Bryce Harper: Rookie of the Year!
Bryce Harper was named the National League Rookie of the Year by the Baseball Writers' Association of America. He beat Arizona Diamondbacks rookie pitcher Wade Miley by seven points, 112-105. Harper had a .270 batting average, with 22 home runs, and 59 RBIs. He led all NL rookies in several categories, including OPS (.817), game-winning RBI (12) and extra-base hits (57). At 19 years of age, he was the youngest position player ever named to the All-Star Game. See MLB.com. But beyond all those numbers, you have to consider the huge impact he had on raising the excitement level of the Nationals players and fans. There is little question that he played a major role in helping the Nationals to win their first division title. He was the veritable epitome of "Natitude"!
Harper was called up to the majors in late April, an emergency situation in which two Nats outfielder-sluggers -- Jayson Werth and Michael Morse -- were both on the disabled list. At the time, many thought it was a bit premature for a teenager, but he quickly dispelled doubts. After a torrid first two months in the batters box, galvanizing the injury-plagued Nationals (see May 4), he slumped in mid-season. But then in late August he got hot again, providing the decisive offensive firepower that kept the Nats ahead of the Braves in that ferocious division race. He was poor hitting poorly in the National League Divisional Series, but snapped out of it in dramatic fashion in Game 5, hitting a triple and a home run. In the end, however, those big hits proved not to be enough.
Congratulations on a GREAT rookie year, Bryce!
2012 Silver Slugger awards
Three Washington Nationals players were recognized for their batting prowess with the "Silver Slugger" Award: shortstop Ian Desmond (.292 batting average, 25 homers, 73 RBIs), first baseman Adam LaRoche (.270, 33 home runs, 100 RBIs), and pitcher Stephen Strasburg (.277 batting average, one home run and 7 RBIs). The Nationals were the only team to win three such awards. "LaRoche is one of only four big leaguers -- Robinson Cano, Chase Headley, Andrew McCutchen -- to win both a Silver Slugger, presented by Louisville Slugger, and a Gold Glove this postseason." See MLB.com. In a related news item, LaRoche turned down the Nationals' qualifying offer of $13.3 million, thus becoming a free agent, but there is still a very good chance he will reach a deal and return to Washington next year. If not, Michael Morse can move back to first base again.
Batting averages and ERAs going all the way back to 2005 can now be seen on the Washington Nationals page. It was a rather painful exercise, going back through the MLB.com historical records and reminding myself just how mediocre the Nationals were for their first few years in D.C. For example, in 2006 Jose Guillen batted .216, and in 2008 Austin Kearns batted .217. They were both supposed to be pretty good. A few more tweaks and enhancements lie ahead on that page.
Davey Johnson's last year?
As expected, negotiations between the Nationals front office and Davey Johnson bore fruit, and he will manage the team for one more year and then retire. As of 2014, he will become a team consultant, which is what he was before he replaced Jim Riggleman in mid-2011. Johnson will celebrate his 70th birthday in January, so it's understandable that he might not want to remain a major league manager for much longer. He and Billy Martin are the only managers to take four different teams to the postseason. In his statement, Johnson said "As everyone knows, we have some unfinished business to tend to in '13. I have a feeling this upcoming season will be filled with many memorable moments." See MLB.com.
So, what would have happened if the Nationals had gone all the way last month? Would Johnson have "pulled a LaRussa," as he is rumored to have said?
R.I.P. Eddie Yost
Former Washington Senators third baseman Eddie Yost passed away last month at the age of 86. He became famous for leading the American League in walks six times during his 18-year career. ("Good eye!") He joined the Senators in 1944, served in the U.S. Navy in 1945, and played 13 years in Washington altogether. He later played for the Tigers, and on Opening Day 1961, he was the first-ever batter for the Los Angeles Angels expansion club. He retired with a .254 lifetime batting average. I remember seeing Yost's name on the "Ring of Stars" at RFK Stadium, but was not otherwise aware of his career accomplishments. See MLB.com.
The mail bag
Now that the World Series and that election last week are over, I can start to get caught up with correspondence and other tasks again. Among the many items brought to my attention by Mike Zurawski, MLB Commissioner Bud Selig has been busy negotiating the issue of the San Francisco Giants territorial rights, to see whether the Oakland Athletics will be able to relocate to San Jose, where build a new ballpark is being planned. See ESPN. Talk, talk, talk. Of course, we Washington-region baseball fans heard the "be patient" refrain many, many times before real action on relocation was finally taken.
Mark Binder wrote to tell me that some of the shady financial hijinks behind the Rangers Ballpark in Arlington were repeated at nearby Cowboys Stadium, which replaced Texas Stadium in Dallas two years ago. That was news to me, but hardly a surprise that pro football would be just as susceptible to "stadium socialism" (or crony capitalism) as major league baseball.
Both Mark London and Terry Wallace asked me last month if I had heard about the upcoming changes at PETCO Park, which indeed I had. (Hence the diagram update.) Terry referred me to a cbssports.com story that has a great photo. I'm still not sure, however, whether they are going to add more seats in right field, where the outfield fence is being brought in by 10-15 feet.
Finally, I got a nice note from Glenn Simpkins asking if Hurricane Sandy caused any major damage in our area of Virginia. Thankfully, not. His message did remind me, however, that he had asked me several months ago about doing a soccer version of AT&T Park, since there was a soccer double-header there in March, which I mentioned in June. Since the Giants are the World Champions, I figured their stadium deserved priority attention. Done!
Several more e-mail messages to get to, however...