Matt Chapman, Miguel Cabrera, Cincinnati Reds take home SN MLB Midseason Awards
Roll out the red baseline, don your favorite cleats and find your favorite pine-tar emblazoned hat. It’s the 2019 Sporting News Midseason Awards!
Sure, there are MVPs, Rookies of the Year and Cy Youngs, but that stuff comes later. At baseball’s halfway point, taking a look at those potential honorees – and some of our own – seems natural.
Per usual, there are more storylines happening in baseball than there are in a season of “The Sopranos.” Are the baseballs juiced? Are bullpens just bad? What piece of furniture will Brodie Van Wagenen (reportedly) throw next?
All those questions will be answered – and more – the second half of this season. But first, our midseason awards!
The Mike Trout Memorial ‘You Deserve Better’ Award
Last year’s recipients: Jacob deGrom (Mets), Manny Machado (Orioles)
There are – unfortunately – many deserving candidates for this year’s edition, but the 2019 Mike Trout Memorial “You Deserve Better” Award goes to one of baseball’s most feared hitters and something of a forgotten man in Motown: Miguel Cabrera.
With the Tigers undergoing a rebuild, Cabrera’s career has felt like a secondary story. While he and Detroit reached one World Series together (2012), the Tigers have missed the playoffs in three straight years and probably won’t be making it in 2019.
With two World Series appearances – and one championship ring – to Cabrera’s name, he hasn’t entirely faced a lack of success throughout his career; but it seems there’s something of a fizzle happening with the way the Tigers have played and broken it down. Even with the rebuild happening and young talent coming for the Tigers, success is no guarantee in the coming seasons.
Cabrera has at least four more years under contract with Detroit, and his decline has been apparent; he’s dealt with injuries in two of his last three seasons, and while the contact numbers are still there, the power has been sapped, and understandably so.
But it certainly feels like Cabrera deserves better (and more than just a paycheck) for being one of the most dominant offensive players of this generation; he deserves better than being just another cog on a losing team.
So here’s to you, Miggy. You certainly deserve better.
Runner up: Pete Alonso
All those home runs go to waste on another disappointing Mets season. At least he won the Home Run Derby.
The Most Likely to Fool You into Thinking They’re a Contender Award
Last year’s recipient: Cleveland Indians
The A’s are always a fun baseball story. Moneyball! Matt Chapman! Elephant logo! Baseball is better when the Swingin’ A’s are … swingin’ it. Who doesn’t love the A’s?
Well, people who love October baseball, that’s who.
The A’s are 50-41, the same record they had through 91 games last year. They romped through the second half of last season, won the second wild-card spot, then got bounced by the Yankees in the wild-card game.
Since 2000, the A’s have won 90 games or more nine times, and they have been to the playoffs in each of those seasons except one (2004). The furthest they’ve made it is the ALCS in 2006, when they were swept by the Tigers. Past teams have no bearing on what a team does today, but it’s safe to say the postseason hasn’t been kind to the A’s.
Could this year be the year for Oakland? There’s always a chance, but don’t bet on it.
The Best Bad Team Award
Last year’s recipient: Tampa Bay Rays
There are a number of Good Bad Teams in baseball this year. There are teams hovering just below .500 who are surprisingly impressive and could make a run in the coming months.
While the White Sox make a solid case for being one of the best bad teams, the Reds take this award at the midway point of 2019.
Offensively, the Reds have some deficiencies: 4.23 runs per game is among the worst in MLB, but they’re still operating to a positive run differential at +27, which is better than every team in the NL Central except the Cubs. They’re 3.77 staff ERA is good for second in the National League.
The Reds also have the benefit of playing in a division that hasn’t been overly competitive – every team in the division is separated by 4 1/2 games, with the Reds in last place at 41-46.
It’s going to be fun to watch the Reds in the second half of the season. All of their peripheral numbers say that record will flip, and the talent on the team dictates it might, as well.
The Worst Good Team Award
Last year’s recipient: Seattle Mariners
Akin to the Best Bad Teams, there are a number of teams that make you wonder how good they really are in 2019. This year’s (dis)honor goes to the Texas Rangers.
While you can only play the teams on your schedule, the Rangers have not been good against teams above .500 (18-23) while beating up on bad teams (30-19) regularly. So their record might not say what the Rangers actually are.
While Texas destroys the covers off baseballs (5.39 runs per game is among the best in baseball), their difficulties against winning teams make it a moot point.
Texas is going to have to figure out quick whether this season is going to result in at least a wild-card berth. Mike Minor could potentially be on the move, so that’ll hurt their rotation, as well. The Rangers also face a tough schedule over the next few months.
Can the Rangers keep pounding their way to wins? It’s tough to say, but the results have been in their favor. Doesn’t mean they still will be come August.
The Michael Scott ‘Why Are You the Way that You Are?’ Award
Last year’s recipient: Angel Hernandez
Hernandez could receive this award as a representative of this year’s recipient(s): the MLB Umpires Association.
First, in defense of umpires: Being an umpire is a thankless job. They take a lot of the blame when calls are blown and none of the credit for calling a good game. They take constant verbal abuse from fans, players and people online. It’s unfair to expect umpires, as human as you or I, to deal with the constant bashing and negativity.
But, to that end, calling a good game and taking the blame is quite literally their job. No player expects perfection. No one expects umpires to take abuse with a smile all the time. However, people do expect umpires to be independent of the game and not make themselves the stars.
That said, the MLB Umpires Association looks really, really bad after the whole umpires vs. Manny Machado debacle last month.
Aside from the fact that the MLBUA Twitter abuses hashtags like a “Jersey Shore” cast member does hair products, it’s a horrendous look for them to use the following ones: #MakeanExampleOf, #OneGameSuspension and #Violence.
It’s a terrible job from umpires to try to publicly shame and skew the entire situation that happened with Machado (Violence? Really?), and it’s worse to put out a statement that looks like a heartbroken 14-year-old’s away message on AIM.
Here’s an instant message for umpires: Don’t do that. Players openly admit they respect umpires, and managers admit to what a tough job they have. Turning around and making themselves look like victims when some are terrible at their job (and try and steal the show) is the real #LeadByExample moment here.
“Congrats,” umps. Please be better.
The ‘Good Job, Good Effort’ Award
Last year’s recipient: Oakland Athletics
This year’s honors go to the Seattle Mariners. When they were setting the world on fire two weeks into the season, fans were thinking, “Maybe this is the year.” But then reality slapped them in the face like an errant wild king salmon at Pike Place Fish Market.
Something smells like fish, and it’s not the halibut. The Mariners have been one of the worst teams in baseball since that run to begin of the season, maybe unsurprisingly. The good thing is the Mariners do have a future, and it’s thanks in part to Jerry Dipoto’s endless trade fiesta, which has resulted in two top prospects via a deal with the Mets (Jarred Kelenic, Justin Dunn).
With more trades surely coming, it was a good job and good effort from the Mariners, at least for a little bit.
The ‘It’s OK, We Appreciate You’ Award
Last year’s recipient: Joey Votto
In a league where Mike Trout, Mookie Betts, Aaron Judge and Max Scherzers get the recognition, sometimes stars of baseball don’t grab as many headlines and highlights as they should.
Matt Chapman has gone too under-appreciated for too long. The Athletics third baseman has a 4.3 bWAR in the middle of another oddly successful season. Chapman is an all-world, all-galaxy, all-universe defender who seems to have figured it out with the bat.
At just 26, Chapman is the latest in a long line of A’s third basemen who have dazzled. While he finally received some level of stardom at the 2019 Home Run Derby, more attention seemed to have go to his father, who wasn’t exactly on point with his tosses during their go of it.
So while Chapman is on an MVP arc, he might be passed over again (fairly), and the A’s might not have much postseason success. Just know that we see you, Matt Chapman, and we are wowed.
The Legitimate (Boring) Awards
OK, onto the real, actual awards from the first half of the season.
MVP: Cody Bellinger’s historic start is keeping him afloat and ahead of Christian Yelich, but the race could tighten.
Cy Young: Max Scherzer gets the nod here. He’s got a 2.00 FIP and has been worth almost two wins more than Dodgers ace Hyun-Jin Ryu. This is going to be an interesting showdown to watch come late season. Scherzer, though, is one of the main reasons why the Nats are still in playoff talk.
Rookie of the Year: Pete Alonso is going to be taking home more gold than just the Home Run Derby trophy at this rate. His 30 home run campaign is eye-opening. It’s going to be a showdown between Alonso and San Diego’s Fernando Tatis Jr. For now, Alonso gets the checkmark. He has meant so much to a Mets team and Mets fans who haven’t had a lot going right for them.
Manager of the Year: Brian Snitker has done a heck of a job keeping the Braves afloat while they’ve faced some rotation issues, and he is the face of a pretty young team. The NL East isn’t the juggernaut division some thought it would be, but Atlanta has played to – and met – the preseason hype. Snitker is a big part of that.
MVP: It goes to Mike Trout, once again. This guy is head-and-shoulders above everybody else in baseball. There’s some debate what the word “valuable” means. Well, what would the Angels be without Trout in the lineup? Yankees infielder D.J. LeMahieu is making a good case for himself, as well. But Trout is the guy.
Cy Young: This is a loaded field. Justin Verlander hasn’t quite been himself in 2019, so it’s hard to pencil him in. Chris Sale has certainly turned it around after a rough start. But you know who’s been a linchpin for their team? White Sox ascending ace Lucas Giolito. He figured it out on the mound, and now the South Siders are in the middle of one of baseball’s most exciting sub-.500 seasons in recent memory.
Rookie of the Year: Rays infielder Brandon Lowe doesn’t feel like he’s getting a ton of attention. He has hit 16 home runs, has 2.8 bWAR and has played above-average defense this season. It’s a bit of a surprise, considering this is the season of Vlad Guerrero Jr., Eloy Jimenez and others in the American League.
Manager of the Year: With how many devastating injuries the Yankees have faced, it should go to Aaron Boone, right? It’s not that simple. Twins manager Rocco Baldelli has Minnesota in one of the best seasons they’ve had in years. Boone gets the honors for the first half of the season after keeping New York afloat – and winning – with Gary Sanchez, Aaron Judge, Giancarlo Stanton, Luis Severino, Dellin Betances and other key pieces out.
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