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#pounditMonday, December 6, 2021

Baseball

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

Justin Verlander makes decision on his 2022 team

Justin Verlander smiles

Justin Verlander is staying put for the 2022 season.

Verlander is set to remain with the Houston Astros on a one-year contract. The news was initially confirmed by Verlander’s brother, FOX Sports analyst Ben Verlander. Mark Berman of FOX 26 in Houston reported that Verlander’s deal is worth $25 million, with a player option for 2023.

It’s easy to see why Verlander took this offer after rejecting Houston’s qualifying offer. The 38-year-old is coming off Tommy John surgery, and to get a $25 million guarantee is quite significant. In addition, he’ll have the opportunity to either remain in Houston for a second season or test free agency again if he proves he is healthy and can still pitch at a high level.

Verlander posted a 2.58 ERA with 300 strikeouts in 223 innings in 2019, his last healthy season. There had been some talk that he may return to the organization where he started his career, and had at least one ex-teammate in his ear about it.

Mets gave Noah Syndergaard the cold shoulder?

Noah Syndergaard

The New York Mets appear to have left Noah Syndergaard on read during free-agent discussions.

Joel Sherman of the New York Post reported Wednesday that Syndergaard had no intention of leaving the Mets but experienced radio silence from the team while opposing clubs began wooing him. Syndergaard would go on to sign a one-year, $21 million deal with the Los Angeles Angels, the team that pursued him the hardest. Angels GM Perry Minasian reportedly insisted on a sit-down meeting with Syndergaard and flew across the country to have dinner with him, ultimately agreeing to a contract with the right-hander.

The former All-Star Syndergaard was given an $18.4 million qualifying offer by the Mets on Nov. 12 and had a deadline of Nov. 17 to accept or reject it. It was during this period that the Mets went MIA on him and the Angels made their move. Sherman adds that Syndergaard did not even go back to try and get the Mets to match or exceed the Angels’ offer.

Syndergaard, who had been a Met his entire career, made just two starts in 2021 as he returned from Tommy John surgery. That uncertainty entering free agency probably explains why he had to move quickly on a deal.

It is also worth noting that the Mets are lacking stability right now. They are still without a manager (though there are some prominent candidates), and new GM Billy Eppler was finalizing his deal with the Mets right around the time Syndergaard was signing elsewhere. Ultimately, the unpredictability may have also played a part in Syndergaard’s surprising decision to leave.

Brandon Belt makes decision on Giants’ qualifying offer

Brandon Belt captain

“The Captain” has made a decision on his qualifying offer, and he is not about to abandon his first mates.

Brandon Belt is accepting the $18.4 million qualifying offer he received from the San Francisco Giants. The decision will keep him with the team that drafted him in 2009 and the only MLB club for whom he has played. The decision will also allow Belt to continue leading his “seamen.”

Belt, 33, smashed a career-high 29 home runs despite playing in just 97 games last season. He dubbed himself “The Captain” of the Giants and began to lead them with his hot hitting. He carried the team to a 107-win season and the NL West crown.

Belt wanted to return to the Giants and found the $18.4 million price to be fair. That’s more money than the $16 million base salary he earned each of the last four seasons.

Interestingly, Belt is the only MLB player to accept a qualifying offer this offseason. That’s just fine by him and the Giants, especially after they already lost one star.

Justin Verlander leaning one particular way in free agency?

Justin Verlander smiles

We may have a notable development in Justin Verlander Watch 2021.

Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic reported on Tuesday that Los Angeles Angels officials believe that Verlander is more inclined to sign with an East Coast team or to return to the Detroit Tigers than to sign with a West Coast team. That may have played a factor in the Angels’ decision to sign fireballer Noah Syndergaard on Tuesday.

The former Cy Young winner Verlander did not pitch at all last season after undergoing Tommy John surgery on his throwing elbow in 2020. Another concern is that the two-time Cy Young Award winner will turn 39 years old in February.

Verlander was drafted by Detroit and pitched for them from 2005 until they traded him in 2017, allowing him to win the World Series with Houston. A former teammate has been recruiting him back to the Tigers.

Verlander reportedly looked good in a recent workout for interested teams. That could give him a bit more leverage to choose his destination for next year, which now sounds like it will be on the east side of the country.

Photo: Noah K. Murray-USA TODAY Sports

Corey Seager at center of major bidding war?

Corey Seager with a bat

Corey Seager is among the top free agents this offseason, and he will likely command top dollar. He may also benefit from one of the most coveted free agent scenarios.

MLB reporter Jon Heyman said Tuesday that the Yankees and Dodgers “are both playing for” Seager.

Heyman’s wording is odd, but the implication is both teams are making a strong effort to sign Seager. The Yankees and Dodgers are among the two biggest heavyweights in the league, holding the deepest pockets when they want to spend. The only scenario that might be more ideal for a free agent was back in the day when the Yankees and Red Sox were fighting over a player.

For today’s game, having the Dodgers and Yankees fighting over you leads to a lucrative deal. Just ask Gerrit Cole about that.

Seager, 27, is a career .297 hitter with an .870 OPS. He could just be entering his prime, which makes him a good candidate for a long-term deal. Seager also plays a premium position at shortstop.

The Dodgers should be fine if they lose Seager since they have Trea Turner, but they’re not really in the business of letting top players go. One of the only downsides to Seager has been injury issues. He’s recovered from Tommy John surgery (odd for a position player), and he’s also missed time due to a hamstring strain and broken bone in his hand.

Photo: Kim Clement-USA TODAY Sports

Top free agent pitcher laughs off suggestion that he could join Yankees

Marcus Stroman

The New York Yankees can probably cross off one big-name free agent from their list.

Former All-Star pitcher Marcus Stroman left zero doubt on Tuesday about where the Yankees stand in his eyes. A fan suggested that he could join the team with a Photoshopped image of Stroman in pinstripes. Stroman replied with the meme from TV show “Entourage” of rapper 50 Cent laughing and driving away.

Stroman went 10-13 with a 3.04 ERA for the New York Mets last season. He is one of the top free agent pitchers on the market this offseason.

The 30-year-old Stroman clearly still has a grudge against the Yankees. He almost ended up in pinstripes at the 2019 trade deadline but ultimately went to the Mets instead. Yankees GM Brian Cashman then had some comments about how he did not see Stroman as a “difference-maker.” Since then, Stroman has taken public shots at the Yankees, and obviously his feelings about them have not changed one bit.

Photo: Erik Slgckgc/Flickr via CC-BY 2.0

Ex-MLB All-Star’s gross alleged pregame ritual revealed

Carlos Baerga waves

A New York sports radio host on Monday revealed the gross pregame ritual he says one former MLB All-Star had while playing.

WFAN’s Craig Carton and Evan Roberts were talking on Monday about Carlos Correa’s comments about Derek Jeter that drew attention. Correa made his comments during an interview with former MLB player Carlos Baerga.

Upon realizing that Correa’s interview was conducted by Baerga, Carton was compelled to tell a story about the former Cleveland Indians All-Star.

Carton claims (about 13:30 in to the clip) that he was friendly with former Indians pitcher Charles Nagy, who once showed him about Baerga’s odd ritual.

According to Carton, Nagy brought him into a certain part of the locker room before a game to show him something private, something Nagy told him the radio host would not be allowed to talk about.

Carton claims he kept quiet about what he witnessed until now … nearly 30 years later.

Carton says he went towards the trainers’ room at Nagy’s urging and heard a sound.

“As I walk towards the trainers’ room, I hear this [rhythmic banging sound],” Carton said.

The host claimed that some players were following him as he approached the room. He says there was a metal, circular swiveling stool in the room.

“Carlos Baerga is sitting on top of one of those stools, and his baseball pants are down around his ankles,” Carton recalled. “In his hand, is what could very well be a baseball bat, but is much smaller and is attached to his body. And he is slapping it against the doctor’s stool, rhythmically.

“So, I of course stare at it a second or two longer than I should have, and I turn around, and half the Indians roster is behind me, all laughing hysterically. [Baerga] keeps going though! He doesn’t stop!

“I go back to Nagy, ‘what’s that?’ He goes, ‘pregame ritual. Nobody asks, nobody wants to know.'”

Carton claims he doesn’t believe he was being pranked because Baerga kept on going and didn’t stop or laugh.

This story has never been shared or told anywhere else, so it’s up to you whether you believe Carton. At minimum, he is a very good storyteller.

Baerga was a fantastic player too. He was a lifetime .292 hitter and made three All-Star teams as the Indians’ second baseman. He was a big part of the 1995 team that lost to the Braves in the World Series.

Photo: Oct 26, 2016; Cleveland, OH, USA; Cleveland Indians former player Carlos Baerga throws out the ceremonial first pitch before game two of the 2016 World Series against the Chicago Cubs at Progressive Field. Mandatory Credit: Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports