Monday, November 14, 2005

A-Rod Wins American League MVP.

Alex Rodriguez of the Yankees was announced as the American League Most Valuable Player today. ESPN excerpt:

NEW YORK -- Alex Rodriguez showed slick fielding counts, winning his second American League Most Valuable Player award in three seasons by defeating David Ortiz in a vote that rewarded an all-around player over a designated hitter.

Rodriguez, in his second season as the New York Yankees'
third baseman, received 16 first-place votes, 11 seconds and one third for 331 points from the Baseball Writers' Association of America in balloting announced Monday.

Ortiz, the DH for the Boston Red Sox,
got 11 firsts and 17 seconds for 307 points. Los Angeles Angels
outfielder Vladimir Guerrero received the other first-place vote and was third with 196 points.

"I think defense, for the most part, being a balanced player and also saving a lot of runs on the defensive side, I think was a major factor here," Rodriguez said. "To me, defense is foremost. It's always been. The White Sox showed us this year pitching and defense wins to this day."

Voting was done before the start of the postseason, when both the Yankees and Red Sox were eliminated in the first round. Rodriguez hit .133 with no RBI in a five-game loss to the Angels while Ortiz batted .333 with a home run as the defending champion Red Sox were swept by the Chicago White Sox

"I would certainly trade his World Series championship for this MVP trophy," Rodriguez said, thinking back to Boston's 2004 title. "That's the only reason I play baseball. It's what I'm consumed to do right now."

Rodriguez hit .321 with an AL-high 48 homers, 130 RBI and 21 steals, breaking Joe DiMaggio's 68-year-old Yankees record for home runs by a right-handed hitter (46). A-Rod also won the award in 2003, his final season as the Texas Rangers'
shortstop before he was dealt to the Yankees.

He didn't think the award would end criticism that he doesn't perform in the clutch or isn't a winner. "We can win three World Series; with me, it's never going to be over. I think my benchmark is so high that no matter what I do, it's never going to be enough, and I understand that," he said. "Maybe when I retire is when all critics and all that kind of stuff will end."

Ortiz batted .300 with 47 homers, a major league-leading 148 RBI and one steal. Big Papi had 34 RBI that put his team ahead, the most in the AL, and had eight RBI from the seventh inning on that gave Boston the lead for good.
"He is the one special player right now, like Barry Bonds
, who can change the game around simply with his batting," Rodriguez said.

Rodriguez gets a $1 million bonus for winning the MVP for the second time during his record $252 million, 10-year contract. With Ortiz's second-place finish, the price of Boston's 2007 club option increases by $400,000 to $8.4 million. The buyout goes up by the same amount to $1.4 million. Guerrero got $200,000 for finishing third and Boston outfielder Manny Ramirez gets $75,000 for placing fourth. Cleveland DH Travis Hafner
was fifth and earned an automatic $200,000 annual raise to $2.7 million next year and $3.95 million in 2007, with the price of Cleveland's 2008 option rising to $4.95 million.

Full Story

This result seems to me to lend quite a bit of credence to the notion that a DH shouldn't be MVP because he doesn't play defense. I think Whitey Herzog, famous Royals/Cardinals manager, once said something to the effect that this is the way it should be because someone else has to make the DH's defensive outs for him. That is absolutely not true. The DH is merely a permanent pinch-hitter for the pitcher, there is already a full complement of defensive players on the field. Having said that, it does appear that a DH will have to have an historic offensive season to win an MVP if this vote is any indication. The most games anyone ever played as a DH and still win the MVP was by Don Baylor of the Angels who played 97 games in the outfield, 65 at DH and one game at first base in his 1979 MVP season in which he led the league in RBI with 139 for the AL West champs.

Still, the DH does become problematic since it has reached into the amateur ranks of baseball. In 1980, my senior year in high school, the DH was introduced to my league, but it wasn't implemented the way it is in the American League. The coach could select a kid to be the DH and let him bat in place of his weakest batter. More often than not, the pitchers on my teams were the best players, guys who could pitch, play the outfield, shortstop and even play catcher. And they could hit, so they weren't coming out of the lineup. I remember seeing a couple of big donkeys who could hit, but carried lead gloves whenever they were permitted to play in the field. Letting those guys hit without addressing the issue of improving their defensive skills was never a consideration, and it had to have hindered their ability to compete as they tried to move up, and I fear that attitude, over the past 25 years, has led to some of the atrocious fundamental baseball we've seen in the American League.

While I lamented my beloved Red Sox inability to capture their second straight World Series Championship, it was clear that they could not keep up with the crisper, faster paced play of the eventual World Champion White Sox. But lest one think that Ozzie Guillen's crew will cause a paradigm re-shift, let's see what type of start they have in 2006.

The National League MVP will be announced tomorrow.

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