January 31, 2021
Last week it was announced that the Baseball Writers Association of America had chosen Nobody to the Baseball Hall of Fame. It's perhaps just as well, because they induction ceremony in Cooperstown scheduled for last summer was cancelled due to the coronavirus.* The highest vote-getter this was Curt Schilling, with 285 out of 401 votes -- four percent short of the 75 percent that is required for HOF admission.
Retired pitcher Curt Schilling responded to the snub in characteristically bitter terms. In Thursday's Washington Post, Barry Svrluga wrote that the negative vote on Schilling was a symptom of the dysfunctional nature of the Hall of Fame selection process. Schilling deserved consideration, given his 3,116 career strikeouts, but rumors of his PED use and his abrasive personality probably worked to his disadvantage. Svrluga agrees (as I do) that subjective factors such as character and ethics ought to be taken into account, but laments that the people voting (sports journalists) are in a very awkward position when they are supposed to write objectively about the people they are choosing. (The Washington Post does not allow its sports writers to participate in such votes.)
By the way, the last time such a "shutout" of no new Hall of Famers happened was in 2013, so what I wrote then bears repeating now, though without the "white-out" erasing effect. "Nobody had a lifetime batting average of .381, with 2,420 RBIs, and 799 home runs."
* For the record, the four men chosen for the Hall of Fame last year were Derek Jeter (SS, NYY), Marvin Miller (players' union negotiator), Ted Simmons (C, STL), and Larry Walker (RF, COL). See baseballhall.org.
Among the many cruel side effects of the coronavirus is that it diminishes the perceived significance of accomplishments by players and teams. Only 60 games instead of 162? Coincidentally, both leagues' Cy Young winners played for Ohio teams, and both leagues' Managers of the Year managed for Florida teams. For each of the top players listed below, I indicate the position, team, and either the batting average / home run total / RBI total, or (for pitchers) the earned run average / strikeouts / win-loss record.
National League Most Valuable Player: Freddie Freeman (1B, ATL: .341 / 13 / 53) won all but two of the first place votes. Being hopelessly biased, I thought Juan Soto (WSH) might have a chance, since he led the NL in batting (.351), but he came in fifth place in the voting. He'll get it some day, and probably more than once.
American League Most Valuable Player: Jose Abreu (1B, CHW: .317 / 19 / 60) won 21 of the 30 votes, with Jose Ramirez (CLE) not far behind. He played a big part in the White Sox getting to the postseason for the first time since 2008.
National League Cy Young Award: Trevor Bauer (P, CIN: 1.73 / 100 / 5-4) received 27 of the first-place votes, and is now one of the biggest free agent targets in a market that is decidedly cool right now, due to the coronavirus. Bauer used to play for the Cleveland Indians, and remains friends with former team mate Shane Bieber...
American League Cy Young Award: Shane Bieber (P, CLE: 1.63 / 122 / 8-1) received all 30 first-place votes in just his third full year in the majors. He played a big role in Cleveland making it to the postseason, but had a rocky start in Game 1 of the first-round series against the Yankees.
National League Rookie of the Year: Devin Williams (P, MIL: 0.33 / 53 / 4-1) received 14 of 30 first-place votes. He gave up exactly one (1) earned run in all of last year -- a solo home run on July 27.
American League Rookie of the Year: Kyle Lewis (CF, SEA: .262 / 11 / 28) was the unanimous choice of the Baseball Writers, and showed great promise not only in the batter's box, but defensively as well.
National League Manager of the Year: Don Mattingly (MIA: 31-29) brought the Marlins to their first winning season since he took over five years ago, and their first postseason appearance since 2003, when they won the World Series as the Florida Marlins, beating the Yankees. He was named AL MVP in 1985 while wearing Yankee pinstripes, and became the fifth person to win both the MVP Award and Manager of the Year.
American League Manager of the Year: Kevin Cash (TB: 40-20) [was given credit for the Rays' winning the highest percentage (66.7%) of all AL teams for the first time. The votes were cast before the postseason began, and thus do not take into account winning the AL pennant for the second time. He became the Rays' manager in 2015.]
Last month the Cleveland Indians front office announced that the team would be given a new name when the 2021 season begins. On December 14, franchise owner Paul Dolan made the announcement in a letter to the team's fans; see MLB.com. Progressive Field page has been updated accordingly. When I saw the Indians play the Arizona Diamondbacks at Chase Field in 2014, there were a number of Native Americans protesting outside. The Cleveland got rid of the demeaning grinning-Indian logo after the 2018 season. (I'm not excusing that logo, but for context it would help to point out that throughout the late 1940s and into the early 1960s, many sports teams had cartoonish team mascots with silly grins.)
Other than situations involving the relocation of a franchise from one city to another (such as when the Montreal Expos became the Washington Nationals in 2005), the last time an MLB team name changed was in 2008, when the Tampa Bay "Devil Rays" became simply the "Rays." It seemed to do the trick right away, as they won the American League pennant for the first time in the 20-year history of the franchise. Before that, the 1962 expansion franchise Houston "Colt 45s" were renamed the "Astros" when they moved into the brand-new Astrodome in 1965.
I discussed this issue last July in the context of the Washington Football Team's decision to drop the "Redskins" name. In that blog post I compiled a table showing the history of team name changes. Now, as for the AFC champion Kansas City Chiefs...
In October, MLB owners approved the sale of the New York Mets to Steve Cohen by Fred Wilpon and associates. I will soon update the MLB Franchises page to reflect that; other franchise-related pages will have to be updated in the near future as well. Cohen has a 95 percent stake in the team, and recent acquisitions indicate that the Mets are determined to compete for the NL East Division title this year. Former Nationals catcher Wilson Ramos (later signed by the Phillies) just signed a contract with the Mets. If he stays healthy, he can still contribute a lot.
First things first: Miller Park, home of the Milwaukee Brewers since 2000, was officially renamed "American Family Field" as of January 1. After 20 years, that new name will take some getting used to.
Since I recently revised the Milwaukee County Stadium diagrams, I did likewise with the Miller Park / American Family Field diagrams. Originally, I intended merely to render the movable roof more accurately, and the new diagrams show that there are five distinct pivots -- one for each of the wedge-shaped roof sections. Furthermore, those roof sections are of variable length so that each one can be supported separately, with the longer ones toward the middle stacked on top of the others. In addition, the circular tracks along which the roof sections slide are now indicated clearly. There are three such tracks plus a fourth arc serving a structural function along the outer perimeter of the stadium.
Along the way, I noticed a few discrepancies that needed to be corrected. First, the upper deck extends a few feet beyond the right field foul pole, about 15 feet longer than in the previous diagram version, and there is an inward bend near the end. Second, the area with field-level tables in right field is a few feet wider than previously indicated, and the adjacent seating sections are pushed back a couple feet. Finally, the angle of the bend in the grandstand near the left field corner has been corrected, and the new "Miller Lite Landing" party section next to "Bernie the Brewer's" big slide beyond left-center field is now shown. Another big change is the addition of a new second-deck diagram, showing where the press box area is, and indicating how the seating in left-center field was arranged before the new party section was added last year. [UPDATE: I forgot to highlight the massive arches (six altogether) that are now represented by thick lines in the diagrams showing the roof, and I should have mentioned that you can compare to new diagram version to the old version by clicking on the diagram image on that page.]
That page now includes a photo of the Hank Aaron statue, including a closeup of the placque describing Aaron's career accomplishments. Angel Amezquita suggested a diagram to show the location of the little league "Helfaer Field," which sits approximately where Milwaukee County Stadium used to be. It's a bit awkward, but I'll figure out something.
Many thanks to Mike Zurawski for alerting me (nearly a year ago!) to the new "Miller Lite Landing" party area mentiond above. This involved taking out a couple hundred seats near the bullpen, but I'm not sure how much the official seating capacity changed. Hopefully, Brewers fans will actually get to enjoy it this year. Mike sent me other news last month, and I'll get caught up with that soon...
There is also a lot of news about acquisitions made by the Washington Nationals during the off-season, and I'll get to that right away!