Verlander gets AL MVP and Cy Young awards
Only a couple days after receiving the American League Cy Young award for 2011, Detroit Tigers pitcher Justin Verlander was also named the League's Most Valuable Player by the Baseball Writers' Association of America. It's the first time a pitcher has been named MVP since 1992 (reliever Dennis Eckersley of the Oakland A's) and the first starting pitcher since 1986 (Roger Clemens, then of the Boston Red Sox). Verlander got 13 out of 28 first-place votes, leaving no doubt he was the clear choice. With a record of 24-5 (including a no-hitter on May 7), an ERA of 2.40, and 250 strikeouts, it's easy to see why. (Jacoby Ellsbury of the Red Sox and Jose Bautista of the Blue Jays came in second and third, respectively.) See MLB.com. As the 2011 season progressed, Verlander just kept outperforming himself time and again, and his pitching arm was what kept the Tigers alive in Game 5 of the ALCS. (See Oct. 15.) In short, I think it's safe to say,
You da man, Justin!
I was hoping Curtis Granderson (who got the fourth-highest number of votes) would get the AL MVP award, since I prematurely reported that happening seven weeks ago. That was almost as bad as my repeated gaffes about hockey facts in June 2009.
In the National League, Clayton Kershaw of the L.A. Dodgers received the Cy Young award. As Roger Schlueter notes at MLB.com, there was really no question about it in either league, since Verlander and Kershaw each won their respective league's pitching Triple Crowns (win-loss, ERA, strikeouts).
Craig Kimbrel of the Atlanta Braves won the honors for National League Rookie of the Year. Kimbrel [had a great year as closer, with 46 saves and an ERA of 2.10,] but blew the final game of the season, which was how the St. Louis Cardinals sneaked into the postseason and won the World Series. In the American League, Jeremy Hellickson, a pitcher for Tampa Bay, was named Rookie of the Year.
Meanwhile, Joe Maddon (Tampa Bay, AL) and Kirk Gibson (Arizona, NL) were chosen as the respective League Managers of the Year. And at Wrigley Field in Chicago, finally, the Cubs announced that Dale Sveum will be their team's manager next year.
GMs: busy wheeling and dealing
The winter meetings of the baseball general managers are underway, the Phillies have acquired Ty Wigginton from the Rockies in a trade for an unnamed player. Before last season, Wigginton played for the Orioles. Meanwhile, Twins' closing pitcher Joe Nathan signed with the Texas Rangers, and both the Washington Nationals and the Florida Miami Marlins are pursuing left-handed pitcher Mark Buehrle.
Two of the biggest names in big-market cities recently signed new contracts with their old teams: C.C. Sabathia (Yankees, one added year, through 2016, $25 million) and free agent Matt Kemp (Dodgers, eight years, $160 million). The Phillies declined their options on pitchers Roy Oswalt and Brad Lidge, while the Braves traded away Derek Lowe for a minor leaguer. (Ouch!) (The Nationals are supposedly interested in Oswalt.) You, too, can keep with all the "hot stove" news.
At the culmination of these meetings, it is expected that a new labor agreement between the owners and players will be reached.
Mariners player murdered
This is not a good time to be a foreign-born Major League Baseball player. Two weeks after Washington Nationals catcher Wilson Ramos was kidnapped (and later freed), Mariners outfielder Greg Halman was stabbed to death in the Netherlands, where he was born and grew up. His brother is a suspect in the murder. See MLB.com, which lists other players from the past who died under sudden, tragic circumstances. Halman represented the surge in interest in baseball in the Netherlands, which began in that country's former possessions in the Caribbean, Aruba and Curacao.
Busch Stadium III tweak
Based on further input from Jonathan Karberg, who must have been using a magnifying glass (!), I updated the Busch Stadium III diagrams. Most of the changes are in the outfield bleachers and adjacent structures. For the time being, I have left alone the old football version of Busch III, so that you can see exactly what changed.
The mail bag
Angus MacFarlane asked me how high the upper deck at the Polo Grounds was. My tentative estimate is that the front edge of the upper deck was about 40 feet high, and the roof was about 88 feet high. That may change somewhat after I have tackled those diagrams.
Terry Wallace brought to my attention a bunch of old photos of Griffith Stadium, which will be useful in getting those diagrams more accurate.
Finally, Bruce Orser thinks the recent dramatic rescue of Wilson Ramos would make an excellent plot for a motion picture.