The MVP is not a lifetime achievement award

Posted on November 22nd, 2009 – 9:59 PM
By Howard

Today, Joe Mauer should win the American League’s MVP award. We all know all the reasons why that should happen, so I won’t waste many words with a review.

Derek Jeter should finish second.

And all the chatterers who talk about this as some sort of injustice because of what Jeter has meant to the Yankees over the years should simply shut up. Most of the noise is coming from the usual suspects, the Yankees fans who call talk radio and sound as if they still reek of champagne from their post-World Series celebrations of a few weeks back. A New York state of mind can be a very tiresome thing.

Fortunately, the New York media haven’t been fanning the flames of the myopic — at least according to my Google checking — although there was a reference in an mlb.com story noting that no Yankee has won a major post-season award since A’Rod “took home the MVP in 2007.” It’s going on two years now. Maybe ESPN can fix that.

Keep in mind that Jeter did have an MVP-caliber year in 2009 — .335 average, .406 on-base percentage, Silver Slugger, Gold Glove, 103 victories during the regular season, World Series championship (decided after the votes were cast). By the numbers, it was his best season since 2006, when he finished second in the balloting to Justin Morneau, an outcome that was  much more debatable that what happened this season.

Joe Mauer: .365 average, .444 OBP, Silver Slugger, Gold Glove. More walks than strikeouts. Did all that after missing the first month of the season and while playing catcher. Find a measure and Mauer had the kind of season that he shouldn’t be expected to duplicate, even after he signs the long-term contract that the Pohlads can’t afford not to give him.

Imagine if the numbers were reversed and someone in Minnesota wrote what appeared in the Wall Street Journal a few weeks before the end of the season:

No one would argue that Mr. Jeter’s statistics are better than those of Minnesota catcher Joe Mauer, the current favorite in the MVP sweepstakes, who is leading the American League in batting (around .370), on-base percentage and slugging average. For that matter, there are several players, particularly Detroit’s Miguel Cabrera, who are outhitting Mr. Jeter in batting ­average and have better power numbers.

The case for Mr. Jeter as American League MVP is being made by more subjective arguments. “How do you measure the value of inspiration and professionalism?” asks Marty Appel, author of “Munson: The Life and Death of a Yankee Captain.” “Some people will ­argue that intangibles don’t ­exist, but in the ninth inning of close games everybody believes in them.”

If someone made that appeal of behalf of Mauer, or most anyone else for that matter, they would be hooted out of cyberspace. But we’re going to be too classy for that.

But what Twins fans should admire about Jeter is that, based on what he’s said, the MVP vote won’t matter not a bit. He has another World Series championship as part of his legacy. It is the position that I’m sure Mauer will take when he has the  third or fourth best numbers in baseball and his team has a legitimate shot at winning the World Series. (That team better be the Twins, of course.)

Jeter will get his: In Cooperstown five years after he retires.

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