Cubs

Stunning news from Bruins goalie Tim Thomas

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Stunning news from Bruins goalie Tim Thomas

From Comcast SportsNet
BOSTON (AP) -- Boston Bruins goaltender Tim Thomas says he'll sit out next season. "At the age of 38, I believe it is time to put my time and energies into those areas and relationships that I have neglected," Thomas said on his Facebook page Sunday. "That is why at this time I feel the most important thing I can do in my life is to reconnect with the three F's. Friends, Family, and Faith." On Friday, general manager Peter Chiarelli said Thomas told the team he was thinking about sitting out a season. A late bloomer who played in Finland before finally breaking into an NHL lineup at the age of 32, Thomas emerged as one of the league's top goalies when he won the Vezina Trophy in 2009. He won it again along with the playoff MVP in 2011 while leading Boston to the Stanley Cup championship. But he is also an iconoclast who was known to wander far from the crease in games and occasionally leave his comfort zone off the ice as well. When the Bruins met President Barack Obama to celebrate their NHL title, Thomas skipped the White House visit and issued a political diatribe on his Facebook page as explanation. Chiarelli said Friday that Thomas appeared tired after the championship season, when he played in 82 games, including every minute of the longest postseason in Bruins history. He got very little time off down the stretch this year after backup Tuukka Rask was injured at the beginning of March. Chiarelli said Thomas expressed an interest in playing in the 2014 Olympics, which will be two months before he turns 40. But he is not certain to be picked for the U.S. team over Ryan Miller, Jonathan Quick, Jimmy Howard or another young American goaltender who might have emerged by then. Thomas was a member of the U.S. team in Vancouver, but he did not play on the squad that won the silver medal. The Bruins are left with Rask and Anton Khudobin as their top two goaltenders for next season. Rask has long been projected as a rising star; he supplanted Thomas as the starter in 2009-10, but Thomas regained his position the next year and remained there.

Why did Kris Bryant get a first-place vote in this year's National League MVP balloting?

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USA TODAY

Why did Kris Bryant get a first-place vote in this year's National League MVP balloting?

Kris Bryant was the 2016 National League MVP. And despite having what could be considered an even better campaign this past season, he finished seventh in voting for the 2017 edition of the award.

The NL MVP was awarded to Miami Marlins outfielder Giancarlo Stanton on Thursday night, a fine choice, though it was nearly impossible to make a poor choice, that's how many fantastic players there were hitting the baseball in the NL this season.

After Stanton, Cinicinnati Reds first baseman Joey Votto finished second, earning the same amount of first-place votes and losing out to Stanton by just one point. Then came Arizona Diamondbacks first baseman Paul Goldschmidt, Colorado Rockies third baseman Nolan Arenado, Rockies outfielder Charlie Blackmon and Washington Nationals third baseman Anthony Rendon ahead of Bryant.

But there was someone who thought Bryant deserved to repeat as the NL MVP. Yes, Bryant earned a first-place vote — as did everyone else mentioned besides Rendon, for that matter — causing a bit of a social-media stir considering the Cubs third baseman, despite his great season, perhaps wasn't as standout a candidate as some of the other guys who finished higher in the voting.

So the person who cast that first-place vote for Bryant, MLB.com's Mark Bowman, wrote up why he felt Bryant deserved to hoist the Kenesaw Mountain Landis Memorial Baseball Award for the second straight year.

"In the end, I chose Bryant because I believe he made the greatest impact, as his second-half production fueled the successful turnaround the Cubs experienced after the All-Star break," Bowman wrote.

"Though I don't believe the MVP must come from a playoff contender, in an attempt to differentiate the value provided by each of these three players (Bryant, Votto and Stanton), I chose to reward the impact made by Bryant, who produced the NL's fourth-best OPS (.968) after the All-Star break, when the Cubs distanced themselves from a sub-.500 record and produced an NL-best 49 wins."

It's easy for Cubs fans and observers to follow that logic, as the Cubs took off after the All-Star break following a disappointing first half. As good as Bryant was all season long, his second-half numbers, as Bowman pointed out, were especially great. He hit .325 with a .421 on-base percentage and a .548 slugging percentage over his final 69 games of the regular season, hitting 11 home runs, knocking out 21 doubles and driving in 35 runs during that span.

Perhaps the craziest thing about this year's MVP race and Bryant's place in it is that Bryant was just as good if not better than he was in 2016, when he was almost unanimously named the NL MVP. After slashing .292/.385/.554 with 39 homers, 102 RBIs, 35 doubles, 75 walks and 154 strikeouts in 2016, Bryant slashed .295/.409/.537 with 29 homers, 73 RBIs, 38 doubles, 95 walks and 128 strikeouts in 2017.

Of course, the competition was much steeper this time around. But Bryant was given the MVP award in 2016 playing for a 103-win Cubs team that was bursting with offensive firepower, getting great seasons from Anthony Rizzo (who finished third in 2016 NL MVP voting), as well as Dexter Fowler and Ben Zobrist. While the Cubs actually scored more runs this season and undoubtedly turned it on after the All-Star break on a team-wide basis, Bryant was far and away the best hitter on the team in 2017, with many other guys throughout the lineup having notably down years and/or experiencing down stretches throughout the season. Hence, making Bryant more, say it with me, valuable.

So Bowman's argument about Bryant's impact on the Cubs — a team that still scored 822 runs, won 92 games and advanced to the National League Championship Series — is a decently convincing one.

Check out Bowman's full explanation, which dives into some of Bryant's advanced stats.

HandiKapping presented by Xpressbet

HandiKapping presented by Xpressbet

In the latest edition of HandiKapping presented by Xpressbet, NBC Sports Chicago's David Kaplan makes his picks for the weekend.

Kap made his picks with the help of Eddie Olczyk this week.