18 Nov

simply the best

Austin Riley, the former DeSoto Central High star, enjoyed a dream season with Atlanta in 2021. Not even assured of a starting job at third base in spring training, he became the team’s cleanup batter down the stretch, helped them to a World Series crown and earned a Silver Slugger Award. Riley’s season was clearly the best by any Mississippian in the majors, making him an easy choice for All Mississippi Baseball’s annual Cool Papa Bell Award. Previous winners of the award, which honors Negro Leagues legend Bell, the first Mississippi native to be enshrined in the National Baseball Hall of Fame, include Tim Anderson (twice), Corey Dickerson (twice), Mitch Moreland, Brian Dozier (twice), Desmond Jennings, Lance Lynn, Cliff Lee, Roy Oswalt and Chris Coghlan. Riley, in his third MLB campaign, batted .303 with 33 homers and 107 RBIs and played occasionally spectacular defense. He ranked in the top 10 in the National League in five key offensive categories. He also produced in big moments. In the Braves’ NL East-clinching sweep of Philadelphia in late September, Riley went 4-for-13 with a double, a homer, five RBIs and two runs. (For the record: Phillies star Bryce Harper, a finalist for NL MVP, went 0-for-11 with five punchouts in that three-game set.) Riley hit .277 in the postseason, with two homers, eight RBIs and seven runs in 16 games. He hit .320 in the World Series. All told, it was one of the best years ever by a Magnolia State product. P.S. Ex-East Central Community College star Marcus Thames has been hired as the Miami Marlins’ hitting coach; he was recently fired by the New York Yankees after four years in the same role. … Kudos to Biloxi Shuckers alum Corbin Burnes for winning the NL Cy Young Award. Burnes, who pitched in Biloxi in 2017, went 11-5 with a 2.43 ERA and 12.6 strikeouts per nine innings for Milwaukee, which won the NL Central title. Former Ole Miss standout Lance Lynn was a finalist for the AL Cy Young, which went to Robbie Ray.

31 May

cy young watch

The competition is stiff for the Cy Young Award in the National League, home to Jacob deGrom, Trevor Bauer, Yu Darvish, Max Scherzer, et al. If Brandon Woodruff wasn’t in the conversation entering 2021, he certainly is now. Woodruff beat Scherzer head-to-head on Sunday, allowing just two hits while fanning 10 in a 3-0 win by Milwaukee over Washington. The former Mississippi State star from Wheeler is 4-2 with a 1.27 ERA — second in MLB only to deGrom — and has racked up 10 straight quality starts. Batters are hitting .138 against him — that’s second-best in MLB — and he is tied for seventh in the majors with 83 strikeouts. He toyed with the Nationals’ hitters on Sunday, utilizing three effective pitches. “I was mixing it up and getting ahead and moving the ball around to different quadrants of the zone. That’s what helps out,” Woodruff said in a classic understatement in an mlb.com article. What’s more, the 6-foot-4, 240-pound right-hander just exudes confidence on the mound. The only Mississippi-connected pitcher to win a Cy Young is Cliff Lee, the Meridian Community College product who claimed the American League honor in 2008 with Cleveland. (BTW, Ole Miss alum Lance Lynn — 6-1 with an AL-best 1.37 ERA — is off to a Cy Young-caliber start with the Chicago White Sox.)