Major League Baseball officially wrapped up awards week Thursday, handing out Most Valuable Player Awards to a pair of first basemen — José Abreu of the Chicago White Sox and Freddie Freeman of the Atlanta Braves.
While there was no real drama surrounding the award announcements — every winner, beginning with Don Mattingly’s Manager of the Year Award on Monday and ending with Freeman’s MVP on Thursday, was considered a worthy selection by the pool of writers selected from the Baseball Writers’ Association of America — we still could not escape without a little controversy.
It all centers on one weird, lonely and entirely meaningless 10th-place vote cast for a Chicago Cubs reliever whose name you probably couldn’t guess if we gave you 100 attempts and a spring training media guide.
No, we don’t intend to insult Ryan Tepera — he’s the name you’re trying to guess — but we do wonder why, and how, his name appeared on the ballot of St. Louis Post-Dispatch beat writer and Baseball Hall of Famer Rick Hummel.
As it turns out, there was actually a very good explanation.
It was an accident.
Rick Hummel admits voting error
Speaking to Gorden Wittenmeyer of Cubs Insider, Hummel revealed the vote that went to Tepera was a mistake. The vote, which was submitted electronically, was actually intended for Washington Nationals shortstop Trea Turner.
“I’m sure the Tepera family is delighted, but there’s no way I would have voted for him. It was an accident,” said Hummel. “I fully intended to vote for Trea Turner. In fact, I remember wrestling with putting two guys in from a last place team.”
Well, that makes a whole lot more sense.
Turner, who led the National League in hits (78) and triples (4), was included on 28 of 30 ballots and ended up finishing seventh. He was absolutely worthy of MVP consideration along with his teammate, Juan Soto, who finished fifth. Knowing it was a mistake makes us feel a lot better about the vote itself, but maybe not as good about the process.
The good news is the tenth-place vote for Tepera wasn’t a vote that impacted the overall tabulations for the award. It also wasn’t the mark of an entire outlier ballot. Hummel was among the 28 out of 30 BBWAA voters who gave Freeman a first-place vote. Overall, the rest of his ballot was on par with those of his peers, so there’s nothing else here to make a fuss about or lose sleep over.
It was just random and strange for Tepera’s name to appear.
Speaking of the newly famous reliever, here’s a quick bio.
Who is Ryan Tepera?
Tepera, 33, is a veteran relief pitcher who was drafted by the Toronto Blue Jays in the 19th round of 2009 MLB Draft. He made his MLB debut for Toronto in 2015 and went on to appear in 216 games for the Blue Jays, posting a collective 3.64 ERA.
Truth be told, those are pretty reliable numbers for a relief pitcher, which is why the Chicago Cubs were content scooping him up on a one-year, $900,000 contract last December.
How did Ryan Tepera fare in 2020?
He did fine, really.
In 2020, Tepera appeared in 21 of Chicago’s 60 games during the abbreviated season. Over 20 2/3 innings, he posted a 3.92 ERA while striking out 31 and walking 12.
Again, that’s nothing if not satisfactory production from a middle reliever who you’ll probably never trust with the game on the line. But, of course, every bullpen had at least two or three relievers admirably filling that role. That’s why we were searching for any value that would catapult Tepera into MVP consideration on his own team, let alone the entire league.
Fortunately, that search is now over.
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