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.