Posted on: March 5, 2012 8:02 am
Edited on: March 5, 2012 10:58 am
By C. Trent Rosecrans
The Pirates have locked up center fielder Andrew McCutchen to a six-year, $51.5 million contract, CBSSports.com insider Jon Heyman confirms.
The 25-year-old McCutchen made his first All-Star team in 2011 and was scheduled to be arbitration eligible after this season. The new deal buys out not only his three arbitration years, but also two free agent seasons and gives the Pirates a club option for another, giving Pittsburgh control over him through the 2018 season.
The deal is similar to the one NL Central rival Jay Bruce (six years, $51 million) signed a year ago with the Reds and the one Justin Upton signed before the 2010 season (six years, $51.25 million) with the Diamondbacks.
It also assures the Pirates will be able to build around the young star. Last season, McCutchen's batting average dropped, but his on-base percentage stayed steady and his home run and RBI totals jumped, as he emerged as one of the young stars of the game. McCutchen hit .259/.364/.456 with 23 homers and 89 RBI in 2011, while stealing 23 bases. Overall, he's hit .276/.365/.458 in three seasons in Pittsburgh, while playing a solid center field.
This is the type of move that helps the Pirates more than most teams. Pittsburgh has lost many of its young, talented players to free agency. This proactive move keeps McCutchen in Pittsburgh and allows Pirate fans a piece of mind that he'll be around in the long term. It also gives McCutchen a big payday before he would otherwise be eligible.
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Posted on: January 7, 2012 12:10 am
By Matt Snyder
T-minus two days until the Hall of Fame vote for the 2012 induction is unveiled, so we'll continue talking about the Hall of Fame in this relatively slow time of the year. This time around, we'll take a look at active players younger than 30 who have laid a foundation that makes a run to Cooperstown possible.
Now, make no mistake about it, none of these players are close to having completed their big-league careers nor are they currently close to being locks to the Hall of Fame. Still, some are well on their way and others have started a journey that may push them into the discussion in a decade or so.
Obviously things could change in just one season -- just take a look below at a certain catcher from Minnesota. Or think about how good it looked for Grady Sizemore three years ago at this time before injuries completely derailed him. And we have to understand that just a few seasons of being an elite player doesn't necessarily mean the longevity will be there -- take the cases of Fernando Valenzuela and Dwight Gooden, for example. For various reasons, careers can get off track. Still, it's fun to take a look at which young players have built a possible Hall-of-Fame foundation.
By no means is this an exhaustive list, but here are 20 under-30 guys who could be on the right track, in alphabetical order (age in parentheses):
Robinson Cano (29) - He wouldn't have appeared on this list until the past two seasons, but Cano has grown into one of the more dangerous hitters in baseball. He'd need to continue this pace for another six to eight years at least before being a Hall candidate, though.
Prince Fielder (27) - Six full seasons -- with 39 games in '05 -- have yielded 230 homers and 656 RBI. Fielder also has an impressive .390 on-base percentage and a whopping .929 OPS (143 OPS-plus). He's already finished in the top four of MVP voting three times. Can his robust body hold up long-term? If it does, he's probably headed to Cooperstown. Baseball-Reference.com's top similar statistical player through age 27 is Hall of Famer Eddie Murray.
Adrian Gonzalez (29) - Did he get started too late? Gonzalez didn't become a full-timer until '06 and wasn't a dominant force until '09. Still, four All-Star Games, three Gold Gloves and two Top 10 finishes in MVP voting. He also has a career .889 OPS (140 OPS-plus) and over 1,100 hits already.
Felix Hernandez (25) - We've seen so many pitchers flame out over the years after huge starts -- I mentioned two in the intro -- but King Felix basically only needs to stay healthy and keep his head on straight. He's already 85-67 with a 3.24 ERA, 1.22 WHIP and 1,264 strikeouts. He has one Cy Young and also finished second once. And he could conceivably pitch 15 more seasons. Even conservatively -- assuming health -- you have to say he has 12 more in him.
Matt Kemp (27) - After a runner-up finish in MVP voting this past season, Kemp inked a huge contract with the Dodgers. He could be the face of the franchise for a decade. The power-speed combo (128 HR, 144 steals) along with a Gold Glove shows he can do it all.
Clayton Kershaw (23) - He went 21-5 with a 2.28 ERA, 248 strikeouts, an All-Star appearance and a Cy Young award last season. At 23. Enough said.
Tim Lincecum (27) - Two Cy Youngs, four All-Star appearances and a World Series ring so far. Not too shabby. Like Hernandez, Kershaw and all other great young pitchers, health and avoiding major off-field trouble are the biggest roadblocks. But there is serious foundation and talent here. I wouldn't bet against Lincecum.
Evan Longoria (26) - He's going to be the face of the Rays for a long time and his arrival coincided with them shedding the laughingstock label. The 2008 AL Rookie of the Year has three All-Star appearances, two Gold Gloves and a Silver Slugger. His 136 OPS-plus bodes well. But his average dropped 50 points last season. Harbinger or aberration? I'd guess the latter.
Joe Mauer (28) - Would've seemed a lot more firm here last year at this time. The disaster of a season doesn't erase the amazing good Mauer did through the first six-plus seasons in his career, but it raises health questions moving forward. His bat means a whole lot less if he's playing first base instead of catching.
Andrew McCutchen (25) - He already has 95 doubles, 19 triples, 51 homers and 78 stolen bases. He has an .822 OPS (123 OPS-plus). What if he gets even better and is the driving force behind a complete Pirates turnaround?
Dustin Pedroia (28) - The 2007 Rookie of the Year followed up that act with a 2008 MVP. He's hitting .305/.373/.463 in his six-year career, while he's also won a World Series ring, two Gold Gloves and been to the All-Star Game three times.
Hanley Ramirez (28) - He would've been one of the best bets two years ago, but he's now mired in a two-year decline. Goes to show how quickly things can change. Of course, there's plenty of time to get back to 2007-09 form.
Jose Reyes (28) - In six "full" seasons (we'll say at least 125 games played), Reyes has been among the best players in baseball. There's no questioning that. Can he stay on the diamond enough to make himself a viable Hall candidate? It doesn't look great, but the talent is there.
Troy Tulowitzki (27) - Tulowitzki brings in three straight top-eight finishes in MVP voting and is the premier defensive shortstop in the National League. He really only has four seasons worth counting toward a possible Hall induction so far, though, so he's gonna need about eight to 10 more.
Justin Upton (24) - The potential here is insane. He came in fourth in MVP voting last season and should only get better. Again, there are many ways for younger players to derail, but Upton has all the tools to one day hit Cooperstown. Consider me a believer.
Justin Verlander (28) - Yes, he's only 28. Verlander already has 107 wins, 1,215 strikeouts, four All-Star appearances (that is, he made the team, not pitched in the game), a Cy Young and, yes, an AL MVP. He was already one of the better aces in baseball, but then went into a new stratosphere last season. If that continues, he's a cinch to make the Hall. We'll see.
Joey Votto (28) - In just four full seasons, Votto has made a name for himself as a marquee slugger. He won the 2010 MVP and followed it up with a stellar 2011 campaign as well. His career .955 OPS (151 OPS-plus) is incredible and he added a Gold Glove last season, too.
Jered Weaver (29) - Weaver was quietly really good until last season, and you can now drop the "quietly." He was the All-Star Game starter and could have easily won the Cy Young Award, if Verlander didn't happen to be putting up a historic season in the same league. In six seasons, Weaver is 82-47 with a 3.31 ERA and 977 strikeouts. Considering his age, though, this is a pretty tall order. He'll need another eight years of dominance, I'd guess.
David Wright (29) - I think I would have felt pretty good about him after 2008, but he's fallen off a slight bit since then. Perhaps the change in the ballpark dimensions helps, in addition to some health -- for himself and teammates. Wright does already have five All-Star appearances and a .300/.380/.508 line with 183 homers and 151 steals.
I think my four best bets right now would be, in no particular order: Verlander, Cabrera, Hernandez and Upton. Could be a lot more, could be a lot less. All 20 of these guys have plenty of time to either build a resume or screw it up. History tells us there's no chance all 20 make the cut, and even guessing half of these guys getting to Cooperstown is a big stretch.
Feel free to add more names in the comments, as there definitely isn't a wrong answer in this department.
Coming Sunday: "Asterisk" guys with Hall-type resumes
Monday: 2012 Hall of Fame inductee(s) announced
Monday: Looking ahead at the 2013 first-year eligibles
Monday: Looking at the '14, '15 and '16 first-year eligibles
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Tags: Adrian Gonzalez, AL Central, AL Central, AL East, AL East, AL West, Andrew McCutchen, Angels, Brewers, Clayton Kershaw, David Wright, Diamondbacks, Dodgers, Dustin Pedroia, Evan Longoria, Felix Hernandez, Giants, Hall of Fame, Hanley Ramirez, Jered Weaver, Joe Mauer, Joey Votto, Jose Reyes, Justin Upton, Justin Verlander, Mariners, Marlins, Matt Kemp, Matt Snyder, Mets, Miguel Cabrera, NL Central, NL East, NL West, Padres, Pirates, Prince Fielder, Rays, Red Sox, Reds, Robinson Cano, Rockies, Tigers, Tim Lincecum, Troy Tulowitzki, Twins, Yankees
Posted on: November 28, 2011 7:53 pm
By Matt Snyder
Monday afternoon, Keith Law of ESPN.com reported that the Pirates front office was willing to listen to potential trade offers for star outfielder Andrew McCutchen. Understandably, Pirates fans -- who have been beaten down through nearly two decades of futility -- were none too happy. McCutchen is only 25 and already the face of the franchise. He's not a free agent until 2016. Sure, the Pirates could probably land a veritable killing of prospects if they traded him, but they've been trading name players for prospects for years. At some point you have to try and win. That's why the next paragraph should help the Pirates fans breathe a bit easier ...
The Pirates have not considered any offer for McCutchen, nor do they plan to, tweets Dejan Kovacevic of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, citing a "high-ranking" Pirates source. Kovacevic adds, for good measure, that McCutchen is "going nowhere."
So believe what you wish, but I'm inclined to side with the latter report. It would be an utter P.R. disaster for the Pirates to deal McCutchen right now.
McCutchen made his first All-Star team in 2011, hitting .259/.364/.456 with 23 homers, 89 RBI, 87 runs, 34 doubles and 23 stolen bases while playing sound defense in center field.
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Posted on: November 26, 2011 1:46 pm
By C. Trent Rosecrans
What if players were only permitted to stay with the team that originally made them a professional? No trades, no Rule-5 Draft, no waivers, no minor- or major-league free agency ... once you are a professional baseball player, you stay in that organization. This series shows how all 30 teams would look. We give you: Homegrown teams.
In 2011 the Pirates extended their streak of losing seasons to 19, finishing 72-90 after a promising start. However, there are signs of the team finally putting it together, with much of their talent coming from within the organization. Andrew McCutchen and Neil Walker are among the future stars the team has drafted and kept. If Pittsburgh had been able to keep a couple more of its homegrown players, the Pirates could at the very least be looking at fielding a winning team.Lineup
1. Andrew McCutchen, CF
2. Neil Walker, 2B
3. Jose Bautista, RF
4. Aramis Ramirez, 3B
5. Ryan Doumit, 1B
6. Jeff Keppinger, SS
7. Ronny Paulino, C
8. Nyjer Morgan, LF
1. Paul Maholm
2. Bronson Arroyo
3. Tom Gorzelanny
4. Brad Lincoln
5. Chris Young
Closer - Juan Oviedo (Leo Nunez)
Set up - Matt Capps, Mike Gonzlaez, John Grabow, Sean Burnett, Tony Watson
Long - Tim Wakefield, Zack Duke
Notable Bench Players
Pedro Alvarez, Rajai Davis, Brent Lillibridge, Nate McLouth, Alex Presley
The top of the lineup is the envy of just about any organization -- there's speed at the top and power throughout the first four batters. Jose Bautista will forever be the one that got away, but not just for the Pirates, who drafted him in 2000, but also for the Orioles, Rays, Royals and Mets, who all acquired -- a got rid of -- Bautista at some point. But still, the Pirates had him twice and are now watching him blossom as one of the game's best players while in a different uniform. In addition to the top of the lineup, the bottom of the lineup isn't too bad, while the bullpen is stout.
The rotation isn't going to intimidate too many batters, but the team will put up some runs and leads have a good chance of being held with that bullpen. Keppinger is a solid bat and makes all the plays in front of him, but doesn't quite have the range most teams look for at shortstop. He can play there, but it isn't an ideal spot.
Comparison to real 2011
The Pirates rotation overachieved in the first half of 2011 and flopped in the second -- as Pittsburgh went 25-47 after finding themselves trailing by just a game in the NL Central at the All-Star break. While this lineup would put up more runs, its starters would allow more. That said, the improved lineup and bullpen would be good for several more wins and probably even give the team a winning record.
Up next: Chicago Cubs
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Tags: Alex Presley, Andrew McCutchen, Aramis Ramirez, Brad Lincoln, Brent Lillibridge, Bronson Arroyo, C. Trent Rosecrans, Chris Young, homegrown, Jeff Keppinger, John Grabow, Jose Bautista, Juan Oviedo, Leo Nunez, Matt Capps, Mike Gonzalez, Nate McLouth, Neil Walker, Nyjer Morgan, Paul Maholm, Pedro Alvarez, Pirates, Rajai Davis, Ronny Paulino, Ryan Doumit, Sean Burnett, Tim Wakefield, Tom Gorzelanny, Tony Watson
Posted on: November 1, 2011 5:40 pm
Edited on: November 1, 2011 10:20 pm
By C. Trent Rosecrans
With open free agency set to hit us at 12:01 a.m. Thursday, it's worth taking a quick look at what every single team is going to be looking for. We've already done detailed breakdowns in the R.I.P. series, so here are some quick hitters for the National League:
Miami Marlins | R.I.P.
New York Mets | R.I.P.
Philadelphia Phillies | R.I.P.
Washington Nationals | R.I.P.
Cincinnati Reds | R.I.P.
Houston Astros | R.I.P.
Needs: first baseman, shortstop, third baseman, relief pitching
Money to spend? Some -- for the right people. The team will try to make a pitch to retain Fielder and possibly Jerry Hairston Jr., but are likely celebrating to be free of Yuniesky Betancourt. The team probably won't be in the race for Reyes or even Jimmy Rollins, but could be in the market for a second-tier shortstop like Clint Barmes. They'll also need to add some arms in the bullpen, but could try to re-sign the likes of Takashi Saito and LaTroy Hawkins.
Pittsburgh Pirates | R.I.P.
St. Louis Cardinals | R.I.P.
Colorado Rockies | R.I.P.
Los Angeles Dodgers | R.I.P.
San Diego Padres | R.I.P.
San Francisco Giants | R.I.P.
Tags: 2012 free agency, 2012 MLB Free Agency, 2012 MLB Free Agents, 2012 MLB Hot Stove, Aaron Hill, Adam Wainwright, AL Central, AL East, AL West, Albert Pujols, Andrew McCutchen, Astros, Braves, Brewers, C. Trent Rosecrans, C.J. Wilson, Cardinals, Carlos Beltran, Charlie Morton, Chris Carpenter, Clint Barmes, Cubs, Diamondbacks, Dodgers, Francisco Cordero, Frank McCourt, free agency, free agent tracker, Giants, Heath Bell, Jake Westbrook, James McDonald, Jeff Karstens, Jerry Hairston Jr., Jim Crane, Jimmy Rollins, John Mayberry Jr., Jose Reyes, Kelly Johnson, Kevin Correia, Kyle Lohse, Lance Berkman, LaTroy Hawkins, Marlins, Mets, MLB Free Agency, MLB Free Agents, MLB Hot Stove, Nationals, Neil Walker, NL Central, NL East, NL West, Padres, Phillies, Pirates, Prince Fielder, Reds, Rockies, Roy Oswalt, Ryan Madson, Sandy Alderson, Takashi Saito, Theo Epstein, Tyler Pastronicky, Walk Jocketty
Posted on: September 19, 2011 11:56 pm
Edited on: September 20, 2011 12:26 am
By C. Trent Rosecrans
The Gold Gloves are one of baseball's toughest awards to decide -- and sometimes toughest to understand. Unlike many of the game's other awards, the Gold Gloves are voted on by managers and coaches, and every year it seems there's a winner or two that seems to win the award more with their bat than their glove.
Not only do some players seem to win it with something other than their glove, sometimes the award can be a lot like the Supreme Court, once you get elected, you're not going to lose your seat.
That said, it's a difficult award to vote for. There are better fielding statistics coming out every year, yet most are still in their infancy and can tell you only so much. Good defense, sometimes can be a lot like the definition Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart gave for pornograpy in Jacobelis v. Ohio in 1964: "I shall not today attempt further to define the kinds of material I understand to be embrued within that shorthand description; and perhaps I could never succeed in intelligibly doing so. But I know it when I see it."
With that in mind, perhaps the voters for the Gold Gloves should be the scouts, but instead I'll try my hand at picking out the best defensive players in the National League.
As tough as it is to use numbers to evaluate fielders, it's even tougher with catchers. At least the numbers with other fielders have some meaning, with catchers there's so much more to what they do defensively that it's hard not to go on reputation -- and nobody has a better reputation than Molina.
When Votto was coming up, people knew he could hit -- that was hard to ignore -- but his reputation at first base was nowhere near as good. Even as a rookie, he often struggled, especially on throws to a pitcher covering first. Since then, he's improved every year and this year he has proven himself to be the best defensive first baseman in the league. Votto, last year's MVP, covers more ground at first than any other first baseman in the league, which means it can be tough to get a hit if you hit it on the ground to the right side of the Reds infield, beacuse of the next guy on the list.
Second base: Brandon Phillips, Reds
A two-time Gold Glover, Phillips should be in line for his third. There may be no other player in baseball with as long of a highlight-reel as Phillips, who seemingly makes another amazing play every night.
There are players with better defensive reputations than the Kung Fu Panda, but nobody's had a better year. The advanced stats don't tell you everything yet, but they're still pretty good. Sandoval leads qualified National League third basemen in UZR (12.3), UZR/150 (21.2) and plus-minus (20).
Shortstop: Troy Tulowitzki, Rockies
The Rockies may know a little something about drafting defensive shortstops -- they picked two of the best in the league, Tulowitzki and the Astros' Clint Barmes. Finally healthy, Barmes was outstanding defensively for the Astros, while Tulowitzki seems like the second coming of Cal Ripken.
Left field: Carlos Gonzalez, Rockies
The voting has changed this year to award Gold Gloves to each of the three outfield positions instead of three generic outfielder awards that usually went to center fielders. Carlos Gonzalez is tough to categorize, but considering he's played more games in left than any other spot, he's the easy choice here. He's started 60 games in left, 34 in right and 28 in center. He's played all three well, which isn't easy at spacious Coors Field, committing only one error on the season.
Center field: Shane Victorino, Phillies
This is one stacked category, with several deserving players. Under the old rules it would be easy, you'd have three center fielders and give them the three Gold Gloves. Under the new rules, it's a tougher choice. Victorino has had an MVP-type year, and no small part of that has been patrolling center field for the Phillies. The Flyin' Hawaiian is as good as anyone out there and his error-less season gives him the edge.
Right field: Mike Stanton, Marlins
He may be known best for the moon shots off his bat, but Stanton is a surprisingly good defensive outfielder. Stanton has the combination of athleticism and arm strength to be the best defensive right fielder in the game.
Pitcher: R.A. Dickey, Mets
A knuckleball pitcher needs to field his position well -- there are plenty of bad hits coming back to the mound off poor contact. Dickey has been very good fielding his position and helped his team with his glove.@eyeonbaseball on Twitter or subscribe to the RSS feed.
Tags: 2011 awards, Albert Pujols, Alex Gonzalez, Andrew McCutchen, Astros, Brandon Phillips, Braves, Brewers, Brian McCann, Bronson Arroyo, C. Trent Rosecrans, Cameron Maybin, Cardinals, Carlos Beltran, Carlos Gomez, Carlos Gonzalez, Carlos Ruiz, Chase Utley, Chris Young, Clayton Kershaw, Clint Barmes, Derek Lowe, Dodgers, Gerardo Parra, Giants, Gold Gloves, Hiroki Kuroda, Jake Westbrook, Jason Heyward, Jay Bruce, Joey Votto, Jose Reyes, Marlins, Matt Holliday, Mets, Mike Stanton, Nationals, Neil Walker, NL Central, NL East, NL West, Omar iNfante, Pablo Sandoval, Padres, Phillies, Pirates, Placido Polanco, R.A. Dickey, Reds, Rick Ankiel, Rockies, Rockies, Ryan Zimmerman, Shane Victorino, Todd Helton, Tony Gwynn, Troy Tulowitzki, Yadier Molina
Posted on: September 15, 2011 1:36 am
By Evan Brunell
Clayton Kershaw, Dodgers: A one-hit shutout for Kershaw. Rather, it would have been if not for home-plate umpire Bill Welke tossing Kershaw in the sixth. Backstory: Last night, Gerardo Parra received a brushback pitch he didn't appreciate and launched a home run, pimping it out. The Dodgers weren't pleased as Parra jawed with catcher A.J. Ellis. Kershaw was also caught yelling from the dugout and allegedly telling Parra he would "get him" Wednesday night. Well, the first at-bat went without incident, Parra rapping a single. Allowing just one hit while punching out five as Kershaw took the mound for the sixth, he threw a pitch that grazed Parra's elbow. It certainly wasn't a full-on plunking, but Welke tossed Kershaw immediately without warning. Skipper Don Mattingly was thrown out in the ensuing argument. On one hand, you can understand why Welke would have been monitoring this situation and perhaps even a bit jittery about something exploding and wanting to keep a lid on it, but this was just silly. On a pitch that grazed Parra in a 2-0 Dodgers game during a shutout? It's hard to believe that warranted being ejected -- again, with no warnings issued prior.
Roy Halladay, Phillies: It was yet another divine performance for Halladay, who coughed up just six hits and one walk en route to blanking the Astros in a complete-game victory that edged his record to 18-5 and ERA down to 2.34. The win clinched a playoff berth for Philadelphia and was Halladay's eighth complete game of the year. "That's the beauty of being here," Halladay said, referring to the Phillies' muted celebration after the game. "We expect to win. You convert to that quickly, coming from a team where that wasn't the case. We had some big wins last year and come into the clubhouse and that's where we expected to be."
Carlos Beltran, Giants: It was a big day for Beltran, who blasted two home runs en route to a 3-1 drubbing of the Padres. Beltran was responsible for two of those runs off his solo homers in the 1st and 6th, pushing his overall line to .289/.386/.524 with 20 homers, notching 300 for his career. Beltran, once his injury subsided, arrived too late for the Giants to be of any good but has clearly proven San Francisco had the right idea in dealing for the outfielder. Now S.F. has to worry about extending him, as he'll be a prized player on the market.
Andrew McCutchen, Pirates: The Pirates are now officially going to lose more games than they win for the 19th straight season. The club wasted a promising start that had them in contention at the trade deadline by immediately falling off a cliff and McCutchen is a prime culprit as to why. Prior to the All-Star Game, the center fielder hit .291/.390/.505 with 14 homers and 15 steals. But since then, in 203 at-bats, he's slashing .222/.330/.399 with eight homers and five steals. It's a disappointing end to the year for the 24-year-old after going 0 for 4 with a strikeout against the Cardinals.
Daniel Bard, Red Sox: Bard has been on rocky terrain lately and blew a 4-2 lead against Toronto by giving up three runs in the eighth, two earned. His ERA cracked 3.00 with the shoddy outing, rising to 3.10. He's now given up at least a run in his last three appearances, including five on Sept. 7 which is when his troubles began. Before that, his ERA was 2.10. Now, the team's best relief pitcher is imploding. It was the sixth loss in seven games for the Red Sox, who begin a crucial four-game series against the Rays on Thursday, where the AL wild card will hang in the balance.
David Huff, Indians: A grand slam highlighted David Huff's night, and not in a good way. Huff allowed eight runs in four innings, including Josh Hamilton's slam. But only three runs were earned, thanks to a Lonnie Chisenhall two-out error off the bat of Ian Kinsler. It was a dazzling game all around for Texas, who won 9-1. "That's what a team that was in the World Series last year looks like, a team that will probably win their division," Indians manager Manny Acta told the Associated Press . "We have some catching up to do."
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Posted on: September 12, 2011 4:19 pm
Edited on: September 12, 2011 5:17 pm
By C. Trent Rosecrans
Joe Posnanski of Sports Illustrated came up with what he calls the "Movie Plus-Minus" -- it's a stat he uses to rank movies. It's simply this: how much he expected to like a movie versus how much he actually liked a movie. It's how a good movie can still be seen as bad, because expectations were too high -- or how a bad movie can actually be good. Anyway it's all about the expectations in judging the experience, if you don't expect much and it turns out to be good you have a more favorable impression than maybe a movie that you expect to be pretty good and turns out to be about what you expected, even if that movie is much better in a vacuum.
That's exactly how it seems that the Manager of the Year Award in baseball is awarded. Manager of the Year is usually an easy formula:
(Wins) - (Expected wins) = MoY total.
The highest number of MoY gives you the hardware.
Last year nobody expected anything out of the San Diego Padres, yet they nearly won their division. So little was expected that it didn't even matter that the Giants won the division or the Padres piddled away a lead at the end, they were in it and that was enough for the voters to make Bud Black the winner. In the American League, Terry Francona may have done his best managing in 2010, but because he finished third and the Red Sox are expected to make the playoffs every year, he finished fourth in the voting with no first-place votes. Instead it was Ron Gardenhire, followed by Ron Washington and Joe Maddon.
The likely winner in the National League this year? Well, that's easy. Kirk Gibson is going to be the overwhelming, perhaps unanimous, winner because nobody expected the Diamondbacks to contend, and here they are. Manny Acta and Maddon, whose teams were picked to make the playoffs by just about nobody, are frontrunners for this year's award in the American League.
So which managers scored high on the Movie Plus-Minus? Let's look at this summer's blockbusters and who their managerial equivalents:
Diamondbacks manager Kirk Gibson as Rise of the Planet of the Apes: In April, it sounded ridiculous -- another Plaent of the Apes reboot? Didn't anyone see Tim Burton's attempt? This was a bad idea. A horrible idea. And that's what it looked like in Arizona, where the team started the season with Armando Galarraga and Barry Enright in the rotation. How about Russell Branyan and Melvin Mora. Geoff Blum? But like Gibson, Apes director Rupert Wyatt made all the right moves, making the ridiculous exciting and harnessing the energy and genius of his enigmatic star (James Franco and Justin Upton). While it may not be the best movie or take home either an Oscar or a World Series title, it certainly had the highest Movie Plus-Minus and Gibson will take home some hardware, even if his team doesn't.
Brewers manager Ron Roenicke as X-Men: First Class: The franchise has had its hits, but stumbled in its last outing (X-Men: The Last Stand and 2010). Back with a new focus (the origin story for the movie and pitching for the Brewers), the movie not only lived up to tempered expectations, it exceeded them -- just like the Brewers. A thoroughly enjoyable season for the Brewers and a fun movie, both will be punished because there were decent expectations for the movie and the season, even if they delivered the goods. As a bonus, you can also use Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon to link X-Men First Class and Roenicke -- Roenicke manages Ryan Braun, who was in one of the world's worst commercials with Marissa Miller, who was on Entourage with Kevin Connolly, who was in Beyond All Boundaries with Bacon, the bad guy in X-Men: First Class.
Pirates manager Clint Hurdle as Green Lantern: Neither ended up being being good, but compared to expectations, it was an Oscar and a World Series. If you weren't scared off by the words "Ryan Reynolds as Hal Jordan", you certainly were when you heard about the CGI suit. Expectations were incredibly low, just as they were in Pittsburgh (and after 18 losing seasons, why not?). That said, there were some bright spots -- the suit wasn't anywhere near as bad as expected and there was a sort of tongue-in-cheek nod to superhero cliches in the movie, while Andrew McCutchen is a superhero himself. Both had a decent quick start, but in the end, both suffered as time went on and some concepts (a ring given to some dude by an alien, or Kevin Correia as an All-Star), proved too ridiculous for anyone to fully get behind the movie -- or the Pirates. In the end, though, you'll remember it as "not that bad" even if the Pirates do record their 19th consecutive losing season, but Hurdle will likely have a positive MoY score.
Yankees manager Joe Girardi as Super 8: You figured it would be good -- it was from J.J. Abrams and Steven Spielberg, there was plenty of money behind it. Expectations are always high for the Yankees and neither Spielberg nor Abrams are strangers to hype. A solid leading man (Kyle Chandler, Derek Jeter) and surprising performances from others thrust into lead roles (the kids in the movie and the not-quite-kids like Bartolo Colon and Freddy Garcia in the Yankees' rotation), made it a great summer. While some expectations can never be met, the Yankees and Super 8 got the job done. Of course, rarely are awards given for merely meeting expectations.
Phillies manager Charlie Manuel as Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2: Everyone knew the story coming in -- Harry would defeat Voldemort and the trio of Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee and Cole Hamels would prove as unbeatable as the Elder Wand, the Resurrection Stone and Cloak of Invisibility. It was great fun to watch, but the source material was handed to director David Yates by J.K. Rowling, just as Ruben Amaro Jr. and Pat Gillick gave Manuel this pitching and roster. Dismissed as just a press-button manager or director, the film succeeded, but those charged with doing so will have their role in making it so diminished because the perception is that it would be difficult to screw up the hand that was dealt.
Giants manager Bruce Bochy as Cowboys and Aliens: An excellent cast, a director with a good track record, beloved source material and, well, in the end it wasn't a hit.
Now, it'll just be interesting to see if Moneyball lives up to Art Howe's managing.For more baseball news, rumors and analysis, follow @eyeonbaseball on Twitter or subscribe to the RSS feed.
Tags: 2011 awards, AL East, AL West, Andrew McCutchen, Armando Galarraga, Astros, awards, Barry Enright, Bartolo Colon, Brad Mills, Brewers, Bruce Bochy, C. Trent Rosecrans, Charlie Manuel, Cliff Lee, Clint Hurdle, Cole Hamels, Derek Jeter, Diamondbacks, Freddy Garcia, Geoff Blum, Giants, Joe Girardi, Justin Upton, Kevin COrreia, Kirk Gibson, Manager of the Year, Melvin Mora, NL Central, NL East, Phillies, PIrates, Ron Roenicke, Roy Halladay, Russell Branyan, Ryan Braun, Yankees