Monday, August 31, 2009

If Joe Mauer Doesn't Win MVP, I Will Be Slightly Peeved for a Couple of Days

Like any self respecting Twins fan, I have a big old man-crush on catcher Joe Mauer. No, it's not just his boyish good looks, those darling sideburns, and his Minnesota nice charm. It has (slightly) more to do with his brilliance on the baseball diamond. This year Mauer is treading historical territory - he's hitting a ridiculous .368/.436/.615 playing the most demanding position defensively. Only Mike Piazza has come close to putting up these types of numbers as a catcher. It's no stretch to say that Mauer is not just having the best season ever by a catcher, but arguably one of the greatest seasons of all-time by any player.

All this being said, it appears that Mauer may get screwed out of another MVP. He arguably should have won last year and clearly should have won in 2006 over teammate Justin Morneau. This year is the biggest slam dunk choice yet. Mauer has almost singlehandedly kept the Twins afloat in the division and is leading the league in on base percentage (the most important stat in baseball probably) and slugging percentage. Oh, and he's a catcher.

Unfortunately, the one thing that Mauer isn't leading the league in is RBIs (runs batted in). Now I could write at least 9-10 blog entries about how terrible RBIs are and why anyone who cites them as an important baseball statistic should probably die in some way involving flame (and I just might if I continue to run out of ideas). It really does not take a rocket scientist to figure out that RBIs are determined largely by the players around you - you can't drive in runs if there's nobody on base. Justin Morneau racks up the RBIs in large part because he has the guy leading the league in on base percentage batting in front of him.

Seems pretty simple right? Unfortunately, our friends in the sports media aren't exactly the brightest crayons in the Crayola 64 box. Every year more deserving candidates are overlooked for the player who racked up a ton of RBIs and home runs. Positional value is rarely ever accounted for, which is why someone like Morneau wins over someone like Mauer. Defense is basically ignored entirely, even though teams like the Rays have proven that defense has a huge part in winning baseball games. They also almost always give it to a guy on a playoff team, using the old "if he didn't get his team to the playoffs, how valuable could he be?" argument. As if somehow Joe Mauer is to blame for Alexi Casilla, Delmon Young, and Nick Punto hitting like little girls in their first tee-ball game.

This year the de facto big RBI slugger on a winning team candidate is Yankees first baseman Mark Teixeira. Teixeira is not even close to Mauer in any statistics except home runs and RBIs and plays first base, the easiest position to find a good hitter at. However, he has those RBIs, and he has the storyline of "solidifying the Yankees infield" and helping them turn from a bad team last year into the AL East champs this year. Never mind that they added CC Sabathia and AJ Burnett to their rotation and are getting career years out of Derek Jeter and Johnny Damon -- in the media's eyes, it's all about Tex, and how he turned everything around singlehandedly. I won't even bring up the fact that Teixeira plays in the new Yankee Stadium, where I could probably hit a home run if I tried long enough (for reference I had one extra base hit in little league past age 8).

The fact that Teixeira's name (or anyone's really) is being brought in an AL MVP discussion versus Joe Mauer is absurd. Mauer missed a month of the season and has still been way more valuable than Teixeira or anyone else in baseball most likely. Unfortunately when the inevitable arguments begin on Baseball Tonight etc, we're just as likely to hear the analysts suggest that Teixeria or Kevin Youkilis deserve the MVP over Mauer. Believe it or not, these people are paid to analyze baseball and yet will likely get this simple fact wrong. I'm expecting the worst, but if Mauer doesn't win MVP I'm still going to be slightly angry, and may even not have my usual smiling and happy exterior the next couple of days. Now you know why.

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