This Great Game Comebacker

The Month That Was in Baseball: November 2022

Houston Wins it All, Honestly    Awards Season—Who’s the Best From 2022?
What Have You Done Now, Yasiel Puig?

October 2022    Comebacker Index 


Tuesday, November 1

The Phillies ride a World Series record-tying five home runs—all within the first five innings, all off Houston starter Lance McCullers Jr.—and coast to a 7-0, Game Three win over the Astros at Philadelphia to take a 2-1 series lead. Bryce Harper opens the long-distance rampage with a two-run homer in the first, his sixth of the postseason; after returning to the dugout, he summons over Alec Bohm, in the on-deck circle, and tells him something about the way McCullers is throwing. (Some on social media believe that McCullers is tipping his pitches.) When Bohm leads off the next inning, he makes it 3-0 with a solo shot; a few batters later, Brandon Marsh pushes it to 4-0 with a solo homer of his own. The Phillies complete the scoring in the fifth with back-to-back homers: A 443-foot blast to center from Kyle Schwarber, followed by Rhys Hoskins for his sixth postseason round-tripper to match Harper. The Astros, meanwhile, can’t make anything happen offensively, shut down on five singles by Ranger Suarez (five innings) and four relievers who each throw a frame.

Three other teams have hit five homers in a World Series game: The Yankees in Game Four, 1928; the A’s in Game Three, 1989; and the Astros in an extra-inning Game Five, 2017. The Phillies are the first team to hit three of their clouts within the first two innings; Bohm’s shot is the 1,000th in World Series history; and McCullers is the first pitcher to allow five homers in any postseason game. 

Bohm, when asked by Fox dugout reporter Ken Rosenthal what Harper told him, smiles and responds, “That’s between us.”

The 2022 Gold Gloves for defensive excellence are announced, with a record 14 first-time recipients, including three rookies. Apart from the awards to all nine fielding positions, MLB hands out, for the first time, a “utility player” Glove, with honors going to the New York Yankees’ DJ LeMahieu (who split his time defensively at first, second and third base), and St. Louis rookie Brendan Donovan, who played every position except center field, catcher and pitcher. Other rookies receiving honors are Cleveland outfielder Steven Kwan and Houston shortstop Jeremy Pena. Among the vets, Cardinals third baseman Nolan Arenado wins for the 10th time in 10 seasons at third base, while Los Angeles Dodgers outfielder Mookie Betts collects his sixth Glove. Cleveland has the most recipients with four: Pitcher Shane Bieber, outfielders Kwan and Myles Straw, and second baseman Andres Gimenez.

Wednesday, November 2

It’s the second no-hitter thrown in World Series history—and of course, in this day and age, it takes multiple pitchers, as the Astros’ Cristian Javier and three relievers nullify Philadelphia bats all night in a 5-0, Game Four road win, tying the series up at two games apiece. Javier is simply magnificent over six no-hit innings, striking out nine on 97 pitches; the only two Phillies to reach against him come via a walk. He’s the second pitcher to finish a World Series start of six or more innings with no hits allowed; the other, obviously, is Don Larsen, who threw a perfect game for the Yankees against Brooklyn in 1956.

The Astros get all five of their runs in the fifth inning, as three singles to start the frame knocks Phillies starter Aaron Nola out of the game; the first pitch thrown by his successor, Jose Alvarado, plunks Yordan Alvarez in the back to force home the first run, opening the floodgates for the big rally.

This is the second combined no-hit effort by the Astros’ pitching staff this season. They also ganged up to hold the Yankees hitless on June 25 at New York; Javier started that game as well (throwing seven no-hit innings) while Ryan Pressly closed it—as he does here in Game Four. It’s the first time that a team has thrown two combo no-nos in a season (whether it be regular or post); conversely, the Phillies are the first team to lose multiple no-hitters tossed by multiple pitchers in the same year, having suffered a similar loss to the New York Mets on April 29.

Javier’s start is the sixth straight, stretching back to mid-September, in which he’s gone at least five innings allowing no runs and no more than two hits. No other pitcher ever has managed to do that in more than three straight starts.

This is the first loss for the Phillies at Citizens Bank Park this postseason, after a 6-0 start. They averaged seven runs per game in those home games before Javier took the mound. They’re also the first team ever (regular season or post) to get no-hit after swatting five home runs the previous game.

Thursday, November 3

Justin Verlander sheds a king-sized monkey off his back with a lot of help from his friends, as the Astros trim the Phillies, 3-2, in World Series Game Five at Philadelphia to take a three games-to-two lead back to Houston. Now they just hope that history doesn’t repeat itself. Though he’s not at his sharpest, Verlander manages to get through five innings allowing just one run—on Kyle Schwarber’s second-inning homer—while walking four and throwing 94 total pitches. He leaves with a slim lead thanks to rookie shortstop Jeremy Pena, who singles in Jose Altuve in the first inning and punches out a solo homer in the fourth. For Verlander, it’s his first World Series win in nine starts; no other pitcher had been given as many Fall Classic assignments without picking up a victory.

The Astros have to sweat out the final four innings following Verlander’s departure. After the Astros pick up an insurance run in the top of the eighth to make it 3-1, the Phillies respond with a run of their own—and have runners at first and third with two outs when Schwarber reappears and bounces a sharp grounder right down the first-base line. Trey Mancini, 0-for-18 in the postseason and playing first base for the first time in a month after Yuli Gurriel left the game injuring himself in a seventh-inning rundown, makes a difficult snag of the ball right over the base and ends the threat. But certainly the biggest defensive gem of the night—and perhaps the entire series—comes in the bottom of the ninth as J.T. Realmuto crushes a drive to right-center that Houston center fielder Chas McCormick chases down, leaps high and somehow gets the grab against the cyclone fence. The Phillies do not score in the final frame against closer Ryan Pressly—who earns a five-out save—and the Astros escape with a hard-fought victory.

The optics clearly suggest that the Astros are in the driver’s seat, with two home games to win one. But they’ve been in this spot before; in 2019, they headed back to Minute Maid Park with a 3-2 series lead over Washington. They lost both the sixth and seventh games to the Nationals.

Before leaving the game after wrenching his knee and getting kneed in the head while trying to avoid a tag in a rundown, Gurriel strikes out in his second at-bat of the game—his first strikeout after 48 at-bats to start the postseason. That’s the fourth longest such streak, tied with…Gurriel, in 2019. Number one on the list remains the property of Joey Cora, who started the 1995 postseason with 51 K-less at-bats for Seattle.

The White Sox announce the appointment of former Kansas City coach Pedro Grifol as their new manager. The 53-year-old Grifol has been coaching for the Royals in various capacities since 2013; he never played in the majors, spending the bulk of the 1990s as a minor league catcher. Grifol will take over a White Sox team with strong talent, but also one which buckled under the weight of injuries and poor defense this past season.

Saturday, November 5

The Houston Astros are champions of baseball, winning it for the second time in franchise history—and the first time legitimately, so bark the many critics of 2017—with a 4-1 home win over the Phillies in Game Six. It’s the first time since 2013 that the winning team has been able to celebrate the final out in front of its own home fans.

For the first five innings, the Astros’ Framber Valdez and Phillies’ Zack Wheeler trade zeros and, to people acquainted with the game for years, it looks like a good pitching duel is in play. But this is not your father’s MLB of perhaps even 10 years ago. Valdez is the first to crack, serving up a leadoff solo home run in the sixth to Kyle Schwarber. Otherwise, Valdez gets through the frame and is asked to retire for the night, having allowed just the one run on two hits and two walks.

Wheeler, meanwhile, gets into his own small jam in the bottom of the sixth. He first hits Martin Maldonado—who’s all but standing over the plate and asking to be plunked—and then with one out concedes a single to Jeremy Pena, placing runners at first and third with one out and Houston boomer Yordan Alvarez next to bat. Phillies manager Ron Thomson, erring on the side of analytics, senses a crack in Wheeler’s armor and removes him for Jose Alvarado—who, in Game Four, was also tasked with retiring Alvarez upon entering a bases-loaded situation and, with his very first pitch, hit him to yield the first of five Astros runs. Thomson is betting that Alvarado will get the better of Alvarez this time around; he bets wrong. Alvarez smashes a 450-foot monster over the center-field wall to turn the 1-0 Phillies lead into a 3-1 deficit. Philadelphia will never overcome it; Houston adds one more run in the inning, and three Astros relievers pitch a shutout inning each to finish off the series clincher.

While the haters will hate on the Astros, there’s almost no vitriol aimed toward Houston manager Dusty Baker, who finally sheds all those unfriendly postseason ghosts of previous years—of the Angels in 2002, Steve Bartman in 2003, Buster Posey in 2012, the Dodgers in 2016, the Cubs 2017—and wins his first World Series as pilot. (Baker had previously been part of a championship team in 1981, as a player for the Dodgers.) At age 73, he’s the oldest manager to win it all, surpassing Jack McKeon (72 for the Florida Marlins in 2003).

The removal of Wheeler is eerily similar to another Game Six, just two years ago—when Tampa Bay manager Kevin Cash pulled Rays starter Blake Snell, also humming along with one out in the sixth. Then as now, the move failed. After the game, Wheeler waxes surprise at being taken out, lamenting that the move “caught me off guard a little bit.”

With his critical failures to retire Alvarez, Alvarado will likely go down as the goat of the series. The 98.9-MPH pitch he throws to Alvarez in Game Six is the fastest that the Houston slugger has ever hit for a home run.

The Series MVP goes to Houston rookie shortstop Jeremy Pena, who’s 10-for-25 against the Phillies with two doubles and a home run. He’s the third rookie to win the MVP, joining the Dodgers’ Larry Sherry (1959) and Marlins’ Livan Hernandez (1997). It caps a wonderful first year for Pena, who also took the ALCS MVP and captured a Gold Glove at shortstop during the regular season. It is assumed he will lose out the AL Rookie of the Year vote to Seattle’s Julio Rodriguez, as votes were tabulated before the start of the postseason.

For all the hitting theatrics of Alvarez (three go-ahead homers) and Valdez (3-0, 1.44 in four starts), the real postseason stars for the Astros are the relievers. In 54.1 playoff innings, the bullpen authors a terrific 0.83 ERA, 0.75 WHIP, no blown saves and a .126 opposing batting average.

The entire Houston pitching staff strikes out a World Series-record 71 Phillies.

The Phillies outhomer the Astros, 8-5, but hit only .163. If it’s any consolation, they’re the first team ever to feature three players with at least six home runs in a single postseason: Schwarber, Rhys Hoskins and Bryce Harper.

The clinching game is the latest ever by date in MLB history.

Final word, courtesy of The Athletic’s Jayson Stark: “(The Astros) never stop being the Team People Love to Hate. About only five players remain from 2017. They’ve changed managers and GMs. And baseball changed the rules because of them. So face it, America. The Houston Astros are one of the great teams of modern times.”

Sunday, November 6

Fans who loved Timmy Trumpet’s playing of Narco to introduce New York Mets closer Edwin Diaz to the Citi Field mound will get to live the experience for up to another five years. The All-Star pitcher returns to the Mets for five years and $102 million, the richest contract ever given to a closer. The 28-year-old Diaz has had an up-and-down career, thriving in even-numbered years will struggling in odd-numbered ones; this past season, he saved 32 games with a wicked 1.31 ERA and 118 strikeouts over just 62 innings—a rate of 17.1 per nine innings. The deal once again confirms that fat-pockets Mets owner Steve Cohen is neither afraid nor concerned about raising his team payroll, which was already MLB’s highest in 2022.

Speaking of fat pockets, Houston’s Mattress Man is happier—and richer—following the Astros’ World Series triumph. Jim McIngvale, who bet big money on the Astros to win it all in past years—and frequently lost, given that the team has failed in its last two attempts to take the Fall Classic—wagered $10 million at the start of the postseason, when Houston’s odds to win it all was 7.5-1. He thus will receive $75 million, a payout that’s said to be the largest in sports betting history. The Astros’ World Series triumph is a sweet conclusion to the week for McIngvale, who attended the three games at Philadelphia and got into a profane shouting match with Phillies fans in the concourses at Citizens Bank Park before being separated by security.

Monday, November 7

The 2022-23 free agent landscape begins to take shape with numerous players opting out of current contracts while others have options either picked up or declined by their existing teams…or by themselves. Chronically hurt ace Jacob deGrom says adios to his current deal with the Mets, balking on $32.5 million for 2023 in favor of what he hopes will be a more lucrative multi-year deal. One might think that given deGrom’s wobbly health of recent years, he would be fool to opt out—but perhaps a multi-year deal would net him more money in the long term while he retains his reputation for excellence on the mound—when healthy.

Others opting out include shortstop Xander Bogaerts, who forgoes three years and $60 million left on his deal with Boston, where he’s spent the last 10 seasons; pitcher Carlos Rodon, who leaves San Francisco after just one year following a 14-8 record, 2.88 ERA and 237 K’s with the Giants; and first baseman Anthony Rizzo, who believes he can get more on the free agent market than the one year and $16 million left on his deal with the Yankees.

Second baseman Jean Segura had a strong postseason, but apparently it wasn’t enough to convince the Phillies to pick up a $17 million team option on him for 2023. The Chicago White Sox, meantime, say yes to keeping shortstop Tim Anderson for $12.5 million.

The top three finalists for each of the four major postseason awards are named, with few surprises. Aaron Judge, Yordan Alvarez and Shohei Ohtani are listed for the AL MVP; Paul Goldschmidt, Nolan Arenado and Manny Machado are the three left standing in the NL MVP race. For CY Young honors, the AL lists Justin Verlander, Alek Manoah and Dylan Cease, while the NL finalists consist of Sandy Alcantara, Max Fried and Julio Urias. For Rookie of the Year, it’s Steven Kwan, Julio Rodriguez and Adley Rutschman for the AL, while Michael Harris II, Spencer Strider and Brendan Donovan get NL attention. Finally, the Manager of the Year finalists include Cleveland’s Terry Francona, Baltimore’s Brandon Hyde and Seattle’s Scott Servais in the AL, and the Dodgers’ Dave Roberts, Atlanta’s Brian Snitker and the Mets’ Buck Showalter in the NL.

Among the more surprising omissions are the Dodgers’ Freddie Freeman (NL MVP), Kansas City’s Bobby Witt Jr. (AL Rookie of the Year), and 21-game winner Kyle Wright (NL Cy).

Denied entrance into the Hall of Fame in the general vote, three steroid-tainted stars will get a second chance to be enshrined through the Contemporary Era Committee, looking at players who performed primarily from 1980 on. Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens and Rafael Palmeiro—all of whom would have been shoo-in’s on the general vote had they not been accused of, admitted to or tested positive for steroids—are on the ballot; additionally, Curt Schilling, Fred McGriff, Dale Murphy, Don Mattingly and Albert Belle are included. The vote takes place on December 4; the group doing the voting has yet to be named.

The world champion Astros enjoy their second parade in their last six seasons in downtown Houston, riding floats in front of a crowd estimated at a million people. Everyone is good natured, except when they see Texas U.S. Senator Ted Cruz atop one of the floats; not only is he constantly targeted with boos, but also a can of beer. Police arrested the assailant.

Tuesday, November 8

The general thought on Dusty Baker was that he would happily retire after the Astros’ World Series triumph, with nothing major left to accomplish at age 73. But Baker’s thought instead seems to be, ‘why win one World Series when you can hang to win a second?’ The Astros certainly are fine with him returning, offering him a one-year deal for 2023. Baker will likely pass Joe McCarthy and Bucky Harris—and, if the Astros win another 100-plus games, Sparky Anderson—to move into the #6 spot on the all-time managerial win list.

FYI: Of the 11 top managers currently on the career victory list, only Baker—currently at #9—is not in the Hall of Fame.

The Milwaukee Brewers decide to activate the $10 million team option for 2023 on second baseman Kolten Wong, who batted .251 with 15 homers and 17 steals this past season. Meanwhile, two other players refuse to say yes to 2023 options they control: Pitcher Chris Bassitt (15-9, 3.42 ERA for the Mets in 2022) and outfielder AJ Pollock (.245 average, 14 homers and 56 RBIs for the White Sox).

Wednesday, November 9

Jake Odorizzi is on the move again. The veteran pitcher is traded from Atlanta to Texas for reliever Kolby Allard, who returns to the organization that selected him in the first round of the 2015 draft. This will be Odorizzi’s fourth team since 2020, having previously worn the uniform of Minnesota, Houston and Atlanta; this past season, he was 6-6 with a 4.40 ERA in 22 starts split between the Astros and Braves.

The Astros, meanwhile, allow outfielder Trey Mancini to be a free agent after declining his $10 million option for 2023. The 30-year-old outfielder and cancer survivor was dealt in July to Houston from Baltimore, where he was popular among Orioles fans; he struggled with the Astros, batting .176 with eight homers over 51 games before going 1-for-21 during the postseason.

Thursday, November 10

Fourteen potential free agents receive qualifying offers from their incumbent teams, last-chance hopes to retain those players for another year. The offer is a record-high $19.65 million; players given the offer include those who are not likely to accept (Aaron Judge, Jacob deGrom, Trea Turner, Xander Bogaerts) and those who might think about it (Nathan Eovaldi, Joc Pederson, Martin Perez and Tyler Anderson).

Justin Verlander headlines a busy day of continued transactions, mostly those of the team/player option type. The Astros ace, soon to be bestowed with his third AL Cy Young Award, refuses to enact his $25 million player option for 2023, making him a free agent. Teams will need to weigh how much gas Verlander has left in the tank—he turns 40 next February—against just how excellent he’s been over the last five-plus years with Houston (61-19, 1.75 ERA).

Others declined club options for 2023 include third baseman Justin Turner, denied a $16 million salary by the Dodgers; oft-injured San Francisco third baseman Evan Longoria ($14 million); Milwaukee reliever Brad Boxberger ($3 million); and Gold Glove outfielder Kevin Kiermaier, who was set to receive $13 million from the Rays. The Mets do say yes to pitcher Carlos Carrasco, who will return to New York next season for $14 million.

Reliever Robert Suarez, who just a few days earlier opted out of an $5 million contract with San Diego for 2023, comes back to the Padres for five years and $46 million. The new deal includes another opt-out after 2025. As a 31-year-old rookie in 2022 after years in both the minors and Japan, Suarez was 5-1 for the Padres with a sharp 2.27 ERA.

Tampa Bay sends first baseman Ji-Man Choi to the Pittsburgh Pirates in exchange for minor league pitcher Sam Hartman. The 31-year-old Choi batted .233 in 113 games for the Rays this past season, collecting 22 doubles, 11 home runs and 52 RBIs.

Friday, November 11

Dusty Baker was given a one-year deal to stay in Houston for 2023—and because he’s 73 and accomplished pretty much all he needs to accomplish, that’s fine for him. But that’s not so fine for Astros general manager James Click, also offered the same one-year deal though he’s 44 and would like to stick around a little longer. Click refuses to take the one, so the Astros are giving him none. GMs typically don’t get the shaft after winning the World Series, but these are the Astros, where it seems there’s never a dull moment off the field. (We can relate; we were harassed by security in 2019 for taking pictures of their ballpark.) But tensions reportedly were rising between Click and owner Jim Crane, who was said to be making more player-related decisions. So Crane, in an attempt to make himself look good, offers Click a deal he know won’t be accepted.

This is the first time a top front-office exec has left (or was fired from) a World Series-winning team since Larry MacPhail departed the Yankees in 1947.

Also dismissed by the Astros is assistant GM Scott Powers, who was hired by Click.

Another ex-GM, Jon Daniels, has signed on with Tampa Bay as a senior advisor for baseball operations. Daniels was named the Texas GM in 2005, and oversaw the franchise’s first two (and still only two) AL pennants in 2010-11.

Saturday, November 12

Scratch one free-agent reliever off this winter’s list, as Rafael Montero is returning to Houston on a three-year deal worth $34 .5 million. The 32-year-old right-hander easily had his best season in 2022, saving 14 games and posting a 2.37 ERA over 71 appearances.

Monday, November 14

Seattle’s Julio Rodriguez and Atlanta’s Michael Harris II are given Rookie of the Year honors for, respectively, the AL and NL. The flashy Rodriguez earns 29 of 30 first-place AL votes, with Baltimore catcher Adley Rutschman nabbing the other; Cleveland outfielder Steven Kwan finishes third. In the NL vote, Harris manages 22 first-place votes, with teammate pitcher Spencer Strider picking up the other eight. The Cardinals’ Brendan Donovan places third.

Rodriguez is the fifth Mariners rookie to win the award, and the first since Kyle Lewis two years ago. Harris is the ninth Braves player to be honored, with Ronald Acuna Jr. last receiving the award in 2018.

Yasiel Puig is back in the news…unfortunately. The former MLB slugger pleads guilty for lying to Federal investigators regarding his role in an illegal sports betting operation. According to a statement from the U.S. Department of Justice, Puig in 2019 began placing bets through a “third-party” source and racked up nearly $300,000 in debts. It was not revealed whether Puig bet on baseball games (he split his 2019 campaign between Cincinnati and Cleveland), though it was mentioned that after paying off his debts, he bet on tennis, football and basketball games. Puig has not been in the majors since; he played this past season in South Korea. When interviewed by investigators in January, Puig was warned that lying to federal agents is a crime. He lied anyway. If convicted, he faces a maximum prison sentence of five years.

Two weeks later, Puig will change his mind and declare himself not guilty, citing “significant new evidence” related to his interview—held without his attorney or an interpreter—with the Feds.  

Kim Ng isn’t the only woman heading the Miami Marlins’ front office. Caroline O’Connor, who has served as the team’s Chief Operating Officer since 2019, has been promoted to President of Business Operations. The move thus makes the Marlins the first major North American sports franchise to have women serving the posts of both president and general manager.

Tuesday, November 15

Two veteran managers add to their trophy shelves as this year’s Manager of the Year awards are announced. The Mets’ Buck Showalter wins a tight vote for NL honors, with the Dodgers’ Dave Roberts and Braves’ Brian Snitker placing second and third, respectively. In fact, five different pilots get multiple first-place nods: Showalter and Roberts each get eight, Snitker gets seven, the Cardinals’ Oliver Marmol nets five, and the Phillies’ Rob Thomson earns two. Helping to propel Showalter ahead of the others in the vote is that his name gets checked on 25 of the 30 ballots, while no one else gets more than 17 mentions.

This is the fourth time Showalter has been honored, joining Tony La Russa and Bobby Cox for the most awards since it was established in 1983; he is the only of the three to win the award for four different teams, having also earned it with the 1994 Yankees, 2004 Rangers and 2014 Orioles. He’s the first Mets skipper ever to win the award.

On the AL side, Cleveland’s Terry Francona gets his third managerial honor after leading the Guardians to the AL Central title. He previously won it with Cleveland in 2013 and 2016. Though Francona easily garners the most first-place votes with 17, four writers leave him completely off the ballot.

The deadline for 14 pending free agents given the $19.65 million qualifying offer for 2023 from their incumbent teams passes with two of them accepting. San Francisco outfielder Joc Pederson and Texas pitcher Martin Perez take the money and stay for another year, while the other 12 offerees—Aaron Judge, Jacob deGrom, Trea Turner and Xander Bogaerts among them—will test the market. Both Pederson and Perez made the All-Star roster this past year; Pederson batted a career-high .274 with 23 home runs and 70 RBIs over 384 at-bats while Perez, back with the Rangers after three years performing for other ballclubs, enjoyed his finest season yet with a 12-8 record and 2.89 ERA.

Free agent first baseman Anthony Rizzo will also not need to switch addresses this winter, as he re-ups with the Yankees for two years and $40 million. The 12-year veteran, who just eight days earlier opted out of current deal with New York, tied a career mark (previously notched three times) with 32 homers, to go with 75 RBIs and a subpar .224 average. Rizzo remains the majors’ active career leader in getting plunked, with 201 HBPs.

One player who says no to the qualifying offer doesn’t waste any time hooking on elsewhere. Pitcher Tyler Anderson, who came into the season with a career 29-38 record and 4.62 ERA over six years and ended it with a terrific 15-5 mark and 2.57 ERA for the Dodgers, moves down the freeway and inks with the Angels for three seasons and a reported $39 million. The Angels are sorely looking for a more stable rotation beyond All-Star ace/slugger Shohei Ohtani.

Wednesday, November 16

Miami’s Sandy Alcantara and Houston’s Justin Verlander are unanimous winners of this year’s Cy Young Awards, making them the first pair of pitchers since 1968 to get all 30 first-place votes—which, at least for Alcantara, is somewhat surprising given the tight competition in the NL. Alcantara is the first pitcher in the 30-year history of the Marlins to receive a Cy—leaving the Texas Rangers and Colorado Rockies as the only two teams never to be represented. He’s also the first NL winner to so unanimously since Clayton Kershaw in 2014. Atlanta’s Max Fried is second in the vote, followed closely by the Dodgers’ Julio Urias. Kyle Wright, the only 20-game winner in the majors this past season, finishes 10th in the voting with only a fourth- and fifth-place acknowledgment.

For Verlander, who just declared free agency after five-plus years with Houston, this is his third Cy—having previous won it for the 2011 Tigers and 2019 Astros. Only four other pitchers have won more: Roger Clemens (six times), Randy Johnson (five) and Steve Carlton/Greg Maddux (four each). The White Sox’ Dylan Cease places second in the vote, followed closely by Toronto’s Alek Manoah (third) and the Angels’ Shohei Ohtani (fourth), who at the plate homered against the three guys ahead of him in this vote.

The Seattle Mariners are making it clear that they intend to knock the world champion Astros out of first place next year in the AL West. They send reliever Erik Swanson (57 appearances, 1.68 ERA in 2022) and minor leaguer Adam Macko to Toronto for outfielder Teoscar Hernandez, who’s averaged 29 homers and 97 RBIs over each of the past two seasons. On paper, the trade looks a bit one-sided, but Hernandez has only one year left on his current contract and is due to be a free agent after next season—thus the optics show the Mariners in win-now mode.

Thursday, November 17

Did dual-role sensation Shohei Ohtani impress AL MVP voters enough in 2022 that he could out-point Aaron Judge—he of the .311 batting average, AL-record 62 home runs and league-leading 131 RBIs? The short answer: No. The free-agent slugger who eclipsed Roger Maris playing for the Yankees this past year is a first-time MVP winner, easily outdistancing Ohtani in the point count, 410-280. He gets 28 of 30 first-placed nods from the writers; the other two go to Ohtani, thanks to the two Angels beat writers representing the Baseball Writers’ Association of America. Judge is the 13th Yankee to win AL MVP honors, the first since Alex Rodriguez in 2007, and the 12th American Leaguer to win both Rookie of the Year and MVP; for what it’s worth, he’s also the tallest MVP (6’7”) in major league history.

No other player gets anything higher than a third-place vote; the Astros’ Yordan Alvarez takes third place (232 points), the Guardians’ Jose Ramirez is fourth (186) and the Astros’ Jose Altuve fifth, just one point ahead of Cleveland’s Andres Gimenez, with a surprise sixth-place position. Seattle’s Julio Rodriguez, just named the AL Rookie of the Year, is seventh; AL Cy Young Award winner Justin Verlander finishes 10th.

The NL MVP contains less suspense but nevertheless ends up tighter. After finishing runner-up twice (in 2013 and 2015), the Cardinals’ Paul Goldschmidt finally gets a well-earned MVP, gaining 22 first-place votes and an 89-point advantage over second-place Manny Machado, the San Diego third baseman who gets seven first-place checks. Goldschmidt teammate Nolan Arenado finishes third and gets the other first-place mention. The Dodgers’ Freddie Freeman is a very close fourth place, 12 points behind Arenado. Like Verlander in the AL, NL Cy winner Sandy Alcantara places 10th in the vote.

It’s the 18th time that a Cardinals player has won the MVP, the most among all NL teams.

Perhaps the most unusual ballot is turned in by veteran writer Tracy Ringolsby, who follows the Rockies. He picks Dodgers pitcher Julio Urias third, which doesn’t seem all too unusual except that not one of the other 29 writers place Urias anywhere on the ballot; Ringolsby also gives Colorado closer Daniel Bard his only mention in the vote, with a ninth-place nod.

The majors’ newest ballpark is given hosting duties for the 2024 All-Star Game. Globe Life Field, which opened in 2020, will give Arlington, Texas its first All-Star experience since 1995 when the Rangers’ former ballpark, Globe Life Park across the street, hosted the event. Seattle will host the 2023 Midsummer Classic and Philadelphia will host in 2026, celebrating America’s 250th birthday; a site for the 2025 game has yet to be determined.

For the second straight day, the Mariners wheel and deal as they send 2020 AL Rookie of the Year Kyle Lewis to Arizona in exchange for catcher/outfielder Cooper Hummel. Lewis has struggled to return to rookie form with three knee operations and a concussion getting in the way; Hummel batted just .176 with three homers over 66 games in 2022, his first season in the majors.

Friday, November 18

Anyone interested in a down-on-his-luck former MVP will be intrigued to know that Cody Bellinger is available after being released by the Dodgers on this, MLB’s non-tender deadline day. Just three years ago, the exciting outfielder was the NL’s top player—copping the league MVP award with a .305 average, 47 home runs and 115 RBIs. That, on top of a then-NL rookie-record 39 homers in 2017. But that was then; this is now. Bellinger has horribly struggled over the past two seasons, batting an atrocious .168 in 2021 followed by a .210 mark this past season, while the power isn’t anywhere what it used to be. He’s remained a standout player defensively, but glovework alone isn’t enough to convince the Dodgers to want to pay him the roughly $15-20 million likely owed to him next year via arbitration.

Also released and thrown into the hot stove fire are 2020 home run champ Luke Voit, let go by Washington; veteran Tampa Bay reliever Ryan Yarbrough; Miami third baseman Brian Anderson; all-glove, no-hit White Sox outfielder Adam Engel; breakout 2020 Mets star and (since) injury-prone bust Dominic Smith; injury-plagued Cardinals reliever Alex Reyes; up-and-down Detroit infielder Jeimer Candelario; Toronto outfielder Raimel Tapia; and Washington pitcher Erick Fedde. 

Gio Urshela is one and done in Minnesota, as the Twins trade the 31-year-old third baseman to the Angels in exchange for a minor leaguer. It’s not known where Urshela, who batted .287 with 13 home runs and 64 RBIs this past season, will fit in at Anaheim, as injury-plagued Anthony Rendon remains #1 on the depth chart at third base; it’s possible that Urshela could see time at shortstop, a weak point for the Angels in 2022.

Monday, November 21

The official ballot for the upcoming Hall of Fame vote is released with 14 first-time names­—neither of whom will likely get the 75% needed for enshrinement, whether it be this year of ever. Among the newbies are Carlos Beltran, Matt Cain, R.A. Dickey, John Lackey, Francisco Rodriguez and Jered Weaver. Among those remaining on the ballot from years past include Alex Rodriguez, Gary Sheffield, Omar Vizquel, Andruw Jones, Mark Buerhele, Scott Rolen, Todd Helton, Andy Pettitte, Manny Ramirez, Billy Wagner and, on his 10th and final ballot, Jeff Kent. The results will be announced in January.

Cool news in the world of college baseball: The roster for the Brown University team will include a freshman by the name of Olivia Pichardo, the first woman to participate in Division I baseball. Raised in Queens, Pichardo is listed as a utility player, though she can also pitch, with velocities over 80 MPH.

Tuesday, November 22

Two future Hall of Famers add Comeback Player of the Year honors to their awards collection. Albert Pujols, who enjoyed a sensational second half of the 2022 season after his career tank appeared empty at age 42, gets the NL award; overall, he belted .270 with 24 home runs—the most since he hit 31 for the 2016 Angels. On the AL side, Justin Verlander becomes the Astros’ first Comeback recipient, thanks to his Cy Young Award-winning.

The Angels continue to deal, taking outfielder Hunter Renfroe from Milwaukee for three pitchers, two of them (Janson Junk and Elvis Peguero) with scant major league experience. The 30-year-old Renfroe has been a steady power contributor over the last six years, averaging 30 homers per full season—though a career .790 OPS reflects less diversity in his offensive game.

Wednesday, November 23

The Phillies will have to start the defense of their 2022 NL pennant without Bryce Harper, who undergoes Tommy John surgery and is expected to miss the first half of next season. Harper tore a muscle in his elbow this past April and, while he couldn’t play defense, he could still hit as a DH; in 99 games played, he batted .286 with 18 homers and 65 RBIs, adding six more jacks in the postseason. Even when he returns to action next year, he’ll likely continue to bat as the DH, with no return to the outfield expected until late next season.

Members of the world champion Astros are getting $516,347 in full postseason shares, an MLB record—topping the previous mark of $438,902 set in 2017 when the Astros worked (and yes, cheated) their way to their first World Series title. For their efforts, the Fall Classic runners-up Phillies will receive $296,255 as a full share, and it doesn’t end there; the other 10 teams who participated in the postseason get a piece of the pie as well, from $8,387 per share for the Tampa Bay Rays to $152,709 for the San Diego Padres.

Friday, November 25

The Pirates add another first baseman to their roster, signing veteran Carlos Santana to a one-year deal worth $6.7 million. The 36-year-old Santana had an up-and-down year split between Kansas City and Seattle in 2022, gathering his usual abundance of walks (71) and home runs (19), all while only batting .202. The Pirates’ recent acquisition of Ji-Man Choi makes it appear there’s too many names on the team’s first-base depth chart, but Santana will likely see significant action from the DH spot in 2023.

Sunday, November 27

Pitcher Mike Clevinger, still trying to find his old self after Tommy John surgery, has signed with the White Sox per an ESPN report. The 31-year-old right-hander, who was 38-18 with a 2.96 ERA for Cleveland from 2017-19, was traded to San Diego midway through the pandemic-shortened 2020 season, underwent Tommy John surgery and missed all of the 2021 campaign; this past season with the Padres, he was 7-7 with a 4.33 ERA.

Monday, November 28

Jose Abreu’s tenure with the White Sox has officially come to an end as the free-agent first baseman signs a three-year deal for $58.5 million with the world champion Astros. The Cuban-born slugger, who turns 36 next January, leaves quite a mark in Chicago; only Frank Thomas and Paul Konerko have hit more home runs in White Sox history, also ranking fifth in RBIs, sixth in doubles and 10th in both hits and runs scored. On our list of the White Sox’ 10 greatest hitters, Abreu currently checks in at #5. Abreu batted .304 this past year with Chicago and racked up 40 doubles, but set career lows for a full season with 15 homers and 75 RBIs. He is expected to take over the first-base job at Houston last held by Yuli Gurriel, currently a free agent himself; the Astros hope to re-sign the 38-year old as a utility player, though it remains to be seen if Gurriel would want such a role.

On December 5, the Hall of Fame will once again consider whether confirmed or accused steroid abusers Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens and Rafael Palmeiro will be admitted in, this time via the “Contemporary Era” panel that’s a current subset of the old Veterans Committee. And who will be on that committee to decide these players’ fates—along with those of Albert Belle, Don Mattingly, Fred McGriff, Dale Murphy and Curt Schilling? We got the list for you. It includes seven current Hall of Famers: Chipper Jones, Greg Maddux, Jack Morris, Ryne Sandberg, Lee Smith, Frank Thomas and Alan Trammell. Six additional members are former or current executives: Paul Beeston, Theo Epstein, Arte Moreno, Kim Ng, Dave St. Peter and Ken Williams. Finally, there are three media members: Susan Slusser, La Velle E. Neal III, and Steve Hirdt. Any candidate getting 12 nods from these 16 members is in the door at Cooperstown; anyone who doesn’t will have to wait another three years, when the Contemporary Committee will next vote.

Tuesday, November 29

The players’ union has gone through some rough patches over the last 10 years, but they seem to be okay with its executive director, former Detroit slugger Tony Clark—giving him an extension to continue his role through 2027. While it’s been said that the union has lost some of its edge under Clark’s reign, he did score a big victory for professional players overall by giving union backing to minor league players this past year. Clark’s extension will also likely mean that he’ll be leading the negotiation process when the current Basic Agreement expires following the 2026 season.

Third baseman Jeimer Candelario, released by the Tigers a few weeks earlier, has signed to play with the Washington Nationals. The 29-year-old New York City native has had an up-and-down career—finishing the 2022 season on the downside with a .217 average, 13 home runs and 50 RBIs.

An annual filing by Walt Disney Co. reveals that MLB sold its remaining 15% stake in BAMTech—originally begun in 2000 as MLB Advanced Media—for $900 million. Along with the other shares it previously sold, MLB collected $6 billion on BAMTech, or $200 million per team.

Wednesday, November 30

After 12 years an MLB manager, Don Mattingly is content to take on a coaching role. The Blue Jays sign the former first baseman and pilot to join the Toronto staff for 2023, after leaving the Marlins this past season. He’s 889-950 as a manager, making the postseason four times—three with the Dodgers (2013-15).

The Comebacker’s Greatest Hits  Take a look back at the daily doings of baseball with the TGG Comebacker archive.