November 17, 2003

Alex Rodriguez was named American League MVP, receiving the least first place votes of any winner since Yogi Berra in 1951.

posted by rcade to baseball at 03:09 PM - 29 comments

I'm glad A-Rod won for two reasons: I'm a Rangers homer and it would've been a crime to disregard his numbers in a year in which there was no front-runner who deserved it from an AL playoff team. There's precedent for a last-placer getting the MVP in unusual years, and this time around, he deserved it more than Delgado, Stewart, or Posada.

posted by rcade at 03:11 PM on November 17

Incidentally, did anyone know that the MVP award has a name? It's the Kenesaw Mountain Landis Award.

posted by rcade at 03:19 PM on November 17

A-Rod was clearly the best player in the American League this year. I think that this, combined with the weaknesses in every other candidate, makes him a deserving choice.

I think that best is (usually) distinct from most valuable, but other players that might have had a greater relative impact on their respective teams (like Stewart) had other flaws that made A-Rod a better choice. Delgado had a year that approached Alex's, but 1) shortstop is a more critical defensive position, and 2) Alex's stats were better, and neither player's team sniffed the postseason. A good call, in my view.

posted by jeffmshaw at 03:23 PM on November 17

I dunno - I liked Delgado, but he had a weak couple o months after the all-star break and a good September (including that 4 homer game). Jays were a far more competitive team (actually sporting a winning record) and it's arguable over who was surrounded by better talent in the line-up (Greg freaking Myers hit fifth for the Jays, and 500 homer guy Palmeiro hit behind Pay-Rod). Delgado had better RBI, walks, OBP, OPS, average, doubles and hit into less DPs - but I would say overall, A-Rod had the better year. But it's damn close - A-Rod had 5 more homers, 7 more runs, 17 more SBs and 27 less RBIs. I think he gets by virtue of missing out on it for the last fews years by being punished for being on Texas.

posted by WeedyMcSmokey at 03:53 PM on November 17

Well, his numbers may be gaudy but he isn't valuable to his team. I know everybody will flame me and jump on that comment as preposterous. He should win every hitting award out there, the Silver Slugger or Hank Aaron award or whatever they call them but the MVP should have gone elsewhere.

posted by vito90 at 04:27 PM on November 17

I'm sympathetic to the "A-Rod didn't help his team as much as X player helped his" argument, vito, but I just don't see it here. How do you give the award to Shannon Stewart, who helped the Twins a lot -- for just a few hundred at bats? Or to Delgado, whose team was better the Rangers, but didn't make the playoffs either? Or to Posada, or Ortiz, whose teams made the playoffs, but who are dramatically inferior players, and were helped by having superior teammates?
Certainly not trying to "flame" you, but I'm interested in who your first-place vote would have gone to.

posted by jeffmshaw at 04:40 PM on November 17

I don't like this vote, and for the same reasons vito illustrated above. But it's the lesser of two evils. The choice being to give A-Rod the award though he didn't help his team all that much, or give it to someone with a far more inferior skill set whom helped their team.
...So give the baby his bottle... -Homer Simpson

posted by lilnemo at 04:53 PM on November 17

What can a player do to be "valuable", anyway? My answer would be: help win games. How can they help win games? get on base, move around the bases, score runs, help teammates score runs, help prevent runs. A-Rod does all of these things superbly. Why one earth would his ability to do these things somehow lose their value simply because no one on his team can pitch?

posted by roger at 06:49 PM on November 17

Well said, roger- fundamentally, a player's value is isolated to what he does on the field in various ways. Baseball, more than the other team sports, takes place in something of a vacuum: whereas a good offensive line makes a QB better, and a good Forward can set picks that make the guard a better scorer than he would be, very little can one player on a team do to make the other players play better. So "valuable" in the case of baseball does reduce more purely to "statistical accomplishment". That said, by vito's reckoning, the MVP should be simple then: at the end of the year, take the team that won the most games in each league, and have the 25 players on that team vote for their team MVP. There you go- no muss, no fuss, guaranteed most valuable player every single time. Right? =)

posted by hincandenza at 07:15 PM on November 17

roger- I think Jayson Stark put it best here. See point 2 of the article. In summary, A-Rod garnered most of his numbers when the Rangers fate was already decided. That's a pretty stunning endictment. I think it comes down to context. A-Rod's numbers look nice and all, but they weren't valuable. How is that? Because for those gaudy numbers, his team still finished last. How many wins did those numbers contribute to? This is why YankeeFan wets himself when discussing Jeter vs. ARod. Because while ARod has better numbers, Jeter contributes more towards wins. I think ARod is the better of the 2 but you get the point. By the bye.... Stark again.

posted by lilnemo at 09:00 PM on November 17

This is the deal (I love pointing out things like this)...the purpose of the MVP award is to increase fan interest in the sport. Each year there must be an MVP winner in each league. So even if there was absolutely no one even remotely qualified for the award (see NL in 1988), there will be a winner. Under these conditions it makes sense to give it to A-Rod, although I personally would not give it to a player on a losing team.

posted by cg1001a at 10:09 PM on November 17

for me it is a semantic discussion. Most Valuable Player = no way if your team finishes in last place or is out of the race in early summer. I recall a few years back the Cubs sucking and a line of thinking was that "we lose 95 games a season paying Sosa $15m (or whatever it was) so how about losing Sosa and saving that money and are we gonna lose much more than 95 games a season?". The Rangers suck with A-Rod and they'd suck without A-Rod. Bringing your team up one notch of suckiness is not the best example of being valuable. If they want to go the MOP (Most Outstanding Player) route like the NCAA then sure, A-Rod is in the mix.

posted by gspm at 04:19 AM on November 18

Great, now we're back to talking about Derek Jeter's intangible contributions again, which can only be viewed through the corner of your eye in an Iowa corn field if you squint in low sunlight. If you devalue numbers in the MVP award, you end up with a system in which the only players eligible to win are the ones on teams that aren't that good and aren't that bad. Players on good teams will be devalued because the team didn't need that much help from them, and players on bad teams will be devalued because the team needed more help than they could provide. I think the award should be given to the best overall performance regardless of the team around the player. At this point, after seeing another year in which A-Rod's for-the-ages season is being slighted in favor of phantom criteria, I'm beginning to think the real MVP award is the Hank Aaron Award, because it doesn't allow any room for sentimentality to trump math.

posted by rcade at 07:52 AM on November 18

Just to clarify: if I was to reincarnate Babe Ruth, spice him up with some stuff from under the false bottom in Bill Romanowski's wife's medicine cabinet and he came back to hit 1.000 with 200 home runs and 600 RBI but played for a losing team, he would not be the most valuable player in the league? Uncapitalize the words if you need to, but it's tough to argue someone was more valuable to his team than A-Rod. Is it to early to get Replacement Player figures? Because I think Texas would be interesting with a replacement level performance at shortstop.

posted by yerfatma at 10:25 AM on November 18

This discussion so reminds me of the whole Japanese players aren't eligible for Rookie of the Year.

posted by billsaysthis at 10:58 AM on November 18

Well, there are all sorts of grey areas to baseball's post-season awards for some reason: what's a "rookie"? Can pitchers be MVPs? Can relivers be Cy Young winners? Can the MVP come from a losing team? Of course, if the rules were clarified we'd have that much less to argue about during winter. And that'd suck. When baseball gives the MVP to a reliver from a losing team, we're done for.

posted by yerfatma at 11:20 AM on November 18

Giving the Cy Young to Gagne is pretty way the outstanding pitcher is a reliever from a so-so team like the Dodgers.

posted by cg1001a at 12:20 PM on November 18

Naw - Cy Young is way easier than MVP - One question: Which pitcher had the best season? I think historically the Cy hasn't had to go to a playoff bound team like the MVP has. Gagne totally wins it - hands down, no brainer. Those are all-time great numbers folks in the livest of the live ball eras.

posted by WeedyMcSmokey at 12:50 PM on November 18

One question: Which pitcher had the best season? I completely agree with you, but I would say the problem is how voters determine the relative merits of a season. Most of the old guard still look to wins for 90% of their judgement.

posted by yerfatma at 12:59 PM on November 18

Two follow-ups. Not to beat a dead horse (well, okay, I LIKE beating dead horses sometimes, and this is one of those), but: (a) The "P" in MVP signifies that it is an individual award, not a team award (b) "Wins" are a team statistic. (Okay, there is also a different statistic with the same name that is an individual stat for pitchers, but no one here should be confused) Building the foundation of an individual award on a team statistic is questionable, at best. Secondly, I know the Jayson Stark argument, but I don't buy it. At the end of the season, what counts is a win-loss record. Not individual monthly win-loss records. Despite the addle-brained mediot thinking on this, a win in July is every bit as valuable as a win in April.

posted by roger at 01:11 PM on November 18

FWIW, ARod and Delgado tied for the league lead with 32 win shares. Let me get one more good shot at a different dead horse - from comments: I managed to snag a copy of Tim McCarver's ballot... 1. Jeter's defense 2. Jeter's hitting 3. Jeter's baserunning 4. Jeter's clubhouse leadership 5. Jeter's bunting 6. Jeter's winning personality 7. Jeter's hustle 8. Jeter's determination 9. Jeter's boyish good looks 10. Bob Gibson

posted by mbd1 at 01:55 PM on November 18

Bonds again as NL MVP.

posted by liam at 02:00 PM on November 18

Roger - I agree with one caveat: Wins have all the same value, but wins against clubs ahead of you in the standings affect the standings to a greater degree - which has ripple affects which are not imagined. So, from a certain perspective, a win for Boston against Tampa Bay has the same value as a win for Boston against New York, except that the standings change in the case of the latter. And that affects team strategy, rotation and morale. Some games mean more.

posted by WeedyMcSmokey at 02:05 PM on November 18

Building the foundation of an individual award on a team statistic is questionable, at best. Thank you. I read that Stark crap and defining 'valuable' ain't hard, but apparently player is ambiguous.

posted by garfield at 02:06 PM on November 18

I think Jayson Stark put it best here. See point 2 of the article. In summary, A-Rod garnered most of his numbers when the Rangers fate was already decided Everyone please read the Stark piece. Why, because it shows what an idiot Stark is. Stark says that at the critical juncture of the season the Rangers went 2-22 while A-Rod was slumping thereby putting them out of the playoff picture. What is amazing is that Stark seems to miss the obvious ... when A-Rod slumped the Rangers went 2-22!!!. If that isn't proof of A-Rod's importance to the Rangers what is? Bottom line, if you look at statistics there is no such thing as clutch hitting. When a player booms and busts is an outcome of chance. As a preemptive comment ... for everyone who thinks that clutch hitting is a skill please don't offer annecdotes. You just cannot determine wether someone is a clutch hitter by eye. For example, Jeter who is ofter considered a "clutch hitter" had 70 at bats in the three playoff series and 22 hits for a 0.314 batting average. Just for fun, lets say half of Jeters AB were with RISP. With 35 AB a 0.314 BA would result in 11 hits, a 0.250 BA would result in 9 hits, and a 0.378 BA would result in 13 hits. In other words, 2 hits over the course of three series is the difference between "clutch" and "non-clutch" hitting. You just cannot see "clutch" hitting with the naked eye.

posted by Mike McD at 02:53 PM on November 18

if I was to reincarnate Babe Ruth Bad idea.

posted by staggernation at 03:47 PM on November 18

yerfatma: Well, there are all sorts of grey areas to baseball's post-season awards for some reason: What's weird is... there aren't really gray areas. Lemme give you an example, in 1999 (I believe) Pedro Martinez nearly won the MVP- he had the most 1st place votes, but two writers left him off the ballot completely. One of the writers went on record saying that he'd never vote for a pitcher for MVP. Forgetting the outrage if he'd said "spic" or "negro" instead of "pitcher", the fact is that writer willfully violated the rules, and should have had his ballot removed in that and future elections. Pitchers are eligible for the MVP, there is no rule prohibiting it or clarification in the award rules that suggests pitchers aren't as eligible. The Rookie of the Year clearly defines Rookies as players with certain limits (innings or at-bats, etc) in playing time in the Major Leagues before the season began. That 10+ year Japanese veterans are still technically "rookies" is a loophole that might need addressing, but the current rules stipulate quite unquestionably that Matsui is eligible- so while I wouldn't have made him my ROY, Rob Neyer is write to criticize those who left him off entirely for reasons that had nothing to do with his actual contributions- which while not necessarily ROY worthy, demanded place on the ballot at least. Likewise, every player is eligible for the most valuable player award- as roger and garfield point out, using team stats for an individual award is bunk, or suspect at the least. A-Rod is as eligible as anyone else for consideration, and in baseball, more than any other sport, a player's contributions can be discretely measured- these things we call "stats". As the hyperbolic example above about a [preferably non-homicidal] 200HR, 600RBI reincarnated Ruth hints, a player can do on a losing team the exact same thing, at-bat for at-bat or pitch for pitch, as an identical player on a winning team, and the only difference is... his teammates. A-Rod was without question one of the 3 most valuable players in the American League this season; saying he wasn't the most valuable because he is on the rangers is like saying that if I take a million dollars from Bill Gates and $1000 from you, that $1000 is more than $1 million because you'll notice a $1000, whereas Gates loses or gains tens of millions with every flicker of the stock price. Perhaps a better analogy is giving $1 million to a person who's $1 billion in debt, vs. giving $1000 to a person $500 in debt. People can argue that $1000 is more valuable than $1 million would be in that situation, but the MVP award is not defined as "Players on a winning team" or "Player without whom a team would just miss the playoffs by one game" (and in that case, how can the MVP ever be one player- a team that just makes the playoffs misses it if even one of their good players misses a few more games or isn't around). The MVP as defined is simply the question: "Which player is worth $1 million dollars, and which player is worth $1000?" That Crap-son Stark sees rules and guidelines where none exist is proof of nothing but his own Crap-tasticular stupidity.

posted by hincandenza at 07:02 PM on November 18

What's weird is... there aren't really gray areas. My bad for revising what I wrote. I know the rules are clear; I guess what I mean is in the absence of a line stating "And if you don't vote for someone who fits these parameters, you'll lose your right to vote," writers are allowed to make up all sorts of fun constraints in their heads. Which is how Pedro missed his MVP award and it went to whomever the hell.

posted by yerfatma at 06:51 AM on November 19

Pudge won it that year. And the real argement against pitchers is that they only play every five days. So how can they be the MVP? The rest of this is just bluster and moot.

posted by WeedyMcSmokey at 03:15 PM on November 19

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