Wednesday, November 22, 2006
NFL "Expert" Picks
33 IS MVP!
Good Morning everyone!! I hope you all had a nice night. I also want to start out by wishing everyone a very happy Thanksgiving! Secondly, if you happened to yesterday's posting, Roger's Twins All-Prospect team, please scroll down, or click here. He really did a nice job and the Twins have a lot of very strong prospects.
But today, I am going to choose to be very happy. Justin Morneau won the AL MVP. Isn't that how that statement should be reported? I think so. But instead I read things like "Derek Jeter Loses AL MVP" or "Wrong Twin Wins." The title of ESPN.com's Keith Law's article is "Morneau a Laughable Choice." In the article, he finds it necessary to insult people's intelligence by writing:
Joe Mauer was more valuable than Justin Morneau this past season. If you don't understand that, you don't understand the first thing about baseball.
He goes on to write:
Mauer had a 54-point edge in OBP over Morneau, which overwhelms the advantage Morneau had in slugging percentage (a 52-point edge)
Yes, Keith, that is an "overwhelming" .002 difference, if you're counting!!
Dayn Perry of FoxSports.com writes that the "MVP Vote Sends the Wrong Message." In that article he writes,
Whereas Howard's selection was merely indefensible, the choice of Justin Morneau is downright criminal. Let's be frank about this: Morneau had a strong season, but he was only the fourth most-valuable player on his own team. Yes, that's right: only the fourth-best player on the Twins.
Are you kidding me? I guess I didn't realize that this was a message vote! While a strong argument could be made that Derek Jeter, Johan Santana or Joe Mauer could have won the MVP, to blatantly say that Justin Morneau doesn't deserve it is absolutely criminal. Did he lead the league in batting average or On-Base Percentage, as Mauer did? No. Did he lead the league in HR or RBI? No, that was David Ortiz. Does he play 1B? Yes. That really seems to be his downfall in the eyes of many.
In other words, many seem to believe that Morneau should be penalized because there are more good hitting 1B than good hitting SS or Catchers. That's true. Derek Jeter won a Gold Glove (for the third time) at shortstop. Does that make him a good fielder? Joe Mauer is arguably the best defensive catcher in the league, and had an historically great offensive season, for a catcher.
But, pointing out the positives of the other candidates is not saying that any of them were a better candidate for the league MVP. Should VORP (Value Over Replacement Player) be the lone statistic in determining the MVP? I don't think so. VORP could be the lone statistic used to determine the Silver Slugger Award because that is a by-position award. Geez, maybe VORP could be used as the lone stat in determining the Gold Gloves too!
Had Derek Jeter won, I would have respectfully said that he earned it. He had an amazing season. He was very productive even without the power numbers. He does a lot, and yes, he has the intangibles.
Joe Mauer's season was incredible. He won the batting title, did a superb job defensively, and is worthy of ranking highly.
Johan Santana had another strong season on the mound. He is clearly the best pitcher in not only the American League, but in all of baseball.
Frank Thomas played DH and is very slow-footed, but he carried that Oakland offense with a monster season.
Jermaine Dye arguably had the best overall stats of any of the players.
But, Justin Morneau was my choice. He was the best hitter in the league the last three or four months of the season. He hit for power. He hit .321 for the season despite a rough first month. He drove in runs. If you want to use the word "clutch", it should be brought up that Morneau led the league in two-out RBI. If he doesn't drive those runs in, not only do the Twins not score, but the inning is over and more runs can not be scored. That is important, to me, whether it happens in the 1st, the 4th or the bottom of the 9th. Morneau is not a Gold Glove winner, but he is no worse than an average defender at 1B.
Justin Morneau had an amazing season, and he is worthy of any and all accolades that he receives. Online at the major 'network' sites or on other blogs, you may read that Morneau was not a worthy choice. Don't believe it. Don't buy into it. Don't let people take away from the remarkable season that he had. It was an MVP caliber year.
And in the end, it is a vote by the writers. Did the writers vote for the 'easy' choice, which probably would have been to cast their vote for Derek Jeter? No, and I think that they should be commended for it. Do I agree with all of the Baseball Writers of America's choices? Of course not. Could arguments be made for several other candidates? Absolutely. Could a very strong case be made that Justin Morneau was the league's MVP? I absolutely think so, and clearly a lot of others did as well!
Today, I wanted to get a few other opinions on the AL MVP vote, so I asked several others to let me know what they think. I appreciate their opinions, and if you haven't read some of these sites, you really should. Reading other opinions is always a good thing, whether you agree with it or not. So, let's get to their thoughts starting with Derek Jeter's statement to the press which again, just shows how classy Jeter is regardless of what people think.
Derek Jeter of The New York Yankees:
While I know that voting for these awards is primarily based on differing opinions and statistical debates, it's also part of what makes baseball such a great sport.
Having said that, I'm flattered and honored to have been considered for the American League Most Valuable Player Award. I want to congratulate Justin Morneau on this well-deserved honor. He is a special player, and I suspect this won't be the last time you will hear his name mentioned when awards are being passed out.
You've heard me say it a thousand times, but winning the World Series for the New York Yankees continues to be my main focus. There is no individual award that can compare with a championship trophy, and I look forward to working towards that challenge again in 2007.
David Pinto of Baseball Musings:
The numbers say that Mauer, Jeter or Ortiz deserved the award, and you can even make a strong case for Hafner and Manny Ramirez. If it's about more than numbers, what more? Leadership? Jeter is captain of the Yankees. When I watch the Twins, Mauer does a great job of handling the pitchers. Ortiz is extremely well respected by his teammates and leads by example. I don't see a big win for Justin there. Clutchness? How can you be more clutch than Papi? Fan adoration? Being nice to his mother?
The voters looked at home runs and RBI. They totally discounted his position. That's something that previous generations of writers got right, as they often gave the award to a great shortstop or a great catcher. The people who voted for Morneau didn't look beyond the numbers. They failed to look beyond just a couple of numbers. They failed to understand the history of the game. This was a very poor choice.
Josh Taylor of Taylor's Twins Page:
I've been pretty vocal in defense of Morneau as a legitimate MVP candidate, and I have several reaction posts up now (including a link to my earlier September analysis). Here's a more direct reaction.
First, remember the name of this award: We're talking about the "Most Valuable Player," not the "Best Numbers Guy" or the "Lifetime Achievement Guy" or the "Best Over Replacement Player Guy." The whole concept of value is inherent in deciding on who the MVP is in any given year.
When I first looked at this issue, I tried to think about what makes a player valuable. For me it comes down to who accounts for runs, because the whole point of the game of baseball is to score more than the other team does. As a result, RBI and Runs Scored are, in my opinion, the key to determining a players value. I don't use a fancy stat for this - just adding the two columns up is enough for me. But it's not enough to stop there - remember, we're looking for value to a team, not overall gaudy statistics. When I looked at who I thought should win the award, I looked at the percent of a teams runs that a given player accounted for.
My list showed very clearly that David Ortiz was far and away the king in this regard. All things being equal, he would have been my guy. But Ortiz suffered from two major defects - he's a DH, and his team missed the playoffs. Neither of these is fatal in and of itself, but together they were enough for me to pass him by. Second on the list - by a lot - was Justin Morneau.
Much of the discussion from pundits today has focused on how Morneau "wasn't even the most valuable guy on his own team, let alone in the American League." That's just silly. Mauer is a great, great catcher. Santana is the best pitcher in baseball. But I am averse to giving the MVP to a pitcher (unless he has a year that is just historically unheard of - let's say 25-3, 1.50 ERA type numbers). As for Mauer - he didn't put up the numbers that Morneau did. Yes, he's a better catcher than Morneau is a first baseman - but that isn't the question. Morneau easily outperformed the other hitters in the Twins lineup in terms of run-production, and did the same in the AL, losing out only to David Ortiz in this category.
And Jeter? Well, sorry, but you don't give the MVP to a guy for his "intangibles." Despite what the Keith Law's of the world say (essentially arguing that good "up-the-middle" guys are where it's at), I would argue that "up-the-middle" guys don't put up MVP numbers, and will only rarely win it. As special of a player as Derek Jeter is, he is not an MVP type player. Team Captain? Sure. MVP - not so much. Incidentally, any suggestion that Jeter "earned it" by being good in previous years is just silly - this is a "what have you done for me lately" kind of award.
To finish things up - the inherent difficulty in naming an MVP is that we are taking a team game and asking who the best individual is over a given year. Sometimes, that's easy - one player so clearly outperforms the expected norm for his position that it's obvious that player should win. Then, there are years like this, where 5-10 players all could make a claim to the award. Justin Morneau is a fine choice for MVP - the right choice for MVP. Just don't ask me to prove it.
Patrick Kennedy of D-Rays Bay:
I do agree with Dayn Perry somewhat in his opinions. I personally do not think Torri Hunter is more valuable than Morneau, but Johan Santana absolutely had a dominant season, and Joe Mauer had the best-hitting season from a catcher, ever. The choice is not just about the numbers, but what other factor puts Morneau above either Mauer or Santana? It is my personal opinion that of the three, Mauer should have won because he not only had stellar numbers, but he worked effectively with one of the league's better pitching staffs and played superb defense. Santana would run a close second, but he was dominant and is moving towards the path of being the most dominant pitcher of our generation. He would have been a good choice. Morneau is a bad choice, however. He had a fine season, but not MVP-caliber.
The Yankees Chick posts:
Justin Morneau (left, covering his face so that when Jeter walks in Justin's eyes wont be blinded by his excellence) is certainly a deserving candidate; the Twins would have had a much tougher time overtaking the White Sox without his power and RBIs. I suppose I would even be willing to admit that Mr. Morneau may have been more valuable to the Twins than Jeter was to the Yankees, for the simple fact that Jeter has the luxury of being backed up by 8 other stellar batters. From a purely numerical standpoint, I still believe that Jeter had a superior year. Morneau edged out Jeter in power and in RBIs, but Jeter is not a power hitter – he’s a “get on base and create runs” hitter, as evidenced by his impressive average (2nd in the league), OBP (3rd in the league) and stolen bases count (7th in league).
Al Bethke of Al's Ramblings:
My only negative thought on this choice is that Joe Mauer had a better year, yet was looked down upon in the voting because his "counting stats" are lower because he catches, and did not get as many plate appearances as Morneau.
To me, Mauer had one of the best campaigns a catcher has put together in a long, long time...and for him to lose to a 1B who was solid, but certainly not far above the next best 1B, seems wrong.
The fact they are on the same team also plays a part, because voters always overvalue RBI's, and I'm sure Justin drove Joe in many, many times.
Morneau had a fine season in which no one had a spectacular season...though Mauer did have a historically stunning year at a very demanding physical position defensively, which usually produces very little offensively. I'm just sad so few voters noticed how good Joe's year was, even compared to a teammate.
And yes, I feel Jeter was better as well.
Joe Posnanski of the Kansas City Star:
I do think it's an outrage that Morneau won the MVP, but not for the same reason most people seem to feel. I am absolutely stunned that Joe Mauer did not get more consideration. I am absolutely stunned that a Gold Glove-caliber catcher, the first catcher ever (non-war year) to win a batting title, a guy with a higher batting average, on-base percentage and slugging percentage than Derek Jeter, the year-long focus for the most surprising team in baseball did not get a single first or second place vote. I guess catchers are no longer eligible for the award.
To me, Mauer had one of the greatest years a catcher has ever had. Ever. And this man finished behind Frank Thomas. A fat DH who hit 11 doubles. That to me is the real outrage.
Was Jeter a better choice than Morneau? I guess so. I'm not thrilled with Morneau's MVP case. He did get hot down the stretch. He had a lot of RBIs and hit for a pretty high average. But Ortiz had more RBIs, several guys had better averages and Morneau plays perhaps the least-important defensive position on the field. I did not have a vote this year, but I probably would have picked Jeter above him. I would have picked Mauer above both, without a doubt.
I do notice that the two Minnesota writers gave Mauer no respect at all -- one voted him 5th, the other 10th -- so maybe he there are simply things I don't know about Joe Mauer. To me, he was the best player in the American League and the most valuable.
Brad Weiss of Twins Cities Dugout:
I honestly believe that the writers got it right on this selection. Justin Morneau was the power bat on the hottest team in baseball for the last 100 games of the season, and although he started off slow, there was no better hitter in baseball over the last three months of the season. The Twins came out of nowhere to win the American League Central, and while Johan Santana was the obvious choice for Cy Young, Morneau had to really outshine some of the bigger market players. Guys like Derek Jeter and David Ortiz had great seasons, but I believe that if you take Justin Morneau out of the Twins lineup, the Twins are a far weaker team than if you take Jeter or Ortiz out of their respective lineups. Jeter is definitely a legend, and Ortiz may be the most clutch hitter in baseball, but this is a yearly award, and no team captivated baseball like the Twins did, and no batter had a bigger impact on the lineup than Morneau.
Troy Renck of the Denver Post:
...all I can say is that Morneau was baseball's most productive AL player from June 7. The most compelling argument against Morneau is that he doesn't play a premium position like Jeter. Jeter is a winner, no doubt about it. But it appears to be a case where that unbelievable lineup around him, worked against Jeter.
Cliff Corcoran of Bronx Banter:
It's certainly not an outrage, but that's primarily because the BBWAA voting has long since proved itself to be irrelevant. I just can't bring myself to care about who wins these awards. I don't think Morneau deserved it (I'm one who thinks he was the third most valuable Twin, but then I didn't watch them play every day and you did), but I just can't get my ire up over it.
As for the old argument of "value" vs. numbers, I believe that team performance has nothing to do with player value. The MVP should go to the most dominant player in the league, taking into account hitting, defense, baserunning, and pitching. That the other 24 guys on his team did or didn't contribute is irrelevant to the individual's value. A diamond is no less valuable in a safe deposit box than on a gold ring. But team performance wasn't an issue in this vote. I fail to see how Morneau was the best candidate by either standard, but this is far from the first time the BBWAA has awarded someone other then the most deserving player, be it for the end-of-year awards or the Hall of Fame.
It is certainly not an outrage that Morneau won the MVP. He is surely deserving. My vote this year was for manager of the year (I had Gardenhire second behind Leyland). But had I voted for MVP, I would have had Jeter first and Morneau second. I would hope that most fans can see beyond homers and RBI and realize the importance of on-base percentage and hitting with runners in scoring position. Jeter was superior in these categories. You can also make a valid point that Mauer and/or Santana was more valuable to the Twins than Morneau was. So how can he be the most valuable player in the league? Jeter also plays a more critical defensive position and led a team that suffered the loss of two critical players in Sheffield and Matsui.
Will Young of Will's Twins Blog:
I am outraged by the final AL MVP vote. Outraged, that one voter somehow thought A.J. Pierzynski was the tenth most valuable player in the league. Outraged, that Grady Sizemore could not crack the top five. Outraged, that two designated hitters finished in the top five of the vote and neither was the best DH in the league. Outraged, that Joe Mauer - the most valuable Twin - didn't finish in the top five. Outraged, that Johan Santana - the second most valuable Twin - also didn't' finish in the top five. In fact, I was so outraged by these developments that I had no outrage left to spend on the repuke Captain Dreamboat just received from the media.
Rich Lederer of The Baseball Analysts:
I'm with Dayn on this one. I don't see how the voters got it right at all.
For the record, I had Jeter first, Santana second, and Mauer third. I had Morneau SEVENTH. No writer had him outside the top four. I confess, I must be missing something. But, then again, maybe not.
Get this, five voters excluded Mauer from the ballots and seven excluded Santana!
How can these guys vote for the *most* valuable player when they don't even know what *valuable* is in the first place?
But, hey, what do I know? I had Ryan Howard FOURTH on my *ballot* when no other writer had him lower than second.
Can you say RBI? Aargh!
Nick Mosvick of Nick & Nick's Twins Blog:
I think that Joe Mauer and Johan Santana deserved it more maybe, and the stats show that, but it is by no means an outrage. Justin Morneau had both a great year as well as being a great story. I think that it just really depends on what stats you think are important. Voters have an obsession with HRs and RBIs that really annoys me, as I think Ryan Howard didn't deserve the MVP over Pujols, but I think Morneau did more than that. If you consider his .362 average in the second half, his incredible June and July (.362 average, 92 RBI after June 8) that occured when the Twins were streaking. They went 71-33 after June 8th, exactly the time in which Morneau was so great. Of course, Mauer had a great June too (hitting .452) and plays a premier position and Johan had one of the better pitching season when have scene. But when it comes down to it, Morneau was a great story because his 2005 season was such a disappointment. To come back from that and have a great breakout season makes it worth celebrating his season with an MVP. Needless to say, there is no way to call it "comical" or what not. There were probably better candidates out there, but thats no reason not to celebrate a great moment for the organization, Twins fans, and Morneau himself.
Kevin Baxter of The Miami Herald:
There's no question that Justin Morneau deserves the MVP. He led the American League in RBI after June 7, keying the Twins run to a playoff berth. Most of the voters who protested the vote results favored Derek Jeter. But Jeter didn't even led his own team in hitting or RBI over the final two months of the season. And the Yankees' playoff drive was keyed by Bobby Abreu, not Jeter. The Twins wouldn't have had a chance without Morneau; the Yankees still would have won without Jeter. Clearly that makes him more valuable. Jermaine Dye was also very deserving as were Frank Thomas and Johan Santana. But the voters got it right with Morneau.
RBI absolutely is the ultimate stat for MVP. The object of the game is to score runs and if you are driving them in, that makes you valuable. Why else do we spend so much time talking about a players performance with RISP? A two-out single means nothing. It may up your batting average but it does nothing, by itself, to help the team. A two-out single that drives in two runs means your team just scored two runs. Another stat indicative of a team's performance is runners left on base. If your hitters don't drive those runs in, then your team is blowing scoring opportunities. If they don't leave runners on base, then you're scoring them. And every time you drive one in, someone gets an RBI -- and more important, your team scores. So getting on base means nothing. Scoring means everything and the guy driving those runs in is, therefore, valuable.
Jim Mandelaro of Rochester Democrat & Chronicle:
I've been touting Morneau since July. When he took off, the Twins took off. Without Jeter, the Yankees are still a 90-win team. Without Morneau, the Twins remain a sinking ship without a life preserver. Some Jeter supporters say he should have won the award for his "lifetime achievement.'' That's what the Hall of Fame is for, and I have no doubt Jeter will join the ranks someday. But in 2006, Justin Morneau was the most valuable player in the American League. This time, the voters got it right.
Alex Belth of Bronx Banter and the author of Stepping Up: The Story of Curt Flood and his Fight for Players' Rights:
I wouldn't call Morneau getting the AL MVP an outrage. That's a little strong and it implies a certain level of shock. I don't have enough faith in the voting process to be outraged. As a matter of fact, I suspected that he would get it all along. Since there is no clear definition of what constitutes "most valuable," each voter--or fan--has their own take. Personally, I think that Joe Mauer, or even Johan Santana, were far superior candidates for the award, nevermind Jeter. Mauer plays the most demanding position on the field and Morneau wouldn't have such gaudy RBI numbers--which was the determining factor in Morneau winning the award--if he didn't have Mauer batting in front of him. Sure, I would have liked to have seen Jeter win the award (he likely won't come this close again), but it's hard to cry for him. He'll just have comfort himself at night with four World Series rings, boatloads of money, fine female companionship, and the clear knowledge that he'll be in Cooperstown one day. Tough life.
David Bergner of The Baseball Savant:
So my thoughts on Morneau for MVP....
I think the bigger question here amongst other things is the push and pull between sabermetricians and traditional baseball fans. I think for people like you and I, as opposed to someone like Keith Law or Dayn Perry is that the statistics become the end all and be all. And it's not even traditional statistics but advanced metrics that only the hardest of hardcore baseball fans understand. You and I are very conversant with things such as RSAA, VORP, EQA, and Win Shares, but to your average baseball fan those stats mean virtually nothing.
If we are looking at VORP, then Morneau ranked 26th in the major leagues and 13th in the AL! It sounds crazy, but according to VORP, Chipper Jones was a more valuable player than Morneau. I'm not saying that I disagree with that, but when you think about counting stats then Morneau has Jones beat. When you think about overall baseball ability, Morneau is great, but he's not in the same league as Chipper.
Morneau was also 13th in EQA and 5th in Win Shares.
The part that I don't totally get is that Morneau hit .321-34-130 this season playing in 157 games with an OPS of .880. Discounting the marginal OPS by a power guy, if a 1B in season's past hits .321-34-130 for a division winning team, then that player would be in heavy discussion within an MVP vote. So why should people think Morneau wouldn't be?
You spoke of defense at 1B and Baseball Prospectus has his Rate2 as 104 so Morneau was above average as a 1B. The problem with sabermetrics is the insane amount of credence they are giving defensive statistics. David Pinto himself said that the difference between a great defensive player and a poor one might be 1-2 games a season so is the difference all that much? I mean it has to exaggerate when you are talking about a comparison between a SS and a 1B or a C and a 1B, but overall, you can't say that Mauer was 10 games better than Morneau because of defense or that Jeter was 10 games better than Morneau because of defense. It's incredible.
What might make a better argument is past MVP award candidates:
2006 AL: Morneau .321-34-130; .880OPS; OPS+ 140
2005 AL: Rodriguez .321-48-130; 1.031OPS; OPS+ 167
2004 AL: Guerrero .337-39-126; .989OPS; OPS+ 154
2003 AL: Rodriguez .298-47-118; .996OPS; OPS+ 148
2002 AL: Tejada .308-34-131; .862OPS; OPS+ 122
2001 AL: Suzuki .350-8-69; .838OPS; OPS+ 127
2000 AL: Giambi .333-43-137; 1.123OPS; OPS+ 188
I'm just going back to 2000 and while Morneau doesn't exactly standout in that crowd, he's definitely a better player than was Tejada in 2002 or Suzuki in 2001 who were widely celebrated for their "defensive" skills despite other hitters being vastly superior to them. I don't remember their being a huge outcry over Suzuki or Tejada being the MVP so why the fuss over Morneau?
Interestingly enough, did you know that A-Rod had the same OPS+ as Morneau did this season? A-Rod was widely considered to be a huge failure this past season, yet according to OPS+ he had just as good a year as the league MVP!!!
Anyways, I don't know. Is Morneau the right choice? I probably would say no simply because I thought Mauer was more important in Minnesota than Morneau was this past season, but it's not AWFUL! When you think about seasons worthy of the MVP in 2006, I would automatically take out the DH because I'm not sure I think they should be the MVP. If you also limit your choices to teams in the playoffs then you basically come down to probably Jeter, Morneau, & Mauer. The A's didn't have anyone who could be the MVP and nobody in Detroit had a great offensive season. That leaves the Twins & Yankees and the trio I've already said. You could also possibly discount Jeter simply because he plays on a team of All-Stars so maybe New York would be OK without him.
That leaves Mauer & Morneau. When you think about it this way, the MVP HAD TO HAVE COME FROM MINNESOTA! So whether you want Mauer or Morneau is up for debate. I'd go with Mauer over Morneau, but going with Morneau over Mauer isn't completely absurd given Morneau's power numbers which are a lot more sexier in the sports writer's eye than a tremendous Batting Average and OBP%. Plus, when Morneau hits .321, it's not like it's horrible either. A .321 batting average is getting it done in my opinion so who knows?
For me this is another reason why baseball is sort of losing appeal in my mind. I love baseball and always will, but this holier than thou people who want to say Morneau is a terrible choice just really bog down the game in my mind. It's not promoting the game in a good light to me. I don't know. Let's tear down everything baseball does is the feel I get simply because the MVP didn't meet every statistical criteria the flavor of the month sabermetrician deemed necessary to be considered a true MVP. Busting a .300+ average with 30+ homers and 130+ RBI on a 96-win team is a helluva year no matter how many normalized stats you throw out there. Saying it isn't just makes me somewhat tired.
Baseball is the best sport in the world, but I sometimes wonder if the sabermetricians at this point are doing more harm than good.
Regarding the outrage on Justin Morneau, I refuse to participate in that. In my opinion, there have been much more egregious errors in the selection of MVPs over the years (Ted Williams, 2 type triple crown winner didn't win in either of those seasons). Do I agree that Morneau should have won? No, I think that Johan Santana was the MVP of the league. Is the selection of Morneau indefensible? No, it's not. Morneau was in the conversation of best players in the league and he was fantastic during the time that the Twins made their big push to a division title. In the world of MVP votes, this one may not be the best, but it's far from the worst.
Joe Christensen of The Minneapolis-Star Tribune (he actually had a vote for the AL MVP):
The part that bothers me most is the implication that writers just lazily make these picks without giving it a shred of thought beyond home runs and RBI. I completely agonized over every choice. I certainly know the value of strong defensive players, especially at catcher and shortstop. And when they are top-notch hitters, this moves them toward the top of my list.
In the end, I had Morneau first, Jeter second and Mauer fifth. I looked at OPS. I looked at their month-by-month statistics. I looked at their averages with runners in scoring position. I looked at two-out RBIs.
The first question I had to answer was, who was the most valuable Twin? I worked on this all September. I had conversations with coaches and players, on- and off-the-record. Let there be no doubt: The Twins themselves felt Morneau was their MVP. He gave them the run-producing presence they had been seeking for years, and when that transformation happened, the entire team turned around.
Eventually, my top choice came down to Morneau and Jeter. Morneau had the statistics, especially over the final four months. I also decided that if you took Jeter away from the Yankees, with all their talent, they still win the AL East this year. Take away Morneau, and the Twins don't make the playoffs. I firmly believe that.
Finally, I wrestled with the "homer" factor. Was I picking Morneau simply because I primarily cover the Twins? Putting Mauer fifth and Santana 10th, was that me being a Minnesotan and trumping the players who didn't seem to get the same national recognitions as Jeter and David Ortiz? This was a factor for me, and quite frankly, I might have listed Santana in the top 7, if I hadn't already listed two Twins so high.
Let's just say, I felt better when the 28 ballots were counted, and other writers had drawn some of the same conclusions. I know most of these writers very well, and I can assure you, they agonized over their choices just like me. You can find all the statistics you want to dispute the choices, but please don't assume the writers ignored some of that same logic. Like me, they probably weighed it with the insight they gleaned by talking to baseball people almost every day for 7 ˝ months. I believe these awards are in very good hands with the BBWAA.
Lynn Henning of The Detroit Free Press:
I would have voted for Jeter. I do not dismiss Morneau's numbers, or his second half. But I think Jeter had a great overall year at the most important position on the field. I would have voted him first and Morneau second.
In the end, I am thrilled that the Twins were so well represented. Justin Morneau is the 2006 AL MVP. Joe Mauer finished sixth and Johan Santana finished seventh. With a few votes, Joe Nathan finished in 18th place. It has been an amazing season for the Twins. They have the AL MVP (Morneau), the AL Cy Young Award Winner (Santana), the AL Batting Title Winner (Mauer), the Executive of the Year (Ryan), the USA Today Minor League Player of the Year (Garza). Also, Ron Gardenhire finished second in the AL Manager of the Year voting, and had he stayed healthy, it is likely that Francisco Liriano would have been the AL Rookie of the Year (and possible Cy Young). They had two players hit 30 or more homers (Morneau, Hunter), and two that drove in over 100 RBI (Morneau, Cuddyer). And, the Twins won the American League Central Division Title. What a season!
Wild Wednesday is back with another article on the Minnesota Wild from Nick Herling. Normally, I won't be writing on Wednesdays, leaving Nick the responsibility of writing. But the AL MVP announcement meant that I had to write something too. But, we wanted to make sure we still had some Wild discussion. So, without further ado, here is Nick's article for the week:
The Wild have had a tough stretch of games, playing six of their last seven on the road. They haven’t faired too well, losing four of those six games and their lone home game in that stretch. They’ve played well at times, but also quite sloppy over certain stretches. The consistency just doesn’t seem to be there like it was to start out the season. With that being said, all the recent losses have been by one or two goals, so they’ve played teams tough. The Wild are still clinging to their lead in the Northwest division by two points over Edmonton. The division is a tight one though, with all four teams within five points of the Wild. It’s going to be a tight race all year, but I think the Wild are up for it.
Here’s a quick rundown of the games over the last week:
Loss @ Phoenix last Tuesday 4-3. The Wild took the lead early, but ended up losing on a rebound goal in the third period. Walz, Parrish, and Demitra each had a goal and an assist.
Win @ Nashville last Thursday 7-6 in a shootout. This was the only game I was able to watch in the past week and it was a crazy one. There was back and forth action with the Wild battling back the whole game. They were down 6-3 in the third and scored three consecutive goals to tie the game and send it to overtime. Brett Burns, the Wild’s first round pick a couple of years ago scored his first goal of the year to tie the game 6-6 with eight minutes left in the third. Backstrom came in and played well, saving twelve of thirteen shots after Fernandez left the game allowing five goals. This was a really big win for the Wild against a tough Nashville team. The Wild spread the scoring around with Walz, Koivu, Dupuis, Veilleux, Demitra, and Burns each netting a goal.
Loss vs. Colorado last Saturday 2-1 in OT. This was a tight hard hitting game with the Wild coming out of it on the losing side. Coach Lemaire said the team played really well, saying it was one of their best overall games of the year. Hopefully they can keep that up and start turning those games into wins. The only goal of the game for the Wild came on the power play with Koivu scoring from Rolston and Radivojevic.
Loss @ Ottowa Monday 5-3. This was not a good game for the Wild. Ottowa scored 3 quick first period goals and the Wild weren’t able to rally back to get any points. It’s tough digging that deep of a hole on the road against a good team like Ottowa. Goals for the Wild came from Koivu, Dupuis on the power play, and Rolston on a penalty shot.
The Wild play @ Montreal tonight, so hopefully they can figure things out on the road and get two points. The Wild are 12-7-1 overall, going 8-1-1 at home and 4-6 away from the energy center. They are also 3-6-1 in their last 10 games. Hopefully some turkey and stuffing will help turn things around!
Wild Point Leaders through 20 games
Rolston - 19 pts. (12G, 7A)
Bouchard - 15 pts. (3G, 12A)
Demitra - 15 pts. (5G, 10A)
Koivu - 15 pts. (5G, 10A)
I hope everyone has a happy Thanksgiving, and I’ll see you next week.
That's it for today and for this week. Please check out the Thanksgiving Special that I wrote this time three years ago. I think it is a little fun!
Please feel free to comment or e-mail me on anything. If there are topics you would like covered, or articles that you think I should link to, please make me aware of it. Thanks and have a great day!
And the American League Most Valuable Player is....
HOLY CRAP! I can't believe it! I really am surprised! Of course, I think he deserves it! He was my choice. We had hear about ties. But Morneau edged out Derek Jeter! Joe Mauer finished sixth! Johan Santana finished seventh.
Why spend big money??
Earning just $385,000 in just his third season as a regular, Morneau was a relative bargain. Philadelphia's Ryan Howard, voted NL MVP on Monday, made $355,000.
Well, those long term deals to keep Morneau and Mauer might have to be talked about with bigger numbers now!
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