Tuesday, November 13, 2018

Shohei Ohtani, Ronald Acuna Jr. win Rookie of the Year awards

Shohei Ohtani
Los Angeles Angels pitcher/outfielder Shohei Ohtani and Atlanta Braves outfielder Ronald Acuna Jr. have been named Rookie of the Year in their respective leagues.

The vote was not close in either league, and it was not expected to be.

Ohtani won the AL award after becoming the first player since Babe Ruth in 1919 to have at least 20 home runs and 10 pitching appearances in a single season. He is the first player to hit at least 20 home runs and record 50 strikeouts as a pitcher in the same season.

The right-handed pitcher went 4-2 with a 3.31 ERA in 10 starts before a torn elbow ligament shut him down. Ohtani will not pitch during the 2019 season.

Despite the injury, he played 104 games as a designated hitter, slashing .285/.361/.564 with 22 home runs, 21 doubles, 10 stolen bases and 61 RBIs.

Ohtani received 25 of a possible 30 first-place votes. The other five votes went to second-place finisher Miguel Andujar of the New York Yankees. Another Yankee, Gleyber Torres, placed third.

In case you were wondering, White Sox outfielder Daniel Palka received one third-place vote after  his 27-homer season.

Acuna, the NL honoree, was called to the majors April 25 and delivered 55 extra-base hits in his first 100 games. His season helped propel the Braves to an 18-game improvement and the NL East Division championship.

In 111 games, the 20-year-old hit .293/.366/.552 with 26 home runs, 26 doubles, 16 stolen bases and 64 RBIs.

Acuna's performance netted him 27 out of a possible 30 first-place votes.

Juan Soto of the Washington Nationals received two first-place votes and finished second in the voting. Right-handed pitcher Walker Buehler of the Los Angeles Dodgers earned one first-place vote and finished third in the balloting.

Monday, November 12, 2018

Trivia question answer: Carew, Ichiro, Palmeiro, Beltre and Clemente

Rod Carew
On Saturday, I posted a trivia question that I found interesting: Name the five players with 3,000 or more hits who were not born in the United States.

I added the hint that the five men came from five different countries: Cuba, the Dominican Republic, Japan, Panama and Puerto Rico.

Now for the answer:

Rod Carew: The infielder from Panama played 19 seasons in the big leagues from 1967 to 1985. He was with the Minnesota Twins for 12 seasons, mostly as a second baseman, before playing seven seasons with the California Angels, mostly as a first baseman or designated hitter.

A lifetime .328 hitter, Carew totaled 3,053 hits and made the All-Star team a remarkable 18 times. He was the American League Rookie of the Year in 1967, and won the American League MVP award with the Twins in 1977, when he hit .388/.449/.579 with 38 doubles, 16 triples, 14 home runs, 23 stolen bases and a career-high 100 RBIs.

Ichiro Suzuki: We've seen more players come to the U.S. from Japan in the past couple decades, and there's no question in my mind that Ichiro is the best of that group. He played 18 years from 2001 through this past season with the Seattle Mariners, New York Yankees and Miami Marlins, totaling 3,089 hits and a lifetime slash line of .311/.355/.402.

Ichiro took the American League by storm in 2001, winning both the Rookie of the Year and the MVP award for the 116-win Mariners. In that season, he hit .350/.381/.457 with a league-best 56 stolen bases. That was the start of a decade of dominance for Ichiro, as he appeared in the All-Star Game and won the Gold Glove in each of his first 10 seasons with the Mariners.

Rafael Palmeiro: The Cuban-born slugger became the fifth player in baseball history to accumulate both 3,000 hits and 500 home runs, reaching those benchmarks in July 2005. Days later, he tested positive for steroids, and he probably will never be inducted into the Hall of Fame despite his gaudy statistics.

Palmeiro played 20 seasons for the Cubs, Texas Rangers and Baltimore Orioles, totaling 3,020 hits and 569 home runs. He only played in four All-Star games and never finished higher than fifth in MVP voting, despite hitting 38 or more home runs from every year from 1995 to 2003.

The left-handed hitter, who broke into the majors with the Cubs in 1986, left the game in disgrace after being booed by his home fans in Baltimore during that 2005 season.

Adrian Beltre: The 39-year-old from the Dominican Republic is the one active player on this list. He has 3,166 career hits and 477 home runs. He might be able to join that 3,000/500 club if he has one more good season left in him.

Beltre has been in the majors for 21 years, first joining the Los Angeles Dodgers in 1998. He since has played with the Seattle Mariners and Texas Rangers, and appears to be a good bet for the Hall of Fame when you combine his impressive counting statistics, consistent production and strong defense at third base. Beltre has won five Gold Gloves, and on the whole, has been more appreciated as a player in the latter years of his career.

Roberto Clemente: Perhaps the greatest player Puerto Rico has ever produced, Clemente had his life cut short when he died in a plane crash on New Year's Eve 1972. He played 18 seasons with the Pittsburgh Pirates from 1955 until the time of his death, posting a career .317/.359/.475 slash line with 3,000 hits and 240 home runs.

Clemente made the All-Star Game in 12 out of 13 seasons from 1960 to 1972, and he won the National League MVP award in 1966, when he hit .317 with a career-high 29 home runs and a career-best 119 RBIs. He also won a Gold Glove in each of his final 12 seasons and is regarded as one of the best defensive right fielders in the history of the game.

Saturday, November 10, 2018

A Saturday afternoon trivia question ...

Joe Stevenson, my colleague at the Northwest Herald, asked me an interesting baseball trivia question the other night at work.

I struggled before eventually getting the answer. Here it is:

Name the five players with 3,000 or more hits who were not born in the United States.

Hint: The five men came from five different countries: Cuba, the Dominican Republic, Japan, Panama and Puerto Rico.

Can you name them? Answer to come Monday ...

Monday, November 5, 2018

Gold Glove winners announced: White Sox CF Adam Engel didn't win

Adam Engel
Major League Baseball announced its Gold Glove winners for the 2018 season Sunday night, and White Sox center fielder Adam Engel did not win.

In fact, I'm pretty sure Engel finished third among the three finalists for center field in the American League -- Boston's Jackie Bradley Jr. won the honor, and Los Angeles' Mike Trout was the other contender -- but there's really no shame in it for Engel.

I've often felt as though a player has to hit well in order to get consideration for a Gold Glove, which I know sounds completely ridiculous, but rare is the case when a player gets much publicity for being a defense-only guy -- especially on a 100-loss team such as the Sox.

Engel is a defense-only player. He finished the 2018 season with a .235/.279/.336 slash line, and that actually was an improvement over the .166/.235/.282 line he posted as a rookie in 2017.

And heck, Engel didn't even play his best defense the first couple months of the season. His error total (7) worked against him, and he only had five outfield assists all season. However, he gained attention in August when he made three spectacular catches to rob opposing players (Greg Bird, Kyle Higashioka and Yonder Alonso) of home runs in the same week. Each catch was better than the one before it, and it didn't hurt that two of them came against the high-profile New York Yankees.

In that context, it was a nice accomplishment for Engel to be named a finalist. His weak bat likely will knock him out of the Sox's everyday lineup at some point, so being in the Gold Glove conversation this season probably will go down as a career highlight for him.

Here is the list of Gold Glove winners from both leagues:

American League

Pitcher: Dallas Keuchel, Astros (fourth award)
Catcher: Salvador Perez, Royals (fifth award)
First base: Matt Olson, Athletics (first award)
Second base: Ian Kinsler, Red Sox (second award)
Shortstop: Andrelton Simmons, Angels (fourth award)
Third base: Matt Chapman, Athletics (first award)
Left field: Alex Gordon, Royals (sixth award)
Center field: Bradley Jr., Red Sox (first award)
​Right field: Mookie Betts, Red Sox (third award)


National League

Pitcher: Zack Greinke, Diamondbacks (fifth award)
Catcher: Yadier Molina, Cardinals (ninth award)
First base: Freddie Freeman, Braves (first award) and Anthony Rizzo, Cubs (second award)
Second base: D.J. LeMahieu, Rockies (third award)
Shortstop: Nick Ahmed, Diamondbacks (first award)
Third base: Nolan Arenado, Rockies (sixth award)
Left field: Corey Dickerson, Pirates (first award)
Center field: Ender Inciarte, Braves (third award)
​Right fieldNick Markakis, Braves (third award)​

Friday, November 2, 2018

Catching up on some White Sox transactions

Here's a rundown on some of the roster moves the White Sox have made since the World Series ended Sunday:

The Sox's 40-man roster now sits at 35 players.

Thursday, November 1, 2018

How should White Sox fans feel about Chris Sale winning a World Series with the Boston Red Sox?

Chris Sale
The moment Chris Sale has been pitching for his whole life arrived Sunday night: He was summoned to the mound to pitch the bottom of the ninth inning, with the Boston Red Sox leading the Los Angeles Dodgers, 5-1, in Game 5 of the World Series.

Sale needed to record three outs to secure Boston's fourth championship in 15 years. He did so in emphatic fashion, striking out all three Los Angeles batters he faced -- Justin Turner, Enrique Hernandez and Manny Machado.

Machado, who is a terrific player, was made to look like a fool, falling to one knee as he flailed helplessly at a devastating Sale slider for strike three.

It was a moment of mixed emotions for me as a White Sox fan, as I watched the former South Side ace, Sale, celebrate a world championship with his teammates. It wasn't so long ago that I had hoped Sale would be helping lead my favorite team to a title, but it didn't work out that way.

As we all know, the Sox traded Sale to Boston on Dec. 6, 2016, for four prospects, including current White Sox second baseman Yoan Moncada and pitcher Michael Kopech.

I'm legitimately happy for Sale, a fierce competitor who cares about nothing other than winning. He always was and remains one of my favorite MLB players. However, it's no secret that I don't care for haughty Red Sox fans, and that organization already has won plenty, so I can't say that I'm particularly happy for anyone else associated with Boston's team.

In fact, seeing Sale capture that World Series ring brought back all the feelings of disgust with the current White Sox front office, and its failings to put a competitive team around this great pitcher who now toils for the Red Sox.

Some of the more ardent rebuild supporters in the White Sox fan base firmly believe that history eventually will show that Chicago GM Rick Hahn got the upper hand in that 2016 trade with Boston.

They'll point out that while Moncada struggled in his first full season in the big leagues in 2018, he's only 23 years old, and time still is on his side. They'll point out that while Kopech will miss the entire 2019 season after Tommy John surgery, he has shown tremendous promise during a quick rise through the Chicago farm system. And, they'll point out that the third prospect in the deal, Luis Alexander Basabe, had a promising 2018 season at two different levels.

All those arguments can be made, and there is supporting evidence on each point. But here's something that is no longer in dispute: The Red Sox got exactly what they wanted out of that trade with Chicago.

There was Sale in the game with a championship on the line Sunday night, and he delivered. That's what he was acquired to do.

The dividends from that deal are obvious for the Red Sox. They are 2018 World Series champions. Meanwhile, the White Sox and their fans continue to hope and hope that the deal will pay dividends for them, too. Someday. Maybe.

Will it ever happen? It better.

Friday, October 12, 2018

Final Four: Dodgers vs. Brewers; Astros vs. Red Sox

Baseball's final four is set. We've got the Los Angeles Dodgers and the Milwaukee Brewers in the National League Championship Series, and the Houston Astros and the Boston Red Sox in the American League Championship Series.

Who ya got?

I've got the Brewers in six in the NL. Milwaukee reminds me of the 2015 Kansas City Royals, and not just because they have Mike Moustakas and Lorenzo Cain in their starting lineup.

Much like that Kansas City team, it's hard to match the Brewers' bullpen depth. Milwaukee basically is playing a six-inning game with relievers such as Jeremy Jeffress, Josh Hader, Corey Knebel and even our old friend Joakim Soria pitching effectively out of the bullpen.

The Brewers have the one piece that nobody else has -- a dominant left-handed reliever who can get six outs if needed. That's Hader, and I expect him to be a difference-maker in this series, as he has been all season.

Hey, it's finally getting interesting in the AL! We've got the 108-win Red Sox and the 103-win Astros ready to do battle. There was almost no pennant race in the AL this season, with the five playoff positions basically secured by Sept. 1, and five teams in the league losing 95 or more games.

It just wasn't interesting, until now. We've got two super-teams going head-to-head here, and I'll take the defending champion Astros in 7.

I like Houston's pitching depth. As much as I like the Boston ace, Chris Sale, Houston ace Justin Verlander is just as good. And I'm not much of a fan of Boston's No. 2 pitcher, David Price, who always seems to struggle in the playoffs.

I question the Red Sox bullpen, too, especially after Craig Kimbrel had so much trouble closing out the Yankees in Game 4 of the ALDS.

It would be a huge disappointment in Boston if the Red Sox don't win the World Series after going 108-54, but I really think they are the underdogs in this series.

Houston, to me, looks poised to repeat.

Now that I've posted this, we'll probably end up with a  Red Sox-Dodgers World Series. If I know anything about baseball, it's that I know nothing about baseball.