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.
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.