September 2012

Joe Morgan Deserves a Little More Respect

Jeff Kent has been in the news a lot lately.  The former All Star 2nd baseman can now be seen on the current season of the CBS program “Survivor”.  I was not a fan of the show but I decided to tune in because of Kent.  After two episodes, which I admit I viewed only sporadically, I will not be a fan in the future.  Someone out there can tell me how he does.  Anyway, it got me to thinking about the best players at 2nd base which includes the guy right here with the Yankees, Robinson Cano.  I know for years the Mets have had a revolving door at the position, one that seems to have no end in sight. One of the best ever to man the position is a guy whose name has been sullied not because of his play but because of his career as a broadcaster.  Many fans now, when they hear the name Joe Morgan think of the guy who for over 20 years was one of the voices of ESPN’s “Sunday Night Baseball”.  He also did broadcast work for ABC and NBC for the playoffs and the World Series.  Unfortunately, his work on the air has been criticized by many and therefore people forget or don’t realize how great a player he was.

Joe Morgan was the NL MVP in 1975 and 1976. He was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1990. Image: bleacherreport.com

Morgan began his Major League career at the age of 19 in 1963 with the old Houston Colt 45’s (later the Astros).  He enjoyed a good deal of success during his time in Houston making the All Star team twice and finishing second for the Rookie of the Year Award in 1965.  On August 29, 1971, Morgan was sent to the Cincinnati Reds in an eight player deal that sent slugging 1st baseman Lee May to Houston.  It was with the Reds that Morgan catapaulted his game into Hall of Fame territory, becoming a key member of the Big Red Machine.  In 1972, his first season in Cincy, Morgan led the National League in on baase average (.417), runs scored (122) and walks (115).  The Reds went on to lose the World Series in seven games to the Oakland A’s.  Cincinnati would eventually win back-to-back World Series titles in 1975 and 1976, cementing themselves as one of the best teams of all time.  Leading the charge was Joe Morgan, all 5 foot 7, 160 pounds of him who happened to win the MVP Award in both title years.  His numbers for each season were astounding.  You decide which one was better.  In 1975, he batted .327 with 17 home runs, 94 RBI’s and 67 stolen bases.  He also scored 107 runs and led the NL with 132 walks and a .466 on base average.  The next year, he hit .320 with 27 homers, 111 RBI’s and 60 stolen bases.  He again led the league in on base average with .444 and scored 113 runs with 114 walks. After leaving Cincinnati as a free agent. Morgan returned to Houston for the 1980 season.  The Astros reached the playoffs for the first time in their history, losing a thrilling NLCS to the Philadelphia Phillies.   He had one last hurrah, with the Phillies in 1983, helping the club reach the World Series before losing in five games to the Baltimore Orioles.

Joe Morgan should defintiely be remembered more for his baseball playing career than his baseball broadcasting career.  He was elected to the Hall of Fame on his first try in 1990.  In his prime, there was no better 2nd baseman and Bill James ranks him as the greatest one ever.  In 1999, The Sporting News put him at #60 on their Top 100 Players of All Time.  He finished with a lifetime .271 average with 2,517 hits 268 homers, 1,133 RBI’s and 689 stolen bases.  He was a 10-time All Star and 5-time Gold Glove winner.  Those numbers far outweigh his “weakness” as an announcer.  Fans of all ages should respect Joe Morgan , a true legend of the game.

Follow me on Twitter @ltj41 and covering the Arizona Diamondbacks at http://venomstrikes.com

R.A. Dickey, the National League Cy Young Award Winner

As soon as my post about Derek Jeter winning the American League MVP was digested by some Mets friends, they immediately wanted to know if I would write something stating R.A. Dickey should win the National League Cy Young Award.  Come on, how much easy material can a guy publish in a week?  There is no doubt the knuckleballer deserves to win the award although Craig Kimbrel and Gio Gonzalez do deserve to be in the conversation.  In the end, though, the case for Dickey winning the Cy Young is actually stronger than the case for Jeter to win the MVP.  Let us have some fun examining these three outstanding pitchers.

R.A. Dickey of the Mets deserves the Cy Young Award. Image: sportsillustrated.cnn.com

The season of Dickey, the 37-year old righty who is about the only positive thing for Mets fans these days is nothing short of remarkable.  He finally has found a home  in Flushing, winning a total of 38 games in his three seasons with the Mets.  He leads the National League in FOUR categories:  ERA (2.66), Complete Games (5), shutouts (3) and innings pitched (220).  Dickey is also second in wins with 19, one less than Gonzalez and second in strikeouts with 209, two behind Clayton Kershaw.  Since numbers are a big deal these deals and are twisted beyond recognition, let us make this real simple.  R.A. Dickey is either first or second in SIX pitching categories.  Not convinced?  His strikeout to walk ratio is 4.02, unheard of for a knuckleball pitcher.  I don’t know where that ranks among starting pitchers but I do know that ratio is outstanding in any league.  Boys and girls, this season for Mr. Dickey is about as dominant as you can get.

Which leads me to probably the most dominant relief pitcher in the game, the Braves’ Kimbrel.  Jayson Stark of ESPN wrote a piece last week as to why he thinks Kimbrel should win the award.  There is no doubt the fireballer has been the best closer in the game.  This is a guy who has struck out a ridiculous 106 batters in 58 1/3 innings.  On top of that, he has walked only 14 batters and allowed a miniscule 25 hits.  To top it off, his ERA is 1.04.  Those numbers are insane.  However, look at the amount of innings pitched.  With nine games left in the season, Kimbrel will probably not exceed 65 innings.  To date, those 58 1/3 innings have come in 51 games.  That means he rarely pitchers more than an inning at a time.  I’m sorry, I don’t want to give an award, no matter how great he has been, to a pitcher who will throw almost four times LESS than the best starting pitcher.

Then there is Gonzalez, the ace of the Washington Nationals, whom I predicted would win the National League East.  I don’t mean to toot my own horn but toot, toot.  Sorry, I had to get that in.  Gonzalez deserves to be mentioned simply because he is the first, and perhaps only, 20 game winner in baseball.  20 is indeed a magic number for pitchers but it also should not guarantee a Cy Young Award.  The 201 strikeouts are quite nice as well but that is still eight fewer than Dickey.  On the negative side, Gonzalez has walked 73 batters, 21 more than Dickey and in only 193 1/3 innings, 27 fewer than R.A.  The ERA of 2.84 also ranks fourth in the National League.   These are not the stats of the best pitcher in 2012.

R.A. Dickey has already been shafted once this season by not starting the All Star Game.  Those who vote on the Cy Young Award winner really have an easy choice.  The award is for the best pitcher, not the most valuable one.  The numbers add up to a landslide for R.A. Dickey.

Follow me on Twitter @ltj41 and covering the Arizona Diamondbacks at http://venomstrikes.com

Why Derek Jeter Should be the American League MVP

Boy. it has been a long time since I posted for everyone.  I have been busy with venomstrikes.com, my other home away from this blog.  Other things have kept me from here including the beginning a new season coaching soccer.  But you don’t care about any of that.  You want the good stuff.  So here it goes.

Derek Jeter should be the American League MVP.

Not Mike Trout.

Not Miguel Cabrera.

Derek Jeter.

Derek Jeter should be the AL MVP for the 2012 season. Image: allsuperstars.blogspot.com

During an amazing, illustrious career that has seen the Yankees Captain win just about every award possible., this 2012 season is the year Jeter should win the most recognized individual award given to a player.  No, this is not a selection for lifetime achievement.  This has nothing to do with two of his jerseys hanging in my closet.  This is based on the fact that when you start with numbers, add in intangibles and then mix in team record, Derek Jeter simply has been the most valuable player in the American League this season.   I get it, you are going to attempt to dazzle me with the numbers that may get Cabrera the Triple Crown, something not done in 45 years.  You will show me the all-around spectacular play of Trout and his equally eye-popping stats particularly for a guy who was born two months after I graduated high school.  Jeter’s numbers speak for themselves, batting .322 with over 200 hits and nearly 100 runs scored.   While they are significantly less that Trout’s 28-78, .323, 122 runs scored and Cabrera’s 42-133, .331, 105 runs scored, the key word in the award is VALUABLE.  I am sure there are a ton of more numbers you will throw out that will enhance either of the other two’s chances as pposed to Jeter.  Numbers are great, I love them.  But just like everything else, they can be abused and then become meaningless.  Trust me, there is a post coming about that very topic.  Anyway, here is why Jeter deserves it more than Cabrera and Trout.

We will start with Trout because……why not?  Wait, I think he just leaped over the wall to rob another home run.  Trout’s 2012 rookie season may go down as one of the greatest initial campaigns of all time.  Actually, the Angels’ phenom played in 40 games and had 123 at-bats in 2011 and started 2012 in Triple A.  He was brought up for good at the end of April replacing Bobby Abreu.  The Angels were struggling at time of his recall and since then, have been playing the kind of ball that was expected of them before the season started.  There is the rub.  LA was expected to be World Series contenders and that is with Trout not making the club out of Spring Training. So the fact they are making a late push now thanks to Trout, Albert Pujols and Jered Weaver among others says to me that Trout has had a lot of help this Summer.

The case against Cabrera is more difficult.  How can you vote against a guy who may do something no one has done since before Richard Nixon was first elected President?  If Miggy does in fact win the Triple Crown, I wouldn’t have a major problem with the selecting him to win the MVP.  however, there is precedent to this.  Ted Williams won the Triple Crown in 1941 but lost the MVP award to Joe DiMaggio.  A crooked writer didn’t even list Williams on his ballot.  OK, that is a pretty weak precedent.  But here again, it is not as though Cabrera has been doing this alone, having the Tigers within a game of first place.   Prince Fielder as had an outstanding year as usual and the rotation boasts the two leaders in strikeouts, Max Scherzer and Justin Verlander.  This was another team that in April was predicted by many to be playing deep into October and now they are not even in a Wild Card position.

Take a look at the Yankee team in 2012.  Yes, while the payroll is still huge most of the parts of it have had below average years.  Mark Teixeira, CC Sabathia and Alex Rodriguez have been hurt or ineffective or at times both.  Sure Curtis Granderson has 39 home runs but he is also batting .230 with 184 strikeouts.  Robinson Cano has had a good year but also at times has disappeared both at the plate and in the field.  Hiroki Kuroda and Phil Hughes both have set career highs in wins but have not had the seasons the other three pitchers mentioned have had. Rafael Soriano has been marvelous filling in for Mariano Rivera, he has been the team’s most valuable pitcher.  While Soriano has been great,  Derek Jeter has been the best player on the team since Day One.  He has never gone into a prolonged slump and has gotten every clutch hit and every desperately needed jump throw for a team that has had more injuries and underachievement than most contending clubs.

If I haven’t convinced you yet about the worthiness of Derek Jeter being the AL MVP, think about this.  Would the Angels be in third place in the AL West if Mike Trout was not on the team?  I think it is a pretty safe bet the answer is yes.  Would the Tigers be in second place in the AL Central if there was no Miguel Cabrera?  Considering the third place team is 12 games under .500, I would make that assumption.  Now would the Yankees be 24 games over .500 and in first place without Derek Jeter?  The answer to that question is an emphatic NO.

Follow me on Twitter @ltj41 and covering the Arizona Diamondbacks at http://venomstrikes.com

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