Mets have chance to make awards history
The Mets have a chance to play in October and have perhaps their best November ever.
The Mets have made a strong push to reach the playoffs for the 10th time. But what they have never done in their history is win two of the big four awards — MVP, Cy Young, Rookie of the Year and Manager of the Year — in the same season. In fact, they have received votes in all the categories in the same year eight times and on six occasions had top-10 finishes — five coming during the best run in franchise history 1984-88 and the other in 2016.
The awards are announced in November, and with five weeks left to state their cases (only regular season results matter) Peter Alonso is no worse than a co-favorite for Rookie of the Year, and Jacob deGrom has a chance to do what even Tom Seaver could not — become the first Met to win any of the awards in consecutive years, as he is bunched in a tight Cy Young race.
These are the two awards the Mets have done well with in their history. They have won six Cy Youngs (three by Seaver) and five Rookie of the Years. A Met has never won the MVP. The Diamondbacks, whose inaugural season was 1998, are the only other NL club never to have a player win the award. In fact, every other NL club, including the Astros who left for the AL after the 2012 season, has had a player win the MVP since 1994. Seaver (1969), Keith Hernandez (1984) and Darryl Strawberry (1988) finished second for the Mets.
The Mets and Brewers, who joined the NL in 1998, are the only NL clubs to never have a NL Manager of the Year, which was handed out for the first time in 1983. Davey Johnson (1984 and ‘86) and Willie Randolph (2006) finished second for the Mets.
Baseball Writers Association of America’s awards ballots are due before the first pitch of the postseason. How do the Mets currently look:
Rookie of the Year
Alonso is trying to join Seaver (1967), Jon Matlack (1972), Strawberry (1983), Dwight Gooden (1984) and deGrom (2014) as Mets winners. Alonso already owns the NL rookie record for homers, and he has a chance to get to 50. That combination would make this a cakewalk in most years.
But in a season when the MLB homer record is going to be smashed, no qualified starter has defied the long ball like 22-year-old Braves righty Mike Soroka, whose 2.41 ERA was third in the NL — ahead of deGrom. If you are looking for a way to debate apples and oranges — pitchers and hitters — Soroka had 5.0 Wins Above Replacement (Baseball Reference version) and Alonso 4.4.
It is a tight race — so close that if Atlanta holds its big division lead and reins in Soroka’s innings down the stretch, that might decide the outcome. And this would have been a three-way fight had San Diego’s precocious shortstop Fernando Tatis Jr. not been lost for the season with a bad back. In fact, I renew the call for my BBWAA brethren to do what was done with the Cy Young vote in 2010 — have the ballot go from three to five — because there are now annually so many rookies who deserve to at least get votes. If Alonso, Soroka and Tatis finish 1-2-3, then Pittsburgh’s Bryan Reynolds, the Dodgers’ Alex Verdugo, San Diego’s Chris Paddack, Washington’s Victor Robles and a few others will receive scant notice.
Wouldn’t it be something if the Mets and Nationals tie for the second wild-card spot and on Sept. 30 they have a one-game play-in — deGrom vs. Max Scherzer? That would be a regular-season game and, thus, would count toward awards consideration. And the NL battle among deGrom, Scherzer, the Dodgers’ Hyun-jin Ryu is congested enough that every start is going to matter.
Scherzer just returned from missing a month with a back ailment. Ryu also had an IL stint recently for what was termed a sore neck. The combination of the Dodgers’ big NL West lead and Ryu’s injury history could lead to his innings being cut back in September. The Nationals’ Patrick Corbin and Stephen Strasburg, the Dodgers’ Walker Buehler and maybe Soroka could be factors before votes are cast.
Jeff McNeil’s hamstring injury probably cost the Mets the chance to have two top-10 MVP finishes for the first time since 2008 (David Wright seventh, Carlos Delgado ninth). It will be tough for Michael Conforto to break into the top 10. Heck, it might be tough for Alonso to get the top 10, though a strong finish would probably would get him there.
Alonso is 10th in NL WAR and McNeil 11th. The Dodgers’ Cody Bellinger and Brewers’ Christian Yelich are near certain 1-2 for NL MVP in one way or the other — with the Braves’ Ronald Acuna and Freddie Freeman, the Nationals’ Anthony Rendon and the Diamondbacks’ Ketel Marte probably in the next group. Alonso is looking at a lot of votes in the 5-10 range.
Manager of the Year
Mickey Callaway could win this award or be fired — or both, like Joe Girardi in 2006 (which would be something if Girardi then replaced Callaway).
Like the NL playoff picture, this race is a scramble. Will voters favor the Dodgers’ Dave Roberts and last year’s winner, the Braves’ Brian Snitker, for guiding teams above the playoff fray? Will the Giants’ popular Bruce Bochy get sympathy votes for steering the Giants, expected to be terrible, to at least the periphery of the wild-card race in his retirement season? Will Callaway, the Nationals’ Dave Martinez and Phillies’ Gabe Kapler get points for navigating teams pronounced dead at times during the season into contention all while answering questions about their job security?
With Manager of the Year, as opposed to the other awards, there are no historically accepted stats to which voters annually turn. This is often the “who did the most with the perceived least” award. Can Callaway actually win Manager of the Year — the first ever for the Mets — when so many questions persist if he is even a qualified manager?
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