By Dan Schlossberg
Now I’m mad.
It’s one thing when my team, the Atlanta Braves, doesn’t win a pennant since 1999 or a world championship since 1995 – or blows a lead of three games to one in its first Championship Series in 10 years.
But this year was different. The Braves, forging a miracle in-season comeback to rival the 1914 Boston Braves, not only won their fourth straight division title by a healthy margin but also rolled over the pitching-rich Milwaukee Braves and Los Angeles Dodgers, followed by the hard-hitting Houston Astros, to win it all.
Whomever put together the list of finalists for 2021 awards apparently wasn’t paying attention.
The three players chosen as potential Most Valuable Players just weren’t that valuable. Fernando Tatis, Jr. faded after a fast start, Bryce Harper went 0-for-the-series when his Phillies faced the Braves in a final-week showdown series, and Juan Soto couldn’t prevent his ballclub from settling near the cellar of the National League East.
At least four Braves were better than that trio. Last year’s MVP, Freddie Freeman, led the league in runs scored. Adam Duvall returned in midseason and wound up with the most runs batted in. Austin Riley and Ozzie Albies ranked right behind Duvall in RBI and added sterling defense in an infield that got more than 25 home runs from each member.
The same problems exist with the National League’s Cy Young Award nominees, other than Max Scherzer. Whatever happened to his cohorts in Los Angeles, Walker Buehler and Julio Urias, the lone 20-game winner in the major leagues?
Like Harper, Wheeler folded when the pressure was greatest – against Atlanta during the final week – and led the league in innings pitched only because the Phillies realized that a weakening Wheeler was better than the best arm in their beleaguered bullpen. He led the NL in strikeouts mainly because he worked the most innings and therefore had the most opportunity.
Corbin Burnes, a control artist, may have led the majors in ERA but teammate Josh Hader, the almost-flawless lefthanded closer, would have been a better choice for the choice award. So would Adam Wainwright or Max Fried, both of whom forged fantastic finishes.
But the main pain in these selections is the NL Manager of the Year category. Mike Shildt? Are you kidding me? The Cardinals liked him so much he got fired before the World Series ended. So what if his team won 17 games in a row? It occupied a weak division and barely squeaked into the wild-card game, which it lost.
Nor is Craig Counsell award-worthy. MLB.com notes that his team won its fourth straight division title. As Archie Bunker would say, “Whoop-tee-do!” Brian Snitker’s Braves also won their fourth straight and had to overcome more major injuries than any team in baseball.
No argument with Gabe Kapler, though his Giants wouldn’t have outlasted the Dodgers without Kris Bryant’s arrival in a deadline day trade.
At least the American League picks were more reasonable, and it was good to see Seattle’s Scott Servais, who performed a great service to Seattle, as one of three finalists for Manager of the Year.
No quarrel with the trio of MVP picks either, though Marcus Semien doesn’t have a prayer against two-way star Shohei Ohtani or Toronto wunderkind Vladimir Guerrero, Jr.
Dan Schlossberg of Fair Lawn, NJ is a baseball writer, columnist, author, and speaker who has written 38 books on the game. His e.mail is email@example.com.