November 17, 2003


Well, it finally happened. Alex Rodriguez won the American League Most Valuable Player award yesterday, getting the award he has deserved multiple times in the past for the very first time.

The funny thing is that Alex Rodriguez's 2003 season was no better than any number of his other years and is probably worse than most of them. But the stars were aligned this year, for whatever reason, and I believe Rodriguez was clearly the MVP of the league.

I think the thing that ultimately led to ARod winning the AL MVP is that the voting was incredibly splintered. In recent years, the different criteria for an "MVP" has become so unique for each voter that defined lines are always changing and are occasionally never even present. Some guys vote for who they think was the best player in the league. Some guys vote for the best player on a playoff team. Some guys vote for the guy with the most RBIs. Some guys vote for the guy who provided the most "spark" or "heart" or "leadership" or "chemistry." Some guys vote for a combination of the best guy and the best story. And other guys seemingly put a dozen names into a hat and just pick one.

All of that adds up to a whole bunch of voters with a whole bunch of different ideas on who deserves an award. This year, that lead to a situation where 10 different players got a first-place vote.

To me, the very idea that 10 different players had at least one voter who thought they were the "MVP" of the AL this year is pretty scary. It tells me that the voters have come up with so many crazy ideas for what an MVP is that none of them can even agree on one correct form of idiocy. They just all go off into their own worlds of stupidity. In this case, that led to the Most Valuable Player actually winning the award, so I am perfectly happy to embrace the idiocy of the voters. Just this once, of course.

In all, 27 different players got at least one vote. Here are the official rankings:

 1) Alex Rodriguez (6 first-place votes)

 2) Carlos Delgado (5)

 3) Jorge Posada (5)

 4) Shannon Stewart (3)

 5) David Ortiz (4)

 6) Manny Ramirez (1)

 7) Nomar Garciaparra (1)

 8) Vernon Wells (1)

 9) Carlos Beltran

10) Bret Boone

11) Miguel Tejada (1)

12) Bill Mueller

13) Jason Giambi (1)

14) Garret Anderson

15) Keith Foulke

    Frank Thomas

17) Eric Chavez

18) Carlos Lee

    Magglio Ordonez

20) Alfonso Soriano

21) Derek Jeter

22) Pedro Martinez

23) Ichiro!

24) Esteban Loaiza

    Jason Varitek

    Aubrey Huff

27) Mariano Rivera

To be honest, I was prepared for yet another year where Rodriguez got shafted. I was going to talk about how much he deserved the award, about how much more valuable to his team he has was than various other players, and other such things. But then the voters went ahead and surprised me, which means I have nothing to complain about today. Or so you'd think.

There are so many incredible bits of information contained in the American League's final voting breakdown that I feel compelled to share some of them with you...

- There were more voters who felt either Shannon Stewart or David Ortiz was the MVP of the AL this season (7) than voters who felt the same about Alex Rodriguez (6).

- Someone gave Jason Giambi a first-place vote. No other voter had him in the top-3 and only two of the 28 voters even had him in the top-5.

- Carlos Lee and Magglio Ordonez both play a corner outfield spot for the Chicago White Sox. Here are their numbers this year:

            G      AVG      OBP      SLG      EqA       EqR     RARP

Ordonez   160     .317     .380     .546     .310     112.2     49.4

Lee       158     .291     .331     .499     .283      94.9     25.1

Carlos Lee hit two more home runs than Magglio Ordonez and drove in 14 more runs.

Meanwhile, Ordonez made 27 fewer outs, got on base 31 more times and totaled 20 more bases. He had a batting average 26 points higher, an on-base percentage 49 points higher and a slugging percentage 47 points higher. He created 17 more "Equivalent Runs" and was 24 "Runs Above Replacement Position" better.

And, of course, Ordonez and Lee finished tied in the voting.

- One voter apparently thought it was still 2002 and gave Miguel Tejada a first-place vote. It was a bad idea then and it's utterly ridiculous now. Tejada's batting average, on-base percentage and slugging percentage dropped by 30, 18 and 36 points from last year and he finished 18th among AL position players in "Value Over Replacement Position" and 26th among all AL players.

- Compare the following two seasons from one player:

  G      AVG      OBP      SLG     HR     SB

156     .300     .332     .547     39     41

156     .290     .338     .525     38     35

Beyond playing in 156 games both years, the player also played for the same team in both seasons and also played the same position defensively. In one of those two years he finished third in the AL MVP voting. In the other season, he finished 21st.

Don't worry, I don't get it either.

- Just a few days ago, Roy Halladay was awarded the AL Cy Young by a very large margin. He received 26 of the 28 first-place votes and had more total "points" (136) than the rest of the field put together (116).

Yet, Halladay was not on a single AL MVP ballot and four pitchers - Keith Foulke, Esteban Loaiza, Pedro Martinez and Mariano Rivera - were. Foulke, who finished seventh in the Cy Young voting, actually got a top-10 MVP-vote on eight different ballots, including a third-place vote on one. His highest finish on a Cy Young ballot was also third, and he also got just one of those.

- Alex Rodriguez, for whom many think not making the playoffs is a huge mark against him in the MVP balloting, received a total of six first-place votes and five second-place votes.

A total of six first-place votes and eight second-place votes were given to Toronto's Carlos Delgado and Vernon Wells, who, like Rodriguez, missed the post-season.

- Amazingly, the best player in the league was actually included on all 28 ballots. He was, however, given a sixth, seventh and ninth-place vote. One wonders what logic someone uses to determine that Alex Rodriguez was the ninth most valuable player in the AL this year.

I can understand the basis of the faulty logic that makes someone vote Rodriguez second or third or even that makes them leave him off the ballot completely. But ninth?!

- Derek Jeter, who missed 27% of the season (43 games) with an injury, received a second-place vote on one ballot. He got just one other top-10 vote combined on the other 27 ballots.

I am reasonably certain that Tim McCarver does not have a vote. Or at least I was.

- Here is the team-by-team breakdown of the 27 players who found their way onto at least one ballot:

Boston         6

New York       5

Chicago        4

Oakland        3

Seattle        2

Toronto        2

Minnesota      1

Kansas City    1

Texas          1

Anaheim        1

Tampa Bay      1

Despite finishing behind the Twins in the AL Central, the White Sox out-MVP'd Minnesota 4-1. In fact, despite missing the post-season and having just the sixth-best record in the AL, the White Sox had more MVP vote-getters than everyone except the Red Sox and Yankees.

The only teams without at least one person mentioned on a ballot? Detroit, Cleveland and Baltimore.

- I know I have talked about this plenty before, but it bears repeating. Three voters gave a first-place vote to a player who played in just 136 games and totaled just 73 RBIs and 90 runs scored. The player, who hit .307/.364/.459, played a position, left field, where the average major leaguer hit .279/.353/.468.

- The American League West division, which has just four teams, has now won eight consecutive AL MVP awards. Three by Rangers, two each by A's and Mariners, and zero by Angels.

- And finally, because it made me laugh out loud, here is a post from Baseball Primer about the MVP ballots, courtesy of someone named "stasis":

I managed to snag a copy of Tim McCarver's ballot...

1. Jeter's defense

2. Jeter's hitting

3. Jeter's baserunning

4. Jeter's clubhouse leadership

5. Jeter's bunting

6. Jeter's winning personality

7. Jeter's hustle

8. Jeter's determination

9. Jeter's boyish good looks

10. Bob Gibson
*****Comments? Questions? Email me!*****

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