeler for the NL’s top pitching honor. The biggest argument was that Wheeler’s body of work was much larger than Burnes’.

The Brewers ace threw only 167 innings in the regular season, qualifying for the NL ERA title by only five innings. Though Wheeler’s ERA was higher — 2.78 to Burnes’ 2.43 — Wheeler pitched 213.1 innings, nearly 50 more than Burnes.

The point about Wheeler pitching more innings was argued by many on Twitter, including ESPN’s Jeff Passan.

Burnes and Wheeler actually got 12 first-places votes each, while Max Scherzer claimed the other six. Where Burnes had the edge was he was either first or second on most ballots (26 of 30), while many voters had Wheeler third or even fourth. That gave Burnes (151) more total points than Wheeler (141).

The voting shows there was ample support for Burnes. The Brewers ace’s FIP, a popular metric among the stats-oriented crowd, was a miniscule 1.63, significantly lower than Wheeler’s 2.59. That, in the eyes of many voters, made up for the fact that Burnes threw 46.1 fewer innings than Wheeler did.

If Wheeler feels snubbed, we may well hear about it. He hasn’t been shy about blunt public criticism before.

New report is bad news for Carlos Correa, Corey Seager

Carlos Correa

The major bidding war Carlos Correa and Corey Seager may have been hoping to see materialize may not develop quite as they hoped.

On Tuesday, we shared a report saying that the Yankees and Dodgers could be involved in a bidding war for Seager, who is among the top free agents on the market. Correa, another top free agent shortstop, has also been linked to the Yankees.

However, a new report is throwing some cold water on those hot rumors.

The New York Daily News’ Matthew Roberson reported on Wednesday that the Yankees are not expected to break the bank for one of the top free agent shortstops. He argues that the Yankees like prospects Anthony Volpe and Oswald Peraza and don’t want to commit huge money that would lock in a shortstop long-term and block either player. Roberson says the Yankees already have some major payroll obligations that would make it tough to stomach another $30-plus million-a-year player.

The report says that Andrelton Simmons or Jose Iglesias could be more reasonable expectations to play shortstop for the Yankees in 2022 on short-term deals.

Correa and Seager will still likely sign massive deals in free agency. But not having the Yankees involved in the bidding, which is what this report suggests will happen, may prevent the contracts for either player from truly reaching absurd levels. It also doesn’t help them that the market is somewhat saturated with available shortstops, including Trevor Story, Javy Baez and Marcus Semien (who can also play second or third base). A team that misses out on Correa or Seager might not be too disappointed, considering their fallback options could be Story, Semien or Baez.

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