How to Define the most Valuable Player in Baseball

I define the most valuable player in baseball as the player that means most to his team. The criteria seem to change from time to time. And new questions arise but many are revisited each year. Does a player from a last place team deserve the award? Can a defensive whiz win it or is a pitcher not entitled because they have the Cy Young award.

Alex Rodriguez had a monster season in 2007 and won the American League MVP. He was by far the best player in both leagues. And he also carried the Yankees in the month of April when they were slumping. Alex was also the main catalyst in the Yankees summer surge where they came within two games short of winning the American League East. They did however overtake the Tigers and get into the playoffs by winning the AL Wild Card. In this case the MVP fit hand in glove with the player that meant most for his team and who had the best overall statistics.

In 1987 Andre Dawson won the National League MVP award for the last place Chicago Cubs. They finished 18.5 games behind the NL Pennant winning St. Louis Cardinals. He led the league in home-runs (47), runs batted in (147) and total bases (353) plus won both a Gold Glove and a Silver Slugger award as the leagues best fielding and hitting center fielder. So personally Andre had the best “power” stats while also having a great season in the field.

That same year Ozzie Smith of the NL East champion St. Louis Cardinals finished second in the MVP balloting. Of the fifteen offensive categories Ozzie beat Andre in 10 of them. Ozzie hit for a higher average had more at bats, runs, hits, doubles, triples, stolen bases, fewer strikeouts and a better on base percentage. Ozzie also won a Gold Glove, but at shortstop, a much harder position to field and won a Silver Slugger award as the leagues best hitting shortstop. It is also felt that defensively Ozzie stops 100 runs a year from scoring.

In this issue how did Andre Dawson of the last place Cubs beat first place Ozzie Smith? And the simple answer is by hitting more home-runs and driving in more runs. That year the criteria used to win the NL MVP was “power” numbers. That is the argument anytime a player with superior “power” stats finishes the season. He is automatically included in the MVP discussion.

Willie Hernandez was the American Leagues most valuable player in 1984 for the eventual World Series champion Detroit Tigers even though he was a relief pitcher. He appeared in eighty games, one shy of exactly half of their games played. Without Willie that year it is doubtful that they would have been as successful. The criteria used that year for the AL MVP voting focused on pitching because two of the top three vote getters were relief pitchers.

It looks like the most valuable player in baseball has to be assessed differently each year based on more than one set of criteria. The thought process has to remain objective but consider this, how would that team fair without the player in the lineup. That would help out in deciding most arguments.

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