The key word is "valuable." That's where they get you. If the award was called "Most Excellent Player" or "Most Superb Player" or "Most Productive Player" or even "Most Awesome Player," everything might be a whole lot easier.
But the award is called "Most Valuable Player." And that phrase -- like the phrases, "right to bear arms," "slow traffic keep right," and "make my steak medium" -- means drastically different things to different people.
It's that vague word.
Same deal here. Every year, right around this time, there is a nationwide etymology debate over that word. What does it mean in baseball? Is it even something you can measure? This year, I have a vote for the American League MVP. I'm not supposed to tell you who I'm going to pick, and that's good because right now I have no idea.
The American League leaders in VORP this year are:
1. New York's
We'll get to Pedroia shortly ... there's probably something you will notice about the other four guys. Yep, they all play for horribly disappointing teams. The Yankees and Indians were supposed to be World Series contenders, and both dropped out of the playoff race a long time ago. The Rangers and Orioles were expected to be bad and are both pretty awful. None of those players have performed under the intense glare of playoff pressure. Now, you can ask: Is it a players' fault that his teammates stink? Is it really fair to use team performance in MVP voting? Well, it comes down to what the definition of value is.*
See, this year's MVP race in the AL is unusual -- maybe even unprecedented -- because as far as I can tell, none of the three likely division winners has a bona fide MVP candidate. This truly is the year of team baseball.
It's the craziest thing. Look at Tampa Bay, one of the great baseball stories in years. Here's a team that had the worst record in baseball last year, and this year the Rays beat out the Yankees, they seem about ready to close the door on the Red Sox, and, let's face it, there has to be an MVP candidate somewhere on the this team.
But there isn't. Rookie
Here's how you know Tampa doesn't have an MVP candidate: The local branch of the Baseball Writers Association actually chose shortstop
The MVP story is more or less the same for the Angels, who have a real shot at winning 100 games despite being 10th in the league in runs scored. The last American League team to win 100 games while finishing 10th in runs scored is: Nobody. Never happened.
So the Angels obviously don't have an especially intriguing offensive MVP candidate, unless you want to consider the two torrid months of
The Angels' most talked-about MVP candidate is probably their closer,
Put it this way: K-Rod does not have a single save that required him to pitch more than one inning (New York's
Then there is the American League Central, where the Chicago White Sox still seem like the likely bet to win the division. The White Sox had a clear-cut MVP candidate in outfielder
So where do you turn? Most, I suspect will turn to
Pedroia is plenty scrappy, and he's a good second baseman, and he's a very good MVP choice. My only trouble with Pedroia is that I'm not entirely sure he's the best player on the right side of the Red Sox infield.
Pedroia: .324/.375/.492, with 53 doubles, 2 triples, 17 homers, 117 runs, 82 RBIs, 19 steals.
Finally, there are the two candidates in Minnesota. I think the Twins, in many ways, are as big as surprise as Tampa. Lots of people, including someone I know pretty well, picked them to finish last after they traded away
But I'm wondering about catcher
It's much easier to see that he is about to become the only American League catcher to ever win two batting titles. That's because he's also the only American League catcher ever to win one batting title. He is second in the league in on-base percentage, he could score 100 runs despite missing all those games catchers miss, and he's just remarkable considering the wear and tear of the position.
This week I asked five baseball executives who they would choose for American League MVP. They gave me five different names. Of course. Maybe, in honor of the Rays, there should not be an MVP this year. Maybe they have proven that you can beat the Yankees with a bunch of good players, five good starters and a home ballpark where you win 70 percent of the time. Maybe Tropicana Field should be MVP. I wonder if those Baseball Prospectus guys can figure out the Trop's Value Over Replacement Park.