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Most Valuable Position Player: Verlander, Beckett, and the Demise of Morality in Sports

Verlander

With the Red Sox facing impending doom, we might as well look forward to the end of season awards. The most interesting award this year, is by far the American League Most Valuable Player (sorry National League, but I just don’t really care). There are two elements that make this year’s MVP so intriguing.  The first being that, as a whole, no one can agree on the criteria for an MVP. The second is that there is no clear cut winner.

Well actually, according to the national media, there is a clear cut MVP. In fact, they’ve virtually already given him the award. Ladies and gentlemen, meet your 2011 MVP: Mr. Justin Verlander. He’s a pitcher. That’s messed up.

MVP…P

I’m going to be blunt about this. The MVP belongs to a position player. In fact let’s change the name of the award to the MVPP (Most Valuable Position Player). I’m not being disrespectful to pitchers (even though they’re all divas). They have the Cy Young award, which is the MVP for pitchers. No one talks about giving the Cy Young to Jose Bautista, so why should we do the same for pitchers and the MVP?

And I’ll even be reasonable about this. If you’re going to give the MVP award to a pitcher, make sure he actually deserves it. And I’ll admit, I’m possibly being a bitter homer, but if any pitcher has recently deserved the MVP, it was 1999 Pedro Martinez.  Pedro of ’99 would wipe the floor with Justin Verlander.  And I bet he still could do it today and even 25 years from now. Verlander has more wins, but haven’t we disregarded wins as an appropriate measure of success? Pedro had around 60 more strikeouts that year and an ERA that was around .30 lower. But Pedro is sassy and the national media doesn’t like sassy, so no MVP for Pedro.

On the other hand, Verlander appears to be a quiet southern guy who “respects the game” or whatever, so of course he deserves the MVP. It’s always interesting to see who the media decides to favor. Cam Newton was the number one pick and has thrown almost as many interceptions as Tom Brady did last year. But he was the first overall pick so no one will criticize him. Bron-Bron (Sorry Lebron, but the only LBJ in my book is Lyndon B. Johnson) gave a middle finger to the city of Cleveland on national television and represents everything professional sports shouldn’t. But the media still roots for him and not the mean old Celtics. It is so arbitrary and spineless the way no one seems to stand for any one set of values in particular.

In summary, MVP is for position players, rookie of the year is for rookies (but with the way things are going Derek Jeter might win it this year), and Cy Young is for pitchers. They can even make an award for relief pitchers that Mariano Rivera and Jonathan Paplebon can switch off receiving for the six years. Just approach awards in a semi-intelligent/rational manner.

The Real Reason

So as I have proven without using copious amounts of quantitative fact and advanced statistics (sabermetrics are for nerds), the MVP belongs to a position player. And obviously this season there is no obvious answer. Ellsbury, Granderson, or Bautista would all be perfectly respectable choices compared to voting for a pitcher. But at the same time, if one of these three won, everyone else will get pissed. Voting for Justin Verlander is a not so clever way to avoid scrutiny and not have to defend your choice. With no clear cut winner, it’s as perfect a time as ever to prove which standard for selecting a candidate is the best one. Does the MVP belong to the player with the best stats or the most home runs? I don’t care. Does it belong to the best player on a winning team or the guy with the highest WAR? I don’t care. Just don’t give it to a pitcher.

The Beckett Factor

And I’ll also confess to something else. I like Josh Beckett…a lot. He was having a great year, even if he was being deprived of racking up wins. If Verlander wasn’t so “outrageously dominant,” Beckett would have had a great chance to win a Cy Young. That being said, every one constantly claims wins don’t matter. Or maybe they just hate Josh Beckett. Let’s be honest, he doesn’t have chance of winning one because he doesn’t have enough wins. But if the tables were turned and Beckett had like 23 wins and Verlander only had 13, stat geeks and media alike would find away to tear him apart. Unlike Justin Verlander, Josh Beckett isn’t cuddly. What a shame.

This brings the MVP debate full circle. I am under the opinion that an MVP candidate has to be on a contending team…not necessarily a playoff team, but a contending team. And for me, the MVP award goes to someone like this:  If a hypothetical player on a hypothetical contending team gets injured, this hypothetical team’s chances of winning would be completely shattered.

Remember just a week ago when Beckett left the game with an injury? There was a collective gasp. Without Beckett the Red Sox have absolutely no chance of winning the World Series (Kyle Weiland, you suck). Truth be told, the Red Sox could survive without Ellsbury, Gonzalez, Ortiz, or Pedroia. But not Beckett. With or without Verlander, the Tigers will not win, because they will not win a playoff game JV (it also stands for junior varsity…demeaning, no?) is not pitching. Regardless of whether he is on the team, the Tigers will not win the World Series. The same can not be said of Josh Beckett and the Red Sox. Despite their current inability to win, the Red Sox, do have a chance at another title. But without Beckett that is not possible.

Sorry Justin Verlander, but if any pitcher deserves the MVP, it’s Josh Beckett. Pedro is rolling over in his grave.

About Josh Segal

Josh Segal is a professional shock artist and trash talker. He also occasionally writes opinion pieces about the Red Sox, Patriots, Celtics, and their respective leagues at large. Segal is currently a junior at Kenyon College where he plans to double major in drama and political science. Apparently he also writes his own biographies in the third person.

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