Dan's Dugout: Cespedes over Harper for NL MVP • Latino Sports

Baseball

Dan’s Dugout: Cespedes over Harper for NL MVP

on

NEW YORK – Forget Bryce Harper. What Yoenis Cespedes has done for the New York Mets since his August 1 debut trumps everything the one-time Washington wunderkind did for the previous four months.

Fred McGriff's explosive bat helped the 1993 Braves catch the Giants

Fred McGriff’s explosive bat helped the 1993 Braves catch the Giants

Not since Fred McGriff’s explosive arrival in Atlanta on July 20, 1993 has a newly-acquired hitter done so much in such a short time.

The Braves, 10 games behind the Giants in the erstwhile NL West configuration then in force, needed every one of the 55 RBI produced by McGriff during his 68 games with the team. Acquired from San Diego for three prospects who fizzled, The Crime Dog homered in his Braves debut and added 17 more to finish with a two-team total of 37 home runs and 101 runs batted in.

He also ignited the rest of the Atlanta batting order, which had three 100-RBI men (Ron Gant, David Justice, and McGriff) by season’s end. As a result, the team finished with 104 wins — one more than San Francisco, which fell one short by losing on the last day of the season.

The Braves played .750 ball (51-17) after McGriff arrived. The lanky first baseman, who eventually matched Lou Gehrig’s lifetime total of 493 home runs, was the first player to hit at least 15 homers for two different teams in the same season.

More than a handful have done that since, including Cespedes. The Cuban outfielder, acquired from

Yoenis Cespedes has taken the lead in NL MVP chase

Yoenis Cespedes has taken the lead in NL MVP chase

Detroit in a last-second deal on deadline day, is just the second player since 1920 to be swapped in midseason and then collect at least 15 homers and 40 RBI in his first 40 games for his new team [Hank Sauer did it for he 1949 Cubs after leaving the Giants].

The Cespedes story doesn’t stop there.

Entering Sunday’s game in Atlanta, he had eight homers in 11 games and had 77 extra-base hits, tied for second in the majors. He also ranked second with a .645 slugging percentage on the road.

Since September 1, he led both leagues in RBI (18) and slugging (1.020) and was tied for the big-league lead in both runs (15) and home runs (8). Since his Mets debut on August 1, the soon-to-be free agent had the most RBI (41) and best slugging percentage (.684) in the NL and was tied for the major-league lead in home runs with 16.

In his relatively short career, the slugging outfielder has produced consecutive 100-RBI seasons for the first time. Whatever he totals for this year will be a career high.

Journeyman Kelly Johnson has found new life with the Mets

Journeyman Kelly Johnson has found new life with the Mets

Potent pitching, rather than power, had pushed the Mets into contention before the Cespedes trade. But the acquisition of versatile veterans Kelly Johnson and Juan Uribe, acquired from Atlanta a week before Cespedes, has generated a new spark in the team’s generator. In fact, the Mets had 22 homers in 12 games before Sunday’s game.

Although it’s highly unusual for a player to be traded in midseason and then win a postseason award, it has happened. In 1984, for example, Rick Sutcliffe won the National League’s Cy Young Award after going 16-1 for the Cubs after his acquisition from Cleveland.

Prior to the eruption of Mount Cespedes, it seemed virtually certain that Harper would win MVP honors for the first time. Although he still leads the league in batting average and runs scored, he was unable to carry the Nationals the way Cespedes carried the Mets.

And that, my friends, is why the 29-year-old Cuban will bag a Most Valuable Player trophy in just his third major-league season.

Oh yeah: he’ll also bag big bucks as a free agent this winter. The Mets may have to ante up against the Yankees, the Dodgers, and a few other big spenders.

Elsewhere in baseball:

The Bad-News Braves have lost more consecutive home games than any other edition of the team,  which moved from Milwaukee to Atlanta in 1966 . . .

Toronto’s twinbill triumph at Yankee Stadium Saturday was tempered by the news that star shortstop

Toronto hopes Troy Tulowitzki's injury isn't a major setback

Toronto hopes Troy Tulowitzki’s injury isn’t a major setback

Troy Tulowitzki injured his shoulder and upper back in a collison with outfielder Kevin Pillar, who was chasing the same pop-up . . .

The  Blue Jays were buoyed by the unexpected return of starting pitcher Marcus Stroman, whose knee injury was supposed to sideline him for the season . . .

Not so lucky were the Yankees, who lost switch-hitting slugger Mark Teixeira with a newly-discovered bone fracture in his leg and top starter Nathan Eovaldi with a bad elbow . . .

A pinch-single in the eighth by the much-maligned Melvin Upton, Jr. (Padres)  was the only blemish on a potential perfect game by San Francisco stalwart Madison Bumgarner (Giants) Saturday . . .

Underrated Royal Mike Moustakas is putting the frosting on the KC cake

Underrated Royal Mike Moustakas is putting the frosting on the KC cake

Mike Moustakas, a solid performer who seldom gets the press he deserves, did something about that with a nine-RBI explosion for Kansas City at Baltimore over the weekend . . .

Mazel tov to Boston DH David Ortiz on reaching 500-homer plateau — a virtual ticket to the Hall of Fame . . .

Congratulations to Miguel Cabrera (Tigers) as he soars to his fourth American League batting crown . . .

Miami’s Jose Fernandez, coming off the disabled list for the second time this year, won his first 16 decisions at home — joining LaMarr Hoyt and Johnny Allen as the only others who went 16-0 at home to start their careers . . .

Don’t look now but the Pittsburgh Pirates are starting to make the St. Louis Cardinals sweat in the NL Central . . .

Unnoticed in the box scores was a three-inning hitless relief stint by one-time top starter Trevor Cahill for the Cubs against the Phillies Saturday . . .

In the meantime, ex-Cub Edwin Jackson is mucking up his tenuous spot in the Atlanta bullpen . . .

First, Drew Storen was displaced as Washington closer by Jonathan Papelbon. Now, he’s out for the year after breaking his right thumb when slamming a lock box after yielding a Cespedes home run.

 

 

 

 

 

About Dan Schlossberg

Former AP sportswriter Dan Schlossberg of Fair Lawn, NJ has produced 35 baseball books, including autobiographies of Ron Blomberg, Al Clark, and Milo Hamilton. Also a broadcaster, he is the host and executive producer of Braves Banter and Travel Itch Radio and a contributor to Sirius XM.

Recommended for you