Howdy, I’m your host, Houston Mitchell. Why did the school hire only ghosts to be cheerleaders? To fill the campus with spirit.
The Dodgers and Angels had players selected Monday as finalists for baseball’s top individual awards.
For the Dodgers, Cody Bellinger is one of the three finalists for National League most valuable player and Hyun-Jin Ryu is one for the NL Cy Young Award. The Angels’ entry is Mike Trout, who is a finalist for American League MVP for the seventh time in his first nine seasons.
Trout could win his third MVP award, and first since 2016, despite sitting out the final three weeks of the season because of a foot injury. The 28-year-old center fielder topped the AL in slugging percentage (.645), on-base-percentage (.438) and FanGraphs’ version of WAR (8.6) and finished second with 45 home runs.
His competition for the award is Houston Astros third baseman Alex Bregman, who finished second to Trout in fWAR and OBP for a 107-win team, tied for third in the AL in home runs (41) and was third in slugging percentage (.592).
Oakland Athletics shortstop Marcus Semien is the third finalist, but he’s not going to win. Yankees fans were upset DJ LeMahieu wasn’t nominated. But they’re Yankees fans, so few were sympathetic to their cries.
Bellinger, 24, rebounded from a frustrating 2018 season to bat .305 with a 1.035 on-base-plus-slugging percentage, 47 home runs, 115 runs batted in and 15 steals in 156 games. His 7.8 fWAR, buoyed by his plus defense as a right fielder, center fielder and first baseman, was tied for first in the NL with Milwaukee Brewers right fielder and fellow finalist Christian Yelich.
Like Trout, Yelich sat out the final chunk of the season because of an injury. He ranked first in the NL in batting average (.329), OBP (.429) and slugging percentage (.671) in 130 games. Washington Nationals third baseman Anthony Rendon is the third finalist after batting .319 with 34 home runs and a league-leading 126 RBIs.
Ryu, a 32-year-old left-hander, led the majors with a 2.32 earned-run average and 1.18 walk rate. His 3.10 FIP was fourth in the NL. His 182 2/3 innings were his most since his rookie year in 2013.
Ryu would be the 14th Cy Young Award winner in franchise history and the first since Kershaw in 2014.
Here are the major award finalists:
Rookie of the Year (winner announced Nov. 11)
NL: Pete Alonso, Mets; Mike Soroka, Braves; Fernando Tatis Jr., Padres
AL: Yordan Alvarez, Astros; Brandon Lowe, Rays; John Means, Orioles
Manager of the Year (Nov. 12)
NL: Craig Counsell, Brewers; Mike Shildt, Cardinals; Brian Snitker, Braves
AL: Rocco Baldelli, Twins; Aaron Boone, Yankees; Kevin Cash, Rays
Cy Young Award (Nov. 13)
NL: Jacob deGrom, Mets; Hyun-Jin Ryu, Dodgers; Max Scherzer, Nationals
AL: Gerrit Cole, Astros; Charlie Morton, Rays; Justin Verlander, Astros
MVP (Nov. 14)
NL: Cody Bellinger, Dodgers; Anthony Rendon, Nationals; Christian Yelich, Brewers
AL: Alex Bregman, Astros; Marcus Semien, A’s; Mike Trout, Angels
We will break down all the candidates and pick the winners next week in our Dodgers Dugout newsletter. Click here to subscribe. It’s free!
This year as he returns to face the Bulls in his hometown of Chicago, Anthony Davis, for the first time in his career, is playing for a championship contender in the Lakers.
“When you got to come in and play each and every game like it’s a championship game, it makes the game more fun for me,” said the forward, who played his first seven seasons with New Orleans before the Lakers acquired him in a trade this summer. “It makes the game more fun for everyone, knowing that we’re getting everyone’s best shot.”
Davis comes into his hometown game with his team on a five-game winning streak and off an individually stellar three-game stretch that earned him player of the week honors for the Western Conference. The last Laker to earn that distinction was Kobe Bryant during the 2012-13 season. Davis averaged 32 points, 13 rebounds, 2.7 blocks and two assists in wins over Memphis, Dallas and San Antonio — all while managing shoulder soreness.
Davis, 26, wasn’t interested in playing along when asked whether there was a friendly competition between him and teammate LeBron James for those player of the week honors. James pooh-poohed the idea too, though less severely.
“No, man,” James said. “You see his numbers? And we’re 3-0 for the week?”
But he seemed more interested in a friendly competition the longer he talked.
“When did the week, this week just started?” James said playfully. “ … Starting over now? OK, I got some things to do.”
The Chargers returned to work Monday hours after a stirring victory that suggested their season might not be dead, despite the persistent rumors.
Their 26-11 thumping of Green Bay was such a promising revival that they now are looking at perhaps the longest short week in NFL history.
“You always hear about players complaining about Thursday games, but I’m glad that it’s on Thursday,” Philip Rivers said. “Hopefully, we can ride this wave a little bit against a tough Oakland team at their place.”
The Chargers have only three days to recover before playing the Raiders at the Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum.
That’s not a lot of time to heal physically, especially for a team that lost two more starters — right tackle Sam Tevi and linebacker Denzel Perryman — to knee injuries Sunday.
But, mentally, the Chargers appear to be feeling so healthy, so renewed that they almost could have played Oakland as the back end of a day-night doubleheader.
“We’re coming off a hot win,” safety Jaylen Watkins said. “When you’re playing like that, you don’t want to come off the field. I agree with Philip. We’re anxious to get right back out there and perform again.”
The season’s second-half landscape looks and apparently feels different for the Rams.
In each of the last two seasons, coach Sean McVay’s teams were positioned atop the NFC West or in second place going into the final eight games.
That was not the case Monday when players returned to work after a week off.
The Rams are 5-3 and in third place in the division heading into a road game Sunday against the Pittsburgh Steelers.
The NFC West-leading San Francisco 49ers, with an 8-0 record, are the NFL’s only unbeaten team. The Seattle Seahawks are 7-2. Both teams defeated the Rams.
McVay and his players did not sound concerned.
They said they were focused on the Steelers. Left unsaid: Opportunity remains for a third consecutive division title, a playoff run and a return to the Super Bowl.
“This league has so many ebbs and flows,” McVay said during a news conference in Thousand Oaks, adding, “So much can be changed in the eight weeks.”
In six years under Andy Enfield, the Trojans have been to just two NCAA tournaments. The last time USC advanced past the Sweet 16, its two five-star freshmen, Onyeka Okongwu and Isaiah Mobley, weren’t even toddlers.
Now, as USC opens its season against Florida A&M tonight, they’re the focal point of a class that many believe hope might turn the tide of Trojans basketball. Enfield insists that neither will be forced into an outsized role right away. But as USC hopes to turn a sub-par, sub-.500 finish in 2018 into a potentially program-defining season, its freshmen will have to rise to the occasion.
“We have a lot of expectations,” Okongwu said. “But it doesn’t faze us. It doesn’t faze me.”
Okongwu was the first to willingly accept that expectation, after all. The two-time Times player of the year committed to USC last May, following the plan he’d set years before. Just four days later, Mobley, whose father is now a Trojans assistant, took the same plunge.
The pair had already played together with Compton Magic, helping carry the AAU powerhouse to new heights. Over years spent in the same frontcourt, they came to know each other’s tendencies and understand each other on a different level.
Etop Udo-Ema, the founder of Compton Magic, believes that chemistry, combined with the sheer talent of both, could give USC one of the nation’s best frontcourts.
“The sky is the limit for those two guys,” Udo-Ema said. “If they get on a run and USC is playing really well, they’re both going to kill it.”
TODAY’S LOCAL MAJOR SPORTS SCHEDULE
All times Pacific
Lakers at Chicago, 5 p.m., Spectrum Sportsnet, 710 ESPN
Kings at Toronto, 4:30 p.m., FSW
Minnesota at Ducks, 7 p.m., PRIME
Florida A&M at USC, 8 p.m., Pac-12 Network, 790 KABC
BORN ON THIS DATE
1935: Jockey Lester Piggott
1952: Basketball player Bill Walton
1973: Baseball player Johnny Damon
1974: Basketball player Jerry Stackhouse
1978: Golfer Bubba Watson
1992: Football player Odell Beckham Jr.
Bill Walton‘s Basketball Hall of Fame induction speech. Watch it here.
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