Category Archives: Opinion

Dear Binghamton Mets, It’s Not Too Late to Fix This

Seriously, just say no to bad team names

I go to about 10 Binghamton Mets games each year, all on the road. As such, some amount of team merchandise is a must for me in addition to the usual big-league Mets gear. The problem with the Binghamton Mets though is that they have no real identity beyond being a Mets affiliate with a boring dark blue base color. After the New Britain Rock Cats moved to Hartford and changed their name to the Yard Goats, the solution to that problem seemed clear. The team didn’t move, but 2016 would be the last year for the Binghamton Mets.

Some people weren’t too happy with the “Yard Goats” name, but it was actually quite brilliant. It has the requisite animal name while also being an obscure railroad reference, making for easy and interesting mascots and graphics with some sort of tie to the area’s history. The merchandise was a big hit, partly due to the use of the colors from the long-departed Hartford Whalers. Like the Yard Goats and other minor league teams, the Binghamton club had a naming contest and selected six finalists. Would they be odd, quirky, clever, or endearing? Um…

Bullheads. Gobblers. Rocking Horses. Rumble Ponies. Stud Muffins. Timber Jockeys. No, I’m not hurling insults at the team for picking bad names, those are the names selected as finalists. Can you imagine wearing any of those across your chest? All hope is not lost though, we might be able to pull a Boaty McBoatface and sneak in a better name while keeping a nod to the fan choices.

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2014 Biggest Pulls

The hobby of diminishing returns

Welcome to 2015.  With Topps and Panini going down to the wire with their 2014 product releases, it will take at least another couple of weeks to finish off all of the year in review pieces here.  With any luck, we’ll have the Best Mets Cards of 2014 post up this weekend.  But before we get to that, let’s look at how my luck fared with packs in 2014.  Spoiler: it was crap.

My spending was down in 2014, with just under $3,000 going toward unopened 2014 product.  That yielded just $540 in eBay sales, though, for a variety of reasons, I ended up not selling quite a few of the biggest hits.  Meanwhile, even the lesser hits were tough sells; cards that would have sold for $20 or more a year or two ago were lucky to go for $10 this year.  Part of the problem is overproduction.  Topps in particular has been pushing out more products with more parallels than ever before (and somehow without featuring more players).  This results in a glut of low-numbered parallels of star players.  That’s great for collectors who buy singles, not so good for sellers.  If a Jose Altuve parallel numbered to 35 isn’t going to sell for more than $1, I might as well hang on to it.  And so now I have piles of 2014 hits that can’t find good homes.

Of course, even the cards that did sell didn’t always sell.  Out of 130 sales on eBay this year, three resulted in non-paying bidders.  We’re not talking about junk cards either, these were big names: Clayton Kershaw, Kris Bryant, and Robin Yount.  All of these cards went relatively cheap compared to other listings, but all three went unpaid.  This seems to be an increasing problem as eBay has become more and more biased against sellers, bending over backwards to placate buyers while making selling more of a hassle.  With Check Out My Cards getting into auctions, it should be interesting to see how eBay fares in the sports card market.  We could see a tipping point in the next few years.

But enough doom and gloom, let’s get to the pretty cards.

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Selling Out at Citi Field

In which I make my case to be the next Mets Executive VP of Ticket Sales

Another dismal season is coming to a close in Queens this weekend and it’s hard to come up with reasons for people to buy tickets to see the Mets wrap things up.  Jacob deGrom?  Shut down, as is former Met and fellow breakout rookie Collin McHugh.  Juan Lagares?  Yeah, he’s shut down too along with Dilson Herrera.  David Wright?  You get the picture.  Even the Mejia stomp is likely off the menu with his sports hernia surgery scheduled for next week.  Even if the product on the field doesn’t entice, at least there’s all the team history at the park.  The Ebbets Field exterior, the Jackie Robinson Rotunda…  If you’re lucky, you might be able to squeeze into the tiny gift shop before grabbing a burger at Shake Shack and hanging out with fellow lost souls on the “we seriously needed to poll the fans to figure out what to name this thing” Shea Bridge.  Anyone who can sell people on this “experience” deserves a hefty bonus…

But that particular spot is vacant right now in the Mets front office.  We’ll let the courts sort out just how that vacancy came to be, but for now I’ll take a stab at how to market the Mets to fans who are struggling to keep from jumping ship to the Yankees, Blue Jays, Nationals, Orioles, Pirates, Rays, or reruns of the 1994 Expos.  And since I have never had a child out of wedlock, I at least meet that qualification.  For everything else, I worry that being a fan of the team might actually be a strike against me, or at least that’s the picture I get from watching the way the organization is run.  In any case, here are a few quick ideas for selling tickets to whatever team takes the field next year.

Season Ticket Holder Freebies

I may not know much about ticket sales, but I know that it all starts with the season ticket holders.  These are the people and/or corporations that pay up front for a guaranteed seat at every home Mets game.  Even smaller ticket plans are getting the royal treatment these days; buying tickets to 10 New Hampshire Fisher Cats games practically makes me a VIP.  Season ticket holders (and, to a lesser extent, ticket plan buyers) need to be treated properly to ensure that they keep coming back.

But that’s not what happens at Citi Field.  The most glaring example of disrespect to STHs is when seating-limited promotions are announced.  These special offers promise a limited item like a bobblehead with tickets in a particular section.  If you already have a seat elsewhere, you are told to buy another ticket and try to sell your usual seat if you want to get in on the deal.  The message this sends is clear: “We already have your money, we have no motivation to keep you happy.”  Other teams make sure that STHs are taken care of, why don’t the Mets?  The last thing you should be telling someone who has given you thousands of dollars (tens of thousands in some cases) is that they need to buy another ticket if they want a promotional trinket.  Maybe make it an option for an additional fee if the logistics are too complicated, but this needs to be fixed.  This wouldn’t apply to ticket plan holders, but we’ll make sure they’re taken care of too.

Ticket Trade-Up Program

How many times this season have there been empty field-level sections while the unwashed masses crowd into the upper deck?  That’s a bit of an exaggeration, but if nobody is buying the good seats, why not let the people who showed up sit down there without having to bribe an usher?

Here’s how it works: put a few kiosks by the entrances with flashing lights or something to make them look exciting.  Starting a set time before the scheduled game time, people can scan their tickets for a chance at an upgrade.  Only a limited number of seats will be made available and upgrades will be awarded at random.  Each ticket or group of tickets (whatever was purchased together) gets one chance at an upgrade.  If they win, they can get a seat upgrade for just a small processing fee (because everyone loves processing fees).  If they lose, they get a coupon.  Everyone’s a winner!

Ticket Trade-Down Program

Let’s say you’re a devoted fan and the last person you know who will still go for a ticket plan at the start of the season.  There’s a game this weekend with a special 4 for $48 offer and your family is up for a game as a change of pace.  The problem is that your lonely plan seat cost nearly that much by itself and you would have little chance of getting much more than $10 back if you sold it.  You’re stuck choosing between taking the loss and going to a game with the family or going by yourself and letting the family watch on TV.  Or just giving up on the team entirely because your plan tickets lose most of their value long before the game.  But what if there was another option?

Paying for a plan up front guarantees a sale for the team.  So why shouldn’t they guarantee the value of your ticket?  Like with the bobblehead fiasco, this issue associates buying tickets early with losing money.  That’s not a good way to do business.  Instead, why not let plan holders trade the face value of their tickets down for multiple cheaper seats? (Exclusions and fees apply, excess value left unredeemed will not be refunded, all trade-downs are final.)  You could also potentially turn this into a trade-up, putting the value of one ticket toward a more expensive seat or even combining multiple tickets (if originally purchased together) to make the most out of a cancellation.  When the park isn’t selling out and the team isn’t winning, you need to sell your customers on value somehow.

Home Game Road Trips

Now we’re getting to the potentially LOLMets desperation moves.  If we can’t get people to come to the games, why not just bus them in?  After all, one of the biggest hurdles when it comes to going to a game at Citi Field is just getting to Citi Field.  Between train fares, tolls, parking fees, etc., there really isn’t any way to get to a game from outside of New York City for much less than $50.  There may be lots of fans out there in the tri-state area, but most of them would rather just watch on television.  Why not try to turn them into paying customers?

This would take a fair amount of market research and logistics to pull off.  Multiple bus routes, multiple stops per route, etc. would need to be figured out.  Maybe throw in some refreshments or a t-shirt or promo item or something.  And when everyone gets there, walk them up to the Pepsi Porch like they do for Bark in the Park so nobody gets lost.  The game becomes just one part of the experience.

The Elephant in the Room

Now, none of this addresses the big problem, the matter of what happens on the field.  Winning will put butts in seats more than any gimmick.  Well, winning or hosting Derek Jeter’s final game.  But since we lack the technology to scatter the end of Jeters career across the infinity of time and space, winning is all we have to work with.  And winning just hasn’t been happening much lately.  Maybe next year will be different.  Maybe ownership will start spending.  Maybe prospects will pan out and veterans will return to form.  Maybe the tickets will sell themselves and the problem will be that people can’t get tickets rather than that they don’t want them.  Until then though, the Mets need to embrace the fans who still stand by the team and do everything possible to make sure they enjoy the stadium experience.  Because blaming low spending on poor attendance doesn’t help anyone.

2014 Mets Card Spring Preview

What’s in the cardboard for the 2014 Mets

Another offseason is coming to an end, so it’s time to take a look at what it all means for card collecting. 2014 was supposed to be the year Sandy Alderson’s plan came together, but significant gaps and questions put that in jeopardy even before Matt Harvey was lost for the season. In terms of cards, the lack of notable veterans has left most sets a mix of David Wright and various prospects and young stars. Are there enough new veterans and rising stars to give the Mets respectable representation in this year’s products? Or, like the master plan, will it take another year for everything to fall into place?

Farewells

Alderson’s big trade of 2013 sent Marlon Byrd and John Buck to Pittsburgh for infielder Dilson Herrera and MLB-ready reliever Vic Black. Byrd and Buck went on to the postseason and, as expected, didn’t return to the Mets. Buck was no longer necessary with the arrival of Travis d’Arnaud, but Byrd was the Mets’ top outfielder offensively.

As I predicted, the 2013 Topps Series 2 Mets team set is a “Where are they now?” article waiting to happen…

The non-tender deadline gave us another batch of departures. Jordany Valdespin, Omar Quintanilla, and Scott Atchison were cut as expected, with Justin Turner and the injured Jeremy Hefner joining them unexpectedly. Hefner and Quintanilla were re-signed, Jordany Valdespin gave in to destiny and signed with the Marlins, Scott Atchison signed with the Indians, and Justin Turner joined teammate Mike Baxter with the Dodgers.

On top of that, oft-injured pitchers Johan Santana and Shaun Marcum also landed elsewhere, Santana with the Orioles and Marcum with the Indians. Santana missed all of 2013 after his second shoulder surgery and Marcum saw his season end early after a shoulder surgery of his own.

Hails

As mentioned before, the Mets bolstered the ranks of their top 20 prospects with the acquisition of Dilson Herrera and Vic Black from the Pirates in August. Black should get a good amount of work as a late-inning reliever this year while Herrera is still a few years out. Not a bad return for a few weeks of a couple of players who wouldn’t be back this year anyway.

And here are the big offseason acquisitions. If nothing else, these guys bring a veteran presence in cardboard dating back to the late ’90s. More on that later.

Autographs

The last few months have given us plenty of new autographs. Bowman Sterling closed out 2013 with the first autographs from L.J. Mazzilli. Panini Elite Extra Edition started 2014 with the first autographs from Jared King and Akeel Morris, plus the first live autographs from Rainy Lara. Last month’s 2014 Donruss was largely a bust but did give us Andrew Brown’s first autographs. Notably absent is Juan Lagares, who should be in line for a lot of attention after his performance in 2013.

Autographs are also plentiful further up in the system. Noah Syndergaard and Rafael Montero should get called up sometime in 2014 and will hopefully get some more autographs along the way. Travis d’Arnaud and Wilmer Flores are the first of the top Mets prospects with autographs in 2014 products.

Notable autographs in upcoming products include the first from Dallas Green and Frank Lary in 2014 Topps Heritage (though not as Mets) and the first from Jeremy Hefner in 2014 Topps Gypsy Queen. More will hopefully follow in 2014 Bowman and 2014 Topps Archives, though the lack of Mets autographs in Heritage is troubling.

Game-Used

One of the big surpises so far this year was the pair of Rookie pinstripe jersey cards in 2013 Panini America’s Pastime. These (along with camo patch variants) are the first memorabilia cards from Juan Lagares and Scott Rice and mark the first time that multiple current Mets have had Mets pinstripe jersey cards in the same year since 2009. Travis d’Arnaud was the first 2014 Rookie with his first MLB-worn material in 2014 Topps Series 1 and 2014 Topps Tribute. It’s a good start after some pretty rough years, but there’s still more ground to cover.

2014 Donruss has given us the first oddity of the year in the form of pinstripe jersey cards from Ike Davis, Dillon Gee, and Jon Niese. Their Game Gear cards all contain a type of pinstripe only seen at the MLB level back in the ’90s. This would mean that they could only be from the 1993 throwback home jersey worn on the road in Colorado on April 16, 2013.

Autographed Game-Used

Leaf had a couple surprises of its own in 2013 Leaf Trinity. In addition to autographs from Noah Syndergaard, Rafael Montero, Dominic Smith, and Domingo Tapia, Leaf released autographed cards with memorabilia from Smith and Tapia. These all included piping or patches, a rarity for minor league players.

At the big league level, Travis d’Arnaud had his first autographed patch cards in the Strata insert set in 2014 Topps Series 1. Numbered to just 25 (and released as redemptions), these are not easy to get a hold of. Hopefully we’ll see more from him later in the year.

Playing Pepper 2014: New York Mets

Like last year, Daniel Shoptaw from C70 At the Bat polled the Mets blog community to get a picture of where the team stands as of spring training. Also like last year, I offered up my unique insight that may or may not be particularly insightful.

You can read all of the responses here: Playing Pepper 2014: New York Mets.

1) How would you grade the offseason?

It’s hard to go much higher than a B considering that the team still has some big holes and big questions, but the moves the team made should be at least enough for a B, so… It’s another year in a holding pattern, so a B it is. The outfield needed an overhaul, which it got in the form of Curtis Granderson and, to a lesser extent, the other Chris Young. The rotation needed a veteran and some Mejia insurance, which Bartolo Colon, Daisuke Matsuzaka, and John Lannan should provide. The bullpen has a few cheap new options, which is probably the best that could be expected. First base is still unresolved and shortstop… No shortstop solution equals a B.

In a different light though, this offseason earned an A for filling some of the Mets’ most glaring holes: All-Star memorabilia. Since All-Star workout jerseys started getting sold into tiny cardboard prisons in 2000, the Mets have had a representative from each AL All-Star team no later than the following spring each year. Sometimes it was a former player stepping up with a new team (Jason Isringhausen ’00, Melvin Mora ’05, Ty Wigginton ’10), other times it was a big-name offseason acquisition (Johan Santana ’07, Francisco Rodriguez ’08, Jason Bay ’09). This ended with the start of the Alderson regime. With no big free agent signings and an emphasis on building the farm system, there were no former or future Mets to be found on the AL All-Star Roster. It looked like 2013 would turn things around with both Jose Reyes and R.A. Dickey in Toronto, but that didn’t quite work out.

That all changed with this past offseason. In the span of a few days, Sandy Alderson checked off the 2011 (Curtis Granderson), 2012 (also CG), and 2013 (Bartolo Colon) AL All-Star teams and threw in the first Met from the 2005 Futures Game USA team (Chris Young) for good measure. Later, the signing of Jose Valverde to a minor league deal added a possible second 2011 AL All-Star. A bounceback season from Reyes and/or Dickey could put us back on track to have a Met on every AL All-Star team.

2) Can Zack Wheeler step up and fill the gap left by Matt Harvey’s surgery?

Yeah, about that… Over the years (well, two of them at least), I have identified two predictors of doom that can be found in cardboard. From 2010 to 2013, only one player each year appeared with the Mets and had a Mets pinstripe jersey card released in the same year. None of the first three played a game with the Mets in the following year. The fourth is Zack Wheeler. In 2013, I noticed that a lot of Mets pitchers who signed a lot of autographs that year suffered from arm injuries. Zack Wheeler was one of the few who has, so far, remained injury free. Does this mean Zack Wheeler is now cursed and has no chance of throwing a pitch in 2014? Of course not. But with the run of injuries Mets pitchers suffered in 2013, nothing is certain.

Seriously though, you can’t really look at it is having a gap to be filled. With or without Harvey, the rotation needs five pitchers to start with and some depth to fill in as needed. The Colon signing added a much-needed veteran and 200 innings from Wheeler would certainly help, as would strong seasons from Jon Niese and Dillon Gee. That just leaves the #5 spot, which has some decent (and cheap) options that could also provide depth later in the season. Add in possible appearances by Noah Syndergaard, Rafael Montero, and/or Jacob deGrom in the second half and the Mets might just have a legitimate group of starting pitchers to work with while Harvey rehabs.

3) Which roster battle will be the most intriguing during spring training?

I’m not really intrigued by it, but the one everyone seems to be interested in is who will be batting leadoff. “Leadoff Hitter” isn’t really a position, but you wouldn’t know that from the reporting these days. Eric Young Jr., the reigning NL stolen base champ, is the favorite for the job, but he’s a 4th outfielder at best. Do the Mets demote Juan Lagares to give EY a starting job to put him (and his mediocre OBP) at the top of the order? Or do they keep EY as a potent weapon off the bench and pick a leadoff hitter from the remaining options? This is the classic case of logic (EY’s value is highest as a bench player) vs. emotion (stolen bases!).

4) What rookie, if any, will make the most impact on the team in 2014?

That would be Travis d’Arnaud. Wilmer Flores will probably start the season in AAA and there’s little chance of seeing any of the big pitching prospects until late June or July. That puts d’Arnaud in the rare position of spending a full season with Rookie eligibility. He has already shown that he is ready behind the plate, but he didn’t impress much with the bat in his brief stint in the majors last year. If his bat comes around (and if he can put injury questions to rest), he could provide significant value at a position that hasn’t produced much for the Mets in recent years.

5) What will be the final record of the team and where will they finish in the division?

I’ll go out on a limb and go with 80-82, 3rd place in the NL East.  As with last year, this will depend more on how the other teams in the division perform than how the Mets perform.  Will the Phillies continue to falter?  Is the Marlins’ emergence still another year away?  Did the Braves and Nationals make the right moves to stay at the top of the NL East?  If everything breaks right, the Mets could stay relevant past the All-Star break.  If not, well, pick any recent year to see the result.  I’m not quite sold on 90 wins, but 80 is still in play.  Of course, so is 70.

6) Which player from your team do you most enjoy watching?

Sigh. Will Matt Harvey’s rehab be televised?

Inside the Lines at the White Plains Card Show

Back in the game a decade later

Last month, I shared my story of my trip to the 2014 Queens Baseball Convention.  After 7 hours at the event and another 4 hours spent in transit, that should have been enough for any weekend, especially when you consider that it included appearances (with autographs) from Ron Darling and Ed Kranepool plus a surprise appearance by Art Shamsky.  At least, that was the plan.

Backing up to Friday, January 17, a tweet from Matt den Dekker announced that he would be at the White Plains Card Show on January 18, the same day as the Queens Baseball Convention.

The timing was unfortunate, to say the least.  Former Mets Rusty Staub and Jason Isringhausen were among that day’s other guests, with autograph prices starting at $20 for den Dekker and going up from there (the full list of signers is unfortunately lost to history because the event promoter took all show information offline immediately following the event and nobody seems to have copied it down anywhere).  The show, however would go on.  For one more day at least.  It had been a decade since I had been to a card show, I was within driving distance, and there were two Mets on the autograph list for the final day.  Might as well stop by.

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There’s Always One…

Questionable ballots continue despite transparency

Nothing gets fans riled up like a good voting controversy. Hall of Fame voting is still a few weeks away, but awards season is always good for some backlash. As an unpaid (and unread) blogger, I don’t get a vote in any of this. That makes it a bit more frustrating when I see some of the ballots turned in by people who are paid actual real money to cover this sport. Unlike Hall of Fame voting, which can include ballots from people who haven’t covered baseball in decades but instead put in their time long ago and then were fortunate enough to live very long lives, awards voting is handled by a select group of professionals who really should know better. The processes are further distinguished by the publishing of the full details of every awards ballot for maximum transparency while Hall of Fame voting is done in secret to allow the ignorant, prejudiced, and sanctimonious voters to remain hidden if they so choose. But even with full transparency, there’s always one who decides to be the guy who takes a stand for some selfish, uninformed, misguided, or just plain idiotic reason.

AL Rookie of the Year

BBWAA AL Rookie of the Year Results

This year’s Rookie of the Year races were down to two players in each league by the end of the season. On the AL side, Wil Myers was the clear favorite and took the award with 23 first place votes, 5 second place votes, and 1 third place vote. The third place vote from Cleveland Plain Dealer writer Dan Hayes is a bit suspect (especially considering that second place finisher Jose Iglesias wasn’t even on that ballot), but fellow Cleveland representative Chris Assenheimer of the Elyria Chronicle-Telegram went a step further and left both Iglesias and Myers off his ballot. Now, there are only three spots on the ballot, so we can assume that Myers and Iglesias would have still been in the top five, but it seems a bit odd for both Indians writers to be so down on the top two finishers. Only two other writers left Iglesias off their ballots (Joe Haakenson representing Los Angeles, who cast the lone second place vote for Angels rookie J.B. Shuck, and Gregg Wong representing Minnesota) and nobody except Assenheimer forgot Myers. Hayes and Assenheimer combined for the only first place votes by second and third runners up Chris Archer and Dan Straily, respectively. Archer and Straily each appeared on a fair number of other ballots, so their elevation to the top two spots on the Cleveland ballots isn’t too much of a stretch (and there’s a legitimate case for valuing starting pitchers over position players or the other way around). Assenheimer’s third place vote for Indians rookie Cody Allen over both Myers and Iglesias though is just shameful homerism. Allen pitched just over 70 innings with a 2.43 ERA, 88 strikeouts, 28 walks, and just 7 home runs for 1.4 bWAR. That’s a good showing for a middle reliever of any age, but is it better than position players who logged more time and by bWAR provided more value (2.0 for Myers and 1.9 for Iglesias)? Allen faced 301 batters, while Myers and Iglesias each had more than 370 plate appearances on top of their time in the field. All I can figure is that Cleveland overvalues relievers or just doesn’t like Myers and Iglesias. Somebody must have said something nasty about the place on Twitter I guess…

NL Rookie of the Year

BBWAA NL Rookie of the Year Results

Over in the NL, there was more of a consensus on the top two rookies. The Marlins made a bizarre gamble by rushing Jose Fernandez straight to the majors, skipping over both AA and AAA, in a season where they were only contending for not being the worst team in the majors (they finished with an NL-worst 100 losses, still ahead of the 111-loss Astros). While most teams were holding back their prospects to gain an extra year of control or delay arbitration eligibility, the Marlins were getting solid performances out of one of the best pitchers in baseball. Fernandez finished with just over 172 IP, an ERA of 2.19, 187 strikeouts, and a ton of really good numbers that put him in contention for the Cy Young. His 6.3 bWAR was more than the bWAR of the top three AL RoY finishers combined. All on a team that won just 62 games. Seems like a waste, but I guess the gamble paid off, as much as anything pays off in Miami. Fernandez received 26 first place votes and 4 second place votes in a runaway Rookie of the Year victory.

And yet I’m sure there are more than a few people who feel that Jose Fernandez was not the best rookie in the NL this year. Enter Yasiel Puig, the Cuban sensation that made everyone forget how much the Dodgers still owe to Matt Kemp, Andre Ethier, and Carl Crawford. Puig’s high-energy style of play sometimes rubbed both opponents and teammates the wrong way, but the young outfielder provided enough offense to give hope that he’ll mature into a legitimate superstar. In just 104 games, Puig accumulated 5.0 bWAR with an OPS of .925 (.319/.391/.534, 19 HR, 11 SB, 160 OPS+, etc.). It’s clear that Fernandez and Puig were the top rookie pitcher and hitter, respectively, in all of baseball this year. Fernandez deserved the award, but Puig wouldn’t have been a bad choice either. He got the other 4 first place votes and the other 25 second place votes. Wait, 25? What happened to the other one?

That brings us to John Maffei of the San Diego Union-Tribune. His ballot has Jose Fernandez first, Cardinals pitcher Shelby Miller second, and Padres infielder Jedd Gyorko in third. Miller, along with Hyun-jin Ryu and Julio Teheran, was in the second tier of 2013 rookie pitchers. Predictably, Miller, Ryu, and Teheran split the majority of the third place votes. Second is a bit high, but it’s not too unreasonable if you value starting pitching over hitting. Jedd Gyorko had a great rookie season and certainly deserves some recognition (his 2.2 bWAR beats AL RoY Wil Myers, though Gyorko did have 40% more plate appearances), so a third place vote behind Fernandez and Puig can be seen as a symbolic gesture. But a third place vote over Puig? Puig had more hits, more triples, more stolen bases, more walks, and fewer strikeouts than Gyorko in almost 100 fewer plate appearances. Gyorko topped Puig in doubles 26-21 and home runs 23-19 (though their home runs per plate appearance was roughly identical). And the triple slash of .319/.391/.534 for Puig vs. .249/.301/.444 for Gyorko is just humiliating. Gyorko had a good start while Puig had a great season. So why did a San Diego writer pick a San Diego player over a Los Angeles phenom? I’ll leave that as an exercise for the reader.

AL Cy Young

BBWAA AL Cy Young Results

For a race that was essentially a toss-up between a bunch of equally deserving pitchers, the outcome was about as decisive as they come. Max Scherzer’s 21 wins seemed to be the tiebreaker that got him 28 of the 30 first place votes for AL Cy Young, with the remaining ballots listing him second and third. So many pitchers had a good case that you really can’t fault anyone for their choices. Sale over Scherzer? Sale had the edge in bWAR, 6.9 to 6.7. Darvish over Sale? 277 strikeouts to 226. Colon over Darvish? 3 shutouts and 2.65 ERA to Darvish’s 0 and 2.83. Even though both LA writers had unique views of the AL Cy Young race, I can’t really hold it against them. J.P. Hoornstra of the Los Angeles News Group had Sale first followed by Darvish and Scherzer, while Sporting News writer Anthony Witrado was the only one to leave Darvish out of the top five. Move along, nothing to see here…

NL Cy Young

BBWAA NL Cy Young Results

How about that Clayton Kershaw? Only a Dickey away from three straight Cy Young Awards, Kershaw has emerged as one of the game’s elite at the age of 25. Matt Harvey may have gotten the All-Star Game start, but Kershaw took home his second Cy Young with a nearly-unanimous 29 first place votes. The 30th one went to Adam Wainwright, who had a pretty good season himself (as 15 Kershaw voters acknowledged with their second place votes). Rookie Jose Fernandez finished third and Matt Harvey and Craig Kimbrel answered the eternal question of “Elite closer or ace starter whose season ended early due to injury?” with a tie for fourth place. With five spots on the ballot, it’s actually a bit surprising how few ballots each of the four runners up appeared on. Wainwright was the only one of the bunch with a first place vote, but he didn’t even place in the top five on four ballots. Fernandez was left off six ballots, while Kimbrel and Harvey combined for a mere 33 votes. Of the next five, Cliff Lee was second to Kershaw in bWAR with 7.3, Jordan Zimmermann led the NL in meaningless Wins with 19, Zack Greinke was, um, fourth in ERA behind Kershaw, Fernandez, and Harvey, Madison Bumgarner was next on that list, and Francisco Liriano was also a pitcher in 2013.

What the hell, NL Cy Young voters? CSN Bay Area writer Ray Ratto had Bumgarner 5th and left out Wainwright. Seriously? Bumgarner’s other vote was a fourth place vote from CSN Bay Area writer Andrew Baggarly, who had Jose Fernandez fifth and Harvey off the ballot. Sure, Bumgarner had a great season, but better than Wainwright, Fernandez, and/or Harvey? bWAR says no (3.8 vs. 6.2, 6.3, and 5.2, respectively), ERA is a stretch (2.77 vs. 2.94, 2.19, and 2.27, respectively), strikeouts maybe (199 vs. 219, 187, and 191, respectively), and ERA+ no way in hell (120 vs. 123, 176, and 157, respectively). I get that you want to put your guy on the ballot somewhere, but maybe you could be a little more tactful.

Francisco Liriano is an even more baffling choice. Interestingly, none of his two votes came from Pittsburgh writers but instead came from the teams to the east and the west. Liriano had about the same season as rookies Shelby Miller, Hyun-Jin Ryu, and Julio Teheran. He wasn’t among the leaders in just about anything and his 161 IP isn’t exactly anything to write home about unless you’re a rookie or a releiver (though even the three rookies pitched more). He’s not a top 10 NL pitcher in 2013, much less top 5. Yet At Large writer Hal McCoy ranked Liriano fourth behind just Kershaw, Wainwright, and Zimmermann and Kevin P. Cooney of the Bucks County Courier Times had him fifth. Obviously, Liriano’s choice over some of the other starters isn’t because they didn’t pitch enough innings. Neither voter had a hometown pitcher on their ballot, though Cliff Lee would have been a better choice. So what’s going on here? Damned if I know, some guys just really like average starting pitchers, I guess.

AL MVP

BBWAA AL MVP Results

Unlike the previous awards, the interpretation of “value” in the Most Valuable Player award varies from person to person. Some vote for the best player, others factor contributions to getting their team to the postseason. With no clear way to evaluate worthiness and 10 spots on the ballot, this won’t be easy to sort out. Complicating matters further is a Miguel Cabrera vs. Mike Trout matchup for the second year in a row. Trout is the leader in WAR (bWAR or fWAR, take your pick), but the Angels were never really in contention. Cabrera led in all three triple slash categories and was second behind Chris Davis in Home Runs and RBI for a Tigers team that made it to the ALCS. If you like WAR, Trout is your guy. If you like the old school stats, Cabrera is your MVP. If you think a player’s contribution to making the postseason is most important, your pick is Josh Donaldson. Wait, Josh Donaldson? Unlike Trout’s Angels, Donaldson’s Athletics won their division (and finished 18 games up on the Angels). And unlike Cabrera’s Tigers, which had a superstar pitching rotation headlined by Cy Young winner Max Scherzer, Anibal Sanchez, Justin Verlander, and Doug Fister, Donaldson had Coco Crisp and Bartolo Colon backing him up. That makes Donaldson’s contribution to his team’s playoff run much more valuable than Cabrera’s. Any way you slice it, the AL MVP is Trout, Cabrera, Donaldson, or maybe Davis. And that’s exactly where all of the first place votes went.

But we need something to nitpick, so how about Trout’s 7th place vote from Worcester Telegram & Gazette writer Bill Ballou? (Full disclosure: I was a Telegram & Gazette subscriber for a year or so back when subscribing to newspapers was a thing people did.) Ballou’s ballot was also the only one with Davis in the top spot, which really only makes sense if you like home runs and RBI over everything else. Also interesting is that Trout is sandwiched between Boston players Dustin Pedroia and David Ortiz. I would wonder about hometown bias, but where’s Shane Victorino? Victorino was more deserving than Ortiz and was about on par with Pedroia, but he got only a single 10th place vote while the other two finished in the top 10 overall. I guess I just don’t see any logic at work here, let’s move on.

How about the lone Donaldson first place vote from Oakland Tribune writer John Hickey? Bias? Or is his ballot of Donaldson-Cabrera-Davis-Trout-Jones-Kipnis-Cano-Longoria-Crisp-Beltre just weighted by level of postseason contention. Wait, what’s Coco Crisp doing on there? Crisp was the second most valuable position player on the Athletics, but there are a good 20 or 30 players ahead of him in the overall AL. There you have it, our first clear-cut case of hometown bias with an 8th place vote. Not exactly earth-shattering.

I give up, let’s move on to the NL.

NL MVP

BBWAA NL MVP Results

This one isn’t nearly as easy to call as the AL MVP race, so we’re probably wasting our time here. Andrew McCutchen took 28 first place votes and was in everyone’s top 3. After that though, 10 more players had votes in the top 5 spots and another 13 received votes. WAR isn’t going to help us; Carlos Gomez was first in bWAR and second to McCutchen in fWAR, but appeared in the top 6 on just one ballot (much of his value was from defense, which isn’t highly valued). Michael Cuddyer took the batting crown but received only three 10th place votes. Paul Goldschmidt led in OPS, home runs, and RBI, which was enough to make him the clear second place choice for half of the voters and anywhere from third to sixth for the rest. Third place finisher Yadier Molina was all over the map with votes from first to 10th, though he did appear on every ballot.

Wait a second, where’s David Wright? Wright racked up big numbers in just 112 games, finishing 2013 with 5.9 bWAR / 6.0 fWAR, which has to count for something, right? Not according to the voters, who went for players with lesser numbers in more games. If you don’t believe he’s valuable, try watching some of the Mets’ games without him.

So how exactly did Yadier Molina get a 10th place vote? That would be from Clark Spencer of the Miami Herald, whose ballot is largely unremarkable except for including Yasiel Puig, which isn’t entirely unreasonable (makes more sense than Coco Crisp). Molina’s first place votes are a bit more suspect, with both coming from the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. That alone isn’t too bad, but Rick Hummel’s second place vote for Matt Carpenter over McCutchen is pretty far out there. I can see Carpenter over Goldschmidt, but not McCutchen. Hummel’s ballot also included Allen Craig at 8th and Russell Martin at 10th, so I’m pretty sure this ballot came from a different year and/or universe.

Hawk Harrelson Award for Blatant Homerism

Most sportswriters and broadcasters are accused of bias of some sort (ESPN’s Buster Olney for instance has been accused of being biased for and against every team and geographic region in MLB), but few take as much pride in their bias as Chicago White Sox broadcaster Ken “Hawk” Harrelson. One of the last media personalities to embrace the idea of relentlessly rooting for the home team, Harrelson is a relic of a bygone era when only local fans would ever see and/or hear you calling a game. Actually, I don’t even know if it’s an era thing, because the opposite end of the spectrum is represented by the eternal Vin Scully. Whatever the reason, anyone who isn’t an obnoxiously outspoken White Sox fan probably can’t last more than five minutes into a Harrelson broadcast before reaching for the mute button or something to throw at the TV. It is in honor of the distinguished Hawk Harrelson that we present the first-ever award for blatant homerism to Rick Hummel of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch!

Voting went as follows:

Writer, Affiliation 1st 2nd 3rd Points
Rick Hummel, St. Louis Post-Dispatch 1 3
Chris Assenheimer, Elyria Chronicle-Telegram 1 2
John Maffei, San Diego Union-Tribune 1 1

Here are the individual ballots:

Full Name Affiliation 1st 2nd 3rd
Matthew M. Lug Collect the Mets Hummel Assenheimer Maffei

Pablo Sandoval Award for Most Homer City

If you’re from San Francisco, you may not realize that other teams have third basemen. That’s the only reason I can think of why Pablo Sandoval gets so many All-Star votes every year despite being nothing more than an average starter. It is in honor of the great city by the bay and its hot corner hero that we present the first-ever award for the most homer city to San Francisco!

Voting went as follows:

City 1st 2nd 3rd Points
San Francisco 1 3
St. Louis 1 2
Cleveland 1 1

Here are the individual ballots:

Full Name Affiliation 1st 2nd 3rd
Matthew M. Lug Collect the Mets San Francisco St. Louis Cleveland

Voter eligibility was limited to anyone who expressed an interest in participating, which was limited to me because I just made these things up. If you want in for next year’s awards, let me know and I’ll get back to you if I do this again next year. Or just make your own, whatever.