By Bob Elliott
Ask any scouting director who he is selecting with his first choice roughly six weeks before draft day and most will give the same answer:
They have been looking at players for 10 1/2 months ... but it is still early.
The answer is the same if you ask a voting member of the Baseball Writers Association of America who he or she likes in the American League MVP race six week before it’s time to vote.
This season is almost five months old and it’s still early.
A lot can happen between now and Oct. 4 when Josh Donaldson and the Blue Jays finish the season at Tropicana Field, while Mike Trout and the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim wind up in Arlington, Tex.
Writers -- the ones I know -- don’t have an East Coast bias, a West Coast bias, a Great Lakes bias or even a home-town bias.
Many love the value an MVP contender provides his team. The award goes to the most valuable player -- not the most outstanding player, the way the Cy Young award usually goes to the best pitcher.
So if only one of either Donaldson or Trout boards a charter for a post-season date after the season finale he will like get extra credit.
Andre Dawson with the last-place 1987 Chicago Cubs (76-85) won and so did Cal Ripken with the last-place 1991 Baltimore Orioles (67-95).
Yet, 46 of the 52 other AL/NL MVP winners since 1987 either helped their teams to first-place finishes or were eliminated the final week, including George Bell the only player with a Canadian team to win an MVP.
So, while it’s early ... it’s still fun to pour over the numbers, debate and argue over them. And they read this way after Sunday’s game in Orange County:
Donaldson Category Trout
.302 Average .297
145 Hits 129
34 Doubles 23
0 Triples 3
34 Home runs 33
100 RBIs 73
51 Walks 64
103 Strikeouts 121
4-4 Stolen base/Att. 10-15
.370 On-base .394
.575 Slugging .586
.945 OPS .980
7.0 WAR 7.1
Donaldson, who doubled twice and drive in three runs on Friday, doubled, homered and knocked in six runs in Saturday's win and doubled and singled in Sunday's victory, wins on doubles, run production and fewer strikeouts.
Trout, who had three hits on Sunday, has the lead in walks, stolen bases, on-base mark, slugging percentage and OPS.
The rest of the categories are toss-em.
With plenty of help from his teammates, Donaldson’s Jays sat 1/2 a game back of the first-place New York Yankees in the American League East heading into Game 2 of the series.
Trout and the Angels were 3 1/2 behind the Houston Astros and owned the second wild-card spot, four games behind the Jays.
As we said ... it’s early.
Or as Hall of Famer Yogi Berra once said about a coast trip: “It gets late early out there.”
Should Ben be No. 1: One game does not end a slump.
Yet, watching left fielder Ben Revere go 4-for-5 -- single to right, leg out an infield hit, double to right and single to left -- on Friday night might be a case for putting him to the lead-off spot. He had two more hits Saturday and another two on Sunday.
Revere has hit there before and is a stolen base threat, although do you want him running a lot hitting in front of Donaldson?
The most important reason to make a change would be to move Troy Tulowitzki out of the lead-off spot, where he has not found his hitting stroke. After six hits in his first three games with the Jays Tulowitzki is hitting .194 (14-for-74) batting lead-off.
Would a Revere-Donaldson-Jose Bautista-Edwin Encarnacion-Tulowitzki 1-thru-5 be more appealing?
Or with a 16-3 record this month do the Jays look at cards dealt by the dealer, smirk and say “no thanks, I’ll play these.”
Walk this way: North Bay stats guru Neil Munro points out one of most surprising thing about the Jays’ offence it the fact that hitters have received only had six intentional walks, by far and away the lowest of any club in the majors. The Chicago White Sox rank 29th as a team with 14 intentional walks. The major league team average is 23. Donaldson does not have a single free pass showing how much teams fear Jose Bautista. Edwin Encarnacion and Bautista have each been given two free passes, while Kevin Pillar and Dioner Navarro have one appiece.
Vote early, vote often: The Hall of Fame in Cooperstown names of men eligible for the Ford C. Frick award next month. And when the voting hits social media fans can have their say on who should be on the final ballot.
Andrew Hendriks writes why Jack Graney of St. Thomas, Ont. would be an excellent candidate from the dawn of broadcasting era ballot in a piece on the Canadian Baseball Network. Graney had a 14-year career before becoming the first ex-player to move upstairs to the booth.
He was the voice of the Cleveland Indians from 1932-53. Bob Dolgan of the Cleveland Plain Dealer once wrote
“When he (Graney) talked, you could smell the resin in the dugouts, feel the clean smack of the ball against bat and see the hawkers in the stands.”
The Fan’s Mike Wilner spear headed Jays fans to get behind the nomination of the late Tom Cheek, the Frick winner in 2013. The Canadian Baseball Hall in St. Marys presents a Jack Graney award to members of the media who have made outstanding contributions to the game in Canada. Some past winners include Neil MacCarl (Toronto Star), Jerry Howarth (Blue Jays broadcaster) and Richard Griffin (Toronto Star).