September 25, 2003

Mailbag (Pre Post-Season Edition)

Can you believe the playoffs start on Tuesday?! I think this season has gone by incredibly fast, although the good people of Detroit probably disagree with me on that.

Before I get to all the great emails in today's "Mailbag," I want to give you all a little heads up as to what's going to happen here next week...

On Monday, I will have an in-depth preview of both American League first-round playoff matchups, complete with tons of comments, stats, opinions and my official predictions. Then on Tuesday, I will do the same for the two National League matchups.

From Wednesday until the last out of the World Series, this blog will be Playoff-Central. I'll give my thoughts on the previous day's games, comment on upcoming games, give my previews and predictions for each new series, and all that fun stuff. If something particularly exciting happens on a Friday or Saturday, I may even come out with a very rare weekend blog entry! Keep your fingers crossed.

This is the best time of year to be a baseball fan, particularly one in Minnesota, New York, Boston, Oakland, Atlanta, San Francisco, Florida and Houston/Chicago (choose one). Although this blog was still in its infancy at the time, I had a lot of fun writing about the post-season last year. It's nice to discuss games that you know everyone got a chance to watch. I hope you'll make sure to stop by here each day this October.

Now then, the final Aaron's Baseball Blog Mailbag of the 2003 regular season...

Regarding my entry from last Friday about the upcoming Twins/Yankees first-round series, an anonymous emailer writes:

"I'm a native New Yorker and a Yankee fan living in Boston and a frequent visitor to your site. You have kept me up to date on the goings on of the Twins and I have genuinely rooted for them to overtake the fraudulent White Sox (like you, I will revel in their dismantling). Unfortunately, our rooting interests have become intertwined.

Here is the question: Over the next two weeks, how can a self-respecting Yankee fan continue to read and be entertained by a blog written by such an avowed Twins supporter who will undoubtedly revel in the misery that may (however unlikely) befall the beloved Bombers? Do I still read? Do I boycott on principle for the series? These questions need to be answered."

This is a very interesting question. I like to think that, for the most part, I provide relatively unbiased analysis and discussion on this site and that the majority of my statements and opinions are not "homerish" in that they don't always say the Twins are unbeatable and everything they do is perfect. In fact, I have been accused many times of being way too pessimistic when it comes to my favorite teams.

However, as you have no doubt seen over the last week or so, when the Twins do something particularly impressive, like beat the White Sox for the AL Central division, I do take a little time to gloat. I think it's only natural. After all, this is not a website people come to for "news," it is a place you go to find opinions, analysis and, yes, even a little "personality."

That said, while I will no doubt express happiness if/when the Twins win playoff games, I will always attempt to be as impartial and unbiased as possible when discussing the actual series and the events that take place during the games. That's not to say I won't be rooting for the Twins, just that I will not automatically predict that the Twins will win the series and I won't let the fact that I am rooting for them affect my analysis (not too much, at least).

So, basically, I'd say you're safe continuing to check out this blog during the first-round series. I'm certainly going to be talking a lot about the Yankees in the upcoming days, while discussing/analyzing their team and their playoff games, which you should enjoy.

Of course, with all that said, if the two Yankee blogs that I check out on a regular basis (Bronx Banter and the Replacement-Level Yankees Blog) start making fun of my beloved Twinkies, there is going to be big Trouble (yeah, that's right, "trouble" with a capital "T") in little Blogville.

In response to my entry from September 17th, in which I coined the nickname Michael "Roy Hobbs" Ryan for the Twins rookie outfielder, "S" from Seattle writes:

"Is it really a compliment to call a guy "Roy Hobbs"? Granted Hobbs' line during his hot streaks was something absurd involving home runs in every at bat (but no walks - Malamud never mentioned any walks), but he also went hitless for weeks at a time.

He did that in only about a half-season, and as a guy like Rey Sanchez makes clear, that's not a big enough sample size. Plus, Hobbs was a mean-spirited and selfish sex-obsessed megalomaniac who took money to take a dive before the playoffs, killed the mother of his child with a foul ball, and whiffed when he decided that he didn't want to throw the game.

I'm just saying that maybe you're not doing Michael Ryan any favors."

For those of you unfamiliar (which, knowing my audience, is about 0.00001% of you), "Roy Hobbs" is the main character in Bernard Malamud's book, "The Natural" (which was later made into a movie starring Robert Redford as Hobbs).

As far as I know, Michael Ryan has never thrown any games and he has also never caused death by way of a foul ball. Of course, he's only been in the majors for a month or so.

Actually, Ryan is very similar to Hobbs in that he has also struggled "for weeks at a time." In fact, before Ryan was called up to the Twins, he spent the entire year in Triple-A, where he hit just .225/.289/.404 in 115 games. My fellow blogger Ben Jacobs, of the Universal Baseball Blog, Inc., actually wrote up an entry last week about just how unlikely it is for Michael Ryan - who is now hitting .347/.389/.673 - to be doing this well for the Twins.

By the way, do I have the best readers in the world or what? I decide to give a a cute little nickname to a hot-hitting rookie and I get an email talking about how Roy Hobbs never walked and how even though his stats were good overall, they were in a very small sample-size. I love it! How many other websites have readers who think like that?

Regarding yesterday's entry about my picks for AL and NL MVP, "Dave" writes:

"As an avid Red Sox fan, I believe you oughta remove both Ramirez (who has had a pedestrian season by his normal standards) and Nomar (who has had a subpar season by his normal standards) and embrace the man who most Red Sox fans and players think is their MVP: former Twin, David Ortiz.

Check the numbers. Specifically, check the numbers since May 30th. Ortiz leads the Sox in GW RBI, "big" hits, and is the SOUL of that team. I love my Sox and I'm telling you that neither Manny nor Nomar is the MVP of their own team, let alone the's Ortiz, then Mueller, then probably Nixon or Varitek. You've got the wrong Sox."

I chose to respond to this specific email, but I got at least two dozen others just like it yesterday. Basically, they all said something along the lines of "Player X deserves to be in the top 10 of your MVP ballot, he's been better than Player Z."

Let me just say that it is hard enough trying to separate the top 2-3 candidates in each league, let alone trying to determine who has been the 10th best player and who has been the 11th best player. As the list expands, the gaps between players become a whole lot smaller and certainly there are no less than a dozen guys in each league who were not included in my top 10, but have a legit case for being there.

In regard to the points "Dave" brought up, I think he is primarily off-base. Let's hit them one by one...

First of all, the idea that a player should be downgraded because he "has had a pedestrian season by his normal standards" or "a sub par season by his normal standards" is ridiculous. Who cares what someone's "standards" are? Their performance is the same regardless of their "standards" and their value to the team doesn't go up or down depending on if the season they had was one of their personal best or not. And certainly, if you can call what Manny Ramirez has done this season "pedestrian" - by anyone's "standards" - you are looking at things a whole lot differently than I am.

Dave also tells me to "check the numbers. Specifically, check the numbers since May 30th." I'm not sure what makes May 30th such an important cut-off, other than I suspect it is the cut-off date that puts David Ortiz's contributions in the best possible light. Of course, the Red Sox did play games before May 30th and, as far as I know, they counted the same in the standings.

Then, after I am told to "check the numbers," Dave tells me that "Ortiz leads the Sox in GW RBI, 'big' hits, and is the SOUL of that team." First of all, I have never in my entire life paid attention to "game-winning RBIs." I'm pretty sure, back before I was born, the stat was widely tracked and displayed but, to be honest, I couldn't tell you who leads the league in that number this year or any other year, and I couldn't even guess as to how many "GW RBI" is a good total for a season.

But hey, if Ortiz has lots of those this year, that's great, but pointing that out isn't going to do a lot to change my mind. Of course, pointing out that he also "leads the Sox" in "big hits" and "is the soul of that team" is going to do even less to convince me.

The entire point of what I have done over the last few days in choosing my award winners is to go beyond personal observations. If we rank players based on who leads a team is "big hits" (which, incidentally, is a completely non-existent thing) or who is the "soul" of a team, all we're going to get is a giant list of players and a whole bunch of different opinions from a whole bunch of people who are a fan of this team or a fan of that player. As romantic as it may sound, trying to actually figure out who the "soul" of a team is can be, at best, completely impossible. The sort of method for choosing MVPs that Dave describes is a mess and is completely without any sort of reasoning that goes beyond personal observations.

David Ortiz's contributions are reflected in his statistics and those statistics are very good (.285/.365/.593 in 125 games). But they frankly do not make him anywhere near as valuable as Manny Ramirez or even Nomar Garciaparra. No matter how many "big hits" he has or what type of impact he has on the "soul" of the Red Sox.

Dave finishes up his email my giving me his ranking of Boston's team MVPs: "I love my Sox and I'm telling you that neither Manny nor Nomar is the MVP of their own team, let alone the's Ortiz, then Mueller, then probably Nixon or Varitek. You've got the wrong Sox."

               RARP                       VORP                    Win Shares

Ramirez 68.3 Ramirez 66.4 Ramirez 26.98
Garciaparra 53.8 Mueller 58.1 Garciaparra 25.49
Mueller 53.7 Garciaparra 57.1 Mueller 22.92
Nixon 46.2 Nixon 43.4 Nixon 19.57
Ortiz 38.5 Ortiz 42.8 Varitek 16.90
Varitek 38.1 Varitek 34.6 Ortiz 14.57

Like Ortiz, Bill Mueller, Trot Nixon and Jason Varitek have all had great seasons and have all been very valuable players. But none of them, and certainly not all of them, have been better than Manny Ramirez.

I think there is a tendency in baseball to overlook the stars and try to pump up the secondary players on a team. It's the sort of thing that causes someone to say that a player that quite clearly has not been the best on a team is that team's "real MVP." I see it every year in tons of articles from writers across the country and I suspect you all hear it on the various games you watch on TV. "Player X is the real MVP on this team, even though he's only hitting .276 with 14 homers. He's the heart and soul of the ballclub."

Cliches can be fun and there is nothing wrong with giving compliments to a role player, but instead of completely exaggerating the value of a player and completely downplaying the value of another, why isn't it enough to just say that you think someone is an underrated player or that he is very important to the team?

I really did not mean this to be anything against David Ortiz or "Dave," the person who emailed me, although I suspect it looks that way. I just think it is funny that I list 10 players on my MVP ballots and immediately get a couple dozen emails telling me that I am wrong, and that David Ortiz or Bill Mueller or Magglio Ordonez or Carlos Beltran or Shannon Stewart or Miguel Tejada or Eric Chavez deserve to be ranked ahead of someone on my ballot. And that's just for the American League. Not everyone can be in the top 10 and the player you think should be there and isn't is not the only player to get lots of "big hits" while being the "soul" of his team.

Oh, and for future reference, there are a lot of people who write about baseball out there, and many of them might buy into an argument for someone's MVP candidacy based on "big hits," "game winning RBIs" and "soul." Unfortunately, I am not and never will be among them.

Also in regard to yesterday's entry about the AL and NL MVPs, "Scott" writes:

"Don't you ever reach the point where a repeat MVP winner has to do a little more to "keep" the award then his regular MVP performance?

Bonds is incredible and certainly deserves the MVP award. However, with 115 of the awards already in his closet, doesn't he have to do something extra beyond his typical superman performance in order to win it when there is a challenger like Pujols who is also putting up amazing numbers?

This isn't like ARod because he has yet to win the MVP, so his typical performance should get him the award. In Bonds' case, his established level of performance should win him the award every year (and has), so in years where there is a strong challenger (like Pujols this year), shouldn't Bonds have to do something extra this year to repeat as MVP?

I understand that just looking at the numbers, Bonds deserves the MVP. But since he is repeating for the Nth time, he should have to elevate his already incredible performance to another level to repeat, or there should be no other candidate within sight of him. This year Pujols is right there with him (especially with the playing time edge) and Bonds

is excellent again, but I'm not sure if he elevated his performance again. So I would be very tempted to vote for Pujols."

Wow, I could not disagree with that opinion any more. A player has already won several MVP awards, so he must do something extra to win another one? I don't understand why the MVP has to involve anything other than choosing who the Most Valuable Player in the league has been. Whether someone has 10 MVPs or is a rookie, it shouldn't matter, as long as he is the best player in the league.

This isn't tee-ball, where every kid who plays gets an award. This is major league baseball and this is what these guys do for a living. To say that someone deserves to be awarded with something less because he already has been awarded with lots of things before is...well, like I said, I could not disagree with that any more.

Just pick the best player in the league, that's it. It shouldn't be so damn complicated and it shouldn't have so many qualifications and exceptions attached to it.

That's it for this week. Enjoy the final games of the 2003 regular season and make sure to stop by Monday for the previews of the two opening-round American League matchups. And if you missed any of this week's previous entries, which included looks at all three major awards, make sure to check them out...

Monday: Hey, that's me!

Tuesday: The 2003 Aaron's Baseball Blog Awards: Rookie of the Year

Wednesday: The 2003 Aaron's Baseball Blog Awards: Cy Young

Thursday: The 2003 Aaron's Baseball Blog Awards: Most Valuable Player

Today's picks:

Boston (Martinez) -200 over Tampa Bay (Gonzalez)

Total to date: + 2,995

W/L record: 241-238 (0-1 yesterday for -100 and back under $3,000. This is the final day of picks and I need to get back over 3K, so I'm going with Pedro!)

*****Comments? Questions? Email me!*****

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