At The Ballyard ... with Steve Weissman

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

A-Rod Wins MVP: No Argument Here, But What Constitutes ‘Valuable’ Anyway?

When Yankee third baseman Alex Rodríguez was named American League MVP yesterday over Red Sox DH David Ortiz, the sound of teeth being gnashed could be heard all across New England. However, I have no argument with the decision, for A-Rod put up numbers that essentially were as dominating as Ortiz’s, and he did so while playing defense in the field – and stellar defense at that. I would feel differently if Big Papi’s performance stood head and shoulders above everyone else’s, but it didn’t, and I do think it’s fair to give the nod to the two-way player in such a case.

Still, the closeness of the race does revive the debate over just what makes a player “valuable.” Is it raw offensive output? Contributions to the team’s performance? Leadership in the clubhouse and the community? I had a problem with A-Rod’s winning his first MVP as a Texas Ranger, for that was a club that finished in last place despite his heroics. There is little doubt that his statistical performance certainly qualified him for consideration, but can a player be considered “most valuable” when his presence in the lineup does nothing for the fortunes of his team?

To me, the argument for Ortiz had considerably more to do with the way he carried the Red Sox into the playoffs this year than with his offensive output. Nary an expert or observer would disagree that without him, the Sox easily could have finished third, or worse. But at the end of the day, I believe it was proper to give the accolades to the player who contributed on both offense and defense, and who clearly also made a difference in his team’s position in the standings.

In closing, I want you to consider this: Rodriguez himself knows that the honor he has just received pales in comparison to the one Ortiz and his mates celebrated just 13 months ago. “I would certainly trade his World Series championship for this MVP trophy,” Rodriguez said. “That’s the only reason I play baseball.”

It’s hard to argue with that!

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