Monday November 23rd, 2009

No catcher ever has won the Most Valuable Player Award unanimously, an honor Joe Mauer of Minnesota somehow was deprived of in the 2009 voting announced Monday by the Baseball Writers Association of America. Only one vote stood between Mauer and his rightful claim to history: a first-place vote for Miguel Cabrera, a powerful hitter, but a guy who played first base for a second-place Detroit team that coughed up a division title by finishing 1-4 while Cabrera went 3-for-20 and, on the last weekend of the season, was drunk and involved in a domestic violence episode. The vote was cast by Keizo Konishi of Kyodo News and the Seattle chapter of the BBWAA.

I was one of the 28 writers to vote on the AL MVP Award, the only award for which I was given a ballot (ballot below). The right guy won the award, so that is ultimately what really matters, but I do believe Mauer deserved the additional superlative of having won it unanimously.

I get the narrative on Cabrera; he put up good numbers for a team that finished 10th in runs. But he also checked out, or worse, got sloshed, when his team needed him most, and the Tigers went home, not to the playoffs. He has to be on the ballot, but not first, ahead of a Gold-Glove catcher on a first-place team who put up one of the best seasons ever at the position while winning the modern triple crown (batting, on-base and slugging percentages).

Get enough baseball writers together to vote (in this case, 28 is enough, making for 280 ballot spots) and you're bound to get a few wacky calls. I do respect each writer's right to an opinion, especially when it is based on properly considered research and information. I do get surprised, however, if a voter shows a hometown bias (it happens less because fewer local newspapers control votes, but still happens too often) or commits to a ballot before the season has ended.

This vote had the usual outliers. The surprises for me: three voters put Derek Jeter eighth or lower; 17 voters didn't put Ben Zobrist anywhere on their ballot; Placido Polanco (OPS+: 88) got an eighth-place vote; and Kendry Morales was left off a ballot entirely. But all of that will drift away in a matter of a day or two, and we are left with all that really matters: that Mauer had a season for the ages confirmed with the MVP Award.

The last remaining award, NL MVP, also will come as a surprise if it is not unanimous, in this case in favor of Albert Pujols. Only one NL player has won the award unanimously since the 1998 expansion resulted in a 32-writer ballot: Barry Bonds in 2002.

Here is the AL MVP ballot I submitted:

1. Joe Mauer. 2. Derek Jeter. 3. Mark Teixeira. 4. Kevin Youkilis. 5. Kendry Morales. 6. Miguel Cabrera. 7. Zack Greinke. 8. Ben Zobrist. 9. Jason Bay. 10. Alex Rodriguez.

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