Let me acknowledge a couple of things up front. First, I am in no way unbiased on this topic. Second, I’ll readily concede the point that Alex Rodriguez is the best all around baseball player of his era. Third, Alex Rodriguez had a terrific all around season for the Evil Empire. Last, I don’t like Alex Rodriguez, and I never will – I was ecstatic when the Red Sox proved to be unable to trade for him as I mentioned here (when I was chastised by John Henry, billionaire owner of the Red Sox).
All that said, David “Big Papi” Ortiz got jobbed in losing the American League MVP Award to everyone’s least favorite third baseman (who incidentally should be playing shortstop). His loss, everyone seems to agree, comes down to the fact that he’s a full time DH and thus doesn’t play the field. This is infuriating to me; it would be one thing if the award specified that the winner had to play defense, or made some provision for it – it does not. It’s who’s most valuable, not who spends the most time on the diamond. If you don’t buy that, explain how starting pitchers – who play only once every five days – have won the award. Or explain how Frank Thomas and Jose Canseco – who did actual damage in the field unlike Big Papi who merely did nothing positive – won the award. In short, Big Papi was the victim of a bias, plain and simple, against those who don’t take the field in the top of the inning at home.
A couple of Yankee fans I know have made the argument that Rodriguez’ offensive statistics were outstanding – and they were – but nobody who’s watched Big Papi over the last two years can possibly argue that he’s not the guy you want at the plate in a big spot. Here’s what I wrote on the subject in September (this was before Big Papi went on to hit better than .330 in the playoffs, with Rodriguez hovering around .100 – although the playoffs don’t factor into the vote):
Via DeWitt comes the following debunking of Alex Rodriguez’ MVP credentials: in games decided by 6 or more runs, A-Rod’s hitting an eye popping .420 with an unworldly 1.295 slugging percentage. Great stuff. But how about the close games? Those decided by 1 to 2 runs? A rather pedestrian .255 with an .810 slugging percentage. Big Papi, on the other hand, hits a paltry .231/.835 when the game’s out of hand. When the game’s tight, however, he’s your man: .318/1.119 in games decided by one or two runs. And while I may be off by a homer or two, I believe that 20 of his 46 dingers either tied the game or put the Sox ahead. You tell me who’s more valuable.
Still not convinced? Here’s ESPN’s Jason Stark:
Let’s set aside what happened off the field and concentrate on what happened when these two men just played baseball. That’s where this debate ought to start, anyway.
If you really look closely at what happened in the batter’s box when the biggest games of the year were on the line, it becomes clear that that can’t be why A-Rod won, either — because that, too, was a Big Papi landslide.
Alex Rodriguez had 24 more at-bats with runners in scoring position than David Ortiz this season — and still drove in 18 fewer runs. That ought to tell you something. But if it doesn’t, we’ll spell it out for you.
Ortiz hit 62 points higher than A-Rod did with runners in scoring position (.352 to .290) overall. And that’s an awfully large gap in a race this close. But that’s in all games, in all RBI situations. If you keep looking, you find that as the games got tighter, that gap just kept getting bigger.
In the late innings of close games, A-Rod hit .176 with men in scoring position; Ortiz batted .313. That’s a humongous, 137-point difference. But why stop there?
Ortiz’s OPS (on-base plus slugging) in those situations was 1.224 — to A-Rod’s .813. That’s a 411-point chasm.
But maybe you don’t trust the numbers I dug up or Jason Stark, but just take a look at the inset diagram. Just look at all those Red (Sox) states; can the whole country be wrong? On second thought, don’t answer that 😉
But anyway, I can live with this. Why? Because for all of Rodriguez’ dollars, he has yet to win a championship, and in fact his ex-team mates from the Rangers (whom are none too fond of him) call him “The Cooler” because he cools off whatever team he joins.
And Big Papi? Well, he gave us this and this, which in turn led to this, which in turn led to this. And that’s a hell of a lot more than The Cooler can say. Papi will always have my vote, worthless though it may be.