The Chris Paddack-Pete Alonso beef is about to make this an NL Rookie of the Year race for the ages
Every year, the MVP and Cy Young Awards get horserace coverage on a monthly -- or even weekly -- basis. They're the biggest individual trophies in baseball, and they get treated as such: Thousands of words and hours of television are devoted to speculating and opining on who should win the awards.
The Rookie of the Year Awards are a bit different. It takes time for any first-year player to adjust to life in the Majors. Plenty of contenders don't even arrive in the Majors until months into the season, and most are starting from a place of relative anonymity.
But this year feels different. The National League boasts two rookies who don't just look like ROY favorites -- they look like two of the best players in baseball. They're Padres starting pitcher Chris Paddack and Mets first baseman Pete Alonso, they've got some beef, and their rivalry is set to make this awards season incredibly fun.
The National League Rookie of the Month
Alonso was named NL Rookie of the Month for April after hitting 9 dingers with a 1.024 OPS. Paddack -- who had a 1.91 ERA for the month -- seemed to feel a bit slighted. As the Padres prepared to face the Mets in early May, he made it known that the race was on: “Does he deserve [the Rookie of the Month honor]? Absolutely," Paddack told the Athletic. "But I’m coming for him. We’ll see Monday who the top dog is."
“Do I wish it was me? Yeah. But the way I look at it is, do you want to be Rookie of the Month or Rookie of the Year? We’ll see, man."
Paddack got his first shot on May 6, and he backed up his talk by striking the slugger out in his first two at-bats -- and making no secret that he was fired up.
Of course, it could have died there. But after an 0-for-3 night, Alonso only added a little fuel to the fire.
“I'm happy to win [the Rookie of the Month]," Alonso added. "If he was mad about that, there's five other months. … Also, he said something about winning the Rookie of the Year. That would be nice, but I'm trying to win a World Series.”
Alonso's teammate (and 2014 NL Rookie of the Year) Jacob deGrom also weighed in. What did he think of Paddack, who racked up 11 strikeouts in 7 2/3 shutout innings? “His stuff was OK.”
If you're looking for a model of how to make for compelling beef, this is how it's done. For those keeping track at home, the Paddack-Alonso rivalry went from a dispute over the April NL Rookie of the Month Award -- the NL Rookie of the Month Award! -- to jockeying for Rookie of the Year to winning the World Series, all in the course of about 24 hours.
The Mets and Padres will only meet once more this season, a three-game series in New York from July 23-25, so it's possible the two won't face each other again before the NL Rookie of the Year is named. But thanks to the wonders of the internet, their high-quality beef is still going to send this race into hyperdrive.
Last season's race for NBA Rookie of the Year between the Sixers' Ben Simmons and the Jazz's Donovan Mitchell reached a fever pitch despite the two facing each other in just two early-season games. That was thanks to Mitchell aggressively campaigning for himself on the platform that Simmons wasn't a "real rookie" after sitting out his first year in league with a foot injury.
Donovan Mitchell’s hoodie though lmao 👀 pic.twitter.com/VFbeugz77i— Complex Sports (@ComplexSports) April 10, 2018
By the end of the season, it seemed that every player in the league had publicly taken a side. Almost an entire season remains for baseball players to do the same. Baseball reporters need to approach this like they're covering Congress: Every player should be asked to go on the record.
In addition to the potential Paddack-Alonso July matchup, there are five more Rookie of the Month honors to be handed out. If they prove to be anything like the first, this beef could well reach Simmons-Mitchell levels. Let's hope it does, because the NL Rookie of the Year race is already shaping up to be a fun one to watch.
Eric Chesterton is writer for Cut4. He particularly enjoys bunts against the shift, stolen bases and celebrating his birthday with mascots at the ballpark.