…which is what I can only assume it will be named by 2025 or so. Congratulations to Clayton Kershaw, who today became the first Dodger to take home the Cy Young Award since Eric Gagne in 2003, decisively defeating Roy Halladay and Cliff Lee of the Phillies. Kershaw took home 27 of the 32 first place votes, and becomes the youngest winner of the prize since Dwight Gooden at age 20 in 1985, who then of course went on to enjoy a long, productive, and trouble-free career for the ages. Four of the first place votes went to Halladay, and one goober cast his for Arizona’s Ian Kennedy, which, I can’t even right now.
Kershaw capped off his magnificent season by winning the pitching “Triple Crown”, which is a distinction so outdated that I dislike even discussing it, yet history has shown that the voters respond to that feat overwhelmingly positively. To be honest, I’m a little surprised that the margin of victory was so wide, because Halladay (higher WAR, better K/BB, better HR rate) and Lee (most shutouts) were both stellar in what is widely perceived as a tougher hitter’s park than Dodger Stadium, while each performing for a playoff team. You could really have made a case for any of the three, and Kershaw probably could have finished as low as third behind the two of them and it wouldn’t really have bothered me too much – all three pitched either 232 or 233 innings, and all three allowed 65 or 66 runs, making this the closest to a dead heat that I can ever remember.
Either way, Kershaw wins the award and is absolutely deserving of the honor. Before the season, I noted that his pedestrian win/loss record over the previous two seasons had somewhat held him out of the spotlight, and said that “this is the year that the greater baseball world recognizes Kershaw in his rightful place as one of the dominant starters in the game.” I doubt you’ll find much argument for that now.
Totally unrelated, but what the hell: the Dodgers have reportedly inked former Marlin & Ranger Ryan Tucker to a minor league deal with an invite to big league camp, though the team has not yet confirmed. (Like anyone’s really going to fabricate such a low-importance move.) The Burbank-born righty was a first-round pick (…ish, because he was the 34th overall choice) of the Marlins in 2005, but has contributed just 42 unbelievably unsuccessful innings for Florida in 2008 and Texas in 2011. In 153 minor league games (94 starts), he’s struck out 7.5/9 while walking 4.2/9, and missed most of 2009 with a knee injury. Tucker reportedly owns a plus fastball and not much in the way of command or secondary pitches, so he’s likely a depth move for ABQ and little more, though he doesn’t turn 25 for another two weeks.
The question worth asking about the Ellis signing starts with “Why.” As in: Why pay Ellis more than the Twins paid Jamey Carroll? Formerly a sabermetrics cause célèbre, Ellis moved on from Oakland last season in a trade to Colorado. Upon doing so, Ellis’s bat perked up, and he went 11-for-22 with six extra-base hits over his first five games with the Rockies. In the 263 other plate appearances he received with the Rockies, Ellis hit .253/.298/.340 with 13 extra-base hits. Offensive feebleness is nothing new for Ellis, who owns a .267/.317/.374 line since 2009. Blame some of that ineffectiveness on Oakland, but Chavez Ravine is no offensive dreamland, either.
Ellis turns 35 in June and has a lengthy injury history, having made at least one trip to the disabled list in each season since 2008. He remains a capable glovesman, by most measures, but an atrophy of skills brought on by the injuries is not out of the question. There is an old pitching saying that goes something like, “You can give a batter height or width, but not both.” You can give an older, injury-prone player like Ellis money or years, but not both. The Dodgers did.
It’s been a long time coming, but it’s now official: the Houston Astros will move to the American League in 2013, a second wild card will be added (likely for 2012), and the two leagues will each have 15 teams, ensuring interleague play every day. Presumably, the two wild card teams will have a one-game play-in for the right of being the #4 seed in their league. Frankly, I’m not thrilled with the addition of another wild card – that’ll make 10 of 30 clubs in the playoffs, though whether the team that loses the one-game play-in really should consider themselves a “playoff club” is dubious – though I do agree that it’s time the 4-team AL West and 6-team NL Central go away. Still to be determined is how the schedule will work, and if the multiple wild cards can come from the same division.
Of course, since there’s reportedly little momentum to enforce a consistent ruling on the designated hitter across the leagues, that could potentially lead to a situation where an AL team in a tight race for the playoffs has to play their final series of the year in an NL park without their DH.