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Alex Caruso Jersey Lakers

Phenomenal. Eye-Popping. Tenacious. These were just a few of the glowing adjectives used to describe Lakers guard Alex Caruso in his DraftExpress scouting report ahead of the 2016 NBA Draft. That may be surprising to some who didn’t see the unheralded, undrafted guard coming, but the praise is indicative of the on-court abilities that Caruso is still trying to hone and prove to this day.

After finishing four collegiate seasons and setting all-time records in assists and steals at native Texas A&M, the lanky guard set out to do what so many before him have attempted, and failed to achieve — play in the NBA.

On that anxious night of the draft in Brooklyn, Caruso would not be amongst the 60 players who had their dreams fulfilled by being selected. He would not walk that illustrious stage, he would not shake the commissioner’s hand, nor would he hear his name called.

But three years later, Caruso would sign a multi-year deal with the Los Angeles Lakers and in the process, see a phoenix-like mythology that was crafted in his honor by fans of the team become reality in front of his very own eyes.

But the cruel reality of expectations for an athlete is that once they are exceeded, there is no returning to the moment before they were birthed. A new standard has been set, and later tattooed in the form of a contract as a reminder of the benchmarks that should be met, if not hurdled over again. It’s a treacherous cycle that Caruso is on the precipice of.
Utah Jazz v Los Angeles Lakers
Photo by Yong Teck Lim/Getty Images

After wowing and stealing the hearts of the Lakers’ fanbase in his limited playing time over the past few seasons, the team committed two years and $5.5 million — actual NBA money and a non-two-way roster spot — to Caruso over the summer. It was a signal that a player who was intertwined with tongue-in-cheek hyperbole and countless memes and nicknames should now be taken seriously.

And although preseason basketball shouldn’t be overanalyzed, there have already been indications both on and off the court that suggest Caruso is beginning to feel the pressure to perform.

Caruso shot a mere 24% from the field (worst amongst Lakers who attempted at least ten shots) and coughed up a team-high 18 turnovers in his 118 minutes played during the exhibition stage. While the numbers alone should not be the central cause for concern, the visual manner in which Caruso pressed and was utilized was far more troubling.

Often slapping his hands in frustration after a bad pass, wildly bulldozing into traffic and routinely getting his shots stuffed from opposing guards and bigs alike, the overall viewing experience and the composure of the fan-favorite felt different. It very much had the appearance of a player trying to imitate someone or something else.

”I’ve just been focused on making the right reads and trying to be aggressive. I really don’t think I’ve been doing that well of a job personally”, Caruso told reporters last week. “I know it’s preseason, and I’m kind of getting back in the swing of things, but I want to be playing better, so hopefully I use these last two games to round into form for next Tuesday.”

It’s difficult to argue that Caruso has succeeded in accomplishing what he says he set out to do — and to be fair, it seems even he would make the opposite argument right now. He has dished out 25 assists (tied with LeBron James for team honors) but as his aforementioned high turnover rate and low efficiency numbers suggest, he’s also made misreads.

One potential variable that could be driving him to press besides living up to his new contract and the fanfare he’s received could be the raised stakes.

Caruso no longer has the benefits that come with playing freely on a mostly young and lax team. Nor does he have the “just go out and play” essence that comes with playing in garbage time and in games with no playoff implications.

That changes this season as the Lakers will have clear and legitimate championship aspirations when the ball gets tipped Tuesday night. Anyone who takes the floor will be expected to augment such expectations.
Los Angeles Lakers v Golden State Warriors
Photo by Andrew D. Bernstein/NBAE via Getty Images

There is reason to wonder how many minutes Caruso will see under new Lakers head coach Frank Vogel. Although he tallied the most minutes of any point guard on the roster this preseason, Caruso also received minimal run with the expected starters. More prominently, he get close to no exposure next to James and Anthony Davis. A potential red flag for those pining for the guard to start.

When asked about Caruso’s struggles, Vogel said Caruso shouldn’t beat himself up for his play too much, and seemed to understand the context of it.

“First of all, he hasn’t shot the ball well, but he’s played pretty well. Especially on the defensive end,” Vogel told reporters during a recent shootaround.

“And I’m not really measuring too much on the last two games in light of the difficult circumstances in China and the difficult circumstances with the trip back from China, and playing basically 48 hours later. I’ll reserve basically any real evaluations from those games, understanding that those are both difficult circumstance types of games. I’m not unhappy with his play.”

While obviously struggling on offense, Caruso has once again been one of the standouts on the team on the defensive end, and easily projects to be the best defensive option amongst the other point guards on the roster. Caruso’s absurd hustle and instincts will likely allow that to translate to when the games start to count.

In terms of the other contextual facets Vogel mentioned, they likely too have also played a role, but the head coach also shares some blame, as he has not done his point guard any favors in terms of his deployment.

Amongst Caruso’s play-type frequency in the preseason, 41.5% of his offense has come as the pick and roll ball-handler, according to Synergy. Within those possessions, he has converted only two of his 12 field-goal attempts.

When combining his passes out of these chances as well, his pick-and-roll-derived offense has a cumulative 20.8% conversion rate from the field. That’s not great.

Even tracing back to last year, Caruso has performed much better as an off-ball threat rather than having to serve as the team’s primary creator, posting higher points per possession on nearly every other play-type besides pick and rolls. It’s another reason why he excelled playing beside James last season, and potentially why he has struggled thus far.

To make a brutal start to the year even worse, Caruso also suffered a “bone-contusion” in his pelvis during the team’s final preseason contest against the Warriors after suffering a rough landing on a lay-up attempt.

He is now day-to-day, and the injury only further emphasizes that this has been about as unfortunate of a beginning as possible to the 25-year-old’s year. Hopefully just a blip in what will be an otherwise successful campaign.
NBA: Los Angeles Lakers at Los Angeles Clippers
Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

There is no question that Caruso’s path has been one of the most unique and successful routes in recent league memory when comparing it to the initial expectations for him. From going undrafted that night in Brooklyn, to playing with a game-seven-like intensity against De’Aaron Fox in Summer League and then serving up a seismic poster on Kevin Durant, it has all led him to this moment. It has all helped write the myth of CarusGAWD.

However, for as enjoyable the social-media campaign has been, and as popular he has become, it is has been on the back of his tireless hard-work. From chasing after loose balls to making winning play after winning play, Caruso has earned his spot in the league.

He has show he’s a capable and damn good NBA player when he plays his game. It will be up to his teammates, his coaching staff and ultimately himself to make sure he continues to do what has gotten him here.

Because the hardwood is his version of the Barclays Center stage he never got to walk, his teammates’ hands are the ones he now gets to shake after making a crucial play and the screaming fans are the ones that will make sure his name get’s called so he never forgets it.

Chance Adams Jersey Yankees

There have been high regards for New York Yankees pitching prospect Deivi Garcia. People are saying that he should be a starter for the team in 2020. But, the Yankees need to be cautious with him and build their team as if he didn’t exist this offseason.

Pitchers Are Available
Of course, everybody knows that there are some huge arms out on the free-agency market, but none are more prominent than Gerrit Cole and Stephen Strasburg.

It would be an ideal situation if the Yankees could sign one, if not both of them, but others like Madison Bumgarner and Zack Wheeler are also on the market. They need to focus on this over wanting to use Garcia as a starter in 2020.

Not Completely Proven
A lot of the high regard for Garcia came after a hot stretch for him in AA but wasn’t that great after he was promoted to AAA. His ERA was near 5.50 with a 1-3 record. He has been inconsistent over his career; some levels he had a lot of success at and others not as much.

Drew Brees limited in practice, but Sean
Payton won’t name starter for Cardinals vs Saints

If the Yankees had him starting in 2020, I can tell you that he would get shelled every time that he went out there. He isn’t ready.

Pressure
Playing for the Yankees organization comes with a lot of stress, and often the weight is also felt in minors. With a lot of news about his success and a potential call up in 2019, the pressure probably got to him. His name was being mentioned a lot, and that gets to a player.

A lot of guys also kind of flatten out at the AAA level, and there are no better examples than Luis Cessa and Chance Adams. Both pitchers were great in AA but never had much success after. Could Garcia be another victim of that curse?

I think that Deivi Garcia has the potential to be good, but all I’m saying is that the Yankees need to act like he doesn’t exist when building their team this winter. If they plan to put him in the rotation and he struggles, they won’t have a fallback option.

You can never have too many pitchers, and if Garcia proves himself in 2020, there’s no reason why he can’t make it into the rotation, just not when camp breaks.

J.A. Happ Jersey Yankees

Take any pitching staff. It will have flaws.

Last season, the Yankees won 103 regular season games and the American League East crown despite posting a 4.31 staff ERA that was just 14th-best in baseball.

New pitching coach Matt Blake, whom the Yankees reportedly hired Thursday, will have some problems to solve.

Here are four quick Issues. Let us know what else he must do in the comments below:

Help J.A. Happ rebound: Happ posted a 2.23 ERA over his final six games (five starts) of the regular season, striking out 35 hitters over 32 1/3 innings. Before that, he had a 5.85 ERA over 25 starts? The Yankees will pay Happ $17 million next season. He’s almost assured a rotation spot. He should be priority No. 1. The 37-year-old appears to still have the stuff to be a plenty capable big-league starter.

Luis Severino’s changeup: Sure, it might be splitting hairs to complain about Severino, whose fastball-slider offering could be among the best in the game. But it’s when hitters have to also respect his changeup that he’s able to pitch deeper into games. It was a weapon he trusted more in the minors, he’s said, than he has in the majors. Making it consistent could lift him from potential No. 1 to bonafide ace.

Masahiro Tanaka’s splitter: Tanaka’s trademark pitch abandoned him for large stretches of 2019. He seemed to find it late in the year, thanks to a new grip, and he was as good as ever in the playoffs. Tanaka complained last season that the juiced baseball’s seams felt too low and the ball felt too hard, perhaps contributing factors to the fall off of his splitter. Bringing it back would do wonders for the veteran.

Buy Yankees gear: Fanatics.com, Dick’s Sporting Goods, Champs Sports, MLB.com, Lids

Finish Deivi Garcia’s development: The 20-year-old right-hander blitzed through the organization in 2019, going from High-A and tearing through Double-A before stumbling a bit at Triple-A. Former pitching coach Larry Rothschild said he thought that dealing with more advanced hitters and some fatigue were to blame for Garcia’s rough time at Triple-A. Of course, Blake will be guiding the big-league staff. Getting Garcia over the finish line will be up to the minor-league staff and player development head Kevin Reese. But Blake will have his hands on Garcia during big-league spring training.

Joba Chamberlain Jersey Yankees

CC Sabathia melded sadness with just perfect Thursday night.

His career ended morbidly and ideally, the gunslinger emptying his six-shooter for the last time, going out horribly and just the way you would expect.

“I think it’s just kind of fitting,” said Sabathia a day later, a sling holding his spent and crumbled left arm in place. “I threw until I couldn’t anymore.”

Period. Paragraph.

Sabathia has been seemingly held together by kindergarten paste the past few years, pushing on because of a sense of obligation and his joy in the competition and consequences of standing 60 feet, 6 inches from euphoria or despair. His right knee and left shoulder have been in neck-and-neck competition for which would turn to spaghetti first. The shoulder finally won that macabre race. It popped out of its socket as he retired Aledmys Diaz for the second out of the eighth inning.

In some ways what followed encapsulated not just Sabathia, but why he is among the most revered players in the game. He threw three more pitches to George Springer in so much pain that he could not even look up to see where they were going. Aaron Boone and trainer Steve Donohue went to the mound, the anguish impossible to ignore. Still, Sabathia threw a warm-up pitch, a last gasp hope he could keep pitching.

But after 3,707 ²/₃ innings — regular and postseason combined — there was nothing left to give.

“That’s what I signed up to do,” Sabathia said. “Pitch as long as I could and as hard as I could and take the ball every time out. Yeah, I have no regrets at all.”

Heartbreaking end leaves CC Sabathia in ‘a lot of pain’

This is the code of the traditional No. 1 starter, and Sabathia would not rue all that went with combining overwhelming excellence with relentless durability. He piled 30-plus starts, 200-plus innings, going through lineups more than two times, more than three times. He pitched on three days’ rest with free agency looming in 2008 as a rental player who helped the Brewers get to the playoffs for the first time in a quarter of a century and did it again in the 2009 postseason to help the Yankees open their new stadium with their most recent title.
The Yanks asked him to be the ace. He was. And the biggest reason the Yankees haven’t won again since then is that they never found his heir. Masahiro Tanaka was the closest, but he settled into quality No. 3 starter and playoff stalwart. Joba Chamberlain and Phil Hughes never grew into it. Nathan Eovaldi and Michael Pineda could not translate talent into persistent excellence. Sonny Gray wilted. Luis Severino was on the brink before a fractured 2019. And the Yanks always found a reason — money, prospects, luxury tax worries — to not land their Justin Verlander or Max Scherzer or Gerrit Cole or Chris Sale.

The Yankees — through general manager Brian Cashman — also asked Sabathia to unify a splintering clubhouse. He was brilliant at it. Because they only play roughly once a week, starters often have a tougher time gaining the collateral to be team leaders. But Sabathia did it effortlessly. Like any business, there are cliques in a major league clubhouse and I have never, in my three-plus decades doing this, seen a player enmesh himself in every group regardless of race, age or position. Sabathia was the human “Cheers” — everyone knew his name and stopped by his locker for laughs or counsel.

“Everyone understands how authentic it is and genuine,” Aaron Boone said of Sabathia. “He’s the best. I mean, he’s how you would draw it up from a teammate standpoint, from a competitor standpoint.”

Joe Girardi chokes up in emotional tribute to CC Sabathia
The leadership bonded him to teammates and the fortitude raised the admiration. Sabathia, at the end, was putting 2 ¹/₂ hours in just to get his body functional enough to pitch. Which is why in the clubhouse — after Sabathia left the mound to a standing ovation from not just the crowd and the Yankees, but the Astros, too — Zack Britton was all but in tears discussing a player he “idolized” for how Sabathia went about his business.

“I couldn’t imagine the pain he has endured to try to help us win a World Series,” Britton said.

Sabathia said the pain was worth it. The sport has pushed away from many of the nostalgic ideals of machismo with the logic of being honest about injury and giving in to load management. But the true ace can’t do the job without pain. It is the exchange for the high of being The Man, of embracing the competition and all that comes with it. It is why Boone could say, “In a weird way, [it was] kind of a perfect way to go out. He’s been the ultimate teammate, competitor, gamer, left everything on the field, left everything he had on the mound.”

At a press conference before Game 5, Sabathia summed up: “I always felt like being the pitcher of the game, stopped and started on me. And I kind of felt like I was in control all the time and that was just the best part about it is 50,000 people in The Bronx and [expletive] don’t start until I’m ready, so that was the best part.”

With that, Sabathia concluded the press conference, the gunslinger at the end walking toward the sunset.

Nick Swisher Jersey Yankees

If you look up the Yankees’ career leader in any sort of counting stat, you’re bound to find that whoever sits atop the list makes sense. The Yankees’ home run leader is Babe Ruth; their hits leader is Derek Jeter; Andy Pettitte has the most strikeouts.

Rate stats, however, get a little weird, especially if you don’t set a minimum for playing time. Consider batting average for an example. There are six players who had a career 1.000 batting average with the Yankees. They are Heinie Odom, Mickey Wittek, Larry Gowell, Chris Latham, Branden Pinder, and Erik Kratz. Not shockingly, none of them got more than two at-bats.

If you then look at the highest OPS in Yankees’ history, the list is headed by two of those six. Gowell and Pinder top everyone in that category, as both went 1-for-1 in their careers, with that one hit being a double, meaning they’re the Yankees’ all-time leaders at 3.000. Here’s also a thing about them: they’re both pitchers.

Pinder you may remember, as he pitched for the Yankees from 2015-16. He was allowed to bat in the late innings of a 2015 game in Atlanta against the Braves as the Yankees were up double-digit runs. Not only did he double, but he drove home a run.

Meanwhile, Gowell’s lone season in the majors came back in 1972. He got the start in the final game of the season, which would be the final game the Yankees played before the institution of the designated hitter. He led off the third with a double, and when he was next due to come up, a pinch hitter took his place. Unfortunately, one of the Yankees’ relievers in the game was allowed to step to the plate, so sadly the final pitcher to hit before the DH did not record an extra-base hit.

On the pitching side of things, there are 34 people to have pitched for the Yankees and never allowed a run, therefore finishing with a 0.00 ERA. Among those are some position players like Nick Swisher and Mike Ford. There’s also Rocky Colavito, a position player who also finished as the winning pitcher in the one game he appeared in.

Hall of Famer Lee Smith is one of those 34, having pitched eight scoreless inning in New York in 1993. Another was Steve Blateric, who just so happens to be the relief pitcher who was allowed to hit in the aforementioned Gowell game. The only one of the 34 who threw more than 10 scoreless innings was Matt Smith. He tossed 12 in 2006 before being included in the Bobby Abreu trade.

Another way to measure pitchers is FIP, which takes into account the things the pitchers are almost solely responsible for, i.e. home runs, strikeouts, walks. It’s a number that is supposed to be comparable to a pitcher’s ERA. The way it’s calculated, however, can lead to a pitcher having a negative FIP, such as the Yankees’ very random all-time leader.

Walter Bernhardt played his one and only game on July 16, 1918. He faced two batters, struck one out, finishing off the top of the ninth in a 12-1 Yankees’ loss. He would never pitch again, and years later when FIP was created, his came out to be -0.77. Having a career strikeout rats of 50% will do that.

All stats courtesy of the Baseball Reference Play Index

Whitey Ford Jersey Yankees

Dave Acolia celebrated his 100th birthday on Oct. 27, 2019 and registers as a lifetime New York Yankees fan.

In 1903, the Baltimore Orioles moved to New York and became known as the New York Highlanders and then a decade became the storied Yankees franchise. Now, consider this — Acolia birthed six years after that and has enjoyed such Yankees stars as Babe Ruth, Whitey Ford, Tony Lazzeri, Phil Rizzuto, Mickey Mantle, Reggie Jackson, Lou Gehrig, Mariano Rivera, Joe DiMaggio, Thurman Munson, Red Ruffing, Willie Randolph, Derek Jeter, Roger Maris, Don Mattingly and hundreds of other Bronx Bombers, plus, 27 World Series championships.

Acolia has lived in Trenton his entire life. He married for 56 years with the late Mariantonio Acolia. Acolia has one son, Dave Acolia, a daughter-in-law, Sylvana Acolia and a granddog Beagle named, Buddy.

Dave Acolia worked 41 years for Kramer Trenton Co. on Olden Ave. which specialized in refrigeration. A cool life note involved his work history. Acolia missed one day of work for an entire career. “To take my mother to gain her citizenship,” his son, Dave, said proudly.

Ron Guidry Jersey Yankees

NEW YORK – During this past season, Yankees general manager Brian Cashman offered a window into the club’s emerging philosophies about pitching.

“There’s an explosion of technology and data and analytics in our entire sport that we’re on top of,’’ Cashman said. “But what we’re not on top of, we’re going to close the gap on.’’

Cashman’s comments came in late June, in London, when the Yankees announced the hiring of Sam Briend to the newly created position of Director of Pitching.

New York Yankees manager Aaron Boone, left, and general manager Brian Cashman talk during the team workout on Thursday, Oct. 10, 2019, in the Bronx.
New York Yankees manager Aaron Boone, left, and general manager Brian Cashman talk during the team workout on Thursday, Oct. 10, 2019, in the Bronx. (Photo: Danielle Parhizkaran/NorthJersey.com)

Briend came from Driveline Baseball, a training center rooted in new research and development and – as it states on the company’s website – the “first data-driven baseball training facility in the world.’’

Based on Briend’s hire and the Yankees’ aggressive direction toward closing the analytics gap, the addition of Matt Blake as their new pitching coach seems a natural step.

Jeff Passan of ESPN.com first reported the Yankees’ decision on Blake, 33, a former Yankees area scout who had just been elevated by the Cleveland Indians to the title of pitching director.

“For all the Yankees fans coming to my page to ask me about Matt Blake, he’s awesome,’’ ex-Indians and current Cincinnati Reds starter Trevor Bauer posted to his Twitter account Thursday.

Bauer went on to say that Blake is “one of the smarter guys I know. Knows a lot about pitching. A lot about development. Good communicator. Really excited for him getting this opportunity and pumped to see the results.’’

For all the @Yankees fans coming to my page to ask me about @Blake_Matt he’s awesome. One of the smarter guys I know. Knows a lot about pitching. A lot about development. Good communicator. Etc. Really excited for him getting this opportunity and pumped to see the results.

— Trevor Bauer (@BauerOutage) November 8, 2019
Blake replaces Larry Rothschild, 65, who was let go with a year remaining on his contract.

Clearly, the Yankees were set out to make a departure from the traditional likes of past pitching coaches such as Rothschild and Ron Guidry.

They interviewed younger candidates more steeped in analytics and data in college coaches Chris Fetter of Michigan and Matt Hobbs of Arkansas.

David Cone received an interview, for his blend of old and new school pitching methods, having embraced analytics and applied the new statistical data as a YES Network analyst following a decorated big-league career.

Now, Blake will inherit a staff with a bullpen as its signature strength.

It remains to be seen if the Yankees will add an expensive free-agent starter – the likes of Gerrit Cole, Stephen Strasburg, Zack Wheeler and Madison Bumgarner – to a staff that includes Luis Severino, Masahiro Tanaka, James Paxton, Domingo German, J.A. Happ and Jordan Montgomery.

Pete Caldera is the Yankees beat writer for NorthJersey.com. For unlimited access to all Yankees analysis, news, trades and more, please subscribe today and download our app.

Joe Torre Jersey Yankees

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — Aaron Boone finished as a close runner-up, again.

Boone, the Yankees’ second-year manager, placed a tight second behind Twins rookie skipper Rocco Baldelli in the race for American League Manager of the Year, the Baseball Writers Association announced on Tuesday.

With 30 voters, two representing the markets from each of the 15 AL cities, Boone and Baldelli each received 13 first-place votes. However, Baldelli notched 13 second-place votes to Boone’s nine. Boone got four third-place votes to Baldelli’s two, and in the 5-3-1 scoring system, that gave Baldelli the 106-96 edge in points.

Baldelli guided his Twins to a 23-game improvement, from 78-84 to 101-51, giving the team its first AL Central title since 2010. The Twins proceeded to get swept by the Yankees in the AL Division Series. Ballots are turned in prior to the start of the postseason.

In Boone’s second year managing the Yankees, the team overcame a record-setting flurry of injuries — they set a known mark with 2,433 injured-list days, as per Major League Baseball — to go 103-59. The Yankees advanced to the AL Championship Series before falling in six games to the Astros for the right to represent the AL in the World Series.

Boone drew praise for his unshakeable nature, except when it came to defending his players against inexperienced umpires. In one such rant, July 18 at Yankee Stadium during a game against the Rays, Boone called his hitters “savages in the (bleeping) box,” getting ejected and subsequently suspended, earning the players’ wrestling belt as the star of the contest and launching a new marketing campaign for the club.

The last Yankees manager to win this honor was Joe Torre in 1998, when his Yankees set a major-league record with 114 regular-season wins.

Tampa Bay manager Kevin Cash placed third with 33 points. In his fifth year running the Rays, Cash led the low-payroll entity to a 96-66 mark which landed them the second AL wild card, the franchise’s first postseason berth since 2013. Tampa Bay defeated Oakland in the wild-card game and extended the Astros to the maximum five games in the AL Division Series before getting eliminated.

Others receiving votes were the A’s Bob Melvin (19 points), the Astros’ A.J. Hinch (10) and the Indians’ Terry Francona (1).

Jackie Robinson Jersey Yankees

The annual struggle to define what makes a baseball manager great played out this year in a delicious jumble of a vote, culminating in victories by Rocco Baldelli of the Minnesota Twins and Mike Shildt of the St. Louis Cardinals for manager of the year honors in the American League and National League, respectively — despite neither winning a majority or even an outright plurality of first-place votes.

Each was in his first full season as manager, and both had strong cases for the award — Baldelli for guiding the Twins to a 101-win season and an AL Central title in his rookie season on the bench, Shildt for taking the Cardinals from below .500 as late as July 12 all the way to the NL Central title — but neither was considered a clear favorite.

With their victories, both Baldelli, 38, and Shildt, 51, made history — the former as the youngest winner ever and the latter as the first to have never played professionally.

Both races were decided by just a handful of votes. In the AL, both Baldelli and Aaron Boone of the New York Yankees received 13 first-place votes out of 30 cast by members of the Baseball Writers’ Association of America. The difference: the 13 second-place votes Baldelli received compared with nine for Boone. Four voters left Boone out of their top three, while only two left Baldelli off. Tampa Bay’s Kevin Cash received three first-place votes and finished third in balloting.

In the NL, Shildt’s victory came despite the fact he received fewer first-place votes (10) than runner-up Craig Counsell of the Milwaukee Brewers (13). Shildt received 14 second-place votes to six for Counsell, and only three voters kept Shildt out of their top three compared with six who omitted Counsell.

Washington Manager Dave Martinez was a distant fifth in the NL, behind Atlanta’s Brian Snitker and the Los Angeles Dodgers’ Dave Roberts, receiving three ­second-place votes and six third-place votes. Voting was completed before the postseason, so Martinez’s World Series title with the Nationals was not a factor.

Baldelli, the youngest manager in the majors, took over a Twins team that won just 78 games in 2018, leading to the dismissal of Paul Molitor, and guided them to 101 wins and the AL Central title. He became just the eighth manager to win the award after his first full season on the job — and the first since Arizona’s Torey Lovullo in 2017 — as well as the eighth manager to win following a 100-win season, the last being Seattle’s Lou Piniella in 2001.

“Nobody takes on a job like this for personal accolades,” Baldelli told MLB Network following the announcement. “You take these kinds of roles because you want to do everything you can for your players, your staff and your organization.”

Shildt took a Cardinals team that was 44-44 at the all-star break and guided it to a 47-27 record in the second half to hold off the Brewers and Chicago Cubs for the Central title, the Cardinals’ first since 2015. He ascended to the manager’s job on an interim basis in July 2018 following Mike Matheny’s firing and was given the full-time position at the end of that season.

Shildt, whose mother, Lib, died last week, choked up after the announcement that he had won and said: “I set my sights on being the best coach I could be. The journey has led me here. I’m grateful for it.”

The AL race, in particular, offered a perfect case study in how to define a manager’s greatness, with the three finalists offering vastly different attributes and résumés. While Baldelli could claim the biggest single-season turnaround, Cash did the most with the least, taking the Rays to 96 wins and an AL wild-card berth despite having the majors’ smallest Opening Day payroll.

Boone, meanwhile, nearly overcame voters’ traditional bias against high-payroll teams. His case was built around the Yankees’ 103 wins in a season in which the team placed a major league-record 30 different players on the injured list, with some of the team’s best players lost for large chunks of time.

On the surface, those three seasons were almost impossible to compare on a head-to-head-to-head basis — and the same was true, for that matter, in the NL. And absent any better system for judging managerial greatness, that is precisely why these votes played out with such a chaotic lack of consensus.

Baseball’s awards week continues with the announcements for the Cy Young awards on Wednesday and the MVP awards on Thursday.

Yordan Alvarez, Pete Alonso win rookie of the year
The historic rookie campaigns of Houston Astros designated hitter Yordan Álvarez and New York Mets first baseman Pete Alonso were validated Monday with landslide victories for the Jackie Robinson Rookie of the Year awards. Álvarez won unanimously in the American League, and Alonso was a near-unanimous pick in the National League.

Álvarez, 22, became the first unanimous winner since Aaron Judge (AL) and Cody Bellinger (NL) swept the first-place votes in 2017. Alonso, 24, missed being a unanimous winner by just one vote. Voting was conducted by members of the Baseball Writers’ Association of America and was completed before the start of the postseason.

The honors for Álvarez and Alonso came following remarkable, history-making debut seasons. The former amassed the highest on-base-plus-slugging percentage in history for a rookie with a minimum of 350 plate appearances — 1.067 — and the latter slugged 53 homers for the Mets, breaking Judge’s major league rookie record.

Asked for his reaction following the announcement, Alonso, on the live MLB Network telecast, answered, “Holy expletive.”

Baltimore Orioles left-hander John Means — who went 12-11 with a 3.60 ERA for a pitching staff that ranked among the worst in modern history — was the runner-up in the AL, followed by Tampa Bay Rays and former University of Maryland infielder Brandon Lowe. Atlanta Braves right-hander Mike Soroka received the one first-place vote that didn’t go to Alonso and was the runner-up in the NL.

The AL rookie of the year race was never the same after June 9, the date Álvarez was promoted to the majors. Though he would amass only 369 plate appearances — not enough to qualify for the batting title — Álvarez’s OPS from that point was topped by only Mike Trout of the Los Angeles Angels and Christian Yelich of the Milwaukee Brewers, top contenders for MVP honors in their respective leagues, and he hit 27 homers, drove in 78 runs and batted .313.

Álvarez’s 87 games played are the fewest for a position player named AL rookie of the year, and only Willie McCovey, who played 52 games for the 1959 San Francisco Giants, played fewer among NL winners of the award.

The NL award could have been more of an actual race had San Diego Padres shortstop Fernando Tatís Jr. not suffered a back injury in mid-August that cost him the rest of the season. At the time, Tatís, 20, had a .317 batting average, a .379 on-base percentage and a .590 slugging percentage — for an OPS of .969, 56 points higher than Alonso’s on the same date — with 22 homers and 53 RBI in only 372 plate appearances.

Soroka, 22, had the kind of rookie campaign that might have won the award in any other, non-Alonso season. He went 13-4 with a 2.68 ERA — the latter mark topped by only four other qualified pitchers in the majors — and emerged as the ace of the NL East champion Braves’ staff. Though it didn’t factor into the voting, Soroka also won his only start of the postseason in dominant fashion, limiting the St. Louis Cardinals to two hits and one run over seven innings in Game 3 of the division series.

Here are the finalists for each award and our predictions.

Rookies of the year
Announced Monday. The Post’s predicted winners are marked with an asterisk (*). Actual winners are in italics.

NL finalists:

Pete Alonso, New York Mets *
Mike Soroka, Atlanta Braves
Fernando Tatís Jr., San Diego Padres
AL finalists:

Yordan Álvarez, Houston Astros *
Brandon Lowe, Tampa Bay Rays
John Means, Baltimore Orioles
Managers of the year
Announced Tuesday at 6 p.m. on MLB Network. The Post’s predicted winners are marked with an asterisk (*). Actual winners are in italics.

NL finalists:

Craig Counsell, Milwaukee Brewers *
Mike Shildt, St. Louis Cardinals
Brian Snitker, Atlanta Braves
AL finalists:

Rocco Baldelli, Minnesota Twins
Aaron Boone, New York Yankees *
Kevin Cash, Tampa Bay Rays
Cy Young awards
Announced Wednesday at 6 p.m. on MLB Network. The Post’s predicted winners are marked with an asterisk (*).

NL finalists:

Jacob deGrom, New York Mets *
Hyun-Jin Ryu, Los Angeles Dodgers
Max Scherzer, Washington Nationals
AL finalists:

Gerrit Cole, Houston Astros
Charlie Morton, Tampa Bay Rays
Justin Verlander, Houston Astros *
MVPs
Announced Thursday at 6 p.m. on MLB Network. The Post’s predicted winners are marked with an asterisk (*).

NL finalists:

Cody Bellinger, Los Angeles Dodgers *
Anthony Rendon, Washington Nationals
Christian Yelich, Milwaukee Brewers
AL finalists:

Alex Bregman, Houston Astros
Marcus Semien, Oakland Athletics
Mike Trout, Los Angeles Angels *

Elston Howard Jersey Yankees

Thurman Munson’s passion as a ballplayer was undeniable. The debate surrounding his Hall of Fame qualifications could prompt similar intensity.

Munson, the Yankees’ regular catcher from 1970-79, appears on the latest Modern [Baseball] Era ballot featuring Hall of Fame candidates whose impact on baseball emerged primarily between 1970-87. Munson — whose death in a plane crash on Aug. 2, 1979, further stirs the emotion of his supporters — never received more than 15.5% of the vote during the 15-year period when he was eligible for election by tenured members of the Baseball Writers’ Association of America. Induction requires 75% of the vote.

During the span of the Veterans Committee voting process in the early 2000s, in which all living Hall of Famers cast ballots, Munson peaked at the polls in 2007, when he was named worthy of enshrinement by six of 84 electors.

Time and accompanying changes in perspective may boost Munson’s support. At the very least, his is an especially intriguing case.

Remembering Munson
Remembering Munson
03:00
Aug. 3rd, 2019
The case for Munson
• According to Jay Jaffe’s JAWS system, which combines career Wins Above Replacement with a player’s seven best seasons, Munson ranks 12th all-time among catchers and ahead of six Hall of Famers at his position: Roger Bresnahan, Roy Campanella, Buck Ewing, Rick Ferrell, Ernie Lombardi and Ray Schalk.

• Munson maintained a pattern of achievement instantly, winning American League Rookie of the Year Award in 1970 and the AL MVP Award in ’76 while being named to seven All-Star squads in his 10 full seasons.

• Though Munson isn’t as synonymous with October as his Yankees teammate Reggie Jackson, he was a legitimate postseason force. In 30 postseason games, he batted .357/.378/.496 with three homers and 22 RBIs. The bigger the stage, the taller Munson stood: He hit .373 with a .909 OPS in three World Series.

• Munson excelled on defense, always a catcher’s top priority. He won three Gold Glove Awards — in 1971 he committed one error in 615 chances — and threw out 44% of baserunners who tried to steal on him in the postseason.

Munson’s clutch RBI double
Munson’s clutch RBI double
00:57
Aug. 1st, 2019
The case against Munson
• Munson performed in an era that included renowned catchers such as Carlton Fisk, Ted Simmons, Gary Carter and, one of the greatest ever, Johnny Bench. Nothing exists on Munson’s resume that would prompt an observer to rank him above the others.

• The manner of Munson’s death was beyond unfortunate. But his power and run production declined sharply during the season he perished, continuing a trend that began the previous year. Judging Munson’s statistics amid the backdrop of his plane crash seems heartless, but those who are asked to evaluate greatness have not been overwhelmed by his career figures.

• Bill Freehan (.262/.340/.412 slash line, 6,900 plate appearances, 1,591 hits, 200 homers, 758 RBIs, 11 All-Star Games, five Gold Glove Awards) isn’t in the Hall of Fame. Nor is Elston Howard (.274/.322/.427, 5,845 PAs, 1,471 hits, 167 homers, 762 RBIs, 12 ASGs, two Gold Gloves). Why should Munson (.292/.346/.410, 5,905 PAs, 1558 hits, 113 homers, 701 RBIs, seven ASGs, three Gold Gloves) enter Cooperstown ahead of them?