The baseball regular season is coming to an end so it is natural for sportswriters to begin to debate the relative merits of the individual award candidates. Justin Verlander is sprinting to the finish line and is pulling away in the Cy Young race, and there isn’t anybody of note in the rookie of the year category. It is the MVP debate, especially in the AL, which is driving most discussions—with varying viewpoints on the validity of the word “valuable” and whether a player’s statistics override all other considerations. And the annual question arises–how much impetus does the “valuable” in MVP actually deride?
My friend Joe Posnanski (whom I have never met and likely never will) brought up this question again in his recent blog on SI.com. Do voters get sidetracked by the meaning of the word and fail to award the player who had the best year? And if so…why? His reasoning is logical–ignore the “valuable” connotation and simply award it to the league’s best player. This year the best player in the AL is Jose Bautista. Now the likelihood is that Posnanski stands alone when the voting amongst his sportswriter coven is made and the likelihood is that Bautista finishes in the top three—but does not win. The one flaw in Bautista’s game this year is that he plays for a non-contender—and that, according to MVP voters, is a major flaw.
Now there isn’t a player more valuable to his team than Bautista is to the Jays. The team relies on him to not only be their best player but also be their leader—and he is playing a major role in as the Jays grow into a contender. It is a lot to ask of a player—and Bautista does everything well. There are few players in baseball who are as valuable to their organization—so it isn’t a stretch to think that he is deserving of the MVP award. Especially since Bautista leads the league in a number of impressive categories.
But that’s not how the MVP award is handed out. Unless a universally respected player like Andre Dawson signs with a last place club for mere pennies just so he could play on natural grass and then proceeds to hit 49 homeruns that year then the MVP is going to be awarded to the member of a winning team. The philosophy is not wrong. Awards should go to the winners. That’s the nature of sport.
So it’s not as important for a player to be valuable as it is to be a winner. They should change the name of the award to MVWP–the most valuable winning player—thus ending any and all theoretical discussion. That would solve everything. This year’s valuable winners are…Adrian Gonzalez and Jacoby Ellsbury from Boston, Curtis Granderson and Robinson Cano from the Yankees, Michael Young from Texas, and Justin Verlander from Detroit.
Let’s look at the candidates. Gonzalez and Ellsbury are great hitters who play on a great hitting team in Boston–as are Cano and Granderson with the Yankees. The depth of these line-ups lessens the pressure on these players—they don’t have to carry the team every game. Gonzalez, Boston’s pre-eminent hitter, has been walked less than half that of Bautista, and Granderson, having the best season for the Yankees and hitting in front of Texeira, A-Rod and Cano, has not received a single intentional walk. Bautista leads baseball with 19 intentional walks.
Cano has had a good season but is not among the league leaders in enough categories, and Young has spent most of the season at DH for the Rangers so will get a good number of votes but not enough to enter into the equation.
Verlander will be the easy choice for Cy Young. Most voters hesitate to give the MVP award to a pitcher—the arguments have been that they have their own award, and that pitchers play once every five days, and therefore have less impact. But Granderson probably makes an impact on a game about the same number of times per year as a starting pitcher makes a start. Think of the number of times Granderson went 0-4 and outside of making a couple standard catches in the outfield played no part in the outcome of the game.
Verlander has been the difference this year for the Tigers—without him Detroit would be a mediocre club. Verlander is both valuable and a winner as the Tigers are on their way to winning the AL Central. And consider his season’s accomplishments–a 20 game winner before September, the majors WHIP leader, third in ERA and is the majors strikeout leader. He has allowed two hits for every three innings pitched and has thrown a no-hitter. Verlander has had one of the better pitching seasons seen in the past decade.
Should Verlander be penalized for being a pitcher the way Bautista is penalized for being on a non-contending team?
The hitters who play for the Red Sox and the Yankee contenders play on very deep offensive clubs–and none of them are having a Dawson-like season. So like dirty clothes they should be clumped together in a ball and tossed into a basket.
There are only two rightful contenders this year–Verlander and Bautista. Verlander will be pitching in the post-season. Justin Verlander is the MVP.
…Am I alone with regards to Michael Vick? He is receiving so many accolades and so much publicity for being a superstar athlete—but I can’t get past the image of him tossing small dogs into a ring as bait for bigger dogs. Or the image of him holding a dog underwater until it was dead.
…There was an obvious (cataclysmic) drop of enthusiasm within the Blue Jay team once John McDonald walked out the door. The club has played the past week without any emotion—as if its heart has been cut out. For the first time all year I get the sense that the team can’t wait for the season to be over. They need to get over the emotional shock, and soon—there is an entire month left and that time will prove valuable for the young guys and for the organization. This team needs to see what it has so the organization can decide which direction to go in during the off-season, and which pieces they need to add. The Jays need to be a contender in 2012.
Follow me on twitter @mhobson12Tags: Adrian Gonzalez, Boston Red Sox, Curtis Granderson, John McDonald, Jose Bautista, Justin Verlander, Michael Vick, MVP, New York Yankees, Toronto Blue Jays