No reason to lie:
When you get assigned to vote on a Baseball Writers’ Association of America award in which a New York player factors prominently, you, as a New York-based voter, think harder about it. You don’t want to get accused of cronyism, as has clearly occurred too many times to count in the BBWAA’s history. Nor do you want to lean too hard the other way so that you’re penalizing the New York guy for being local.
Pete Alonso turned this inner debate moot.
By the time the 2019 regular season concluded, the Mets’ freshman first baseman had established himself as such a leader of the pack that this National League Rookie of the Year ballot proved stress-free, as evidenced by his winning the honor while receiving 29 of 30 first-place votes (Braves pitcher Mike Soroka received the other).
Now, that’s not to say I filled out my ballot with zero contemplation on the morning of Tuesday, Oct. 1 and went on with my day. Here’s a peek at my process:
1. Pete Alonso, Mets 1B. To base this solely on the fact that Alonso surpassed Aaron Judge’s single-season home run record wasn’t going to get this done. After all, the entire sport shattered the old record for homers. No, what made Alonso the easy winner was that he led the NL — the entire major leagues, actually — with his 53 round-trippers. Throw in his more than respectable .358 on-base percentage, ensuring we didn’t have a Dave Kingman on our hands, and Alonso prevailed on my ballot. His instant leadership didn’t enter the equation, although it should make the Mets feel awfully good.
2. Mike Soroka, Braves RHP. When folks wonder why starting pitchers belong in the conversations for this honor as well as the Most Valuable Player, here’s the easy response: Alonso tallied 693 plate appearances during the 2019 regular season. Soroka faced 701 batters. Their work schedule was just distributed differently. And Soroka did some terrific work to push Atlanta to its second straight National League East title. He fell short to Alonso, while comparing apples to oranges, in dominance. It’s to Soroka’s credit that he put together a terrific 2.68 ERA while striking out 142 batters in 174 ⅔ innings. Yet that also means he received plenty of help from the fielders behind him.
3. Victor Robles, Nationals OF. This might have been the toughest call of all. Among the other strong candidates were the Padres’ Fernando Tatis Jr., the Pirates’ Bryan Reynolds and the Cardinals’ Tommy Edman. What stood out the most to me for Robles was his 155 games played. That’s old school, and that means that the Nats benefited nearly all of the time from Robles’ outstanding defense in center field, even if he didn’t excel offensively. Hence I went with Robles — and, keep in mind, this was before the Nats’ incredible offseason even began.
This week’s Pop Quiz question came from Gary Mintz of South Huntington: In the 2018 film “BlacKkKlansman,” the lead character Ron Stallworth, who breaks a racial barrier in the Colorado Springs Police Department, is compared to a famous baseball player. Name the player.
Rest in peace to John Delcos, a longtime baseball writer who covered the Orioles for the York (Penn.) Daily Record and then the Yankees and Mets for the Journal News before entering the Mets blogosphere. Deli was unforgettable.
Your Pop Quiz answer is Jackie Robinson (it was an easy one).
If you have a tidbit that connects baseball with popular culture, please send it to me at email@example.com.