Mookie Betts’ edge in MVP race; Mets vs. Phillies storylines to watch

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Today, we have a conversation with Dodgers GM Brandon Gomes, an apology to a Rays broadcaster, Ken’s Phillies/Mets notes ahead of the national broadcast, and a story about what really happened with Scott Rolen all those years ago. I’m Levi Weaver, here with Ken Rosenthal — welcome to the Windup!

The case for Mookie Betts, MVP

“Don’t you forget about me

In yesterday’s Windup, Ken reminded us that when considering the NL MVP race, we shouldn’t discount Ronald Acuña Jr.’s stolen base numbers just because of the new rules.

Today, I talked to Dodgers GM Brandon Gomes, who brought up an interesting angle when considering Mookie Betts’ candidacy.

“From our standpoint, his ability to play multiple positions speaks volumes,” Gomes said. “It has allowed us to get both of our corner outfielders — both (Jason) Heyward and (David) Peralta — into the lineup with regularity. … (Plus), if there’s a really tough lefty, we can hit one of our right-handed-hitting infielders, and we can kick (Betts) back out to right field, and we don’t miss a beat, defensively.”

I came into the conversation thinking there was no way I could be talked out of Acuña as NL MVP (I don’t have a vote in that category, by the way). Come on — a 40/70 season? That felt like a slam dunk.

But Gomes makes a compelling point. Betts’ numbers aren’t as big, round and historic as Acuña’s, but he’s right there in terms of production (all numbers as of last night).

  • Acuña: 7.9 bWAR, 7.7 fWAR, .338/.418/.596 (1.014 OPS)
  • Betts: 8.1 bWAR, 8.1 fWAR, .311/.410/.596 (1.006 OPS)

Gomes raises one other point. There was a specific stretch when Betts’ versatility was essential. When Miguel Rojas went on the injured list in mid-April with a hamstring strain (and with Gavin Lux already out for the year with a torn ACL), Betts stepped in.



Activist, podcaster, leader: Mookie Betts is back in Boston but with a touch of Showtime

“Prior to making some of the moves we did, we really didn’t have another shortstop,” Gomes said. “So for Mookie to go play shortstop at at least an average level, in addition to second and right field, really helped us keep our heads above water until we could get some reinforcements.”

Lastly, Gomes said Betts’ willingness to move around the diamond has sent a message to the rest of the organization: If the team’s biggest star is willing to do whatever it takes to help the team win, nobody has an excuse not to.

I’ve always wrestled with the ambiguity of the word “valuable” as it applies to this award. Usually, the player with the best numbers (generally on a team that has won a lot of games) has been the most valuable. But Gomes might have a point when he says that Betts’ versatility — allowing the Dodgers to play bats that the manager might not otherwise have been able to write into the lineup — provides a lot of “value” as well.

“You could argue passionately, if you’re just looking at statistics, both sides,” Gomes said. “You could say that Mookie definitely should have it, Ronald definitely should have it, and then adding that (versatility) layer on Mookie’s side, it just felt like it was an important piece for people to understand and digest.”

Ken’s Notebook: Mets vs. Phillies storylines to watch

Some notes I’ve prepared for tonight’s Mets-Phillies broadcast on Fox:

Ranger Suárez. Phillies pitching coach Caleb Cotham says, “I couldn’t have more trust in a pitcher.” The reasons? Suárez’s ability to control an opponent’s running game, field his position as well as any pitcher in baseball and most of all, attack the zone with five pitches. And don’t forget Suárez’s calm approach. When he closed out the NLCS last season, Cotham estimates Suárez’s heartbeat was probably at 33 beats per minute.

Francisco Lindor. His defensive metrics are excellent. His offensive numbers, when adjusted to his park and league, are comparable to what they were in Cleveland. But perhaps the most impressive thing about Lindor is his durability. In his past two seasons, he has missed only three games. He has played the most games at shortstop of any player since 2016. Here are the numbers:

Kyle Schwarber. Could set a somewhat dubious mark, producing the lowest batting average ever in a 40-home run season. But Phillies hitting coach Kevin Long has told Schwarber that if you count his 122 walks, he effectively has 168 singles this season, not 46. Long’s point is not unreasonable. Schwarber is second in the majors in walks only to Juan Soto, and his .345 on-base percentage is 25 points above league average.

  • Adam Dunn, 2012: 41 HRs, .204 BA
  • Joey Gallo, 2018: 40 HRs, .206 BA
  • Joey Gallo, 2017: 41 HRs, .209 BA
  • Kyle Schwarber, 2022: 46 HRs, .218 BA
  • Kyle Schwarber, 2023: 45 HRs, .197 BA

Jeff Hoffman. The Phillies already were considering promoting him when he came to Citizens Bank Park in late April with several other Triple-A pitchers. Their task: To throw batting practice to Bryce Harper, who was still recovering from Tommy John surgery. Hoffman had a May 1 opt-out and, as The Athletic’s Matt Gelb wrote last week, an offer from a team in Japan. But he looked great that day, prompting Harper to ask the Phillies officials in attendance, “What are we doing? Why isn’t he here?” Soon after, he was.

An apology to Enrique Oliu

“I just should have known better”

When I first moved from the Rangers beat to the newsletter, I had one fear: that I was going to make a huge mistake because I didn’t know the other organizations as well as I knew the one I was covering.

I made it almost all the way through the regular season without a major gaffe.

Yesterday I told you about Zack Meisel’s incredible story on Allan Wylie, a 17-year-old announcer who has been blind from birth and will be sitting in for an inning tonight when the Orioles take on the Guardians.

But Wylie, as far as I can tell, will be the first (blind person) to broadcast a big-league game,” I wrote.

Big thanks to Rays broadcaster Neil Solondz, who reached out to inform me that Enrique Oliu, who is blind, has been the color analyst for the Rays’ Spanish radio broadcasts since 1998.

That’s embarrassing to have missed (and doesn’t say much about my Google skills, either). But the story has a happy ending. When I reached out to Oliu to apologize, he was incredibly graceful and asked if I could put him in touch with Wylie. Thanks to an assist from Meisel, we were able to connect them.

Scott Rolen’s return to Philly

“I got a feeling that it’s time to let it go”

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Will the fans in Philadelphia welcome Scott Rolen with open arms? (Ezra Shaw / Getty Images)

Phillies fans are probably well aware of the history between Scott Rolen and Phillies fans. For the rest, here’s a brief summary.

In the 2001-2002 offseason, after six years with the Phillies, Rolen was offered a six-year contract worth $140 million. He declined, and less than a year later, was traded to the Cardinals. Phillies fans have felt jilted ever since, perhaps thinking that Rolen was trying to get more money, or that the whole thing was to get away from manager Larry Bowa.

In Jayson Stark’s story today, we get a different version of events, as Stark goes back to a conversation he had with Rolen in the spring of 2002.

In short: Rolen said at the time that the reason he didn’t commit to a long-term deal was that he wasn’t convinced that ownership was going to commit to spending enough money to win for those years, and he felt the fans deserved better.

So why is this coming up now? Because Rolen will be honored by the Phillies on Friday as the newest member of their Wall of Fame. Will Phillies fans boo him, as they did when he would return as a member of the Cardinals?

Who knows? But the story, which includes quotes from Bowa, is a great bit of enlightenment about what really happened.

Handshakes and High Fives

Tim Britton and Will Sammon give an absolute beat-writing masterclass with their story detailing what went wrong with the $445 million Mets. They interviewed nearly two dozen “people who have experienced the failure firsthand,” and the result is as thorough an assessment as you’re likely to find.

Is this weekday newsletter not enough content for you as the end of the regular season nears? Bookmark this page, which has all the latest stories and updates with end-of-season playoff implications.

Among teams that “can’t be normal for five whole minutes,” I present the Phillies (but in a good way).

Things are not going well for the Giants. People are very mad. It’s also been a bad stretch for the Cubs, though Marcus Stroman’s return has to be a good thing. And the Braves have lost five of six. They’ll be fine. Probably.

Tyler Kepner’s mailbag includes changes he’d make to the game. He had me at “Bring back regular uniforms for the All-Star Game and ban all advertising on uniforms.”

On No Bunts: Are the Braves the best offense ever? Are the Astros baseball’s Patriots? Plus, the best postseason bets.

(Top photo:Ronald Martinez / Getty Images)

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