It seems hard to believe but the first half of the 2017 MLB season has come and gone. The AL emerged victorious in a surprisingly tight All-Star Game, winning on Robinson Cano’s home run to lead off the tenth.
The first half of the season was a great one, with surprise teams making statements and numerous players reestablishing their places. If the end of the season hardware was awarded today, here’s whom I think would come out on top.
Rookie of the Year: Cody Bellinger- LF- Los Angeles Dodgers
The 22 year old is one of two rookies who have absolutely electrified the league so far this season. Called up in late April after an injury to the practically forgotten Joc Pederson, Bellinger’s impressive power stroke immediately sparked the Dodgers and helped the team overcome something of a slow start. Los Angeles has the best record in baseball at the All-Star break, thanks in large part to their rookie sensation’s 25 HR and 58 RBI. (Other possibilities: Kyle Freeland.)
Manager of the Year: Bud Black- Colorado Rockies
Though they have slowed a bit in recent weeks, no one can deny that the emergence of the usually-dormant Rockies has been the story of the year so far. Led by the prowess of Charlie Blackmon, Nolan Arenado and DJ LaMahieu, the Rockies look like a very good team for the first time in years. Their first year skipper is the reason why. The calm and intelligent style that Buddy Black has brought to Denver has turned the team around in a big way and brought out the best in nearly everyone wearing the black and purple pinstripes. Arizona and LA have passed the Rox in the NL West recently, but the team led for a majority of the first half and look very dangerous headed down the stretch. if they can regain that form, Black will have his second carrer MOY title coming his way. (Other possibilities: Torey Lovullo, Dave Roberts.)
Comeback Player of the Year: Ryan Zimmerman- 1B- Washington Nationals
This one is the absolute toughest to name by far because so many Senior Circuit players have reemerged this season. But the most captivating performance has come from the Nats’ first baseman. Ryan Zimmerman was once a promising young slugger for Washington, winning Silver Sluggers in 2009 and 2010. But the infielder’s potential began to fade at the same time that stars like Bryce Harper, Stephen Strasburg and Gio Gonzalez arrived. This year, Zimmerman has returned with one heck of a bang, batting .330 (fourth-MLB) with 63 RBI (seventh-MLB) in the first half, earning an All-Star start. He’s provided even further protection for Harper and Daniel Murphy and is a big reason why Washington is dominating the NL East. (Other possibilities: Zack Greinke, Andrew McCutchen, Greg Holland.)
Cy Young Award: Max Scherzer- RHP- Washington Nationals
Scherzer is the reigning winner in the NL, and he’s turned the volume up to 11 this season. His fastball is nearly untouchable when it’s working, and it always is. His 2.10 ERA and .78 WHIP lead the MLB, while his 173 Ks are second. Already a dominant pitcher in the AL, the two-time Cy Young winner has become a phenom in the NL and his fiery competitiveness makes him even more intimidating. He has more than established himself as the ace of the Nationals and looks to be cruising towards a Cy Young repeat. (Other possibilities: Carlos Martinez, Clayton Kershaw, Zack Greinke.)
MVP: Paul Goldschmidt- 1B- Arizona Diamondbacks
Goldy has always been a force to be reckoned with for the D-Backs, no matter how good or bad they’ve been. Criminally underrated despite two MVP runner-ups, Goldschmidt is the heart and soul of the Diamondbacks and 2017 could be his best season yet. He’s not leading the NL in anything, but his line is formidable and you must also consider that Arizona is practically on his back. Batting .314 with 19 homers, 67 RBI and a .577 Slugging %, this looks like the year Goldschmidt will finally earn what he deserves, and it’s no coincidence that Arizona is doing damage as a result. (Other possibilities: Nolan Arenado, Daniel Murphy, Joey Votto.)
Manager of the Year: AJ Hinch- Houston Astros
It’s finally all come together for Houston. After a promising 2015 season, the Astros derailed last season and many of their hot young stars went cold. For manager AJ Hinch, all of the pieces are not only at last in place, but also performing exceptionally. Houston had six All-Stars at this year’s game and not one of them was undeserving. Hinch has a potent young lineup to work with and he’s gotten 100% out of it this season. He’s an easy choice. (Other possibilities: Paul Molitor, Joe Girardi, Kevin Cash.)
Comeback Player of the Year: Ervin Santana- RHP- Minnesota Twins
Santana came from the Braves to the Twins in 2015 with the expectation of helping the team get to the next level. Then he was suspended for PEDs. Up until this season he has not lived up to that hype, but 2017 has been a renaissance for the righty. Establishing himself as the Twins’ ace, the 34-year-old owns a 2.99 ERA and 1.08 WHIP, earning him his second career All-Star selection. Minnesota has been a surprise this season and are in the thick of things in the AL Central, and if Santana keeps it up they could provide some upset. (Other possibilities: Carlos Correa, Michael Brantley.)
Cy Young Award: Chris Sale- LHP- Boston Red Sox
Changing the color of his sox (shameless pun, I know) in the offseason turned Chris Sale from “the other guy” to “the guy”. He has paid Boston back eleven-fold for the investment they made in him, going 11-4 with a 2.75 ERA (second-AL) and an AL leading .90 WHIP and 178 Ks. His first-half brilliance earned him a second consecutive All-Star start, an honor not seen for 15 years. The Red Sox did get off to a slow start, but Sale has steadied the ship all season and looks like a cinch for his first Cy Young Award. With him leading a formidable but still underachieving rotation, Boston is scary. (Other possibilities: Jason Vargas, Ervin Santana, Dallas Keuchel.)
Rookie of the Year & MVP: Aaron Judge- RF- New York Yankees
Are you surprised for either? What we’ve seen from Aaron Judge so far in 2017 has been spectacular for any player, not just for a rookie. The 6’7, 282 lb. right fielder has electrified the MLB with his power, defense and humble attitude. His hitting has wowed everyone, breaking the Yankee record for home runs by a rookie….before the All-Star break. His 30 homers, .329 AVG and 66 RBI are all in the top five in the AL. The 25-year-old could cool off in the second half, but that doesn’t seem likely. At this rate, he joins Freddy Lynn and Ichiro as the only players to be ROY & MVP in the same year. All rise for the Judge. (Other possibilities: Andrew Benintendi.)
Flyers Remove Statue of Kate Smith
The Philadelphia Flyers have joined the New York Yankees in the removal of ties to singer Kate Smith, whose famous rendition of “God Bless America” was played at both Flyers and Yankees games.
Earlier this week, the Yankees decided to suspend the use of Smith’s rendition, which was played during the seventh-inning stretch, while they investigated allegations of racism against the later singer.
According to a report from the New York Daily News, there are conflicting claims about Smith’s 1939 song “That’s Why Darkies Were Born” which
originated in the 1931 Broadway revue “George White’s Scandals” and was considered satire but includes racist language, including the line;
“Someone had to pick the cotton. … That’s why darkies were born.”
The song was recorded by Smith and Paul Robeson, who was black.
The Flyers put out the following statement on Sunday (h/t ESPN):
“The Flyers have enjoyed a long and popular relationship with ‘God Bless America,’ as performed by the late Kate Smith, a woman who was awarded the Presidential Medal of Honor for her patriotic contributions to our nation.
“But in recent days, we learned that several of the songs Kate Smith performed in the 1930s include lyrics and sentiments that are incompatible with the values of our organization, and evoke painful and unacceptable themes.”
Smith, who was popular during the WWII era, recorded the offensive jingle, “Pickaninny Heaven,” which she directed at “colored children” who should fantasize about an amazing place with “great big watermelons,” among various other treats.
Smith also endorsed the “Mammy Doll” back in 1939 which was based on a racist caricature of a black woman similar to Aunt Jemima.
“The Yankees have been made aware of a recording that had been previously unknown to us and decided to immediately and carefully review this new information,” a club spokesman said. “The Yankees take social, racial and cultural insensitivities very seriously. And while no final conclusions have been made, we are erring on the side of sensitivity.”
The odds aren’t good that Smith’s songs will return to their prominent places during sporting events such as they were with the Yankees and the Flyers.
There is a lot of cleaning up to do when it comes to racism in sports, and weeding out songs attached to artists with questionable, and controversial, backgrounds such as Smith’s, is important in pushing forward towards the future.
MLB Investigating Racist Social Media Messages Sent to Cubs’ Carl Edwards Jr.
Major League Baseball is investigating racial messages sent, via social media, to Chicago Cubs relief pitcher Carl Edwards Jr. prior to his demotion to the Triple-A Iowa Cubs back on April 6th.
According to The Athletic’s Patrick Mooney, the messages have caught the attention of both the Cubs and the MLB Players Association, leading to the launch of the investigation.
Mooney had been a solid bullpen option during the last few seasons, but had a nightmare start to the 2019 season posting a terrible 32.40 ERA in just 1.2 innings of work over four appearances.
Carlos Zambrano Attempting Comeback, Signs with Indy Team
Former MLB pitcher Carlos Zambrano is attempting a comeback and has signed with the American Association’s Chicago Dogs, according to the Chicago Sun-Times’ Gordon Wittenmyer.
Zambrano last pitched in the majors back in 2012 with the Miami Marlins, but earlier in his career he finished in the top five of the Cy Young voting in the National League three times as a member of the Chicago Cubs.
Zambrano started his comeback bid last fall when he took the mound for 7 starts in the Mexican League, pitching to the tune of a 5.18 ERA, and performing even worse during a short stint in the Venezuelan Winter League.
Given his recent lack of production, it is a longshot to believe that Zambrano will return to the MLB level, but stranger things have happened.
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