EVEN THOUGH HIS AVERAGE IS DOWN, HIS POWER NUMBERS HAVE HIM IN THE CONVERSATION

Bregman once again in MVP discussion

Let me start by saying that Mike Trout is the leader for the American League Most Valuable Player Award and his stats are on par with his typical season over the last five years. He is simply the best player in baseball and all you need to do is look at the voting for the award every year since he became an everyday player in the major leagues and you will see consistency, hitting for average, power numbers and a WAR that are all at an elite level. The biggest problem is that he plays for a team in the Angels that are consistently inconsistent and underachieving over Trout's career in the big leagues. If you are the favorite seemingly every year for MVP shouldn't your team be better overall as a unit? It's the same discussion we have had and heard with James Harden and the voting issues that have short-changed him when pitted against Steph Curry and Russell Westbrook. One year wins matter and the next they don't? Regardless of his team's success, it's pretty hard to argue against Trout winning the award again in 2019.

Astros Alex BregmanPhoto by Joel Auerbach/Getty Images

With all that said about Trout and the year he is having, have you looked at the season Alex Bregman's having and the numbers he is putting up? Most analytical baseball websites have him in the top three when examining the most qualified and deserving candidates for A.L. MVP and when you delve deeper into the stats it pretty easy to see why. Sure his batting average is lower than it was a year ago, ut his power numbers are through the roof. People are quick to forget he normally steps up his game in August and September when most players start to taper off and slow down. Alex is a "gamer" and we all know when the lights are the brightest and the stage at it's biggest, that's when he really shows up in a big way. Just look at his last game on the most recent 10 game road trip to see that amongst a team tired, road-weary and scuffling, Bregman was 4-4 with a walk and 3 RBI. So far in the month of August, he is hitting .442, with 23 hits in 52 at-bats, which 15 were for extra bases, 20 RBI and 10 walks. Is that any good? I would say so! His WAR or wins above replacement is a 6.2 which is 3rd, right behind Trout and his ridiculous 8.2 that leads all of baseball and Cody Bellinger the top candidate for N.L. MVP who is at a career-best 8.1. Safe to say Bregman deserves to be in the discussion when talking about the players having the best overall seasons in baseball in 2019 especially since WAR factors in defense and he is easily one of the best defensive 3rd basemen in the sport. He is projected to have a similar average, more home runs and about the same number of RBI as last season when he finished in the top 5 vote-getters for the award given to the best player in the American League.

The Astros paradeBob Levey/Getty Images

The best part about the year Alex Bregman is having is the fact that he has been able to post all these great numbers while being surrounded by a cast of equally talented and previously awarded stars in the Astros batting order on a nightly basis. Jose Altuve has been there and done that when it comes to the MVP, Michael Brantley is in a tight race for the batting title, Carlos Correa has been the A.L. Rookie of the Year, George Springer has been a World Series MVP, Yuli Gurriel was player of the month for July and Yordan Alvarez is on pace to be the latest Houston player to bring home the hardware as the best first-year player in the American League. The team is full of all-stars, but the best part of all these individual success stories is the fact that together they make up one heck of a team. Houston is in a 3 team race for the best record in baseball and along with the Yankees and Dodgers, they are the favorites to win their second World Series title in the last 3 years. Unlike Trout who can only hang his hat on his personal numbers, Bregman and company can take pride in the successful squad they put on the diamond every night as they head towards another division title and postseason birth. It's great to have a great player or players on your team and having outstanding seasons, but it really means nothing if they don't win consistently and accomplish the team goals all great teams set out to achieve at the start of every year. So, you can have your Trout and go fishing every year when the playoffs start, or you can have Houston's collection of stars and have your individual cake and the team can eat it too!

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Mattress Mack and the Astros host Pearland Little League at Wednesday night's game. Photo by LittleLeague.org

Sure, it’s impressive that the Astros have made four World Series appearances in recent years, but they’re not alone. There’s another baseball team around here that’s also headed to its fourth World Series since 2010.

Pearland defeated Oklahoma, 9-4, on Tuesday to win the Southwest Regional and qualify for the Little League World Series starting Aug. 17 in South Williamsport, PA.

Most fans and media say the Little League World Series is held in Williamsport, but it’s South Williamsport, just a 5-minute stroll across a bridge over the Susquehanna River in north central Pennsylvania.

Pearland is on a torrid 13-game winning streak that swept through district, sectional, state and regional tournaments to earn the Little League World Series bid.

Here’s how difficult the road to the Little League World Series is. There are 15 teams in MLB’s American League. If the Astros finish with one of the two best records, they’ll have to win two playoff series to play in the World Series.

Little League is a little bigger than MLB. Little League is the largest youth sports organization in the world, with 2.5 million kids playing for 180,000 teams in more than 100 countries on six continents.

Pearland, representing East Texas, had to defeat All-Star teams from West Texas, Oklahoma, Mississippi, Louisiana, New Mexico, Arkansas and Colorado to win the Southwest Regional. The Little League World Series will host 20 teams - 10 from the U.S. and 10 from international regions.

If you have children that play Little League, or you’re just a fan, attending the Little League World Series should be high on your baseball bucket list.

I covered the Little League World Series in 2010 when Pearland made its first appearance and made it all the way to the U.S. championship game. It may have been my most fun assignment ever.

The Little League World Series is played by 11 and 12-year-olds in Little League’s major division. When ESPN and ABC air these games, they’ll present the players as innocent little kids, like Beaver and Wally or Tom and Huck. They’ll show the kids playing Simon Says with the Little League mascot called Dugout. They’ll ask the kids who’s their favorite big leaguer.

I was a Little League coach. I followed Little League All-Stars across Texas all the way to South Williamsport. These kids are absolute baseball maniacs with $400 gloves, $500 bats and Oakley sunglasses. I thought the Astros might call and ask where they got their super neat equipment.

Especially in Texas, these kids are built tough with long ball power and play year-round travel baseball with high-priced private coaches. This isn’t a choose-up game in the park where kids play in their school clothes, one kid brings a baseball and the players share bats. I looked at some of the Little Leaguers and wondered if they drove to the stadium.

I half-expected, when ABC asked who their baseball idol was, they’d answer “me!”

Here’s how seriously good these kids can play the game. Justin Verlander throws a 97-mph fastball. That’s pretty fast. It’s not rare anymore for a Little League pitcher to reach 70-mph on a fastball. The Little League mound is 46 feet from home plate. A 70-mph pitch in Little League gets to home plate in the same time as a 91-mph pitch from 60 feet 6 inches in MLB.

In 2015, a pitcher named Alex Edmonson fired an 83-mph heater at the Little League World Series. The reaction time a Little League batter had against Alex’s pitch was equal to a Major Leaguer trying to hit a 108-mph fastball. Good luck with that. Alex pitched a no-hitter and struck out 15 batters in six innings at the Little League World Series. Now 20, Alex is a relief pitcher for Clemson.

The Little League World Series is a trip. The easiest way to get there is to fly into Philadelphia and drive to South Williamsport. I sat next to CC Sebathia’s mother on the plane.

Admission to all Little League World Series games is free and snack bar prices are reasonable. A hot dog is $3. Alcohol and smoking are prohibited.

The first Little League World Series was held in 1947. Only 58 players have played in the Little League World Series and later played in MLB. The most famous are Cody Bellinger and Jason Varitek. Only two players from the Houston area made the leap: Brady Rodgers and Randal Grichuk both played on the 2003 team from Richmond, about 30 miles from Houston in Fort Bend County.

While you’re in South Williamsport, you should visit the Little League museum and Hall of Excellence. Among the inductees: Presidents Joe Biden and George W. Bush, Astros manager Dusty Baker, Kevin Costner, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Dick Vitale, Rob Manfred and someone who’d later play stadiums in a different way, Bruce Springsteen.

Speaking of Springsteen, I shattered a record at the 2010 Little League World Series. The record was Springsteen’s Born in the U.S.A. I was talking to a Little League executive while teams were warming up on the field. Born in the U.S.A. came over the stadium loudspeakers.

I told the executive, I’m a big fan but maybe this isn’t the best song you should be playing. The executive asked why not? Well, you might want to listen to the words. Born in the U.S.A. is a depressing song about a U.S. soldier who is sent to Vietnam and can’t find a job when he gets back home. It’s not exactly Yankee Doodle Dandy. You have teams from Asia here (Japan won the tournament that year). The executive said, please tell me you’re kidding. Here’s one verse:

Got in a little hometown jam

So they put a rifle in my hand

Sent me off to a foreign land

To go and kill the (what is considered a slur for Asians).

Later I got an email from the president of Little League International.

“Quite honestly, I've never listened closely to the words of Born in the USA. I see clearly how it is offensive to our Little League friends from Asian nations. I have directed our folks who coordinate the stadium music to discontinue playing it in the future.”

Play Centerfield by John Fogerty instead. The message of that song is, “put me in coach.” Little League couldn’t say it any better.

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