Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Extremism in the defense of Papi is no vice

It would be easy to slip into histrionics at Red Sox designated hitter David Ortiz's second place finish in American League MVP balloting announced yesterday. Ortiz is arguably the most clutch baseball player in recent baseball memory, and was honored as such by the Red Sox this year. He is simultaneous fearsome and lovable, speaking softly but carrying a big stick, perhaps the most important player on the Sox.

It would be easy to play a game of semantics, saying that at $5.25 million dollars last season, Papi was a relative bargain compared to Alex Rodriguez, this year's winner and the most richly paid athlete in the history of sports, now in the middle of a 10-year, $252-milllion dollar contract.

It would be easy to cite A-Rod's perceived failure to perform in the clutch -- his postseason woes are well documented -- but that would ignore that the MVP is chosen before the season ends and only announced in the baseball doldrums of fall.

What is not easy to admit is that the baseball writers got it right. Heresy I know, but only those failing to vote in good conscience could select a designated hitter as the most valuable player in the league. Yes Papi influenced the outcome of countless games this year, often in the late innings, but exclusively with his bat. A-Rod, won his share with the lumber too (a homer off Curt Schilling in Schill's debut as a closer comes to mind), but also played above average defense on the most expensive infield ever. Not to mention his higher batting average, greater number of homers, and decided edge in steals.

Being a great hitter can get you a salary greater than the GDP of some small nations. But being a great hitter who can also win games with his glove and feet sets you in a separate class. Let's just hope for Yankees fans that history does not repeat itself. The last time A-Rod won the MVP award, he was traded in the offseason.



Blogger Jack McDoer said...

at least he sniffed the mvp? no royals player even got a vote. love the blog.

November 15, 2005  
Blogger Kevin Donovan said...

An open critique of the 2005 American League MVP

It’s all about the name with the MVP. If they’d called it the ‘Best Player Award,’ then I would have no problem with Alex Rodriquez winning over David Ortiz. To be sure, A-Rod dominated in the majority of offensive categories (winning over Ortiz in batting, slugging, on-base, OPS, runs, hits, and homeruns), and he was a stellar third baseman. But baseball—unlike fantasy, unlike basketball—is a game of symbiosis, wherein no individual statistic, nor even a collection of statistics on offensive prowess, should merit an MVP award. What ought to be done is for each voter to consider what the team’s record would have been without that player on the squad. For that, you need to shout the mantra ‘Big players make big plays in big games’ and then consider Eric Van’s statistical knockout: Papi outplayed A-Rod in every offensive statistic during both teams’ 65 close games. Substantially.

Consider that in your definition of ‘valuable’ and then consider this: the root word of valuable is value. Cash. My opinion, the Yankees should be exempt from baseball MVP contests since they continue to flout the founding principle of economics, namely, the scarcity of resources. But that aside, just how much value did A-Rod bring to the Yankees?

With guys like Matsui, Jeter, Giambi and Sheffield in the lineup, was A-Rod in the batter’s box necessary for a sizable number of Yankee wins? The answer’s ‘no.’ And as for his paycheck, how far would the Word Champion Chicago White Sox have gone with A-Rod’s contract of about $25 million a year from now until the end of days? He’d be 1/3 of their total payroll. They’d barely have enough left over to pay the batboy.

The Yanks could have spent that cash on some fine pitching instead, maybe picked up three or four amazing arms rather than squander the dough on a guy who excels in blow-outs (again, see Eric Van) and doesn’t even play his preferred defensive position. And don’t bother me with that defense garbage. If playing defense had been a deciding factor, that Manny Ramirez would have been weighed more highly, perhaps have gotten a second-place vote or two. No, the sportswriters wanted to give it to Ortiz, but their Fantasy Baseball mentalities quashed their gut instincts. They took the Porsche that never starts in the cold over the irrepressible, teddy bear cuddly Buick of a man, Papi.

If you really want to see an MVP, do this math. Ortiz was worth $5.25 million to the Red Sox in 2005, and A-Rod, $25.2 million. Take their close-and-late RBIs (courtesy of STATS Inc.) and divide.

For every run Ortiz scored when they needed him the most (which is what they pay these guys for) it cost the team $159,090.91. For A-Rod, in the exact same number of situations, it cost his team $2,100,000. How’s that for value?

November 15, 2005  

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