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Friday, November 19, 2021

Congrats to the new MVPs; both should have been Yankees

The ballots have been counted - (I hear 5,000 dead sportswriters voted via Hugo Chavez) - electing Shohei Ohtani and Bryce Harper as 2021 MVPs. Hooray for both. Worthy recipients. (In the AL, Aaron Judge finished fourth, and Gerrit Cole, 17th.) In the past, I've whined that Yankees always get screwed in postseason awards. Not this year. Fourth and 17th sound about right.  

Still, somewhere out there - in that alt-universe, where the sun is shining bright, where the band is playing, and where hearts are light, and where men are laughing, and where somewhere children shout - Mighty Casey has struck out, both Harper and Ohtani play for the Yankees.

Yep, it's the Alt-Earth where the Yankees, in the cold winter of 2018, did more than slobber meaningless lip-service when Harper came to pursue his childhood dreams. After seven years with Washington, everybody knew Harper's desire to become a Yankee. He said so as a teen in the Sports Illustrated article that introduced him to the world. He said so in interviews, so often that he had to quit pronouncing his destiny. And when he finally became a free agent, and came to New York in search of a ballcap and a contract, Food Stamps Hal Steinbrenner turned off his phone and hid under the bed. 

Insert sigh here.

Look, over the years, Hal has served as a fine whipping mule for this blog. I feel compelled to note that he has, on occasion, done the right thing. For example, he signed Gerrit Cole and gave both Jeet and Mariano great sendoffs. But there have been gigantic whiffs, worthy of mighty Casey. Remember when he refused to give Russell Martin a multi-year deal, cheaply cutting him loose with no other catcher in sight? Or when he let Yoan Moncada go to Boston, unleashing a series of events that would win them a world series. And in 2018-19, when Harper knocked on the door, Hal sat on his fanny pack. 

Imagine Harper's LH bat, sandwiched between Judge and Giancarlo, the most potent trio in baseball. Hurts, eh? That was also the winter when Hal ghosted Manny Machado, whose wife wanted him to play in NYC. The Yankees simply clutched their pearls and said no. And today, Harper is the MVP. He's 28. Barring injuries, a future Hall of Famer.

Then there is Ohtani, "the Japanese Babe Ruth," whom everyone in baseball, back in 2017, figured would sign with the Yankees. Here, I cannot blame Hal. Turns out, Ohtani wanted to play on the West Coast, closer to home. A reasonable desire. Time zones are hell. 

Still, I wonder if the Yankees could have tried harder. Their history with Japanese players has run hot and cold - from Godzilla to Ichiro to, ugh, Kei Igawa. Once upon a time, the Yankees appeared to be the prime recipients of an exodus of players from Asia and Cuba - a surge of international talent that would restore the franchise to prominence. Most came to America with no strings attached; all we had to do was shell out the money. And the Yankees had more than anybody else.

Instead, they shot their wad on 16-year-old cabana boys, most of whom are out of baseball, while passing on more expensive players. In 2017, they were hardly the dominant franchise that Ohtani had grown up following. In fact, they were simply a team that foreshadowed our current predicament - the collector of Wild Cards!  

Again, I can't blame Hal for Ohtani being an Angel. But in recent months, he's said to be unhappy with the sad state of that team. In another era, that would be a dog whistle for the Yankees to bring him to NY. Not anymore. If Ohtani wants to play for a perennial challenger, he's referring to the Dodgers (or maybe the  Giants.) Certainly not the Yankees, who haven't been the Yankees for a long, long time.

So, exciting news on the wire: Hal says he expects Joey Gallo to have a big year! Wow! Baseball fever! Can you feel it?


ZacharyA said...

I feel like Aaron Judge's season was somewhat underappreciated by Yankee fans just given how bad the rest of the team was.

He had the highest batting average (.287) and the lowest strikeout rate (25.0%) of his career. That was coupled with a .373 OBP (4th in AL) and .544 SLG (4th in AL). And Judge had 633 PA, the most in a season since his rookie year.

With his glove, he had 11 Defensive Runs Saved, third-most among all MLB right fielders.

Judge's 1.019 OPS on the road was the best mark of any qualified AL player.

He hit .331/.425/.559 (.984 OPS) with RISP.

Judge hit .323/.427/.510 (.938 OPS) in high-leverage situations and .300/.404/.527 (.931 OPS) in the 7th-9th innings.

Judge's 4.65 WPA (Win Probability Added) was second only to Shohei Ohtani in the AL and third in MLB.

Judge's 3.70 cWPA (Championship Win Probability Added) was the highest of any player in baseball.

No. 99 was really one of the lone bright spots in an ugly season for New York.

ZacharyA said...

Regarding Judge's career-best batting average and strikeout rate....

To me, that's doubly impressive when you consider that the league as a whole had its lowest batting average since 1972 and its highest strikeout rate in a full season ever.

borntorun999 said...

No question, he is the best on the team. The RISP stat line is stunning.

JM said...

I think Machado and Bryce were both available in that 2018 free agent sweepstakes. I wanted to sign them both, but some guys here on the site pooh poohed the idea, based on stats versus money involved. Or something.

Here we are three years later and I still wish we had signed both of them.

ranger_lp said...

Bryan Hoch tweeted a couple of things yesterday...

The #Yankees are interested in hiring three hitting coaches as well as one additional pitching coach.

Brian Cashman said that the #Yankees remain “open for business” with all free agent and trade possibilities. Yanks already have offers out to some free agents.



DickAllen said...

Bah. I still wouldn't take Harper - he's an expensive drain and hasn't done anything that would impact the success of a team - a man in love with himself. He can have all the MVPs he wants, but ultimately, the true measure of a ballplayer is in the rings.

The real question in my mind is: who would make the team better? Who is the man with the kind of qualities that make everyone around him better? The man who rises to the occasion? I realize that men like that are few and far in between, but I don't think Harper is one of those guys. Is it a coincidence that the Nationals didn't win a World Series until AFTER he was gone? Nope. And for all the money the Phillies are paying him, they could have saved all that cash and still finished a game or two above 500.

Are any of the current free agents real leaders, or are they a collection of talent looking for major bank?

Celerino Sanchez said...

When are they going to change the MVP award to the Best Player Award. Philly & LA sucked with Ohtani & Harper so how are they valuable? Also I laughed when HOF Cashman said we'd see a better Gallo next year. So if het hits 20pts above his lifetime average, he'll hit .220 and clearly the current regime has done getting Sanchez, Torres & Frazier on track

Doug K. said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
HoraceClarke66 said...

I think it was ALL-CAPS who was dead square against Machado and Harper, JM.

I've been wrong plenty of times about plenty of guys, but—seeing how things were going—I wanted to sign both. Free agents are one of the very few ways the Cashman Yankees have of acquiring guys that can't go dreadfully wrong. Anything requiring a trade...

I still think they should sign either Correa or Seagar this winter, risky as either could be.

HoraceClarke66 said...

Meanwhile, the "Shohei Ohtani is Babe Ruth" farce continues.

It is so typical of America today, an insistence that someone is exponentially better than he really is because you need it to be so for promotional reasons.

Ohtani is a .257-hitting DH (with 189 strikeouts), who pitched enough to get 11 decisions. Sure, it was a good year—a very good year. Was it better than Vlad, Jr.'s? I don't think so. But the fraudulent claim that Ohtani is a "two-way player" marches on because MLB wants it to.

I'm not upset we don't have him.