Tag Archives: Jose Abreu

Phillies beaten by lowly White Sox in 15 inning series opener

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The Philadelphia Phillies (57-52) got a strong first start from newcomer Jason Vargas, but blew a two-out, two-strike lead, ultimately losing a 4-3 game to the Chicago White Sox (47-60) in 15 innings at Citizens Bank Park.

With the loss, the Phillies will drop one game back of the Cubs and Nationals, who each won, in the National League Wildcard race heading into Saturday action.

 

The visitors jumped on top first when Cuban-born first baseman Jose Abreu blasted his team-leading 23rd home run of the season deep into the seats in center field. The two-run shot off Vargas in the top of the 3rd inning put Chicago up by 2-0 early on.
The Phillies got one of those right back in the bottom of the frame when Roman Quinn rocketed his third home run of the year, his second in as many days, deep into the right field seats.
Roman Quinn’s solo shot got the Phillies on the board.

 

 

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The Phillies finally got the score knotted up with a 6th inning mini-rally. Jean Segura led off with a single to left and Rhys Hoskins drew a walk. That was the end of the night for Chisox starter Ivan Nova, and manager Rick Renteria called on Jace Fry out of his bullpen.

Bryce Harper then grounded what appeared to be a double play ball. The White Sox got Hoskins for the first out, but Harper was hustling all the way, forcing a bad throw from shortstop Tim Anderson. Harper was safe, Segura raced home, and the game was tied at 2-2.
In the bottom of the 7th, another mini-rally produced the go-ahead run for the home side. Quinn beat out a bunt back to new Chicago reliever Aaron Bummer for an infield single. Quinn then promptly stole second base. Cesar Hernandez then chopped one past Bummer for his own infield hit, with Quinn moving over the third base. Segura followed with a base hit to right, and Quinn raced to put the Phillies on top for the first time all night.
Vargas lasted 6.1 solid innings in his debut with the Phillies, who acquired him at the trade deadline from the division-rival New York Mets. The bullpen then did the job at first, with Mike Morin and Nick Pivetta getting them to the top of the 9th with the lead.
Juan Nicasio retired the lead batter in the 9th, but then yielded a double to Eloy Jimenez. He then struck out James McCann, and Kapler decided to go to Jose Alvarez. The lefty gave up a single to Ryan Goins that moved Jimenez to third. Then Alvarez got to two strikes on pinch-hitter Matt Skole. But Skole came through, lining a single to right with Jimenez scoring the tying run.
New bullpen addition Blake Parker shut down Chicago 1-2-3 in the 10th and 11th, striking out four batters. Zach Eflin then shut them down with 1-2-3 frames in the 12th and 13th, striking out two of his own. Meanwhile, Jose Ruiz kept pace by shutting the Phillies offense down in the 10th and 11th innings, striking out three of his own. Carson Fulmer then shut them down in the home 12th and 13th innings.
In the bottom of the 13th, Quinn singled with one out. He was erased when Eflin hit into a force out. Then with two outs, Segura drew a walk, moving the potential winning run to second base. Kapler opted to put the speedier Vince Velasquez in as a pinch-runner for Eflin, but that ended up a wasted move when Hoskins popped out to end the threat.
With all the juggling, it meant that Quinn was forced by Kapler to take the mound as a pitcher. The Phillies got away with it in the top of the 14th thanks to a tremendous throw from Velasquez (?) in left field, who nailed Abreu at the plate.
In the 15th, Quinn retired the first two batters, and then perhaps the inevitable. A base hit, walk, and RBI single from Abreu to score Leury Garcia gave Chicago a 4-3 lead. Josh Osich set the Phillies down in order in the bottom of the 15th, and this long, ugly ball game for the home team was brought to an unmerciful end.

SHIBE VINTAGE SPORTS STARTING PITCHING PERFORMANCE

Phillies – Jason Vargas: 6.1 IP, 5 hits (1 HR), 2 earned, 1 walk, 5 strikeouts. 90 pitches, 56 for strikes.
White Sox – Ivan Nova: 5 IP, 5 hits (1 H), 1 earned, 2 walks, 4 strikeouts. 78 pitches, 48 for strikes.

PHILLIES NUGGETS PLAYER OF THE GAME: ROMAN QUINN

The White Sox won, and got a home run and the game-winning RBI from Abreu. But Quinn, hitting out of the #9 spot in manager Gabe Kapler‘s order, was in the middle of the Phillies limited offense all night long. He delivered three hits including a home run that put the Phillies on the board, stole a base and scored what looked to be their winning run for awhile, and then pitched two innings, nearly getting away with the mound appearance before finally cracking with two outs in the 15th.

TICKET IQ NEXT GAME

 

 

Phillies welcome a weak Chisox club to town for weekend set

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The Chicago White Sox (46-60) come in to South Philly for a three-game weekend Interleague series with the host Philadelphia Phillies (57-51) at Citizens Bank Park.

Though both teams are at around the same spot in their respective divisions, their respective fates in this 2019 season couldn’t be more different. The Chisox season is already over. They are buried at 14.5 games out in both the AL Central Division race and American League Wildcard playoff race.
The Phillies enter this series in a three-way tie with the Washington Nationals and Chicago Cubs for the two available NL Wildcard playoff berths. The Phillies are tied for second place, sitting six games behind the Atlanta Braves in the loss column in the National League East Division.
These two franchise’ have met just 16 times in their history, with the Phillies capturing 10 of those, including eight of 11 meetings at Citizens Bank Park. The Phillies have also won the last three straight in the head-to-head series, taking the last two at home by 8-3 and 7-6 scores back in September of 2016.
The Phillies and White Sox share an affinity for a recent-era legend, Jim Thome. Though he was inducted last summer to the Baseball Hall of Fame wearing a Cleveland Indians cap, Thome starred with the Phillies from 2003-05 and returned briefly in 2012. He was inducted to the Phillies Wall of Fame in 2016.
Dealt to the Chisox in November 2005 in a multi-player deal highlighted by Aaron Rowand coming to Philly, Thome then starred in Chicago into the 2009 season when he was traded to the Los Angeles Dodgers at the August 31 waiver deadline. He actually played in more games (529-391) and hit more home runs (134-101) with the White Sox than the Phillies. Thome now works as a special assistant to the White Sox organization.
A plaque is located at the White Sox home ball park, Guaranteed Rate Field, in the center field fan deck honoring Thome. It reads: “On June 4, 2008, Chicago White Sox slugger Jim Thome became the first player ever to hit a baseball onto the Fan Deck of U.S. Cellular Field as the Sox beat the Kansas City Royals. He duplicated the tape-measure feat on September 30, 2008 as the White Sox beat the Minnesota Twins, 1-0, in a one-game playoff to win the American League Central Division championship.
The last time that the Chisox came to Philly it resulted in a Phillies sweep. Frankly, this is the kind of opponent that these current Phillies need to sweep as well. That is easier said than done. The Phillies haven’t swept any series of three or more games since taking out the New York Mets in a four-gamer back in late June, the last time they won four straight games at all.
In the August 1 MLB Power Ranking released here at Phillies Nation, the White Sox ranked just 28th of the 30 MLB clubs. The Phillies finished 14th in those most recent rankings. Scoring at a rate of 4.08 runs per game, the Chicago offense is 28th in MLB. Their pitching staff OPS-against of .339 is 24th, similar to the Phillies staff .334 (22nd) mark.
Thome will not be the only former Phillies face showing up this weekend. The Phillies are honoring their 2009 National League Championship team in a reunion celebration on both Friday night and Sunday afternoon with appearances by players such as Ryan HowardJimmy RollinsChase UtleyBrett MyersBrad Lidge and more. On Saturday night, Bobby Abreu will be inducted into the Phillies Wall of Fame.

CHICAGO WHITE SOX

TOP LINEUP THREATS

Jose Abreu (32/1B): .263/.299/.472, 22 HR, 44 XBH, 74 RBIs, 48 runs
Tim Anderson (26/SS): .310/.332/.477, 11 HR, 25 XBH, 38 RBIs, 39 runs, 15 steals (just 292 PA’s due to injury)
Eloy Jimenez (22/LF): .233/.294/.459, 17 HR, 24 XBH, 39 RBIs, 36 runs (just 282 PA’s due to injury)
Leury Garcia (28/CF): .292/.326/.391, 6 HR, 27 XBH, 29 RBIs, 66 runs, 12 steals
Jon Jay (34/RF): .324/.352/.392, 7 doubles, 7 RBIs, 10 runs (just 110 PA’s since June 24 promotion)

SPOTLIGHT PLAYER

Yoan Moncada (24/3B): Happily for the Phillies from a competitive standpoint, the White Sox young star third baseman will miss this series. He was placed on the IL just yesterday with what has been diagnosed as a Grade 1 right hamstring strain. He is expected to be out at least two weeks.
He has been a huge piece for us,” manager Rick Renteria said per Daryl Van Schouwen of the Chicago Sun-Times. “Having him go down is kind of a kick in the gut.
Though it may be good timing for the Phillies, that is a shame for baseball fans. We will be missing out on seeing one of the game’s top young talents, one who doesn’t come to Philadelphia very often since his team plays in the American League Central Division.
Moncada is a 24-year-old who signed with the Boston Red Sox as a high-profile teenage Cuban bonus baby back in 2015. Then in December 2016, he changed socks – literally. The Red Sox sent him to the White Sox as part of a big four-prospect package in exchange for superstar pitcher Chris Sale.
He had received an eight-game cup of coffee with Boston for his MLB debut in 2016, but it was Chicago who gave him his first permanent big-league promotion and starting role beginning in July 2017.
As a 23-year-old in his first full big-league campaign a year ago, Moncada rapped out 55 extra-base hits. He also struck out 217 times, a figure that led all of Major League Baseball.
This year he took a step forward, slashing .301/.358/.535 with 44 extra-base hits, 59 RBIs, and 58 runs scored over his first 97 games prior to the injury.
The Phillies are one of just five MLB teams that he has never faced. Phillies fans will now have to wait at least a while longer before they get their first look at this talented youngster. By the time they do, he could well be much more fully developed star.

The Phillies will happily miss Giolito (center), during this weekend series. (Ian D’Andrea)

CHISOX SHEDULED STARTING PITCHERS

FRIDAY – Ivan Nova (32/RH): 6-9, 5.23 ERA, 5.22 FIP, 1.440 WHIP, 149 hits over 125.2 IP across 22 starts with an 81/32 K:BB
SATURDAY – Ross Detwiler (33/LH: 1-1, 6.35 ERA, 6.84 FIP, 1.676 WHIP, 34 hits over 22.2 IP across 7 appearnces (3 starts) with a 12/4 K:BB
SUNDAY – Reynaldo Lopez (25/RH): 5-9, 5.43 ERA, 5.10 FIP, 1.464 WHIP, 136 hits over 124.1 IP across 22 starts with a 117/46 K:BB
Moncada is not the only talented Chisox youngster whom the Phillies are happy to be missing in this series. Their lone 2019 American League All-Star, starting pitcher Lucas Giolito, took his regular turn on Wednesday night, and so is not scheduled to go during these three games.

THE SKIPPER

Rick Renteria: The 57-year-old Renteria is now in his third season at the helm of the Chisox, having piloted the team to a pair of fourth place finishes. Chicago has won just 67 and 62 games in his first two seasons. This year they are playing much better, but still find themselves 13 games below the .500 mark and already out of the postseason picture.
Renteria was the first round pick at 20th overall back in the 1980 MLB Draft out of South Gate High School in his native California. He played in parts of five big-league seasons with three different teams, seeing his most action as a utility infielder with the expansion 1993 Florida Marlins.
He was both a coach and manager in the Marlins minor league organization after retiring as a player through 2001, and then joined the San Diego Padres in a variety of roles through 2013.
Renteria was hired for his first big-league managerial job with the Chicago Cubs in November 2013. However, he was let go a year later when the Cubs opted to bring in Joe Maddon. Renteria caught on as the Chisox bench coach in 2016, leading to his taking over the managerial reigns for the 2017 campaign.

SERIES WEATHER REPORT

FRIDAY: The temps will drop from the low-80’s at the 7:05 pm first pitch time into the upper-70’s through the game. Winds will be light throughout the game, and there is only a slight chance of showers. Should be a nice night at the ballpark for the opener.
SATURDAY: There is a 30% chance of isolated thunderstorms in the forecast for the 7:05 pm first pitch time. Light winds and real-feel temps in the low-80’s throughout the night.
SUNDAY: Mostly sunny with real-feels around the 90 degree mark, light winds, slight chance of showers at the 1:05 pm first pitch time. In all, weather should not play much of a role in this series, aside from the slight possibility of a passing shower at some point.
South Philly forecast from The Weather Channel

White Sox Potential Winter Meetings Deals

The Chicago White Sox are almost certain to be among the most popular and influential players as the 2016 MLB Winter Meetings unfold in National Harbor, Maryland.
The White Sox went an extremely disappointing 78-84 this past season. That resulted in a fourth place finish in the AL Central Division.
It was a fourth consecutive losing season on the South Side of Chicago. This followed a long run of contention that had spanned the better part of two decades.
Now the White Sox also have to contend for the hearts and attention of fans in a two-team city. The other franchise is, or course, the young and exciting new World Series champion Chicago Cubs.
The White Sox were legitimate division crown contenders in the majority of seasons between 1990 and 2012. They won the AL Central five times in that span, and were the 2005 World Series champions.
In the eyes of most industry talent evaluators, the Chisox minor league talent is among the bottom five in the game. So there is not much help coming from within the organization.
Four of the last five AL pennant winners have come from the division. This includes the defending champion Cleveland Indians. But the AL Central could become very competitive in the next few years.
It is the job of general manager Rich Hahn and VP Ken Williams to make sure that Chicago gets back to that regular contending status. To that end, they are going to have to start replenishing the young talent in the organization.

TIME FOR A SALE?

One way to do that is to trade some of the team’s more attractive players for packages of highly rated prospects. There is no more attractive asset than left-handed starting pitcher Chris Sale.
Sale will turn 28 years old as spring training draws to a close next season. He has won 70 games over the five seasons in which he has been a starting pitcher.
He has been an AL All-Star for each of those five straight seasons as a starter. Sale also has finished among the top six in Cy Young voting each of those years.
Sale is not only young and talented, he is also very affordable. He currently is owed $38 million over the next three seasons. Only the 2017 season at $12 million is guaranteed. The ensuing two years are each on team options of $12.5 and $13.5 million.
The New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox, are believed to be in the market for Sale. So are two NL East rivals, the Atlanta Braves and Washington Nationals.
Among the other contending teams who have been mentioned in Sale rumors are two traditional National League powers in the Los Angeles Dodgers and St. Louis Cardinals. The Texas Rangers, who have never won a World Series but who are among the favorites in 2017, are also linked to the southpaw ace.

OTHER CHISOX TRADE ASSETS

If they want to really rebuild, the White Sox could also shop lefty starting pitcher Jose Quintana, who turns 28 years old in January. 33-year old righty Miguel Gonzalez might draw some interest as well.
Among the position players who the Chisox could move, first baseman Jose Abreu and third baseman Todd Frazier could be attractive to suitors. They turn 30 and 31 years old respectively early in 2017, and are likely more valuable as trade pieces than Chicago building blocks.
The Chicago White Sox would be smart to put all of these players names out there, playing contenders off one another. The returns in two or three potential trades could quickly turn around the future fortunes of the organization in a positive direction.

2014 Best of MLB Awards

Trout, Kershaw are AL and NL POY respectively

It’s that time of year again, awards season in Major League Baseball. And this site will be no exception.

This year for the first time, with the renewed emphasis on baseball, I am announcing the first-ever “Best of MLB” awards honorees.

In all, honorees are being named for both the National League and the American League in each of 9 categories, one for each inning in a ballgame: Player of the Year, Starting Pitcher, Relief Pitcher, Offensive Player, Defensive Player, Rookie, Comeback Player, Breakout Player, and Manager.

For the most part, these awards were not subjective. I went to FanGraphs, looked up overall regular season WAR values, and gave the awards to the highest players in their categories. In 2-3 other categories, I weighted those numbers heavily in deciding the honorees. Remember, the honors are based on the regular season.

If you follow baseball, you already know these players and are well aware of the excellence of each of their 2014 season performances. So not much extra commentary is needed. But I did want to make just a few comments on some of the honors.

First, my selection of Cincinnati Reds outfielder Billy Hamilton as the top National League Rookie over New York Mets pitcher Jake deGrom. These were clearly the two most impactful rookies in the league this season. I chose Hamilton, who had a higher WAR value, feeling that his everyday impact as a centerfielder was greater than deGrom’s weekly impact as a starting pitcher.

For the American League Starting Pitcher honors, Cleveland’s Corey Kluber beat out a strong field that included ‘King’ Felix Hernandez, David Price, Phil Hughes, and Jon Lester. Kluber was the #2 player in all of baseball in individual WAR, while the others rated 11-14 respectively. All tremendous, but one clearly above the rest.

Corey Kluber, AL’s top starting pitcher

At the A.L. Reliever spot, what a horse race. The honor went to Yankees RP Dellin Betances in a very close race with the Royals excellent setup man Wade Davis. While Davis rightfully received a lot of publicity due to KC’s postseason run, Betances was every bit as dominant in the regular season, and simply finished with a higher WAR value.

Also, I wanted to single out the Breakout Player winners. What a season for both Michael Brantley and Anthony Rendon, 5th and 6th in all of baseball in overall WAR numbers. The 27-year old Brantley has been one of those “good not great” contributing types, and elevated his game. The 24-year old Rendon stayed healthy in his first true full season and served notice that he should be one of the game’s best into the future.

On defense, Boston’s Jackie Bradley Jr was the best defensive outfielder in the game this season, and that includes Lorenzo Cain. Only two facts: his poor offense, and that his poor offense kept him from playing every day, all year long with the Red Sox, kept him from what should have been an easy Gold Glove win. If you don’t know, watch him closely. He’s the kind of player who, with the right offense around him, impacts a game enough defensively to overcome the offensive shortcomings. He should be starting somewhere every day.

Finally, the NL Manager of the Year. Keep in mind, this was a regular season honor, so Bruce Bochy’s great postseason run to a 3rd World Series did not factor. But the job that ‘Donny Baseball’ did in winning the NL West in LA with a frequently dysfunctional core under tremendous pressure to win got him the nod.

Don Mattingly skippered Dodgers to NL West crown

Without further ado, here are the 2014 ‘Best of MLB’ awards honorees:

PLAYER OF THE YEAR
NL – Clayton Kershaw, SP, LA Dodgers
AL – Mike Trout, OF, LA Angels

OFFENSIVE PLAYER
NL – Andrew McCutchen, Pittsburgh
AL – Mike Trout, Los Angeles

STARTING PITCHER
NL – Clayton Kershaw, Los Angeles
AL – Corey Kluber, Cleveland

RELIEF PITCHER
NL – Aroldis Chapman, Cincinnati
AL – Dellin Betances, New York

DEFENSIVE PLAYER
NL – Andrelton Simmons, SS, Atlanta
AL – Jackie Bradley Jr, CF, Boston

COMEBACK PLAYER
NL – Johnny Cueto, SP, Cincinnati
AL – Chris Young, SP, Seattle

BREAKOUT PLAYER
NL – Anthony Rendon, 2B/3B, Washington
AL – Michael Brantley, OF, Cleveland

ROOKIE OF THE YEAR
NL – Billy Hamilton, CF, Cincinnati
AL – Jose Abreu, 1B, Chicago

MANAGER
NL – Don Mattingly, Los Angeles
AL – Buck Showalter, Baltimore

American League Most Valuable Player

Like yesterday’s evaluation of the National League Most Valuable Player candidates, and the selection of my own Top 10 vote, there is a hitter-pitcher element in the AL this season.

The starting pitcher candidate in this case is Seattle Mariners righthander “King Felix” Hernandez. Like his NL counterpart, Clayton Kershaw, the King is most certainly the runaway favorite to win his league’s Cy Young Award for the top pitcher. And like his NL counterpart, to this evaluator, that is where he should rightly and properly be honored.

Winning the Cy Young Award is not a “secondary” or “lesser” honor to the Most Valuable Player Award in any way. The Cy Young goes to the best pitchers in the game. Position players have no shot at it. Winning the honor says that you are the absolute best at your most-valued of all positions.

Both Kershaw and Hernandez are just that, the best pitchers in the game today. They deserve those awards. And they deserve MVP votes because neither of their teams would likely be a contender without them. But the same can be said of each of the position players, and those position players, and to a slightly lesser extent the best closers, affect team outcomes nearly every single game.

With all that said, take a look back when you get a chance at yesterday’s NL MVP evaluation, and now enjoy my personal 10-player American League Most Valuable Player ballot, were I to have one, and were the season to end today:

10)   Josh Donaldson, 3B, Oakland
The offensive leader of a team that was baseball’s best for much of the season, Donaldson has emerged over the last two years as an All-Star caliber performer. This year he has 26 homers and 93 rbi, and has scored 85 runs. He provides the middle-of-the-order pop that teams need to contend. Despite their slide of recent weeks, the A’s remain in control of the top AL Wildcard spot. Much as with Miggy in Detroit, whether Oakland hangs on to a post-season berth will largely depend on his continued production over the last couple of weeks.

9)   Felix Hernandez, SP, Seattle
Already covered this above: the best pitcher in the American League, the easy choice for this year’s AL Cy Young Award. The King has a 14-5 record with a 1.12 ERA and an 0.92 WHIP. He has allowed just 153 hits across 212 innings. His K/BB ratio is at 217/41. There is only one other player who has been more of a difference-maker to the M’s emergence as a contender this season, and he is found much higher on the list.

8)   Jose Altuve, 2B, Houston
I struggled with putting a player on a team that is 17-games under the .500 mark and in 4th place in their division, never having been a contender all season long, on the list at all. But Altuve is a special case. The Astros are an extremely young, inexperienced team that has been losing for years. Altuve has stepped up as a leader, and with a ton of good-looking prospects coming, is exactly what they need at the crest of the wave of talent. He has game-changing speed, swiping 51 bags and scoring 78 runs for one of the lowest-scoring teams in the game. He is hitting .336 and is a serious contender for the AL Batting crown, and carries a .373 on-base percentage. Not a big power guy, he still has 50 rbi.

7)   Jose Abreu, 1B, Chicago
Very rarely do I rank a player this high on a losing team, especially when that team has a decent chance to finish last in their division. Couldn’t they team be that putrid without him? Yes, they could. But the White Sox could also be down battling Texas for the worst record in baseball were it not for this Cuban rookie’s production. He sports a .317 average, .372 on-base percentage, and has 33 homers with 99 rbi. He is an easy choice for the AL Rookie of the Year. Just as impressively, he is one of the game’s best hitters already.

6)   Miguel Cabrera, 1B, Detroit
It has supposedly been an off-year for the man who has won the last two AL MVP Awards and the Triple Crown in 2012. Bothered most of the summer by what has been revealed as heal spurs, Miggy’s power was sapped by the pain in his base. But he still remained one of the game’s supreme hitters, and his power outburst last week almost single-handedly drove Detroit back into a Wildcard position. Even hurt, he has managed 22 homers, 101 rbi, and 91 runs scored while hitting .311 and with a .371 on-base percentage. Whether the Tigers return to the post-season or not largely depends on what he does in these final 2 1/2 weeks of the regular season.

5)   Victor Martinez, 1B, Detroit
With Cabrera slightly off from his 2-time MVP pace this year, Detroit desperately needed VMart to stay healthy and produce in order to stay on top in the AL Central race. He has delivered, batting .335 with a .406 on-base percentage. He has 30 homers, 96 rbi, and 79 runs scored and is battling Altuve for the AL Batting crown in a neck-and-neck race. Despite this, the Tigers have been caught by Kansas City in the standings. They remain in a battle for another division crown, and also cling to a Wildcard berth, largely thanks to Martinez’ consistent production.

4)   Alex Gordon, OF, Kansas City
Much as with Anthony Rendon in the NL, Gordon doesn’t receive nearly as much attention as he should for this honor. The Royals had another strong start to the season. But unlike a year ago, KC has not only stayed in the playoff race, but they have stayed in the race for an AL Central Division crown. A big reason has been the leadership, production, and the key hits and defensive plays from the unquestioned team leader Gordon. His raw numbers don’t pop out at you, one reason that he won’t be a favorite to actually win the AL MVP Award outright, and isn’t a Top 3 guy on this ballot. He has 19 homers, 66 rbi, 77 runs scored. But perhaps as much as anyone on this list he epitomizes what I believe the award to be all about – true value to your team, which incorporates those intangibles such as leadership, and coming through in the biggest moments.

3)   Nelson Cruz, OF, Baltimore
The Orioles took over first place in the usually rough and tumble AL East in the early weeks of the season, and have steadily pulled away over the course of the summer to a point where they own a 10-game lead, the biggest in baseball, and already have a ‘Magic Number’ down to single-digits. Signing Cruz as a free agent in the off-season has proven to be one of the biggest such moves in baseball. With first catcher Matt Wieters and then Manny Machado lost for the season, Cruz has delivered with 39 homeruns, 101 rbi, and 82 runs scored. He seems to deliver his biggest bombs at the important moments. Despite the presence of his outstanding fellow outfielder Adam Jones, the O’s are not where they are without Nelson Cruz.

2)   Robinson Cano, 2B, Seattle
The former Yankee signed a lucrative free agent contract in the off-season to move all the way across the country to play for a team that had not reached the post-season since 2001, and had finished in 4th place eight times in the last decade, including the last four seasons in a row. The Mariners are now 14 games over .500, just a half game out of a Wildcard berth. The Yanks are 4 over .500, 5 1/2 out of the Wildcard. The difference is clearly Cano. He has hit .320 with a .386 on-base percentage, with 75 rbi and 73 runs scored. His homers are down at a dozen, but that can largely be attributed to the ballpark factor. What is clearly up is the effect that his presence has in the Seattle batting order. 

1)   Mike Trout, OF, Los Angeles
The man (we have to stop referring to him as “kid” at some point) who finished as the runner-up for the AL MVP in his first two seasons should finally win it this time around. He has driven his team to the top of the standings. His Angels have not only taken charge of the AL West lead over the last month, but they now have the best record in the sport. Some of Trout’s ridiculous numbers of the last two years are down, but his impact on the game and his team are not. He is hitting .288 with a .372 on-base percentage. With 32 homers and 103 rbi, he has emerged as a true major power threat. His speed has allowed him to score 99 runs, and he still has stolen 14 bases in a season that saw his team restrict those opportunities for him. For the 3rd straight season he is clearly the best all-around player in the game. Now he will be recognized as it’s Most Valuable as well.

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NO APOLOGIES for not putting the following players on either my NL or AL ballots the last two days. Fact is, they absolutely deserve consideration. Fact is, they will receive MVP votes in the real voting. But you only get so many choices, and we all have to make tough decisions. A few names who deserve mentioning that I did not vote for are:

NL – Justin Upton (Atl), Adrian Gonzalez (LA), Freddie Freeman (Atl), Jayson Werth (Was), Josh Harrison (Pit), Adam LaRoche, (Was), Matt Kemp (LA), Adam Wainwright (ST)
AL – Jose Bautista (Tor), Michael Brantley (Cle), Jacoby Ellsbury (NYY), Albert Pujols (LA), Adam Jones (Bal), Ian Kinsler (Det), Melky Cabrera (Tor), Corey Kluber (Cle), Kyle Seager (Sea)