Sports: A King for the Kingdom
Now that the AL pennant races are all but over (the Rays, Yankees, Rangers and Twins will be in the playoffs without doubt), I want to take a look ahead to the post season awards, most specifically the American League MVP. Looking at the field of contestants, Texas’ Josh Hamilton, the Yankee’s Robinson Cano, Detroit’s Miguel Cabrera and Chicago’s Paul Konerko. There is no real MVP among them. So, this year, I propose that there should not be an AL MVP.
The MVP of the year is supposed to go to the best offensive player in either league. The guy the best all-around combination of numbers including batting average, on-base percentage, home runs, runs batted in, walks, wins-above-replacement and intangible aspects such as perceived clutch hitting (not what a guy hits, but when he hits it). None of the aforementioned names has the total package of both numbers and ‘clutchness’.
Miguel Cabrera (Miggy) is without doubt the best pure hitter of the bunch. With a wOBA (weighted on base average, a better measurement of the ability to get on base than just pure OBP) of.431 and 6.0 Wins Above Replacement, Miggy is having a typical Miggy year. Unfortunately, he has been hampered by shoulder issues and plays for a non-contender in the Tigers. Call me a snob, but MVP’s have to or should, come from playoff teams, or teams that just miss the playoffs.
Josh Hamilton actually leads the majors in WAR with 8.0, but like Cabrera, has lost playing time due to injury. Though he passes the numbers and arbitrary ‘play for a contender’ rule, the best players in the league also manage to stay healthy for the entire season. No one on Chicago’s south side (or even clear-headed Cubs fans where you find them) will argue that Carlos Quentin was the AL MVP in 2008… until he broke his own hand at the start of September. Hamilton is a fine outfielder, a wonderful story of overcoming addiction (when he stays away from hosbags with whip-cream) and a threat in any lineup. But MVP’s play the whole season.
This brings us to Robinson Cano and Paul Konerko. Robinson Cano has moved up in the Yankee lineup to cover for an ailing A-Rod (must be nice to be ‘ailing’ and still have over 100 RBI’s). Cano is currently hitting .324 with 28 home runs while playing above average defense in the pressure cooker that is the Bronx, New York. His has been healthy and his team in contention, but his numbers, though good, aren’t enough. He has above average power for a second baseman, but not enough to warrant the MVP trophy.
This is the most difficult paragraph I have ever had to write. It hurts my arm and more importantly, hurts my soul. Give me a moment….(sniffle). Alright, here goes. The final contestant, Paul Konerko, is fully healthy, hitting the absolute hell out of the ball and has been the complete and total linchpin of a contending team. For the love of God, Paulie IS the reason the White Sox are a contender. He was the only one hitting the ball out of the park in April and May, when the White Sox were 22-33. He’s second in the AL with 38 home runs, has 105 RBIs (on pace for a career high), a .324 average, .400 OBP and game wining hits. Paul Konerko, again, is the reason his team is a contender (or was, until mid-August). He’s the clubhouse leader, the most popular position player and one of the greatest players the White Sox have ever had. He’s the whole package, really. In addition, though this has nothing to do with the MVP race, Konerko is my favorite player. Ever.
He is having the best year of a very, very productive major league career at the age of 34 and the verge of free-agency. The White Sox have no choice but to resign him in the offseason and bring him back. He has had several game-winning home runs and hits this year. But Paul Konerko does not deserve the AL MVP. Excuse me for a moment, I have to go throw up.
The reason I believe Paul Konerko shouldn’t get the award is because of two plate appearances this year. Two lousy, measly plate appearances in a otherwise fantastic season. Two plate appearances out of some six hundred. Two at bats in a sport where the more at bats you have the better an idea of how good someone is. Both of these plate appearances took place in absolutely critical, must-win games for the White Sox. Both of these plate appearances were with the bases loaded, both with one out, both with the White Sox down by one run. Both of these appearances were against the Minnesota Twins, who once again are leading the AL central.
In both of these at bats, Konerko struck out. The White Sox lost both games, one of which was in Minneapolis, the other was in Chicago. Those are situations where MVP’s step up and deliver. The MVP’s team gets a run. Konerko failed to produce against his team’s biggest rival in the most important situation when all was at stake for his club. He is the one everyone connected with the White Sox, from GM Kenny Williams to Manager Ozzie Guillen to teammates to yours truly is expecting to deliver. Though ‘clutch’ is a bit of a nebulous concept, you know it when you see it even if you cannot really articulate it.
Those are the four guys having the best all around years in the AL. And not one of them is really suited for the MVP award. So maybe this year, there just shouldn’t be one. I would be okay with that.
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