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Monday, November 19, 2012

Baseball Notes For November 19, 2012

It’s unclear why the baseball offseason is referred to in such a way. It seems that just as much goes on when games aren’t being played, and often times to greater excitement. This past week saw some a lot of action that stirred the passions of fans across the continent.

*** Miguel Cabrera topped Mike Trout for the 2012 AL MVP in one of the most hotly debated races in recent memory. Proponents of Sabermetrics, including myself, confidently believed that Trout provided substantially more value than Cabrera because of his superior defense and base-running skills. In the end, Cabrera’s old school Triple Crown helped him to a shockingly easy landslide win.

Cabrera is obviously a great player and had a tremendous season. However, his win should ultimately be remembered for the incompetence of the voting writers, who still value old maxims like stats on the back of baseball cards and relying on conveniently constructed narratives that excuse shortcomings (defense) and create beneficial exaggerations (single-handedly leading  the Tigers to the playoffs).

Although the MVP is literally an award bestowed by the writers, perhaps the time has come to minimize its value because of the questionable knowledge of many of the writers/voters. Taking a look at some of the most questionable award ballots should remove any doubt of the incompetence of some of the writers/voters.

A final musing is wondering how many of the voters who voted Cabrera for MVP will refuse to throw their support behind Hall of Fame designated hitter candidates like Edgar Martinez.

*** In stark contrast to the AL, the NL MVP elicited almost no fanfare or controversy, as Buster Posey took home the award. Three years into his career, the Giants catcher has a Rookie of the Year, and blown out knee, and an MVP; quite a remarkable beginning.

***The Toronto Blue Jays attempted to shift the balance of power in the AL East by completing one of the largest trades in years. They acquired Josh Johnson, Mark Buehrle, Jose Reyes, Emilio Bonifacio and John Buck for a package of mediocre prospects.

Despite Toronto’s bravado in making this move, they took on a lot of risk for a relatively smaller chance of reward. All of their new players are either aging or have worrisome injury histories. The Blue Jays are certainly in the hunt for the playoffs, but could just as easily come up just short. Personally I think they are still an 86-88 win team at best as the roster currently stands, which is no guarantee of post-season play.

*** Because of a disgruntled tweet from Marlins outfielder Giancarlo Stanton in the wake of the trade being announced, it’s widely assumed that he will demand a trade. Fans shouldn’t hold their breath expecting that to happen this offseason, as he is under club control until 2017 and made just $480,000 last season.

The Marlins need somebody to bring a few bodies to fill the seats in their beautiful publicly funded stadium and nobody on the current roster fits that bill better than Stanton. Oh, it’s likely he will get traded in the next couple of years, as his salary continues to rise. However, the Marlins have no incentive to do so now. His teammates were shuffled off to Toronto as a salary dump, but with Stanton currently being one of the best values in baseball, he should get comfortable in Miami for the near future.

*** The Blue Jays also picked up disgraced free agent outfielder Melky Cabrera on a two year, $16 million deal. Because of last season’s 50 game suspension for PED use Cabrera may get a lot of flak from fans, but it’s a shrewd move by the Blue Jays. Prior to the suspension it was estimated that Cabrera could command a new contract in excess of $50 million, so he is coming on the cheap at relatively little risk.  As long as he is kept away from pharmacies and HTML tutorials, Cabrera could be a great pick-up.

*** The Detroit Tigers obviously believe they are still within their World Series contention window of opportunity. Signing free agent outfielder Torri Hunter two a two year deal worth $26 million adds another veteran bat to their lineup. Hunter will turn 38 mid-way through the season, but still plays good enough defense to man one of the corner spots. If he can continue hitting the way he did in 2012, when he batted a career-high .313, the Tigers will have a relative bargain.


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