Tis the Season for Awards
The Baseball Writers Association of America continued handing out hardware this week, with the Rookie of the Year recipients announced on Monday.
There wasn’t much drama in either of these races, as both winners were locks to win the awards.
In the American League, Yordan Alvarez was the unanimous choice, despite the fact that he didn’t debut until June 9 and appeared in only 87 games. He did a world of damage against opposing pitching though, slashing a monstrous .313/.412/.655 with 27 long balls and 78 RBI.
He became the third player in Astros’ franchise history to win the award, joining Jeff Bagwell (1991) and Carlos Correa (2015).
The disappointing news, as far as his fantasy value for next season goes, is that the 22-year-old slugger only appeared in 10 games in the outfield -- and will therefore only qualify as utility-only in most fantasy leagues. That hasn’t dissuaded early NFBC drafters though, as Alvarez has gone off the board in the middle of the third round in 15-team formats.
In the National League, Pete Alonso took home the award -- though unlike his American League counterpart, his victory was not unanimous. Braves’ hurler Mike Soroka received one first place vote with Alonso claiming the other 29.
It’s the sixth time that a Mets’ player has won the award, joining Tom Seaver (1967), Jon Matlack (1972), Darryl Strawberry (1983), Dwight Gooden (1984) and Jacob deGrom (2014).
Alonso was certainly deserving of the honor, slashing .260/.358/.583 with an MLB rookie record 53 home runs and 120 RBI. Not only did he set the all-time rookie record for home runs in a season, but the 24-year-old also became the first Rookie of the Year to lead the league in home runs outright.
On Tuesday, the award season continued with the Manager of the Year honors being dished out.
In the American League, Twins’ skipper Rocco Baldelli took home the honor in his first season at the helm of a big league squad. Baldelli and Yankees’ skipper Aaron Boone each netted 13 first place votes, with Baldelli netting more second place nods (13 to 9). He appeared on 28 of the 30 total ballots while Boone appeared on 26.
Baldelli guided a Twins’ squad that finished the 2018 season 78-84 to a stunning 101-61 record and a division title in the American League Central.
It’s the fourth time that a manager of the Twins has won the Award, as Baldelli joins Tom Kelly (1991), Ron Gardenhire (2010) and Paul Molitor (2017).
On the National League side, another manager in his first full season on the job captured the award with Cardinals’ manager Mike Shildt narrowly edging out Brewers’ skipper Craig Counsell.
Shildt only received 10 first place votes, while Counsell garnered 13, Braves’ manager Brian Snitker received three and Dodgers’ manager Dave Roberts received four.
It marked just the second time in the history of the award that the winner did not receive the most first place votes -- the other time occurring when Mariners’ boss Lou Pinella edged out Red Sox’ skipper Kevin Kennedy in 1995.
Shildt also became the first person to win the award who did not play baseball professionally at any level. He’s the third manager in Cardinals’ history to take home the honor, joining Whitey Herzog (1985) and Tony La Russa (2002). That’s some impressive company.
Former Astros’ hurler Mike Fiers dropped a bombshell allegation to Ken Rosenthal and Evan Drellich of The Athletic, that the Astros stole signs during home games during the 2017 season with the help of a camera that was positioned in the outfield.
Stealing signs using any type of electronic equipment is strictly prohibited by Major League Baseball.
The Astros released the following statement on Tuesday: "Regarding the story posted by The Athletic earlier today, the Houston Astros organization has begun an investigation in cooperation with Major League Baseball. It would not be appropriate to comment further on this matter at this time."
According to Fiers, and several other anonymous sources, the Astros would have someone inside the organization watching a video feed from the outfield camera on a monitor inside the dugout tunnel. They would then pick up the catcher’s signs and bang on a trash can -- loud enough so that it could be heard on the field -- to indicate which pitches were about to be thrown.
Astros’ general manager Jeff Luhnow responded Tuesday, saying, "Teams are competing with one another and everybody is trying to find an edge," said Luhnow. "But we all have to follow the rules and the rules are set by Major League Baseball. We all follow them, we agree to follow them and if you don't there's ramifications to that. We want to follow the rules and we want to compete and win and that's what every other club does as well."
It’s unclear if the Astros’ use of this method continued into the postseason -- and into the World Series where they ultimately defeated the Dodgers.
If any wrongdoing is ultimately detected here, expect the league to levy punishment on the Astros -- most likely in the form of fines and the forfeiture of draft picks.
A Giant Signing
The Giants announced on Tuesday that Gabe Kapler will become the 39th manager in franchise history -- signing a three-year deal to replace the departing Bruce Bochy after 13 seasons at the helm.
Giants’ president of baseball operations Farhan Zaidi placed a premium on previous managerial experience when looking for Bochy’s successor. Of Kapler, he noted Tuesday, “I think what we've seen with managers is that there's a learning curve… A lot of times guys do better and have more traction their second time around because of the lessons that they've learned.”
Zaidi continued, “Probably the key thing that we were looking for and the most important trait, if we could summarize it in one sentence, was somebody who was capable of building trust and relationships with both players and the front office… In my experience with Gabe, and as we went through the interview process and got to learn more about him, it became clear to us that he was the person who could best execute on that.”
Zaidi and Kapler have a good working relationship, as Kapler served as the Dodgers’ director of player development from 2014 to 2017 while Zaidi functioned as the Dodgers’ general manager. Zaidi was also among those who recommended Kapler to the Phillies prior to him getting that job in 2018.
Kapler, who was ousted last month after two seasons at the helm in Philadelphia, will be formally introduced at a press conference at Oracle Park on Wednesday.
American League Quick Hits: Yankees general manager Brian Cashman confirmed Monday that his team will pursue Gerrit Cole and/or Stephen Strasburg this offseason… Bobby Nightengale of the Cincinnati Enquirer reports that the Rays are considered the frontrunners to sign Howie Kendrick… Ben Nicholson-Smith of Sportsnet reports that the Blue Jays and right-hander Matt Shoemaker are at a stall in contract negotiations… Jon Heyman of MLB Network notes that some teams seem to be “scared off” by the draft pick compensation attached to Jose Abreu… According to Andy Martino of SNY, Gerrit Cole isn’t expected to sign anywhere until at least January… Evan Grant of the Dallas Morning News reports that the Rangers have been in touch with Scott Boras regarding Anthony Rendon and Gerrit Cole… Jon Heyman of MLB Network reports that there's "great skepticism" any team interested in Mookie Betts will be willing to trade high-end prospects in addition to paying his arbitration cost… Heyman also notes that former Twins’ hurler Kyle Gibson is “getting buzz” and has already had 10 teams express interest in his services… Red Sox chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom and general manager Brian O’Halloran said Monday that Dustin Pedroia (knee) is "feeling good" and plans to play in 2020… Mike Trout has completed his recovery from foot surgery without any complications and he’s expected to have a regular offseason without limitations… According to Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle, the Athletics have been in contact with free agent catcher Stephen Vogt.
National League Quick Hits: Jon Heyman of MLB Network reports that the Reds are among the teams interested in Marcell Ozuna… Mark Feinsand of MLB.com reports that the Nationals are among the “more than a half-dozen teams” that are in on Josh Donaldson… Jon Heyman of MLB Network reports that the Mets are interested in bringing Zack Wheeler back on a multi-year contract...Pirates’ shortstop Erik Gonzalez will be sidelined for 8-to-10 weeks after getting hit with a foul ball during the Dominican Winter League… Diamondbacks GM Mike Hazen acknowledged Tuesday that team is interested in center fielder Shogo Akiyama… Cole Hamels' agent John Boggs told MLB.com's Jon Morosi on Tuesday that his client plans to "pitch at least five more seasons."... Seranthony Dominguez (elbow) is expected to be ready for the start of spring training… Ricardo Pinto signed a one-year deal with the SK Wyverns of the Korea Baseball Organization… Jon Heyman of MLB Network notes that Ben Zobrist has yet to decide whether or not he intends to play in 2020… Mike Puma of the New York Post reports that Fredi Gonzalez is a candidate to become the Mets’ bench coach… Jon Heyman also notes that the Mets are closing in on a deal to bring back Chili Davis as their hitting coach… Kevin Acee of the San Diego Union Tribune believes that the Padres won’t be in the mix to sign Stephen Strasburg or Gerrit Cole this winter -- opting instead to shop in a lower bracket that includes Zack Wheeler… The Cardinals re-signed Adam Wainwright to a one-year contract… Kristopher Negron announced his retirement from professional baseball… The Padres sent Jacob Nix outright to Triple-A El Paso… Joe Frisaro of MLB.com notes that the Marlins are “believed” to have interest in Nicholas Castellanos… MLB.com's Jon Morosi reports that the Angels, Padres, and White Sox are among the teams showing early interest in free agent starter Zack Wheeler… Brewers’ star outfielder Christian Yelich (knee) is scheduled to begin running this week.