August 21, 2006
There's more than a month left in the season yet the MVP award seems to
be the big topic these
days. Despite the fact that the award is
decided in September, people have begun to argue over "who should be
the MVP". I'm guessing most of the buzz in the AL
is driven by the Yankee media machine which is responsible for about
90% of the drivel that infects baseball. There's still almost a
quarter of the season left to be played; it's way too early to start
counting votes. In 1993, Lenny Dykstra was widely viewed as the
no doubt NL
MVP in August. The final tally turned out differently as Barry
won his second consecutive and third overall that year. The point
is it's quite premature to engage in serious discussion about the most
valuable players in each league. Still, it's worth noting the
strange direction the discussion has moved.
The most amusing candidate so far is Derek Jeter. Offensively,
he's no better than Carlos Guillen and defensively, at least according
to the Dewan Fielding Bible, he's one of the worst in the majors.
He's not even the best shortstop on his own team. So are his
boosters just overly enamored with his batting average? I don't
get it. If any shortstop deserves MVP consideration, it has to be
Carlos Guillen. He's the engine that drives the team with the
best record in baseball. Since the writers refuse to look at the
MVP as the best player award, instead preferring ethereal requirements
that have become cliché, like team leader on a winning team...
player better epitomizes that than Carlos Guillen. Jeter is no
than the second best shortstop candidate in the AL, even in the
categories he usually dominates in the minds of writers.
David Ortiz' candidacy makes more sense to me than Jeter's because he's
leading the league in homers and RBI and has come up with a ridiculous
number of big hits this year. Still, there's an argument to be
made that he's not the best DH in the league so how can he be
MVP? And after this weekend's drubbing, the Red Sox aren't a
playoff team so
there's little chance he can win regardless of herculean efforts.
As an aside, I have to wonder what Terry Francona was thinking during
the final innings of Sunday's
game. I don't have a problem with him bringing in Timlin to start
the 8th or Javier Lopez to face the lefties that inning. Jonathan
Papelbon can not pitch every relief inning so someone else in the Red
Sox bullpen has to start getting hitters out. It's just
unfortunate that Boston doesn't have any other guys like that.
But that's not Francona's fault; it's Theo Epstein's. No, what
I don't get is why with the bases loaded in the bottom of the ninth,
when you've already pinch hit for Gabe Kapler, why he didn't also pinch
hit for Doug Mirabelli? Mirabelli is easily the worst hitter on
the team when Willie Harris isn't on the roster, and he had Javy Lopez
on the bench. Yes, Lopez is not a good defensive catcher, but
he's most definitely a better hitter than Mirabelli, plus a) if he gets
hit or somehow reaches base the point is moot, and b) with the way the
Boston bullpen has been pitching, is a catcher's defense or ability to
call a game really
Boston's most pressing concern? They issued 4 bases loaded walks
this weekend. That doesn't sound like a catcher problem.
Mirabelli had faced Rivera just
once previously in his career and drew a walk. That wasn't going
to happen again; there's no way Rivera would have walked in the winning
run against a .198 hitter. Lopez had a lifetime .267 batting
average against Rivera in 15 at bats so at least he a modest history of
success. Unless Lopez was in a coma, not pinch hitting for
Mirabelli made no sense especially with elimination from the playoffs
for all intents and purposes on the line. Boston is now five
games behind the Twins for second place in the wild card and six and a
half behind the Yanks with only four games head-to-head
left. They'll have plenty of free time to ponder this
October; they're done.
But back to the MVP talk... the guy with probably the strongest
candidacy at this point is probably
Joe Mauer, who is the best catcher in the AL with little debate.
Plus he, along with Justin Morneau, have been the key offensive
components to the
Twins rise in the wild card race. He's also get a very good
chance to be the first catcher in AL history to win a batting title and
the third backstop ever to do it, following Bubbles Hargrave and Ernie
"the Schnozz" Lombardi. How can you not win MVP when you're
running with that company? But can voters overlook the
guys with the 40-50 homers and give it to a guy who will likely finish
with a mere 15 homers? Probably not. Unless that guy's name
is Jeter. Mauer has a higher average, on base and slugging
percentage, plays a physically more demanding and strategically more
important position yet Jeter is viewed as an equally good or perhaps
even better candidate. Y'see how ridiculous this is?
Still, the writers inability to understand or even define the term
"valuable" is not where I want to focus my energy on this topic.
I wanted to throw out another name that has escaped mention and a type
of player that really hasn't been considered for the post season award
since Pete Rose was playing. The guy I'd like to toss into the
discussion is Mark DeRosa. No, I don't think he'll win, nor does
he necessarily deserve to. But think about it. Managers
have to give just about every regular a day off every once in a
while. Usually, the guy they turn to is one of a hundred Ramon
of the world to fill that day's role. In Texas, however, it
which all-star Buck Showalter decides to rest on any given day.
guy who has produced as well or better than his regulars all
season. Hank Blalock
needs a day off, no problem; Mark DeRosa. Michael Young or Mark
Teixeira or future all-star Ian Kinsler... again, no problem.
Mark DeRosa. He's played everywhere but catcher and center
field. His .325 average is 5th best overall in the AL and .896
OPS is 17th best. He's played 26 games at second base and no AL
second baseman has an OPS within 100 points of him. He's been
so good that he's pretty much been an everyday player despite not
playing the same position more than three or four days in a row.
talking about how valuable a player is to his team, how can it not be
incredibly valuable to a team when a manager can rest any player at any
and not lose anything offensively from his replacement?
Maybe stuff like that isn't as valuable as diving into the stands for a