Monthly Archives: November 2009

The Muppet Version of The Bohemian Rhapsody

AL MVP: Joe Mauer & Everyone Else

I wasn’t surprised when Minnesota catcher Joe Mauer was announced as the 2009 AL MVP. I was surprised when he received only 27 of the 28 first place votes. When a catcher pairs gold glove defense with a bat that led the league in batting average, on-base percentage and slugging percentage, he’s the MVP. There isn’t even any question about it.

Yankee teammates Mark Teixeira and Derek Jeter came in second and third while Detroit’s Miguel Cabrera and LA’s Kendry Morales rounded out the top 5. Six through ten were Kevin Youkilis, Jason Bay, Ben Zobrist, Ichiro and Alex Rodriguez.

Other than Mauer winning the award, I don’t agree with anything in this year’s result. I realize that pitchers have their “own” award in the form of the Cy Young, but you can’t truthfully tell me that Placido Polanco is more valuable than Felix Hernandez. Or that Cy Young winner Zack Greinke was the 17th most valuable player in the American League.

Here’s my AL MVP ballot.

1. Joe Mauer, MIN
Even having missed the first month of the season, Joe Mauer’s season was the single most impressive offensive campaign this year. He led the league in all triple slash categories. Mauer’s season was not simply good or great. It was historically great and there’s no one that was close to him this year.

2. Derek Jeter, NYY
Teixeira finished ahead of Jeter in the actual balloting, but not a soul who knows the Yankees would say that Mark Teixeira was more valuable to the team than the captain was. Switching from the number two hole to the leadoff spot, Jeter was the sparkplug for the best offense in baseball and had an outstanding year defensively as well.

3. Ben Zobrist, TB
Zobrist not only saved my fantasy team, he kept the Rays afloat despite predicted regression after their World Series run. He ranked fourth in OPS and third in Value Over Replacement Player (VORP).

4. Zack Greinke, KC
Pitchers get a short straw in this voting, mainly because they only play every fifth game. But, Greinke faced 915 batters this year. By comparison, the AL leader in at bats was Aaron Hill with 734. The amount of runs he prevented probably stacks up well with the amount that any hitter created.

5. Mark Teixeira, NYY
Teixeira bats third and plays first base for the game’s best offense. He’s expected to put up great offensive numbers and does. But players like him are fairly common. He led the league in homers and RBIs, and that’s probably why he fared so well in the actual vote.

6. Felix Hernandez, SEA
Same argument as with Greinke. Hernandez’s value to his team is very high and very real. A pitcher is nearly guaranteed to shut down the opponent every time he throws is of immense value to any team.

7. Roy Halladay, TOR
Halladay’s value is increased because of the fact that nine times out of ten he rests the bullpen. Plus, he’s one of the greatest pitchers in the game and performed like it despite dealing with circling trade rumors.

8. Kevin Youkilis, BOS
And here begins the run of players much like Mark Teixeira. Youkilis continued his impressive offensive work, improving on last year’s outstanding campaign. But disappeared in the playoffs (1-for-12).

9. Kendry Morales, LAA
Morales flew under the radar much of the season, but ended up nearly equally the production of the man he replaced in Anaheim.

10. Miguel Cabrera, DET
There’s no doubt that Cabrera’s on-field production throughout most of the year was incredible. But when his team needed him the most, he was out late, drunk and fighting his wife.

Three NL Cy Young Contenders, One With A Giant Advantage

The National League Cy Young will be awarded tomorrow and there are three pitchers with any semblance of a chance at the thing – two of them Cardinals. Unfortunately for the St. Louis faithful, one scrawny kid from San Francisco deserves to win. Again.

While both Adam Wainwright and Chris Carpenter piled up wins, Tim Lincecum went about his own business establishing himself as the best pitcher in the National League. He led the league in strikeouts (261) and K/9 (10.42!!). He allowed under seven hits per nine and opponents hit only .206/.271/.290 off him. Basically, he turned everyone he saw into Jose Molina.

While Carpenter bested Lincecum in ERA, a more traditional measure of a pitcher’s ability, Lincecum outperformed Carpenter in FIP, a statistic that takes into account things that a pitcher is specifically responsible. FIP is a better judge of how a pitcher pitched, regardless of how well his fielders fielded behind him. Lincecum’s FIP of 2.38 was not only lower than his actual ERA, denoting that he pitched better than his ERA dictated, but it was also significantly lower than Carpenter’s FIP of 2.82.

Voters proved they are moving in the right direction regarding these votes by awarding the AL Cy Young to Zack Grienke, who did not have the gaudy win total that Cy Young winners typically have, but rather packed a punch in the categories that are better determinants of how good a pitcher was in a given year.

And so, my vote goes to San Fran’s Tim Lincecum, just as my vote went to Zack Greinke. Hopefully the writers go two-for-two on these and reward the two best pitchers in both leagues. Adam Wainwright, Chris Carpenter and the Cardinals all had outstanding seasons, but Tim Lincecum was far and away the most impressive pitcher in the National League this season.

Don’t Blame The Yankees

For the most part, I enjoy Rick Reilly’s work. I read his weekly column religiously when he worked for Sports Illustrated, and continued to follow him with some regularity when he moved over to ESPN.

But it’s articles like today’s – “Too Short For A Column, that remind me he’s just another run-of-the-mill mainstream media buffoon who hates the Yankees.

They’re having a parade because the New York Yankees won the title? Why not throw one because a bear ate a salmon? Or a hurricane knocked over a trash can? Hey, the bully just gave the nerd a wedgie! Let’s throw a parade!

Talk about sour grapes. Baseball has a system. And when there’s a problem with a system, people often look for one gross offender to point a finger at. For the situation in the Middle East, it’s often George W. Bush, and in baseball it’s the Yankees. It’s easier for ignorant people to identify one individual or item to symbolize their outrage than to pay attention to everything that’s problematic with the situation. If winning the World Series correlated to payroll, why not just award the Yankees the commissioner’s trophy and forgo the whole season?

The Yankees are only doing what they’re allowed to do in regards to what their system stipulates. While Rick Reilly and just about every non-Yankee fan whines about it, the Yankees free-spending isn’t the problem with baseball. It’s simply a by-product of a flawed system. Take for example this – I go to the doctor and he tells me I’m obese.

“That’s a problem,” I reply and my doctor says “No, the problem is you eat too many bacon cheeseburgers and exercise very rarely.” I can take medication to reduce my obesity, but unless I get rid of the unhealthy diet, I’m not fixing the problem.

When talking about the Yankees, the first response is nearly always to recommend a salary cap. “Look at the NFL!” people say but comparing the business model of the NFL and the business model of Major League Baseball is like comparing Marty McFly’s girlfriend in Back To The Future and Back To The Future II – they’re completely different! One game a week versus six or seven – or three if you’re in the playoffs. Sixteen games versus a hundred and sixty-two. Apples and oranges, Claudia Wells and Elizabeth Shue.

Baseball has no salary cap and teams are free to spend as much as they like in trying to put the best product out on the field year in and year out. But after a team’s payroll reaches a certain amount, they have to pay forty cents on the dollar for everything they spend from that point on. The Yankees pay this tax and they feed money into baseball revenue sharing program, which is distributed to teams across the sport – teams that sometimes spend this money on improving their team and sometimes that money finds its way into the owner’s pockets.

The late Carl Pohland, who owned the Minnesota Twins from 1984 until his death this past year was worth $3.6 billion dollars according to Forbes, making him the wealthiest MLB owner. And yet the Twins payroll has never ranked in the upper half of baseball since 1999.

As a Yankee fan, I am not about to deny the fact that my team begins each season with an advantage over the other 29 teams. Fair or not, the Yankees pay their tax and their revenue sharing money and are therefore allowed to spend freely.

A strict salary cap in baseball does nothing except take money out of the players pockets and put it back into the owner’s wallets. Perhaps surprisngly, I’m pro-labor when it comes to professional sports. Owner have every right to earn a profit but the talent has the right to share in those profits.

Would you rather have a cap and simply enrich the wealthiest teams’ owners or have that money flow down to the players who bring in most of those profits? Pay the talent that deserves to be paid and pay them at market rates, whatever they are able to earn.

Any fan would love to have George Steinbrenner as an owner because he has a personal interest in seeing his team win. That’s not to be confused with a financial interest, because every owner has that. To George, the personal interest outweighs the financial one. Not every owner can say that, in fact, very few professional sports owners can.

Joe Posnanski, another journalist I enjoy reading when he’s not bemoaning the Yankees financial clout, had an interesting thought the other day.

You have one team (and only one team) playing the video game on cheat-mode.”

An interesting concept, and he’s probably accurate with that statement. But I’d offer another equally interesting and true statement to accompany Joe’s.

Most teams have the capability of playing the video game on cheat-mode, but few teams choose to do so.

The Yankees are within every one of their rights operating the way they do. Complaining about them is simply sour grapes. There’s not a more successful sports franchise in this country than the New York Yankees. Both on and off the field, George Steinbrenner has built a powerful empire.

If Major League Baseball wants to update their luxury taxation system, that’s okay with me. There are plenty of ways to get creative with something like this without mentioning the idea of a salary cap. A salary cap simply hamstrings the Yankees and won’t address or fix them problem.

So don’t blame the Yankees for doing exactly what they’re allowed to do. Blame the system that they operate in or question why your team isn’t taking advantage of what is allowed. Complaining about someone else’s success never leads to any beneficial change. The best way to fix a problem is to work the problem.

Work the problem, people.