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BCB After Dark: Who’s the best?

The late-night spot for night owls, early-risers and Cubs fans abroad asks who is the best player in the game at the moment.

MLB: Los Angeles Angels at Toronto Blue Jays
I love this symbolism of Vlad Guerrero Jr. looking over Mike Trout’s shoulder.
Nathan Ray Seebeck-USA TODAY Sports

Welcome back to BCB After Dark: the nightclub for night owls, early-risers, new parents and Cubs fans abroad. Please seat yourself. Bring your own beverage. Be sure to tip your waitstaff.

BCB After Dark is the place for you to talk baseball, music, movies, or anything else you need to get off your chest, as long as it is within the rules of the site. The late-nighters are encouraged to get the party started, but everyone else is invited to join in as you wake up the next morning and into the afternoon.

Last week I asked you if the Cubs had found their hitting stroke after exploding for 16 runs against the Mets. By and almost three-to-one margin, (74% to 26%), you said that you still didn’t think the Cubs could hit. In games since then, I think you could find evidence to support either position. They were shut out on Sunday against the Brewers and Brandon Woodruff, but he’s been shutting down pretty much everyone this year. But they also exploded for another 15 runs versus Brian Anderson and the Milwaukee bullpen on Friday. Tonight’s 8-7 loss to the Braves certainly wasn’t the fault of the Cubs offense. If you want to continue to discuss that tough defeat, feel free to do so here.

Here’s the part where I talk about jazz and movies. As always, you can just skip to the bottom if that doesn’t interest you. You’re not going to hurt my feelings.

I’ve been throwing a lot of John Coltrane at you over the past week, so I thought I’d finish it out with Coltrane’s Giant Steps, which is the recording that announced Coltrane as one of the giants of jazz.

Here’s the complete remastered version of Giant Steps. [VIDEO] A lot of people writing in the comments are saying they prefer the original mono recording [VIDEO] to this re-mix, so if you want to listen and compare, here’s your chance.

Instead of me trying to explain how revolutionary Giant Steps was at the time, I think I’ll just employ some corporate synergy and link to you this Vox Explainer video that tells the story a lot better than I can.

Instead of talking about one movie today, I’ll think I’ll just talk in general about the Academy Awards that aired on Sunday night. For at least the 30th-straight year, I did not watch. From the overnight ratings, it seems like most of you joined my annual tradition this year.

To be frank, I only care about awards shows in general and the Oscars in particular as trivia. I do enjoy reading good film criticism, so I will often read articles about why this movie or that should or should not win, but I simply don’t care who actually wins. It has no bearing on whether or not I enjoy a movie. It may cause me to watch a film because I know that a performance or film that wins an Academy Award is going to be talked about for a while and I want to understand the conversation. But I’m not going to watch a film that I’ve already decided that I can skip just because it won an Oscar.

There is an inherent absurdity in turning art into a competition. I’m certainly not the first one to make that observation. I do think that as a general rule of thumb, movies that get nominated or win Oscars are better films than ones that don’t, but that’s not always true. I certainly don’t think that the movies that win Best Picture are necessarily better than the other nominated films. The list of films considered among the all-time greats that lost Best Picture to inferior films is long: Citizen Kane lost to How Green Was My Valley; High Noon lost to The Greatest Show On Earth; Raging Bull lost to Ordinary People and Dances With Wolves beat Goodfellas. Vertigo, the film that replaced Citizen Kane in the latest Sight and Sound poll as the greatest film of all-time, only got two nominations for technical categories and none in the major ones. My personal choice for the best film of the 2010s, Mad Max: Fury Road lost to Spotlight, which isn’t a bad movie but it’s also a film we’ve seen before. Spotlight was Oscar-bait in that it was about an important current social issue. The voters eat that up. But it wasn’t as imaginative, creative or as well-done as Mad Max: Fury Road.

(And as an aside, if you haven’t seen Mad Max: Fury Road, you should. I remember thinking “Why in the world do we need another silly Mad Max movie in 2015?” and I remember thinking after I saw it “There is no way that a Mad Max film should be as good as that.” And if you can get your hands on the black-and-white “Silver-and-Chrome” edition, watch that as well. I’m not saying it’s better than the normal color version, but it is a distinct and different experience. And if I cared, Charlize Theron should have gotten her second Oscar. )

But back to that point about trivia. I do think it’s fun to know that How Green Was My Valley beat Citizen Kane for an Oscar, but it’s not fun to get upset about it. I think it’s fun to know that Frances McDormand is now just one Oscar behind Katherine Hepburn for the most wins by an actress. But again, you shouldn’t think McDormand is a better actress than Theron just because she has more statues at home. Maybe she is, but it’s not because she has more statues.

I feel the same way about the BBWAA Awards. It’s ridiculous to think that awarding the MVP or Cy Young award every year decides anything. They’re more instructive in telling us something about the way sportswriters of the past interpreted the game. In the 1950s, voters valued catchers and shortstops. That’s why Yogi Berra and Roy Campanella each won three MVP Awards. Both of them were great players and deserve to be in Cooperstown, but in both cases, they had teammates (Mickey Mantle, Duke Snider and others) who were better players who had better seasons when they won. But sportswriters of the time were taught that the most important players were the catcher and the shortstop. They had “intangibles” that the average fan couldn’t see. And they liked to prove that by voting them as MVP.

That was some great circular thinking back in the fifties. Catchers are the most important position on the diamond. How do we know? Because they win more MVPs. Why do they win more MVPs? Because catching is the most important position on the field.

In the 1970s and 1980s, voters valued RBI more than anything, which is why you get MVP awards that are retrospectively silly: Jeff Burroughs and Steve Garvey in 1974, Don Baylor in 1979, and George Bell and Andre Dawson (forgive me!) in 1987. Voters were also obsessed with saves, so Rollie Fingers won in 1981, Willie Hernandez in 1984 and Dennis Eckerlsley in 1992.

So like the MVP Award, I find the Oscars fascinating not for what they tell us about the films, but about what they tell us about the voters and the times. And maybe for winning some free beer in a bar bet.

Welcome back to all those who don’t care about jazz or film, although I did talk about baseball awards in the movie section. Maybe I should do a future installment on Mad Max: Fury Road, although that’s a recent enough film that I think most of you have already made up your mind on it one way or the other.

I was going to ask you about Diamondbacks pitcher Madison Bumgarner’s no no-hitter, but you already had a chance to weigh in on that Monday morning. So go vote there if you haven’t yet and if you want to discuss that here in the comments, it’s a good place to do so.

So I’m going to ask in the spirit of the awards, who is the best player in MLB right now? I’m not asking you to predict who will win the MLB awards—as I said, those say more about the voters than they do about the players. But what I am asking is which player is the best in the game at the moment. Who is the guy who you’d pick first to anchor a new team, if you were building a team from scratch for one year only, So don’t pass by Mike Trout just because he’s a lot older than Juan Soto. I want to know who is the best in the game right now in 2021.

For years the answer was simply “Mike Trout.” Trout is clearly one of the greatest ten players to ever play the game. He already has more career WAR than Johnny Bench, Reggie Jackson, Derek Jeter and Tony Gwynn and he’s only 29 years old.

But Trout does turn 30 this season and he’s not quite the defensive player he once was. And there are several other players who have arrived on the scene recently to lay a claim to Trout’s title as the greatest active ballplayer. Plus, there’s Jacob deGrom who is doing stuff that we haven’t seen since Pedro Martinez’s heyday. And contrary to what some think, pitchers are players.

So who is your choice for the best player in the game right now?


Who is the best player in MLB right now?

This poll is closed

  • 73%
    Mike Trout
    (56 votes)
  • 2%
    Mookie Betts
    (2 votes)
  • 9%
    Jacob deGrom
    (7 votes)
  • 7%
    Ronald Acuña Jr.
    (6 votes)
  • 2%
    Juan Soto
    (2 votes)
  • 2%
    Fernando Tatis Jr.
    (2 votes)
  • 1%
    Someone else (leave in comments)
    (1 vote)
76 votes total Vote Now

We’ll see you again with an abbreviated After Dark tomorrow night.