Baseball Crank
Covering the Front and Back Pages of the Newspaper
November 17, 2008
BASEBALL: The Right Choice

Pujols wins the NL MVP, Howard second, Braun third, Manny (!) fourth.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 2:15 PM | Baseball 2008 | Comments (20) | TrackBack (0)
Comments

A lot of the first basemen who could have been great all seemed to fade after a few years, especially Will Clark and Donnie Baseball. Garvey has always been underrated, and Magwire, well, I'm not here to talk about the past.

Eddie Murray was a great compiler, and I think Keith and Garvey should have plaques. But when it's all over, you really have Gehrig, Foxx and Pujols, and I'm not decided yet on what place. I'm glad the press saw fit to look over that Albert's normal year is like Mickey's and Stan's. So damn good, you get used to greatness.

Posted by: Daryl Rosenblatt at November 17, 2008 2:36 PM

I am ecstatic for Albert, but the 2-4 selections were dogsh*t. It's scary that 12/30 of the 1st place votes were given to Howard. Blech.

Posted by: seth soothsayer at November 17, 2008 2:43 PM

There are other guys for that discussion, too - Greenberg, Mize, Frank Thomas, Bagwell, if you go back before 1900 there's Dan Brouthers, who was the best hitter of the 19th century and better with the bat relative to his league at his peak than Pujols (check here for a start). But I'd generally agree that Gehrig-Foxx are #1-2, and Pujols could end up ahead of Foxx if he lasts long enough.

Murray was also more than just a compiler - his best few years he was one of the 2 or 3 best players in the league.

Posted by: Crank at November 17, 2008 2:46 PM

When you build in a timeline adjustment to their values Pujols is highly comparable to Gehrig. I wouldnt rule out Pujols ranking #1 at 1b when all is said and done. Take all the blacks and latins and asians out of the game , take out most of the salary attraction and competitive minor leagues, and youre left with Gehrig's universe. That's not me being politically correct, its an empirical part of the evaluation mix. Of course nobody's is doubting Gehrig's objective greatness.

Posted by: seth soothsayer at November 17, 2008 3:01 PM

You are right about Murray having some really good seasons. But I don't really put Bagwell up there with Pujols. He's a great player, and I'll enjoy his Cooperstown speech, which will be very well earned. But Pujols is as dominant as any first baseman ever, including Gehrig and Foxx. Considering the rarity of good lefty pitching when Lou played, you might want to argue that Pujols is as good. I'm not sure, but if you don't sound stupid making the argument, you realize that Albert is among the greats.

Posted by: Daryl Rosenblatt at November 17, 2008 3:34 PM

I, too, would put Pujols up there with the all time greats. When al is said and done, he may just be #1.

As to the voting, I find it incredibly ridiculous that anyone would think Howard, by virtue of a great September, would deserve consideration. Just htink about it - if he had produced at even a modest level for the first few months of the season, his "herculean" effort of the last month would not have been necessary. So kudos to him for helping get his team out of a hole, but he's also one of the main diggers of the hole in the first place.

Posted by: DS at November 17, 2008 4:14 PM

seth, I tend not to get into that debate, since it takes us down the road of infinite variables over time; the question to me is, who did the best against the competition they did face. In Gehrig's day there were also only 16 teams and they didn't have any significant competition from other pro sports, so the factors - as against size of population, racial discrimination, lack of international players, etc., - don't all cut one way.

Posted by: Crank at November 17, 2008 4:55 PM

Crank I agree that there are a ton of factors to look at and that you can make the case that some favor Gehrig. But the point of a timeline adjustment used by Bill James and Prospectus types when comparing players across eras is that on balance the game has gotten much much harder over time, and that it is much harder for today's stars to dominate their games the way Gehrig/Ruth did. Stephen Jay Gould of all people wrote an interesting essay about this very point in explaining why we dont see .400 averages any more (batters havent gotten worse, pitching staffs have gotten much better 1-11). You see the same phenomenon in competitive chess for example. it will be near impossible for today's players to dominate the field the way Fischer or Capablanca did because once chess became a viable professional endeavor (like baseball when the money really started raining down) a LOT more talent came into the field.

Posted by: seth soothsayer at November 17, 2008 5:29 PM

Frankly, Pujols is underrated, even now that's he won a 2nd MVP. Most people don't realize that he is one of the best defensive players in baseball. Not one of the best first baseman, best PLAYERS. He is routinely in the top two or three in terms of runs saved above average, defensively. You combine that with his offense (and he's an excellent baserunner as well), and he's on pace for a top-10 career, all time.

Posted by: per14 at November 17, 2008 6:18 PM

I agree with per totally. And its not like he was moved off of 3b or away from the outfield corners because his defense was bad there. The Cards just needed him at 1b.

Posted by: seth soothsayer at November 17, 2008 6:28 PM

I wonder how much impact fantasy baseball has on Howard being rated/valued too highly by so many people. I grant that the BBRAA probably isn't interested in fantasy baseball, but they think of value in the same limited terms.

Thank goodness the writers have gotten all of the awards correctly this year. They won't get the AL MVP (either Mauer or Lee) right, but if they tab Pedroia, I won't complain.

Posted by: 94by50 at November 17, 2008 8:45 PM

Sportswriters are coming around. Many years ago, i.e., the 1970s, a guy with Howard's numbers would have won the MVP. I think more sportswriters look at OPS than we think.

Posted by: steve at November 17, 2008 9:05 PM

In a sense this is a sort of make up call for the 1 or 2 MVPs that Bonds got, when everyone knew or should have known about his cheating, that Pujols really deserved. Of course, now Ryan Howard, in my opinion, got hosed out of this one.

Posted by: dch at November 17, 2008 9:10 PM

DS, take a look at the 1979 voting, which Keith should have won hands down. Stargell tied him with a hot September that probably should have given him 5th place, but the Pirates "Family" won. Writers will always give the edge to the fast finisher.

Posted by: Daryl Rosenblatt at November 17, 2008 9:30 PM

Gehrig's numbers were largely compiled with Ruth batting in front of him. Taking into account that in 1927 the bases were cleared at least 60 times when Lou came to the plate, those 175 RBI could be the greatest accomplishment in MLB history.

Think about it. Imagine the guys batting behind McGwire & Bonds having 175 RBI during their dream steroid seasons.

Posted by: RW at November 17, 2008 10:01 PM

Writers aren't even consistent on that - see George Bell in 1987, Jim Rice in 1978, Roy Campanella in 1951, all captains of sinking ships.

Posted by: Crank at November 17, 2008 10:09 PM

This debate could have been avoided a long time ago if baseball did not call it the MVP award but the player of the year award, comparable to the Cy Young Award. The best numbers should win the award. As long as "most valuable" is presumed a factor based on the name of the award, then Willie Stargell and Don Baylor win the award in 1979, among other injustices.

Posted by: steve at November 18, 2008 9:37 AM

Steve, there is no criteria. Ernie Banks won it twice for a last place team, which is crazy. 1986 is a great example. Nobody denies Schmidt was not a great player, and Carter wanted the award. But Keith was, hands down, the MVP on the '86 Mets, which did finish with 108 wins. But I still prefer how the award gets done. Usually, they get it right, or at least close.

You want an MVP award always accurate, you better name a pitcher. Or at least a catcher, so you don't have passed balls (thanks Casey).

Posted by: Daryl Rosenblatt at November 18, 2008 10:51 AM

...but the player of the year award, comparable to the Cy Young Award.

A concise and effective solution, but one that will not be adopted. "Valuable" is the equivalent to "National Champion" in college football. It's great for water cooler arguments, but provides no ultimate satisfaction.

Posted by: Phils57 at November 18, 2008 10:56 AM

I agree Daryl, it is very inconsistent. For every Dawson and Banks, there's a Stargell and Kirk Gibson. I believe it should be about the player with the best numbers, with the exception of if they aren't far and away better than the others, team factors can be applied. Also, I think consitency should be a key as well, which is why Howard and Delgado's support is ridiculously overhyped this year. Again, if they didn't help dig the hole, they wouldn't have needed to bail anyone out.

Posted by: DS at November 18, 2008 12:06 PM
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