Who is the MVP?
In my last column, I
admitted to occasionally being overly harsh on sportswriters.
Perhaps, I misspoke. No sooner did those words appear on this
website than a slew of columns came out on the major media sites -
ESPN, Fox, etc. - reinforcing my previous points about how incapable
the sportswriters have been at understanding what "most valuable" means.
In response to a pro-ARod column by Rob Neyer, one ESPN writer took
ARod to task this season because he had one bad month. I guess
that makes the fact that he's leading the AL in home runs, runs, runs
created and is 2nd in RBI makes his year all the more remarkable,
doesn't it? If you are going to discredit him for one bad month,
aren't you at least partially obligated to give him extra credit for 5
Even more frustrating is he opens his tirade citing that historically,
97% of MVPs come from winning teams. But all this means is that
sportswriters have used the same criteria for voting for MVPs the vast
majority of the time; it doesn't mean they necessarily understand the
meaning of "valuable". For example, had Miguel Tejada not played
last year for the A's, would they have still gotten into the
playoffs? Probably, because, unlike the Rangers, they had three
of the best starting pitchers in baseball and several reliable,
productive everyday players who were all about team goals. The
Rangers, on the other hand, had Juan Gonzales, Chan Ho Park and Carl
Everett. Enough said? The point is that, unlike basketball,
one player can not make a team into a winner. Every contending
team in baseball history had at least one outstanding player and a
solid cast of very good ones. Baseball is simply too team
oriented for one player to turn a losing team into a championship
contender. So the notion that a team was carried by a single
player to a division title or a playoff berth is just fantasy.
How about looking at most valuable in another way - at the
turnstiles. When the A's come to town, did fans flock to see
Tejada? Probably not. But when the Rangers came to town,
you can bet that plenty of the fans who turned out weren't there to see
one of the worst teams in baseball. They were there to see the
youngest player in the history of the majors to reach 300 home runs and
a guy who has a legitimate shot at becoming the all-time leader in home
runs, RBI and runs. They were there to see the best shortstop ever and when
all is said and done, perhaps one of the three best players
overall. How valuable is that? I'm sure the Rangers
appreciate how valuable that extra income is.
And lest anyone thinks that Alex Rodriguez' contract is the reason the
Rangers aren't winning, let's dispel that ridiculous notion right
now. The Rangers are spending $35 million on Juan Gonzales, Carl
Everett and Chan Ho Park alone, and another $10 million on two
questionable contracts on players who will probably never play again (Jeff
Zimmerman and Rusty Greer).
You don't think a team can build a decent pitching staff with $45
million, which is roughly the same amount that the Oakland A's spend on
their entire team? If you want to blame someone for the
Rangers' futility, look to their front office and ownership, not at the
guy playing shortstop.
Finally, this ESPN writer campaigns for Shannon Stewart as a possible
MVP candidate. It's extremely hard to type while laughing this
hard, but I will press on. Yes, Stewart has had a very nice run
with the Twins and has certainly been a boost to their offense.
But the primary reason the Twins won the division going away down the
stretch was because after
the All-Star break, their
starting pitching stopped it's habit of allowing 7 runs a start.
How did this happen? Was it because the left field defense
improving dramatically? No, actually it was because the Twins
manager finally realized that comebacks are tougher than they look on
ESPN Classic, and he put Johan Santana in the rotation, thus easing the
burden on both the offense and bullpen. Just in case anyone
thinks I'm biased against lead-off hitters, before the Twins acquired
Stewart, the Twins were scoring 4.63 runs per game. After they
got him, they scored 5.38 runs per game, an improvement of 0.75.
Before the Twins put Santana in the rotation permanently (about the
same time they acquired Stewart), they were allowing 5.01 runs per game
and had allowed an opponent to score at least 7 runs in a game 24
times, or roughly once every 4 games. After moving Santana, they
allowed 4.16 runs per game (a 0.85 run improvement) and allowed
opponents to score 7 runs in a game just 12 times (once every 5 and two
thirds), two of which came in meaningless games against Detroit in the
final two days of the season.
So yes, Stewart had some impact, but less so than Gardenhire figuring
out a better way to use his available talent. Case closed.
So who is the AL MVP? It's sad that the debate has come down to
people who think ARod is the MVP and people who simply won't give it to
ARod, regardless of what he does. But that's how it is. In
ARod's favor is that he's leading the league in just about every
meaningful offensive category and played superb defense again at one of
the most demanding positions in baseball.
That said, there are some legitimate candidates. Shannon Stewart
and his .827 OPS/13 homers/89 runs and 73 RBI is definitely not one of
them. He actually created fewer runs this season that Dmitri
Young. And while Dmitri Young is a good player, he ain't no MVP
candidate. No, this year's non-ARod candidates are Carlos
Delgado, Manny Ramirez and perhaps Jorge Posada. Posada had a
nice year for a catcher, but are 29 homers and 97 runs created from a
catcher really more valuable than nearly 50 homers and 136 runs created
from a shortstop? I don't think so.
Delgado is very close to ARod in terms of runs created (134), but like
Rodriguez, he plays on a team that isn't contending and plays a less
demanding position. Ramirez is an intriguing possibility because
he plays on a winning team, is just behind Delgado and ARod in runs
created (130), and is a contender for the batting title (an
accomplishment that goes over big with sportswriters). But unlike
ARod, he gets bad marks for attitude due to his much publicized
"sickness" during a crucial series with the Yankees, which seems like a
completely silly thing to discredit a player for when it comes to
appraising his "value". The MVP award is supposed to be about on
the field performance, isn't it?
While the mountain of evidence still points unerringly to ARod winning
the award, the majority of the voters are still in the "not ARod at any
cost" camp, so the vote is still very much in the air. The
question is will there be enough support for a single non-ARod
candidate so that their disdain won't be too diffused to keep
Rodriguez' core supporters from finally rewarding him with the award he
deserves. I hope not because Alex Rodriguez is long overdue.
As hard as it is to believe, among the sportswriters Barry Bonds is
actually the sentimental candidate to win another MVP award. And
he is having another remarkable year despite the hardship of losing his
father to cancer this season. But is he really the most
Rate-wise, there's no question that Bonds is the most productive player
in the game, although it should be noted that the margin is not by as
much as people would have you think. Both Todd Helton and Manny
Ramirez entered this season with better lifetime slugging percentages
and Frank Thomas had a better on base percentage. Of course, each
additional year of the new
Barry changes that. But was he the most productive
overall? Actually, no.
Albert Pujols' run at a triple crown this season has put his runs
created total at 158.1, more than Bonds' 144.5. Todd
Helton's 151 is also superior to Bonds' but he plays on the Rockies, so
he has both the Colorado effect and the non-contender effect working
against him. Pujols does not. The biggest difference
between Bonds and Pujols this season is that Bonds has played about 30
fewer games. So the question then becomes, are the Giants better
off with 30 games of Ruben Rivera, Jeffrey Hammonds, Pedro Feliz,
Marvin Benard, et al. playing than the Cardinals are with Pujols
playing. Obviously not. But are they enough to offset the
balance in the Giants favor given their advantage when Bonds
plays. All totaled, the non-Bonds left fielders combined for 12.9
runs created, 7.3 of which came from Feliz. But that still leaves
the Giants short. So the correct answer for MVP, or at least the
guy who has been more valuable to his team's winning cause, is Albert
But someone getting the award over a more deserving candidate occurs
roughly 97% of the time, so we probably shouldn't expect history to
change this year.