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Spring Training Nonsense, Part II…

Now, the bats.  As with the pitchers, we will cover everyone who has appeared in a Boston Red Sox Spring Training game.  This should be a lot of fun, as not only are their 50 players that have been on the diamond in a game thus far, there’s a handful of dudes that I’ve never even heard of.  Let’s get to it!

Catcher:

Locks:  None

DL:  None

Realistic additional competitors for the Opening Day roster:  Christian Vazquez, Sandy Leon, Blake Swihart

Actual prospects on their way to the minors:  Roldani Baldwin (#29)

Additional flotsam also ticketed for the minors:  Juan Centeno, Oscar Hernandez, Austin Rei, Jake Romanski, Jhon Nunez

Comments:  Not as easy as last year, now that Swihart is “officially” a catcher again.  None of the three guys that were around all of last year can be considered locks, I don’t feel.  Why?  The Red Sox have supposedly decided that carrying 3 catchers this season is not ideal.  So one has to go.  Who?

Vazquez signed a fairly big extension prior to last season.  Then he promptly went out and underperformed during the season.  He would seem to be the #1 guy, based on the combination of decent enough offense and damn good defense.  But now that may be in question.

If you ask the pitchers, Leon would be the guy.  Great “game caller” and also great defensively.  But he simply cannot hit a lick.

Swihart still has the most upside.  Better bat than the other two.  Worst of the three defensively, though the team has said in recent months that he has made tremendous strides.

It would seem that Swihart, just about to turn 27, would have the most trade value.  But how much actually is that nowadays.  Vazquez may have some value, but I would bet the organization wants him to assert himself in the #1 role…especially since he has the biggest contract.  I know, his price is not even close to exorbitant.  But for him, it may be.

My guess is they keep the defensive-minded guys and trade Swihart for a fraction of what they could have traded him for a few years back.  But it’s anyone’s guess as to what actually happens.

Centeno and Hernandez seem to be on track to be the Pawtucket tandem.  The 4 other guys have 10 at-bats between them this spring, so I am not sure we will ever have to worry about them.

Infield:

Locks:  Xander Bogaerts (SS), Rafael Devers (3B), Brock Holt (INF/OF), Mitch Moreland (1B), Eduardo Nunez (INF), Steve Pearce (1B), Dustin Pedroia (2B),

DL:  Marco Hernandez (INF)

Realistic additional competitors for the Opening Day roster:  None

Actual prospects on their way to the minors:  Michael Chavis (3B-#1), Bobby Dalbec (3B-#3), C.J. Chatham (SS-#9), Josh Ockimey (1B-#25), Pedro Castellanos (1B-#26)

Additional flotsam also ticketed for the minors:  Tzu-Wei Lin (INF), Sam Travis (1B), Tony Renda (INF), Chad De La Guerra (INF), Mike Miller (INF), Jantzen Witte (3B), Jeremy Rivera (SS), Brett Netzer (2B), Josh Tobias (3B)

Comments:  Heavy part of the roster here.  But pretty cut and dried, to be honest.  Moreland and Pearce platoon at first, X and Raffy on the left side most of the time.  That leaves second base.

Pedroia probably thinks he can play every day.  And will likely try to talk his way into doing just that.  But it remains to be seen if he can even play ANY of the games.  That knee is troublesome, that is no secret.  And who knows if the rehab he did this winter even worked?  He’s started playing a little this spring, but we will see.

Holt looks to take most of the starts at second when Pedey can’t play.  Maybe Nunez too, but he stinks at second.  Nunez will likely play a little third against tough lefties in place of Devers, at least that’s what I would do.  Actually, I wouldn’t have given Nunez a 2 year contract last offseason, but at 5 mil, it obviously doesn’t kill them.  Holt will also play a little outfield I imagine.  So Holt and Nunez will get decent at-bats whether we like it or not.

Chavis is the teams’ top prospect, kind of a scary proposition.  Why?  He wasn’t very good his first three years in the lower minors, then hit 31 homers in 2017 after apparently finding the juice.  Which caused his half-year suspension in 2018.  He hit well upon his return and hit 4 homers pretty early this spring, so maybe he found the juice again.  But…maybe he gets caught again.  Not ruling anything out.  In any event, if he hits this year and doesn’t get pinched, he could be the Sox’ regular 1B in 2020 once the contracts of the current platoon pair expire.  And that should mean he gets major league AB’s this season.

We know who won’t be the Sox’ regular first basemen in 2020.  Sammy Travis.  Looks like the ship has sailed on that former “top prospect”.  But Lin is still on the fringe.  The team is working him all over the field, apparently trying to make him “Brock Holt Lite”.  If that excites you.

I love Tony Renda’s Red Sox career.  He was up for like a week or 10 days last summer.  Scored the winning run in a Sunday Night game against the Yankees as a pinch runner.  Then disappeared for the rest of the year.  No other appearances before or after that one.  If history repeats itself, Renda will get a World Series ring.  Beautiful, no?

The rest of the prospects are too far away and the rest of the random bodies will not likely appear at Fenway this season, so I at least hope they are all enjoying the spring.

Outfield:

Locks:  Andrew Benintendi (LF), Mookie Betts (RF), Jackie Bradley Jr. (CF), J.D. Martinez (DH)

DL:  None

Realistic additional competitors for the Opening Day roster:  Gorkys Hernandez

Actual prospects on their way to the minors:  Jarren Duran (#10)

Additional flotsam also ticketed for the minors:  Rusney Castillo, Bryce Brentz, Cole Sturgeon, Tate Matheny, Danny Mars, Cole Brannen, Jagger Rusconi, Marino Campana, Tyler Esplin, Chris Madera, Joseph Monge, Kervin Suarez, Jordan Wren, Keith Curcio

Comments:  Nothing to see here.  Could be the best outfield in baseball.  Defensively for sure anyway.  Oh, did you hear that Bradley worked with a swing coach this offseason?  We will see how that works out, but I am not expecting miracles.  Better yet, where was this swing coach over the past several years?  I would have traded JBJ after his All-Star year, as has been noted previously (probably a thousand times), but I wonder what will happen going forward?  Lots of contracts up over the next two years.  I can’t imagine JBJ will be anywhere in line for a lucrative extension.

Speaking of extensions, Mookie!  No indication he will sign one.  But I hope they are trying.  Bryce Harper only got like 26 mil a year.  Mookie will want more than that.  But the question continues to be unanswered:  Does he even want to be here long term?  No one even knows.

J.D. can opt out after this year.  No one knows if that will happen either.  With the top guys waiting into Spring Training the last two years and not necessarily getting the dough that people thought they would, maybe he doesn’t take a chance by opting out.  Especially since he is basically a designated hitter.  Sure, he is listed here as an outfielder.  But I didn’t want to do a whole ‘nutha section for one DH.  And sure, he will see starts in the outfield to appease him a bit.  But no team actually views him as one.

Gorkys may get that last spot if the Sox are serious about not carrying three catchers.  He seems to be the likely choice.  We know it won’t be Rusney.  I’ve said that he deserves another shot.  You know, since he’s making like 11 mil down in Pawtucket and has played well down there.  But there were opportunities for him to come up and contribute last season.  And never a sniff.

Bryce Brentz is back!!  We more than likely won’t see him in Boston again though.  If anyone cares.  Cole Sturgeon is a name I recognize every year in Spring Training.  Seems like he is 35 years old.  But alas, he is only 27.  And that 3-20 this year won’t help him at all.  Matheny is the son of former big leaguer (and also former St. Louis manager) Mike Matheny.  But that’s about all I really can say about him.

Nothing much to add about the rest of that list.  I am not even sure I would add anything even if I knew who most of them actually are.

That about sums things up.  Most of the team returns from last year.  Not necessarily a good thing to have little turnover.  Not necessarily a good thing to have a bullpen that looks like it does.  But it’s a long season folks.  And it should be a successful one at that.  But another World Series win?  I’m not betting on that…

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Spring Training Nonsense…

…so the Blowhard has recently written about three of the four major sports teams in the local area, perhaps it’s time to cover the remaining one…the Boston Red Sox?

I know, it’s early in Spring Training and the team is puttering along (not meant to be a bad thing…just that Spring Training is too long…and…who cares what their record is in the spring anyway?!).  But we may as well get a look at all of the players in camp to see what they have.  What do we mean by “all”?  Welp, every player on the 40 man roster, every player on the non-roster invite list and…every player that has appeared in a Spring Training game as of the day this piece is written.  Yup, I did just say that last sentence.  Once again, you’ve been warned.

Of course, the 25 man roster is pretty much already all set.  Just a minor tweak here and there, specifically in the bullpen I would say.  But it can’t hurt to take a look at everyone that is in FLA anyway…because, well, I have nothing better to do at the present time.

Let’s get to it, in usual Blowhard fashion, we break down the roster by position (numbers in parenthesis next to the players on the “prospects” line are what each player is ranked by Redsox.com):

Starting Rotation:

Locks:  Chris Sale, David Price, Rick Porcello, Nathan Eovaldi, Eduardo Rodriguez

DL:  None…yet

Realistic additional competitors for the Opening Day roster:  None

Actual prospects on their way to the minors:  Darwinzon Hernandez (#4), Mike Shawaryn (#13) Denyi Reyes (#19), Kutter Crawford (#20), Jhonathan Diaz (#30)

Additional flotsam also ticketed for the minors:  Chandler Shepherd, Dedgar Jimenez, Kyle Hart

Comments:  Doesn’t get any simpler than this.  There has been some scuttlebutt about Eovaldi ending up in the bullpen, specifically as the closer.  But the Sox didn’t throw him 68 mil over 4 years to do that, I can make you that promise.

Sale and manager Alex Cora can rave about Darwinzon all they want.  But he’s quite some time away from the majors.  Besides, being #4 on the Red Sox’ prospect list isn’t anything to be fired up about.  What, do they have one prospect on Major League Baseball’s Top 100 prospect list?  Just one of a hundred on most lists out there.  Unimpressive…an understatement, I know.  But I suppose we can hold out some hope, at least for him.  The numbers on the rest of the “prospects” tell you that we probably don’t ever need to talk about them again.  But we will see…

Dedgar may not actually be flotsam…yet…since he is only 22.  But he isn’t even among the Sox’ top 30.  So I suppose that should automatically give us some pause.  Shepherd and Hart are 26, so their time has likely passed.

With the contracts of Sale and Porcello expiring after this season, the Sox better figure something out throughout the year and into the next offseason.  I’m hoping that they won’t be replaced in 2020 by anyone in the section immediately below.  I’m sure they won’t…but there’s not exactly anything promising coming up from the minors anytime soon either.

Then again, news has come out that Sale and the team are mutually interested in a new contract.  We will see what comes of that.  It will be interesting to see the particulars if that gets done.  Sale has been “underpaid” for years, by baseball standards.  He has not exactly been durable, often wearing down in the second halves of seasons.  Dominant when healthy, can we expect that going forward?  Not sure.

Would I give him a new contract?  Hell yes!  But would aim for a shorter term.  If they could get him at 3-4 years, even if the money is somewhat silly, I’d do it.  Once again, not much in the farm system.  And a dominant Sale for even 150 innings could be worth it.

Did you also hear though?  E-Rod is in the “best shape of his life” and looks electric!  He’s ready to take the next step!  Sigh…those “feel-good” Spring Training stories…gotta love them…

Swingmen:

Locks: Brian Johnson

DL:  None

Suspended:  Steven Wright

Realistic additional competitors for the Opening Day roster:  Hector Velasquez, Marcus Walden

Actual prospects on their way to the minors:  None

Additional flotsam also ticketed for the minors:  Erasmo Ramirez, Josh A. Smith, Domingo Tapia, Daniel McGrath, Josh Taylor

Comments:  I am making this an official category for when Sale and/or Eovaldi and/or E-Rod spend their obligatory time on the DL.  Maybe Price too, if he needs another “mental break”.  Hey, he seemed to finally break through in the playoffs last year.  But I’m not guaranteeing the page has officially been turned on him heading into this season.  Just call me skeptical, that’s all.

In any event, none of the aforementioned five starters are likely to get anywhere close to 200 innings, with the possible exception of Porcello.  So there will be starts available for this group of guys that aren’t really good enough to start but won’t have key roles in the bullpen either.

Actually, Wright may be the only one that can be considered for either.  But can you ever really trust a knuckleballer?  I would as the #5 starter on this kind of team, I will admit.  General Manager Dave Dombrowski has thrown his name into the mix at closer.  Although Wright pitched well both starting and relieving last year when healthy, I don’t think anyone wants closing games to be part of his repertoire.  Then again, I wrote this paragraph before his suspension came down.  So the point is now moot…until July anyway.

Johnson sticks because he is out of options.  And even at 28 years old now, the Sox may want to try to salvage his former status as a “top prospect”.  Most of the year he will pitch mopup though.  He’s useless out of the bullpen and has proven that time and time again.  If he’s on my roster, he is starting games.  There is no room for him for that on this team, but he will be the official #6 guy in 2019 I would predict.

Velasquez and Walden have options, I think anyway, so they will be on the outside looking in.  I’m sure we will see them at some point.  Walden is actually having himself another fantastic spring thus far, for whatever that is worth.  I’m sure we will see Erasmo at some point as well.  But he’s on a minor league deal.  So they can start him in the minors.

If we see Smith, Tapia, McGrath or Taylor at any point, that will likely spell trouble.  It’s doubtful they actually see starts if they are up, but they have been both starters and relievers in the minors, so that is why they are listed here.

Bullpen:

Locks: Matt Barnes, Ryan Brasier, Heath Hembree, Tyler Thornburg, Brandon Workman

DL:  Carson Smith, Zach Putnam

Realistic additional competitors for the Opening Day roster:  Bobby Poyner (#22), Colten Brewer (#23)

Actual prospects on their way to the minors:  Travis Lakins (#17), Matthew Gorst

Additional flotsam also ticketed for the minors:  Brian Ellington, Trevor Kelley, Adam Lau, Jenrry Mejia, Mark Montgomery, Dan Runzler, Daniel Schlereth, Hunter Smith, Jordan Weems, Ryan Weber

Comments:  Sssssooooooo…Craig Kimbrel is no longer here.  And for the regular season, that could be kind of important.  Machine Gun Joe Kelly is no longer here either.  But despite how well he pitched in the postseason last year, I could care less.  Because the fact of the matter is he still stinks.  Even late season 2017 wunderkind Austin Maddox is no longer here.  I think he’s out the whole 2019 season, but I can’t really find him anywhere.

So this is what we are left with.  Yikes!!  Kimbrel was not good in the postseason last year and can be shaky at times in the regular season.  But he is by far a better option than any of the jamokes on this list.  He is still out there.  I would consider bringing him back.  But that ship has sailed apparently.

Dombrowski has been touting Barnes, Brasier, Thornburg and Wright as potential closing options.  Really?

Barnes is barely an 8th inning guy.  Brasier had like 30 great innings last year, and most of his earlier appearances were low leverage, though he did pitch well enough in the postseason, I will allow.  Thornburg has missed the better part of the last two years with injury.  We’ve already talked about Wright…and he’s no longer an option now anyway.

Not ideal.  And completely uninspiring.

The way the “locks” have been summed up thus far, looks like 11 spots.  Wright was my eleventh initially.  But his suspension allows Workman to get one of the last spots.  Why?  Out of options, velocity supposedly up, blah, blah, blah.  Now who is #12?  Who knows?  Poyner or Velasquez I suppose would be the front runners…or Walden if he keeps doing what he’s doing.  He is becoming Mr. March, I guess?  A DL stint or two could affect things of course.

I can’t believe Carson Smith is back after he got hurt (again) last season by throwing his glove against a wall or something and then blamed Cora for pitching him and/or warming him up too much.  I guess that shows you how much demand there was for him.  That being said, if he ever gets healthy, he could possibly be an asset.  Same goes for Putnam.  But we won’t see them until the summer I would bet, at the earliest.

Lakins got some buzz for a possible call up late last year, but as a #17 prospect, I am not sure we can be too excited.  The fact that Poyner and Brewer are listed in the Top 30 is scary enough.  Gorst isn’t even listed as an “official” prospect, but I put him here because he jumped up three levels last season and pitched fairly well…including 20.1 scoreless innings in his middle stint in AA in Portland.

The last group?  Mejia is interesting enough.  But he hasn’t pitched essentially since 2015 with his own suspensions.  Worth keeping an eye on for now, but that’s about it.  Weems is interesting only because he spent the first 5 plus years of his minor league career as a catcher.  Now is 26 years old, but has only pitched for 3 years.  Many of the rest of the names listed here have some major league experience.  But I don’t think any of us should be excited to see them in a Sox uniform this summer.  They can help the Pawtucket Red Sox all they want though.

Next:  The bats

American League Awards

Major League Baseball will start handing out the hardware for the 2018 season next week.  The Gold Glove awards have already been announced.  Doesn’t seem right that Ian Kinsler won one after that ridiculous throw set the Red Sox up to eventually lose Game Three of the World Series.  Or at least didn’t seal up the win for the Sox.  But since that was the only game of the Series that the Sox lost and it kind of was an epic game to boot, I suppose we can let him enjoy that award as he tries to find another team to employ him in 2019.

The finalists for all the major awards have also been announced.  The Blowhard has his opinions, and the finalists in real life won’t necessarily be the finalists in this “vote”.  We will list out our picks like it was a real ballot.  Meaning, 10 choices for MVP, 5 for Cy Young, etc.  And let’s please remember, the postseason results don’t count.  Real life ballots are finalized once the regular season ends.  This will be important to remember when we look at Manager of the Year (spoiler?!).  Anyway, let’s get on with it:

Most Valuable Player:

  1. Mookie Betts, Boston
  2. J.D. Martinez, Boston
  3. Mike Trout, LA Angels
  4. Alex Bregman, Houston
  5. Jose Ramirez, Cleveland
  6. Francisco Lindor, Cleveland
  7. Khris Davis, Oakland
  8. Blake Snell, Tampa Bay
  9. Justin Verlander, Houston
  10. Blake Treinen, Oakland

Now, it looks like I am a homer here, but how J.D. wasn’t a finalist in real life is beyond me.  Sticking his big bat in the middle of the Red Sox lineup clearly made a colossal difference this year.  They didn’t have that bat there in 2017 after the retirement of David Ortiz at the end of the 2016 season and the whole lineup seemed to suffer.  Ask Betts himself, who had a huge 2016 and 2018 and a subpar 2017.  I’ve been tempted to give Martinez the award, but I can’t overlook Mookie’s defense, nor his superior OPS and general all-around season.  I know, it’s not J.D.’s fault he’s a DH…well, I guess it is since he ain’t that great defensively.  But he WANTED to play more outfield, so I guess there’s that.

There will be at least one person upset that I put Trout third.  Mikey may still yet be the best player in baseball.  But again, for those who don’t remember, I am an advocate for giving the MVP award to the “most valuable” instead of the “best player”.  You will see from the list above that there are no players from bad teams and only one (Trout) from a mediocre team.  I know, these guys are only one of nine on the field at the same time.  And it’s hard to “carry” a baseball team by yourself.  But look at the difference J.D. seemed to make in the Boston lineup and maybe one player can?

Bregman was the best everyday player on a 103 win team this year.  Seems like fourth is a good spot for him.  Especially when considering the rest of his lineup.  Last year’s MVP, Jose Altuve, did not have the same year.  Carlos Correa, George Springer and Marwin Gonzalez’s numbers were way down in 2018 as well.  Ramirez is a finalist in real life.  But he was putrid the last six weeks.  So he’s no better than fifth here.  Almost put him behind Lindor as well.  Davis’ average was subpar, but his other numbers were all pretty damn good.  Think someone from the A’s should be recognized.  After all, it’s only seventh in my vote.

Pitchers round out the Top Ten for me.  As you know, I don’t love pitchers in the MVP vote, unless they are extremely dominant.  But I did not have a good feeling about putting any more hitters in here.  Jed Lowrie?  Nelson Cruz?  Mitch Haniger?  Xander Bogaerts?  Nope, nope, nope and…nope.

Went with Snell eighth.  Wished he threw a few more innings, but he was quite dominant for a surprising Rays team.  Verlander seemed like a good choice next.  More on these two later.  Treinen?  You know my general disdain for relief pitchers.  But his numbers are hard to ignore.  9 wins as a closer too.  That tells me that he wasn’t just coming in for a ninth inning with a three-run lead and an easy save all the time.  He must have entered more than a few tie games.  I could be wrong.  But that’s what it tells me anyway.  Plus we like having two guys named Blake in the mix.

Cy Young:

  1. Justin Verlander, Houston
  2. Blake Snell, Tampa Bay
  3. Corey Kluber, Cleveland
  4. Chris Sale, Boston
  5. Blake Treinen, Oakland

Why Verlander over Snell here, after having the reverse in the MVP race?  Welp, for one, the Cy Young is not intended to be the “Most Valuable Pitcher”.  This award is generally given to the best pitcher, period.  And Verlander made 3 more starts than Snell, pitched 33 1/3 more innings, had 69 more strikeouts and had a better WHIP (.902 vs. .974).  That offset Snell’s ERA advantage (1.89 to 2.52) for me.  Snell was probably more “valuable”, simply because Verlander also had Gerrit Cole, Charlie Morton, Lance McCullers, etc. on his staff to help carry the load while Snell had…Ryan Yarborough?

Kluber was once again a horse for the Indians.  His numbers were also up there all around, though his ERA (2.89) was a full run worse than Snell’s.  So that puts him third.  Sale had this thing wrapped up in July…then pitched like 20 innings the rest of the year.  Unfortunately had to penalize him for that.  We talked about Treinen already.  Again, when there are deserving starters with great numbers, it’s hard to recognize a reliever in this voting.  But again, his numbers can’t be ignored.  Similar to why we had Craig Kimbrel fifth last year.  Have to recognize dominance when it’s out there.

I liked Treinen’s overall game better than Edwin Diaz’ 57 saves, but Diaz would be in the “second five” if we had one.  Cole, Luis Severino, Trevor Bauer and Carlos Carrasco may have been part of that group as well.

Rookie of the Year:

  1. Miguel Andujar, NY Yankees
  2. Gleyber Torres, NY Yankees
  3. Shohei Ohtani, LA Angels

These were the three choices this year, with all due respect to Daniel Palka and his 27 dingers and the aforementioned Yarborough and his 16 wins.  Andujar was the one with the full season and the better overall numbers so he gets the nod for me.  Torres came up like a whirlwind and then cooled as the season went on.  He played about 75% of the games so that gives him second.

Ohtani may have been the most EXCITING rookie…not to mention the one with the most hype in years.  But he simply didn’t play enough.  He DH’d almost exactly half the games (82) on a normal regular season schedule.  And threw up some pretty impressive numbers for that time…including 22 pinch-hitting appearances.  Throw in the 10 games he pitched and you could probably make a case for him to win the award.  And if he did, I wouldn’t argue.  But as much as I hate the Yankees, I can’t penalize those guys for playing more…and also playing important positions in the field.

Manager of the Year:

  1. Kevin Cash, Tampa Bay
  2. Bob Melvin, Oakland
  3. Alex Cora, Boston

I will be the first to admit that I underrated Cora this year.  I thought he was just a “clubhouse” manager.  Meaning, the Sox’ talent won the games and that Cora just had to manage a clubhouse full of egos.  As the year went on, I realized he was more than that.  Then in the postseason, that like we said above, does not count toward this award, he pulled ALL the right strings.  Literally ALL of them.  Starting with the construction of the rosters for each round, down to every in-game decision.

But although he had the 108 wins and gained more appreciation from me (and most assuredly many others) throughout the year, how can anyone not vote for Cash?  The Rays won 90 games.  Think about that for a second.  Sure, they didn’t make the playoffs.  But they were behind two 100 win teams IN THEIR OWN DIVISION.  Look at that roster.  They had Blake Snell and…Wilson Ramos?  Mallex Smith?  Ummmmm…no one really of relevance.  Even a guy that usually is a key piece to their team, Kevin Kiermaier, had a putrid year.  The team traded guys like Chris Archer at the trade deadline, per usual.  And they won 90 friggin’ games.  Plus, don’t overlook the new trend “Cashie” started…the “opener”.  Yarborough won 16 games and only started 6.  Lot’s of second and third inning entrances.  At the beginning of the year, teams and players laughed at Cash for doing this.  By the end, many teams were copying him.  Ask Craig Counsell and the Milwaukee Brewers, who worked some of that all the way to Game 7 of the National League Championship Series.

Melvin gets second for winning 97 games with a team that had loads of power (and strikeouts), good defense a great closer, a good bullpen, yet only one real starter himself (Sean Manaea).  He had to roll Edwin Jackson out there for 17 starts for Chrissakes!  Jackson actually pitched well, but what was this, Jackson’s 20th MLB team?  Being in a division with a 103 win Houston team, as well as a Seattle Mariner team that was right in the mix until late in the year.  Seems to me he earned second for this one.

Next:  The National League

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