I had a wild Saturday night this past weekend. Around 10:30, I tuned the radio to the Yankees-Mariners game. Then, I got into bed and fell asleep. At some point between 11 o’clock and midnight, however, I woke up to the soothing sounds of a good, old-fashioned debate about who deserved the league’s Most Valuable Player award.
Broadcasters John Sterling and Suzyn Waldman invited the Daily News’ Mark Feinsand into the booth to discuss the candidates. Even in a sleepy daze, it was easy to tell that the three were collaborating in starting the “Mark Teixeira for MVP” meme. Sterling gushed about Teixeira’s unparalleled defense, Waldman about his knack for getting the big hit, and Feinsand about anything that his hosts missed. At the end of the inning, the three concluded that Teixeira is the frontrunner, with Detroit’s Miguel Cabrera (not enough RBIs) and Minnesota’s Joe Mauer (on a bad team) next in line.
Before making my surprising suggestion, I want to be clear about the fact that Joe Mauer has clearly been the American League’s MVP so far this season. Mauer – a catcher – has a .377/.444/.626 line this season, including 22 home runs and only 46 strikeouts. He’s an exceptional hitter at home (1.166 OPS), and merely excellent on the road (.983). In fact, Mauer is having the single best offensive season by a catcher in baseball history (186 OPS+), just ahead of Mike Piazza’s 1997 season. If the season ended today, Mauer should be the league’s MVP, and it’s not even close.
Given that Sterling, Waldman, and Feinsand were intent on ignoring Mauer’s historic greatness, I wondered to myself (and to you, now) why Kevin Youkilis was not mentioned. Certainly, I find the Red Sox first baseman whiny, hyperemotional, and generally unlikeable, but he’s having a superb season. His .311/.424/.564 line trumps Teixeira’s .285/.382/.557, and his home/away split isn’t nearly as comical as his counterpart on the Yankees’. Furthermore – and you will most likely get shot here in New York for saying this – Youkilis’ defense has been better than Teixeira’s. Finally, Youkilis is on a winning team and has that fiery, scrappy, team leader-y (read: he’s white and looks like he’s trying hard) thing down pat, which MVP voters absolutely love. As you can see, Youkilis has satisfied the historically important criteria for MVP consideration, and yet his name remains conspicuously absent from any preliminary lists.
Again, the AL MVP award should be Joe Mauer’s to lose. But for now, I just wanted to help beat back the idea that Mark Teixeira is clearly the frontrunner. After all, he isn’t even the most valuable Yankee.