At the risk of beating a dead horse into the ground and mixing multiple metaphors and overusing alliteration, I am posting another AL MVP rehash. I hope that I finally do express what I am attempting to convey in the following email trail between a reader and myself. Thank you for your kind forbearance and that of Dan Ingstad, whose email he kindly allowed me to post:
Ok. I know you don't know me, but I have been reading your blog for a couple months and I just have to disagree with your opposition to A-Rod as MVP. First, I will say that I was born and raised in the Bay Area, so yes I am an Oakland A's fan (and SF Giants and SF 49ers fan), but I am also a big sports fan and have followed Baseball, Basketball, and Football since around 1985.
Here's my argument for Miguel Tejada for MVP over A-Rod this year. First, it's not a career award, it's voted on individually each year. So yes, A-Rod is the best position player in the game in the AL (no question, Bonds is best in the majors) and had the better year at the plate than Tejada. However, Tejada's numbers were comparable in most categories, although admittedly A-Rod's numbers do stand out a little in some (stats used from ESPN.com):
Clearly, looking at the numbers, A-Rod had the better year and is the better player but what is at stake is most valuable player. I might add, that A-Rod had great numbers, but Tejada did have above average numbers (especially for a SS). So, it boils down to how the player helped his team.
I would argue that it's harder for a player on a winning team to put up numbers like Tejada did than a player on a losing team like A-Rod because when you are playing on a winning team the other team will give it their best shot to try to knock you off the mountain. The A's may not have been a winning team the first couple months of the season, but for Tejada to come through when the pressure was on during the 20-game winning streak with clutch hit after clutch hit, well he earned the MVP. But, he didn't just come through when they had the winning streak, he played great the entire season as well.
You argue on your site that A-Rod had 35 win shares and Tejada had 32 win shares and so you say he also wins that category. But, you pointed out that you take that number and divide by 3 to find out how many games extra the player contributed for his team. Since the difference in win shares is only 3, then the difference in games is only 1 and surely that means that although Tejada didn't contribute to as many wins, he did contribute a comparable amount since 1 game doesn't mean much.
It boils down to whose team benefited the most from the season that their player had. What I mean is, because Tejada had a great year, he led his team to a winning season, 1st place in the division and a trip to the playoffs. While, A-Rod had great numbers, his team still finished last. So, Tejada's numbers were able to help push the A's to the playoffs and so he was more valuable than a player on a last place team that hits tons of homers. No doubt, if you switch the teams that A-Rod and Tejada play for, A-Rod would have won the MVP, but in a sense the MVP is really like you said the award to the player with the best season on a winning team and is thus a team award.
I just want to say that with all the great SS in the American League and when Giambi was playing for the A's, Tejada was developing and was overlooked as a great player. But, with Giambi gone and the A's still able to continue winning, it was because Tejada stepped up and helped lead his team and this award is a recognition that Tejada is a great player.
In the past, Ernie Banks won some MVP awards, but that's before Sportscenter and that was with the old sports writers who weren't as knowledgeable about all the players (some still aren't today). However, it seems (like you said) the award has changed to who the best player on a winning team is and that's probably a better way than just voting for a guy based on being a great player for the last 5 years (like A-Rod). A-Rod had a great season and will end up in the Hall of Fame if he stays healthy, but Tejada was the most valuable player on his team because he helped them get to the playoffs and if you want to be valuable, you have to help your team win.
Well, that's what I think. I'd love to hear if you agree or disagree with me.
Dan Ingstad in CA
To wit I sally:
First, I have to say thanks for the email and thanks for reading. It's very nice to hear.
Second, I have to say that my father was a Philly A's fan as a kid, and they were always my AL team to root for and I still do to a certain extent. I like Miguel Tejada and--if I didn't post anything about it I was thinking it--he had definitely replaced Jeter in "The Big Three" last year and kept improving. I think he had a great season and is a fine MVP choice. I think that the A's were one of the most exciting teams this year, and I probably followed them as much if not more than any other team. I don't mean to take anything away from Tejada. He was great all year, not just in the streak as you point out. I don't think that I have communicated my point well because I have ticked off a lot of nice people with the posting.
My problem is not with Tejada. It's with the writers who say that they know A-Rod had a better year, but they picked Tejada anyway. I especially don't understand them listing A-Rod lower than second. The argument gets to a player's value. As you point out, the difference between the two's years using Win Shares comes to one win. The argument goes that since their stats are comparable, the tiebreaker as it were should go to the player who performed under pressure. It's a valid argument. It is one that I happen not to agree with since I think that A-Rod's year is clearly superior: 50 more walks, 150 more points in OPS, 24 more HRs (that's a heck of a year right there), 11 more RBI, 17 more runs, and 234 more points in OPS with men in scoring position (plus almost double the home runs). I know that A-Rod plays in a hitter's park and Tejada in a pitcher's, but that's still a big difference.
Anyway, that's a somewhat subjective argument, one that I think we can agree to disagree on. I can't say that I am definitively correct. My real issue is that the writers who have spoken, er, written have not used that argument. They have blithely said, "A-Rod is better, but I smugly dangled my chad for Tejada." That is just illogical to me and basically an indictment of the award itself. It's turning a blind eye to perhaps the best season ever by a shortstop. And this year is not the most glaring example of this by a long shot. Tejada's at least a good MVP choice. Look at the Gonzalez votes and my favorite the ever-embarrassing Sosa-over-McGwire one. The writers have always overlooked the more outstanding player for the player who caused a buzz that particular year.
The other point I was trying to make was that the analysts were ready to accept this party line without so much as a "By your leave." These are the same people (the writers and the analysts) who rolled over for the owners during the labor negotiations and helped force the players to kowtow to their every demand for "the good of the game".
Anyway, I just wanted to say that I agree with a great deal of your argument. The point that Tejada really came into his own this year after Giambi left is a good one. The same could be said about Chavez as well. I think that Tejada helped his team win tremendously. I think A-Rod helped his team a little bit more. And then it comes down to which effort is more valuable given that Tejada's happened in a playoff hunt. I just can't accept that argument except as a tiebreaker. Maybe I'm wrong, I don't know. It's just my opinion as to the players' performances and what the award should be about. Maybe they should formalize the criteria to be used in voting so that the voters themselves were doing it in a uniform fashion. If they were to say that 25%, say, of the award was based on the player's performance in pennant race or something, I would agree to giving it to Tejada. But they allow the criteria to be subjective, and I think it goes to the best player that year with pennant race being invoked for tiebreakers.
Well, that's my opinion. I hope I didn't tick you off with it. Do you mind if I post you email with my response to clarify my stance a bit? Please let me know.