‘Presence’: Why Baseball Writers Shouldn’t Vote For The MVP

19 Nov

Intro. ‘Presence‘. Sam Donnellon attempts to describe the reason Phillies’ first baseman Ryan Howard almost bested Cardinals’ first baseman Albert Pujols for the National League Most Valuable Player award. Commence playback.

Body. He starts:

Statistically the answer is a no-brainer. St. Louis’ Pujols hit .357 this season, 106 points higher than Howard. He struck out 145 less times, too. There are at least a half-dozen other seam-head-initiated categories that Pujols bettered Howard in, most notably runners in scoring position and late-and-close situations. While both men excelled in the former, Howard’s continued struggles against lefthanders are most evident in the latter – a .158 average.

OK, thanks for laying out the idiot’s guide to Albert Pujols as MVP. Sure, he only used average, strikeouts and RISP (the three most important offensive statistics!!!), but at least he knows Howard’s season was inferior to Pujols. But why did he get so many damn votes, when all the numbers (all the important ones, like batting average!) go Pujols’ way? He continues:

So why did he? Why did he come so close? Yes, Howard hit 11 more home runs, had that ridiculous RBI total of 146, but look who was hitting around him, right? Pujols had more walks, 18 more doubles and let’s not even compare their gloves. It is also significant to note that Pujols maintained consistent excellence all season despite a bum elbow, a stark contrast to Howard’s trend of stunning slugging streaks and baffling slumps.

Yeah! Yeah? Apparently this is supporting evidence for why so many baseball writers voted for Howard? Heh? Give me something more Sammy boy:

You know one answer because you’ve said it, over and over again. Howard’s team won its division. Pujols’ team, while in the hunt through mid-September, finished fourth in the budget-conscious NL Central. Most Valuable Player, goes the argument, should go to a player who helps his team into the postseason. Certainly, that is why yesterday’s vote was so close.

Ah, this old gag. No, you’re right, that’s not the reason. Give to me baby:

So how did Howard, with all those punchouts, with that below-average batting average and those late-inning struggles, knock in 30 more runs than Pujols this season? How did he manage 48 home runs in a season that so often looked as if it would be his worst?

Luck? The RBI were luck? He has more power than Pujols? The MVP award isn’t an ‘isolated power’ award? Why all the question marks?

Presence, that’s how. He looks massive up there, looks different than Pujols, more malicious. He swings different than Pujols, too. Whether he struck out, drilled a groundout to the leftside, or hit one of those towering home runs, Howard was, to opposing pitchers, a panic attack, each and every game.

Whew, this is getting deep. Actual output doesn’t matter, what matters is how big a player is. That must be why Richie Sexson is so feared. Sure, he put up a 89 OPS+, but what counts is looks. 6”8′ of pure presence.

And whether he struck out, drilled a groundout to the leftside, or hit one of those towering home runs, he put a dent into the other side, like the fullback who deals out punishment even on a 1-yard gain.

Then the fullback finds himself cut from the team for not performing, while the light Westbrook continues to make his millions by avoiding tackles.

As long as the game was within four runs and he had another plate appearance, you watched.

Statistically all home runs count the same. Psychologically they do not. Whether you are in the stands, at a bar, sitting on your sofa, you felt that. And you felt the anxiety on the other side.

So much anxiety that it compounded baseball writers to write Howard’s name in at first place a bunch of times, despite not being the best player and not really even being a proper second place pick.


One Response to “‘Presence’: Why Baseball Writers Shouldn’t Vote For The MVP”

  1. BCE November 20, 2008 at 7:19 pm #

    If only the Eagles had a bruising fullback that could get one yard. All the real fullbacks found themselves cut.

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