For too long, the Argus sports section’s free-form columns have been dominated by the disgraceful Kelly Hogan ’19 and his infamous “Hot Takes with Hogan” (HTWH) series. For those who are unfamiliar, Hogan frequently uses his platform as a “student journalist” to spew nonsensical drivel about current events in the NBA, NFL, and MLB. Under my former watch as Sports Editor, HTWH started innocuously, with predictions that the Carolina Panthers would blow out the Denver Broncos in Super Bowl 50 (the Broncos won handily) and that the Arizona Cardinals would appear in the Super Bowl the following season (they finished below .500). But as Hogan ventured into the realm of the absurd and shameful—his suggestion that MLB teams should at all times “have the ability to send any player on their roster to bat” springs to mind—I debated whether I was morally able to accept my association with a section that consistently gave a voice to ignorance. At the end of last semester, I decided that I would move on to my new position as Features Editor. With a new-found absence in the section, my former sports colleague filled the editorial position (stop me if you know where this is going) by promoting Hogan.
Unfortunately, the buck will not stop here, and Hogan’s status as a member of the Argus staff is firmly out of my control. All that is left to do is keep fighting the good fight against the former college hooper’s monopoly on absurd sports opinions. Thus, in true HTWH fashion, this article will provide my hottest takes (by no means predictions) on who should win the upcoming end-of-season MLB awards. Unlike Hogan, though, what I write will hopefully neither be laughably false—false, maybe, just not laughably so—nor so obvious as to hardly constitute a real opinion. Instead, I’ll simultaneously take on the daunting task of preserving Hogan’s inanity as well as approaching the not-so-daunting task of being more correct than him. By reading on, you can do your part in fighting Hogan the Horrible’s hegemony.
Note: This article was written before Monday’s announcement of the finalists for these awards. Some of the winners named here will certainly not have been among those finalists, because the MLB doesn’t understand the value of spicy takes.
AL Manager of the Year: Mike Scioscia, Los Angeles Angels
This award has never once gone to a manager with a losing record. This speaks to our understandable inability to fairly evaluate coaches, but also the baseball media’s unwillingness to shirk convention in awards voting. It’s implausible to me, if not impossible, that at no point in American League history has the best manager simply had an unworkably weak roster. Scioscia, who won this award in 2002 and 2009, is that coach this year in a weak field (only Tito Francona has a comparable reputation and legacy of success). Despite losing Mike Trout for close to a third of the season, the Angels finished just two games under .500 and remained serious playoff contenders until the season’s final week. This is a team whose indisputable second-best player, Andrelton Simmons, hit .278 with 14 homers. Its only 150 inning pitcher, Ricky Nolasco, had a 4.92 ERA. The Angels had an absolute dumpster fire of a roster behind Trout, and Scioscia turning this team into a passable one (as he does every year) is more impressive to me than what Francona or AJ Hinch did with their loaded rosters.
NL Manager of the Year: Torey Lovullo, Arizona Diamondbacks
This is as much a vote against Dave Roberts as it is a vote for Lovullo. For a historically talented outfit like the Dodgers to lose 11 games straight in the most important stretch of the regular season is indefensible. And though this is a regular-season award, Roberts’ head-scratching use of Brandon Morrow, Kenta Maeda, and other relievers throughout the Dodgers’ failed championship bid was exemplary of Roberts’ game-management deficiencies. Lovullo, meanwhile, clearly took a page from the Chicago Cubs playbook by bringing an approach that stresses run prevention to a team that has substantially more talent on the offensive side of the ball. The results were startling; Arizona’s staff, who had its worst-ever ERA (earned run average) under Chip Hale last year, had its franchise-best ERA in Lovullo’s first year. Other than team record, all evidence says that Lovullo outmanaged Roberts this year.
AL Rookie of the Year: Aaron Judge, New York Yankees
In July, Andrew Benintendi was hitting nearly .300 and playing a precocious leftfield, Judge was slumping (while famously striking out every game for over a month), and pundits were rumbling that Benintendi could maybe, just maybe, snatch this award from the claws of the Empire. Then Judge ended the season slashing .284/.422/.627 with a record-breaking 52 homers. Not much else left to talk about.
NL Rookie of the Year: Rhys Hoskins, Philadelphia Phillies
Shut up, it’s a hot takes article, I can say what I want. In the shade of one of baseball’s worst teams, Hoskins did everything Cody Bellinger did and did it much better. In a full season (550 at-bats), this guy was on pace for 58 homers. His OPS ended the season above one—Bellinger finished at .933—and they played very comparable defense at the same mix of positions. It’s another convention of voters to avoid stumping for players who missed a significant portion of the season, much less the majority of it, but it’s hard to hold Philadelphia’s questionable institutional decisions against Hoskins. Plus, as you’ll see later, players missing time really doesn’t bother me; the best players should win the best player awards. He straight up played better baseball than Bellinger, and voting for anyone else just feels a little hollow.
AL Cy Young: Chris Sale, Boston Red Sox
The Cleveland Indians were absolutely spectacular defensively behind Corey Kluber, and the advanced stats corroborate this fact. The same cannot be said for Sale’s teammates. In his desperate attempt to not let the players behind him touch the baseball, Sale put up video game strikeout numbers (308 Ks! 308! The most in 15 years!) that dwarfed the rest of the league. Kluber handily leads Sale in ERA by .65, but the Sock actually outpaces his counterpart in FIP (fielder-independent pitching). Kluber will win, but Sale was more dominant.
NL Cy Young: Clayton Kershaw, Los Angeles Dodgers
Even though this is a single-season award, bodies of work give us important clues as to who was actually the best rather than just the luckiest. Kershaw’s league-leading ERA of 2.31 was impressive. It’s even more impressive that this was his worst mark since 2012. Kershaw did miss a month, but he nonetheless threw 175 innings, the same number as Stephen Strasburg and only 25 fewer than Max Scherzer. The Scherzer-Kershaw voter fatigue will surely hand some votes to Strasburg, Kenley Jansen, Gio Gonzalez, and perhaps others, but this is ultimately a two-man race. It’s close, and the missed time will hurt Kershaw’s case, but when he is on the mound he’s probably the best player in baseball. His fourth CY would give him a share of the NL record, and as one of the best pitchers (top 10, anyone?) he deserves to be there.
AL Most Valuable Player: Mike Trout, Los Angeles Angels
Jose Altuve will win this award, Aaron Judge will come in second, and Trout will probably clock in at a distant third. It will be Trout’s lowest career finish in MVP voting after five straight top-twos (and two wins), and ironically, it might be the one he deserves most. His 1.071 OPS lead the majors, his numbers prorate to a 50 HR/140 R/110RBI season over his typical full season of at-bats (Trout missed 39 games with a thumb injury), and he added tremendous value with his legs and glove. Altuve was great (also short, which people love), Judge was great (also tall, which people also seemed to love), but the boring, 6’2” Trout was yet again baseball’s best position player. In case it needs to be reiterated, the Angels’ second-best player was ANDRELTON SIMMONS, and they won 80 games. This shouldn’t even count as a hot take.
NL Most Valuable Player: Joey Votto, Cincinnati Reds
It’s a pretty lukewarm take to say that Votto should win this award, but the hot take is that it shouldn’t be close, at all. Voters dig the longball, but there is quite literally nothing else that Nolan Arenado or Giancarlo Stanton do better than Votto (well, Arenado arguably plays better defense, but you’re splitting hairs between Gold Glovers). Votto’s MLB-leading .454 OBP (on-base percentage) is easy to overlook because he does it every year, but that should make it all the more mind-boggling. His 1.614 BB/K ratio dwarfs Justin Turner’s second-place mark of 1.054 and is one of the best ever, period. While Votto is merely a great physical specimen rather than a top-tier one, a reasonable case can be made that he sees the plate better than anyone in MLB history. And though it’s easy to overlook, he also hit 36 homers and slugged .578. If you prefer WAR (wins above replacement) to more traditional stats, Votto led the league in this too (by many calculations). If you’re more impressed by displays of dominance, he reached base AT LEAST TWICE for 15 straight games in July and August, a franchise record. Votto was the best player in baseball who played a full season—Trout, Kershaw, and Bryce Harper are his biggest competitors, but all spent time on the DL —and nobody else deserves a first-place vote. Is that take hot enough for you, Kelly?
Sam Prescott can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.