One cannot assume anything that a catcher brings to the table. One cannot simply ignore it either. We know that a catcher is valued highly for a reason, but what exactly are those reasons? Certain catchers are perceived at being more adept, in regard to their counterparts, in calling a game with more skill. Maybe they do, maybe they don’t, this in respect to the average catcher of course, not just some guy taken off the street. But how do we prove this? How do we prove that a catcher is better at calling the right pitch at the right time. One cannot look at the team ERA when the catcher is behind the plate, because there are too many variables. How talented are the pitchers on the mound? How much experience do those pitchers have? Etc, etc, etc. A pitcher that has been around at least a little while, generally will have more of an idea about what to throw in certain situations, and how to attack a hitter. But then again, a pitcher with dynamic stuff may have an advantage in getting a hitter out because he can simply blow a fastball right by the batter, even though he may be a first or second year pitcher. There are too many variables to come to a conclusion for who the best game caller is. So if we believe that every catcher has an impact on this, while not knowing how much each catcher impacts it individually, then we understand that the catcher itself matters much, but we cannot draw a conclusion as to how much.
The other aspect of a catcher’s job, is to work with the pitchers (coincides with game calling to an extent). Again, cannot be defined through the numbers, yet exists regardless. I don’t exactly like placing value on something that I cannot place value on, but I know that a catcher has to work with whoever the given pitcher on the mound happens to be. Whether it is during a game, or not. A catcher is there to help give the pitcher confidence, to discuss the game plan, and to apply the gameplan during the actual game. But no one can quantify what this means in a teams success. We simply assume it means a lot, and I am sure we all agree that it does.
Basically, the catcher does a lot for their respective team, and our perception of how much that impacts a team may differ, but no one thinks little of their job. Catcher is the one spot on the field that we cannot measure accurately, yet we know it matters the most. They have some impact, ever so slightly at times, on every single pitch that comes their way. No one else has this kind of impact, outside of the pitcher who happens to reside on the mound, at any given moment.
So all of that leads me to this…
My “Most Valuable Player” in the American League is Joe Mauer.
When a catcher wins a batting title in this day and age, it probably seems a little less a big deal then if it had happened in earlier decades. One point being because at least some of us value ”Batting Average” a little less than in past years. And the second point being that it at least seems that catchers have become better with the bat these days. I have no definitive proof of this, nor have I looked. But it seems so with the Piazza’s,etc, that have come around in the past 15 years. Whether it is because of unspecified variations to one’s body or not, the perception that a catcher doesn’t have to hit, or more accurately can’t hit, to have value, has changed. In this day and age they need to hit a little if they want to stick around, in most cases.
Back to the batting title part…There is actually still a game, so it is conceivable that Mauer could struggle in the one game playoff and concede the title to Dustin Pedroia. That matters little to me, and the odds are against it happening anyway. Because if he finishes with a .330 average, or a .325 average, it makes little difference to me. The most important thing about his batting average is that he isn’t up there at the plate hacking at everything and having some flukey season. First, he already won one batting title. And second, he is one of the more patient hitters in the game. Mauer sees 4.05 pitches per plate appearance. That is 15th among all American League hitters who qualify for the batting title. And it translates into a .415 OBP, second in the AL. And remember getting on base is what it is all about these days, after the statisticians have studied a 100+ years of data to come as close as possible to proving it. But just imagine a catcher, outside of Mike Piazza posting these kinds of numbers, and more importantly getting on base as much as he does. Yes, Joe Mauer is that good.
The one “flaw’ that Mauer has, is his inability to hit for power when compared to other MVP candidates. Mauer fell in at 33rd with a .454 Slugging %. Not terrible, and actually 34 percentage points better than the American League average in 2008. But a player with 9 home runs doesn’t exactly strike intrigue into the minds of the voters. The minds that will find the most value in Joe Mauer, are the ones that understand how important the catcher position is. And of course the sabermetric following (OBP). Hitting for power is not evading Joe Mauer, it is just evading him when compared to the A’rod’s and Hamilton’s of the world.
Onto the other more complex offensive metrics which lend help to my case for Joe Mauer as MVP. Mauer tied for second in “Win Shares” with 27, behind only his teammate Justin Morneau. Mauer was 15th in “Runs Created,” which is definitely an indication that he was not the best hitter, but that doesn’t mean that he was not the best player. Mauer batted .362 with runners in scoring position, fifth in the league. He hit .321 with a ridiculous .992 OPS in “Late and Close” situations. OPS+ of 135 (35% better than the average hitter), and fell in at 8th in the league in this department. Mauer was seventh in the league in “VORP” with a number of 56.4. Well, we all get the point, right? All of these numbers indicate that he was good at the plate, even if he was not the absolute best.
As for defensive prowess? Mauer is regarded as being one of, if not THE best defensive catcher in the game. To play the most demanding position in all of baseball, and to be regarded as being the best at it, is a pretty good accomplishment. So “no small feat” as some would say. But I cannot solely base it on reputation, although I will not ignore it either. I will include the one stat that we can use with meaning from behind the plate. Mauer was 3rd this season in CS% (caught stealing). He struck down 36% of basestealers attempting to get a little greed on their hands. Well the thing was, Mauer never let them reach, so they went back empty-handed.
…Just for the heck of it by the way, the Twins ERA when Mauer was behind the plate was fourth in the AL, and the pitchers he worked with weren’t exactly a bunch of wily veterans with Cy Young awards on their mantle.
And if one wants to bring the teams success into the equation, then Mauer has a pretty strong case on that regard. The Twins have two star players in that lineup: Justin Morneau and of course Joe Mauer. There are some other nice pieces, but it isn’t like the stars the Mets lineup consists of. Mauer did something that not only can influence the Carlos Gomez’s and Delmon Young’s of the world in how much patience he has shown at the plate, but he also actually applied it to winning ballgames. That is what a .415 OBP does, it helps win games. Mauer was the most important piece in helping the Twins achieve the status of playing in a one game playoff with the White Sox. No one, including myself, believed the Twins would be in the mix, that they would be one win away from the playoffs. Does that matter to me much in the MVP discussion? Not really, for if Mauer were on the Pirates they would still be sitting outside the playoffs, yet Mauer would be impacting the team the exact same way he is now. But having a team on the verge of the playoffs only helps Mauer’s case. And in my opinion, Joe Mauer has the strongest case of anyone.
First: I know that this is a baseball blog.
Second: I have no other place to write this where sports fans will read
Third: I will do this anyway
As some of you may know, I love football. Baseball may be my passion, but football is right behind it. I feel like some people that I know, mostly at work, seem to think that I don’t care much about football because I always love to talk baseball. But that is far from true, false actually. As a matter of fact, one football game has more intensity than almost any baseball game, and I fully appreciate the emotion that it brings. It is after all, only a 16 game season. That doesn’t mean that I enjoy football more so, it means that I understand the numbers. 1/16 is much more valuable than 1/162. So individually, NFL games do bring more excitement.
I was also a football fan well before I began Fantasy Football. My first league was in 2001 and I lost in the championship (won the championship in the other public league I played in with people I didn’t know). There are things I like about Fantasy, but also very much dislike. The one good thing it that it attracts more people to the game, but it also brings more “fantasy” fans as well. I don’t know about you, but when I am sitting at the local sports bar watching the Eagles, I really dislike the two guys next to me when they talk fantasy. Especially last week, when both had their Steelers jerseys on yet all I kept hearing about all was how their fantasy players were doing, and even worse, how their bench fantasy players were doing. But only a few observations about the team that they “apparently” were cheering for. Then at the end one said “How could the Steelers only score 6 points? The Lions probably could have scored 30, and we scored 6!” Now, the guy was drinking. And I am not sure how much he had, but the Lions are one of the 3-5 worst teams in football. They are awful. And add in that the Eagles have a pretty good defense, as they have showed in 2 of 3 games this season (Monday Night Shootout with Dallas was an aberration in my opinion, and that goes for the way both Dallas and Philly’s defenses played). The Eagles can stop the run. They are capable against the pass, and they can get to the quarterback. I actually have more concerns with the offense. When healthy I believe it can be pretty potent, but with McNabb, health is always a question, and with Westbrook to a lesser extent, as he has been fairly healthy the last few years. But anyway, the Steelers fan made a comment that he did not think about, or know of, either way I guess.
But I do enjoy fantasy, and I keep tabs on my guys during the games. But I don’t really like to talk fantasy as the games are going on, especially when the Eagles are playing.
Anyway, here are my picks for this week, with the projected scores.
Tennessee 22 Minnesota 13: As far as I can tell, I think that the Titans have the best defense in football. “But if you can run the ball, and stop the run. Then you can win in this league.” That is what analysts have been saying for a while, and also in reference to the Vikings the past few years. The problem with that is that the Viking have had arguably the worst pass defense, and passing offense. I think Frerotte may help the Vikings slightly over Tavaris Jackson, although going after another QB in the offseason (Pennington, etc) made much more sense. I just don’t think the Vikings will be able to do much this week. The Titans will make them pass the ball, by focusing on stopping the run as they do so well. And Frerotte will have to make some plays. Of course, on the other side of the ball Kerry Collins isn’t too much better. So I see a tightly contested defensive battle. After all, both teams are solid on defense, and neither has a potent offense. They actually mirror each other pretty well.
Denver 31 Kansas City 20: Speaking of the 3-5 worst teams in footbal. KC is right there. They however had a good draft and can look toward the future with some hope. Although they may need to hope a QB falls into their lap. Denver is red-hot. Cutler is playing out of his mind, and they should win this game pretty easily.
New Orleans 33 San Francisco 23: New Orleans really needs to win this game. The Niners are no pushover, but they aren’t a good team either, at least I don’t think they are yet. That could change of course. The Saints have a terrible defense…again. But they have a good offense…again. So they should be competitive during the season, but they need some improvements on the defensive side of the ball if they want to make some serious noise.
Jets 31 Cardinals 28: I am not sold on the Cardinals, but I am sold on their passing game. The Jets, as long as Favre plays, need to win this game. Well, I guess they need to win it whether or not he plays. But if he plays I think they win a squeaker. If he doesn’t play then I think that the Cardinals win by a touchdown. As for what I think of about the Jets? I think the fact that they won against the Dolphins erased some of the belief in Favre needing to learn the playbook. Not true, they barely won the game against a below average team, in week 1. Favre needs time. If healthy the Jets are primed to be better in the second half, but if they do not win games like this, then it may not matter.
Tampa Bay 26 Green Bay 20: If this game were in Green Bay then I would pick the Packers. But when the team in the coldest city comes to Florida in September, it doesn’t look promising. That being said, I think the Packers are solid, but not great. I think that the Bucs are ok, but they are, like I said, at home.
Carolina 27 Atlanta 17: Am I the only one that didn’t think Carolina was going to win the Super Bowl this year? It seems like every season they have plenty of supporters. I think that they are decent enough on both sides of the ball to stay in the hunt, and even make the playoffs. I just don’t believe that they can win 12 or 13 games. More like 10, but I guess that is good enough some times. Atlanta on the other hand is not as bad as we thought they were, but they will still probably win no more than 7 this season.
Jacksonville 30 Houston 20: Houston is not terrible. Jacksonville is better than they have played. I just don’t know how good they are. I think it would be safe to say they have taken a small step back since last season, even if it is only a win or two. But that may keep them out of the playoffs, at least 9 wins may.
Cincy 31 Cleveland 23: As bad as the Browns offense has been…I don’t see it getting much better. They are playing another team that is far from spectacular, but closer to their level then the opponents they have played. The Bengals should have traded Chad Johnson. I never like when he speaks, but that is beside the point. It has been a long time since Cincy has played any defense. Their offense going in wasn’t going to be anywhere close to its 2005 version, and they needed a solution. They should have traded Johnson, or whatever they call him these days. Even if it was just for a pick, because last time I checked defenders can be had in the draft too. Brady Quinn, Brady Quinn, Brady Quinn. I was skeptical of Derek Anderson last year, it just did not seem realistic that he was capable of continuing that success. But he has weapons, so I cannot say that I felt that he would be this inept either.
San Diego 28 Oakland 24: The Chargers are still capable of being good, and I believe they are. They just lost two heartbreakers before dismantling the Jets on Sunday night. If they win fewer than 10, then I will be very surprised. Oakland on the other hand is flawed, but they have played tough the last two weeks. Winning one against KC, then losing one at Buffalo on a last second field goal. I don’t think they are terrible, but not quite decent yet either.
Buffalo 24 St Louis 17: I think, for the first time this year, the Rams play someone tough. But the thing is, they are a terrible team. Sitting Bulger, who was locked up long term, for 38 year old Trent Green, who has had recent health issues, was stupid. Not that I ever thought Bulger was great, he wasn’t. He had the distant remains of what Vermeil left behind, and what Martz kept around from Vermeil’s reign. But still, he had talent around him. This season however, he had a running back, one receiver, and one offensive lineman that anyone knows. Oh, and a horrible, horrible defense. No QB would have much success in that situation. And I don’t expect Trent Green too either. Buffalo is solid, but they have work to do. I like their defense, but I am not too confident in their offense, yet. Although it is not terrible, so they may have enough to make it to the postseason.
Dallas 37 Washington 20: Dallas is good, really good. And yes, that pains me. But it isn’t that I think they can dismantle good teams on their way to the playoffs like this. I just think the Redskins are an average team. It is in Dallas, and like I said, they are good. When they play in Washington it should be closer.
Philly 24 Chicago 16: I know that Philly is my favorite team, but I like what I see. I do not know how healthy they will be this weekend though (McNabb, Westbrook, already down Curtis and Reggie Brown). But I don’t think that Chicago is too scary with Kyle Orton at the helm, or with any QB that they have had in the past 20 years for that matter. But it is in Chicago, and the atmosphere is always wild there. So I am not overly confident, trust me.
Pittsburgh 20 Baltimore 17: Prime pouncing time for the Ravens to really make a statement. But the game is in Pitt, and the Ravens offense hasn’t been all that good. I know the Ravens D has played very well so far, but so hasn’t Pitt’s. I think Pitt wins in a slugfest, in a “last minute field goal” type style.
Don’t expect much from these picks. I am simply doing it for fun. And isn’t that what blogging is all about?
Rob Neyer (ESPN Insiders Only)
I thought about this literally one day before Manny commented on ”Manny” not being worthy of the NL MVP. I just chose not to write about it at the time, regrettably. And the “expert” Rob Neyer attacked the subject the following day after he heard the comments. I have to say, Neyer and I agree on the subject, along with Manny Ramirez.
But before I start on the subject…isn’t it funny how now Manny is being embraced once again by the public? This was a guy that did not even feel like playing for a championship contender because he was worried about whether or not the Red Sox would exercise a team option that they had. Now, out in Los Angeles, he knows that he can go out and get the contract he desires following the season, so he is back to being that fun loving Manny that most fans enjoyed.
Hint: He is still the same person. Teammates, media and anyone else following are being sucked into his game. I agree that LA needs a guy like Manny to make baseball seem more fun out there. He is actually in the perfect situation, but that great teammate stuff is obviously just a cover up from what he really is, and was just two months ago. And I don’t know that Manny was ever a BAD teammate up until this season, but he was definitely a bad teammate in 2008. Dodgers fans should cheer for him, because the team is more important. But I feel like the media is showing to much of the fun loving Manny in LA, and it is hindering the perception that we should of the guy, and the perception that we had of him only two months ago. And that perception was, well, not good.
But that is not why he is not the MVP. The reason that he is not the MVP is because he has only playing for an NL team for two months. One cannot win an award like this if they have played in the league for only 1/3 of the season. I actually don’t know that it is fair, because I generally want the best player to win, not just the best player on a team that stays in contention. But the award has qualifications, and what he did for four months in the AL just doesn’t transfer over. Not that I feel bad for him, he wanted this…and got it. But Albert Pujols has four extra months of great production, all within the National League, no way Manny can top that.
However it is funny, because an ESPN commentor on some article or blog had a good example of how it is kind of flawed. It went a little something like this: If Manny had been traded to another AL team then all of his stats would transfer and his cumulative numbers would be used. Yet he could not have helped each team enough to be the “MVP.” A four month period on one team, and a two month period on another team would not be valuable enough to a team, to help them enough. Yet, because all the numbers would be relevant toward the award he could win it. Seems kind of peculiar.
Manny, nevertheless, has been awesome since joining the Dodgers. Truly awesome. But Albert Pujols, one of the greatest players of all time, and arguably the best in today’s game, has been having a TRULY great season all year long. And more importantly for this discussion, he has accomplished it all season long in the same league. Of course, he isn’t a lock as people will find a way to vote for less deserving candidates just because they are on good teams. But that was the topic for another past blog that I wrote, and will once again be a topic when the awards are being determined after the year concludes.
Billy Beane is arguably the best General Manager in the game of baseball. There is no proof that he is the best, for he has never won a World Series, and even then, there would not be definite proof. But I would most likely put him at the top, despite (or is it “in spite?”) of the fact that he never won a ring. He did more with less, and the quality that the teams he built consisted of were truly, really good teams. Maybe they were young, and inexperience was the cause of them falling short every year…maybe not. After all, other young teams have won (2003 Marlins). But other young teams, were not these young teams. When a GM such as Theo Epstein, or any GM, wins a World Series, observers tend to want to say that they may be the best at their job. But it isn’t all about winning a World Series, is it? Well, it is…but not everyone is on the same playing field. Epstein is a good General manager, but he has help. A hefty payroll, loads of talent, more depth than he can use at times. And that depth is attributed to his ability to build it, he and the scouting crew that is assembled that is. But one thing he has, that Beane does not, is the ability to sign veteran players for A LOT of money. Something that Billy Beane has never had. So I don’t necessarily hold it against Beane that he has not brought Oakland to the promise land. Beane could never go out and overpay for a pretty good player (JD Drew). Beane could never afford to pay $50 million, simply for the rights to pay that same guy $50 million more (Daisuke). And although Daisuke is not great, he is a good pitcher, or pretty good at least. Let us watch a few more years of him. But Theo has many more resources available to him. But give him credit, for not pulling the trigger on certain moves and that is what has made him a good GM. And I would assume that it isn’t easy to sit there and watch integral pieces of one’s championship team walk away.
Anyway, the title of the link, which I will be honest, I did not read. I simply skimmed down and glanced enough to remember to add Nick Swisher to this list of names: Swisher, Blanton, Harden, Haren. These are the players that Billy Beane traded to revamp the A’s farm system. My first thought when I saw the title was independent of the words within the article, because I did NOT read it. All I thought was, “They better have ”transformed” the system!!!” When that many quality, established veterans are traded, then one must be able to get a good return. But that is not a knock on Beane, not every GM would have the “balls” to do what he does, or did. I mean this was the same guy that would have traded Varitek if he took over the Red Sox front office. I understand that it is hard to calculate the value that one catcher brings over another catcher, in terms of working with the pitching staff, and calling a game, etc. We may overvalue Varitek, not necessarily what he does, but what he does more so than the average catcher. However, we may NOT overavalue that either, but Beane was willing to try and prove that all that “intangible” stuff that Varitek does, is overrated. Again, I don’t know whether it is or not, but we all have varying views of it.
So Beane trades away most of why the A’s had a chance to win approximately 84 games (post Haren). Which is too few, and Beane understood that. And what he did, and has done in the past, is pull the trigger. Beane’s theory, according to Rob Neyer, is that ”if you can’t win 90, then you might as well lose 90.” It isn’t completely accurate (See: 2006 Cardinals), but I get what he is saying. And he, unlike many other GM’s in the game, has the ability to do what he believes in, even if the locals don’t like it. He has the ability to view the larger picture. Being in mild contention, with an overachieving team, near the midway point, and being up against teams that clearly have more talent, isn’t worth not pulling the trigger. Beane wants to build a team that can win 90+ games, in multiple years, increasing the odds that they not only get into the postseason, but have multiple chances at doing so, realistically.
And so he did it. He “transformed” the system. Which isn’t a big accomplishment. Trading away good players, while not being an idiot while doing so, can bring back a good amount of talent. But remember, it was Beane and his scouting department that drafted the players, or obtained the players to begin with. So all of the players he acquired were because of he and his staff.
And then there is this…
Billy Beane is a baseball GENIUS.
The playoffs are merely days away, but then again everything is merely days away if one were to get technical. And if the Mets make it to the playoffs then the playoffs will be much more intriguing then they were last season, at least in the National League.
From a pure baseball standpoint, games can be enjoyed by the quality that is on the field, not just the uniform. Last season, fans had to watch the Rockies and the Diamondbacks in the National League playoffs. This wasn’t great from an entertainment standpoint. Even if those teams were great, which they weren’t, then fans would still be hesitant to watch them. Those two don’t have the history that others do, and they don’t have the market either. I for one was not very interested in a Colorado-Arizona NLCS, and I know many others weren’t either. But this season neither of those teams will be in the playoffs, being replaced by the Dodgers and either the Mets or Brewers, depending on who wants to play even decent to finish the season.
The level of intrigue is much greater with the 2008 scenario, and like I said much more so in the NL.
If the Mets do get in, then that will be the best scenario for Major League Baseball. Although the Brewers would be a decent option, the Mets have the market, which means more fans will care, and more viewers will tune in. I am no Mets fan, but having a team representing New York will increase ratings and the level of interest amongst fans. There are no Yankees this year, and from a ratings standpoint, it hurts, but the Mets would be the next best thing of teams have not secured a postseason berth yet.
What we would have in the NL would be great. The Cubs, those ”lovable losers” that everyone will cheer for. The Phillies, who have a large, passionate fan base. The Mets, for the reason(s) mentioned in the paragraph that sits above this one. And the Dodgers, who have history, even though their fans are suspected to arrive late and exit early to watch their team. And the Dodgers, who also have Manny. He will attract people to watch, trust me on that. Red Sox fans that are angry at Manny will watch, and the ones who aren’t angry at him, must like him, so they will watch too.
In the AL, the Red Sox are there, which will bring in many sets of eyes. The White Sox are there (if of course they win the division). And they have the same large market that the Cubs have, maybe not the exact same, but a rather large fan base. The Angels, which seem to be there every year, and are a good team. Maybe not a rabid fan base, but still a large market, and of course there is quality there with what they put on the field. And then the Rays. One might say that the Rays are boring, not necessarily their style of play, which isn’t boring, but the feeling one gets when watching them. Look, the announcers are not good, they play in the boringest stadium in the history of baseball, and they have accomplished absolutely nothing historically that will arouse anyone’s interest. So I completely understand how they are not the most exciting franshise, but they are a small market team. And baseball could use one of those in the playoffs every year, as a representation of hope for other low revenue franchises. Not to mention, to show to the many fans of the game that teams can succeed without throwing around tons of money. It is great to see a team without a lot of money doing well, even if they happen to have won (or most likely win) the division that my favorite team happens to have finished in second. It is ultimately good for the game.
As far as quality is concerned? There are no truly great teams as of now (the phrase “historically great” at least could be used). The Cubs would compete with the best of the American League if they happened to have played in it, but they are the only real good NL team. The rest aren’t bad, or even mediocre. But I wouldn’t call them good either. Somewhere in the middle. Put it this way, if the Yankees played in the NL then they would be, at least, the second best team heading into the playoffs.
But what we have, assuming the Minnesota Twins don’t sneak in, is a World Series that should be fun to watch for the majority of fans. Any team in the NL would be a good viewing in terms of its followers. And in the AL, 3 of the 4 teams, would attract a lot of viewers. There are scenarios for great matchups too. Cubs-White Sox. Mets-Red Sox. Cubs-Red Sox. Dodgers-Red Sox. White Sox-Mets. Phillies vs…well you get my point. Rays-Phillies would probably be the worst case scenario for ratings. Or Rays-Dodgers. But I have a feeling that many Sox fans would be watching that matchup, which would increase the following of the the 2008 World Series.
So please don’t get angry that I want to see the White Sox win the division. For the Rays are the small market team, and the White Sox bring more viewers than that of the Twins. Not necessarily more intense viewers, just more quantity wise. I would love to see Joe Mauer in the postseason, but a dome is a dome. It is dark, and it just seems dreary on television. Twins-Rays would be a miserable series, by the way, if one looks at it as I have been doing in this blog. Disagree? Unless one were to get really hyped up over the Delmon Young-Matt Garza exchange…
Rob Neyer mentioned in his blog that Papelbon threw all fastballs last night in closing out the Rays, and also noted that he has not been utilizing his splitter. And tonight, in blowing it, he again threw all fastballs, except for one pitch after it was too late. I was watching the MLB Gameday because the game is blacked out because of my location. But according to Gameday; Papelbon threw six straight fastballs to Dan Johnson to begin the inning, the last one being very much over the plate, and resulted in a home run. Then four straight fastballs to Willy Aybar and Aybar flew out. Next up: Fernando Perez: two fastballs and a double. Navarro; two fastballs, double. Gabe Gross: Four fastballs, out. Jason Bartlett: offspeed, then fastball=out.
Man cannot live on fastball alone. Unless one is Mariano Rivera. Why is he avoiding throwing the splitter? Is something wrong? I don’t know, but it seems kind of odd to abandon a good pitch such as that…
Most Valuable Player. What does it mean? Is someone “valuable” on a team that ultimately played poorly over the course of a 162 game season? Or is a lesser player more valuable on a team that reaches the postseason, even though his numbers are inferior to that of the kind of player that was first mentioned? Andre Dawson? Alex Rodriguez? Were they less valuable because they played on last place finishers? Maybe these players, or any players on bottom dwellers, should be evaluated on what they were individually, rather than what the team around them was made up of. “MVP” is not a clearly defined term, its meaning changes from one person to the next.
My perception states that the MVP should be the best player in the league. Because there is no smaller version of the award. There is no “Best Player” award. And I for one believe that no one player can lead a team to the postseason, or even come close. This isn’t basketball where a single player can have a much greater impact on the outcome. This is baseball, where a hitter steps into the batters box approximately four times a game, while making a few plays in the field. Where a starting pitcher throws once every five days. Where a great reliever throws only 70 or 80 innings a season. And this is a game where the most important defensive figure, the catcher, cannot be properly evaluated through metrics, at least not enough for me personally to feel comfortable evaluating what he truly accomplishes within a season. Trust me, it takes well more than a single player to make a baseball team good, or great. So should I really penalize Grady Sizemore for playing on a team that watched its components struggle early in the year, basically putting them out of contention? Because last season Sizemore was plenty capable of helping his team to October, and his numbers were not as good as they are this year. His team may not be playing for anything late in the season, but that doesn’t mean that his opponents are not. Point being, teams aren’t exclusively throwing pitchers that have no business being in the big leagues at Grady Sizemore, simply because HIS team is out of the race. His opponents are still competing, still trying to win…most of them anyway.
Jason Bay is another great example. Bay has been putting up good numbers his entire career, but never gained recognition from the voters because he played on a crummy team. Now all of a sudden, he is on a good team, with a great surrounding cast, and if he continues to play well in 2009 he will all of a sudden be MVP worthy. Is that fair? Or should voters just look past the team a player happens to be playing for. Jason Bay was good then, and he is good now. Sizemore was good last season, and is this season too.
Then there is the argument that some fans make, the one where games in September are more important than the ones in April. That is created by the fans. Every win is exactly the same. Just as in life, where everyone says to themselves, “Well if I had done things differently, than I wouldn’t be in this position.” Same goes in baseball (although with much less of a drastic effect), if they played well early, then September would come more easily to a team, whichever team. Just as if one didn’t do certain things in their life, they wouldn’t have to face those consequences later. Or if they DID do something early in life that aided them, and made their life easier in the future. I don’t want to sound completely negative, so I added in that last line.
That last paragraph was more for Dustin Pedroia, who is a serious MVP threat, but has really pushed himself into the discussion late in the season. Now, I don’t know who the MVP is, I haven’t decided and won’t decide until the season concludes. But I will include the entire body of work for an individual, with emphasis on each month equally. I will not put extra stress on September, and less on April. Pedroia is a good defensive second baseman, and has hit very well this season. And his tear coincides with the stellar play that the Red Sox are experiencing. But again, trust me, there is a lot of help there. A lot of talent to aid Pedroia in his goal, the postseason.