Baseball Primer’s 2003 American League MVP
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The time has come to announce the winner of Baseball Primer’s American League Most Valuable Player award for 2003. And there’s probably not much point in trying to build suspense about his identity. Our American League MVP is Texas Rangers shortstop Alex Rodriguez. Now, I suppose I could just dust off the handy Alex Rodriguez AL MVP template article we have on file here at Primer Headquarters, change the year and the stats, and be done with it. But why not take this chance to take a look at the early history of the Most Valuable Player award?
To find out about the beginnings of this prestigious award, I sat down with noted historian Sylvester Francis Howard. Howard might more accurately be described as a pre-historian, as the primary focus of his research is human society in its earliest stages. Specifically, Howard’s tale of the origin of the MVP award takes us back 70,000 years, to what is now known as California, but what was then called Jorak.
“Several tribes of pre-historic humans lived in one area of Southern California,” said Howard. “These tribes were typically cooperative, but they competed in small ways, similar to what we now think of as sports. One such event happened every fall, as each tribe sent its best men on a big hunt. Hunting was nothing unusual, but the desired prey on these days was: Smilodon fatalis. The sabertooth cat. This was of course very dangerous, but it was seen as the ultimate test of the tribes’ and the hunters’ courage.”
One tribe that always sent its hunters called themselves the Rayin-Gurs. The Rayin-Gurs had the most fierce and strong of all the hunters, Arog. Arog was so good at hunting that his tribe gladly let him have a full one-third of the spoils of every hunt. “It’s not about the spoils,” Arog insisted. “I just want to be with a tribe I love, and do the best I can to help them catch mastodons and all.” Unfortunately, many of the other Rayin-Gurs were notoriously bad at hunting.
Before one autumn’s annual hunt, a group of the era’s greatest thinkers held a meeting. They planned to study the sabertooth cat hunt, and determine the most effective hunting techniques. They called themselves “sabertoothmetricians.” The leader of the group was Stak.
“Stak was the inventor of what we now call the stack,” said Howard. “Of the many great and important inventions of the time, the stack is perhaps the most overlooked. Imagine where today’s grocery stores would be without the stack. Also, fully sixty percent of the land surface of the Earth would have to be devoted to lumberyards. It’s easy, when you think about it, to see how tremendously important Stak was.
“In those days, it was common when inventing something to name it after yourself, as Stak did. There just weren’t enough words to do otherwise. The meeting that Stak called before the Smilodon hunt included many of the age’s most advanced thinkers and inventors, including Weel, Rampp, Pog, Frij-Maggnit, Nok Nok-Johke, and Kahnsta-tu-shenl Mawnar-kee.”
The day of the hunt came, and as the hunters left on their missions, two groups drawn from all the tribes followed along to watch. One group was the sabertoothmetricians. The other was the Cave-Painters’ Association of Jorak (CPAJ). The cave-painters took it upon themselves to immortalize great hunters on the walls of caves. This year, at Stak’s suggestion, they would give special honor to the hunter deemed most valuable. Everyone was excited to see who it would be.
At the outset, it appeared that Arog’s skill alone would guide the Rayin-Gurs to victory. Before long, he had cornered a huge pack of sabertooth cats in an arroyo. All that was left was for the tribe to carefully slay them from above.
However, the rest of the Rayin-Gurs proved too careless. “They were a little too enthusiastic,” Howard pointed out. “Instead of waiting for Arog’s guidance, they assumed the hunt was over, and that they had won. They jumped down into the arroyo to finish of the cornered cats.”
Instead, the physically superior cats, suddenly without the disadvantage of being trapped in a hole beneath their hunters, made short work of most of the Rayin-Gurs, as Arog watched in horror from above. Arog couldn’t handle the pack of cats alone, so he was forced to return empty-handed.
After the hunt, two important members of the CPAJ, Flufpeece and Hatchitt-Jobb, came to consult with the wise sabertoothmetricians. The CPAJ had chosen the most valuable hunter, and they were wondering whether Stak and his colleagues had reached the same conclusion.
“We have decided Spag was the MVH,” said Flufpeece. “He really came through in the clutch, and his kills late in the evening made the difference for the Flarmugs.”
“We felt the MVH was Arog,” replied Stak. “Were it not for the inadequacy of his tribemates, he would have made more difference than anyone. Any tribe would be better with Arog than with their best hunter.”
“What? Arog?” bellowed Hatchitt-Jobb. “His tribe could have been eaten by smilodons without him. Why don’t you get your nose out of the numbers and watch the hunt?”
This comment greatly offended the sabertoothmetricians, especially Numm-Br. “Think what you will,” said Stak. “We say it’s Arog.”
“Arog,” Hatchitt-Jobb muttered as he turned to leave. “It’s hard to be a good hunting tribe when one hunter eats a third of the spoils! And have you noticed the size of his head? Personally, I suspect he’s evolving.”
“You can pick Arog,” said Flufpeece. “But we’re the ones who paint the caves.”
“Maybe, but someday, we’ll have our own way to disseminate our opinions to many people, too!” cried sabertoothmetrician Algor.
And that is the story of the first MVP award. Now, let’s take a look at our top finishers for 2003:
A-Rod’s hitting stats alone are pretty worthy: His on-base percentage was .396 (8th in the league), he slugged .600 (best in the league), and put up an OPS of .995 (3rd). He led the league in runs (124) and home runs (47) and was second in RBI (118) and total bases (364). He also played in 161 games and was fifth in the league in plate appearances with 715. And, of course, he did all of that while playing excellent shortstop.
Delgado’s incredible hitting earned him a second-place spot in the final tally. His 1.019 OPS and 145 RBI led the American League, and he played in 161 games (147 at first base) and amassed 705 plate appearances.
Posada had one of the best years of his career in 2003, with a .405 on-base percentage and a .518 slugging percentage. His 146 OPS+ was a career high. And, of course, that his performance came as a catcher greatly enhanced his value.
Boone’s 2003 line of .294/.366/.535 is another example of the superb hitting he’s done since arriving in Seattle. In 2003, he was the best-hitting second baseman in the league even without considering the effect of Safeco Field. He also played in a career-high 159 games, compiled a career-high 705 plate appearances and was third in the league in RBI (117).
Manny Ramirez had such a good year in 2003 that immediately afterwards, his team offered him to anyone willing to take him, and no one did. Ah, the financial side of baseball. Nevertheless, Ramirez had an excellent 2003 campaign, leading the league in OBP (.427) and finishing second in OPS (1.014) and batting average (.325).
Player 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 #Ballots Pts
A. Rodriguez 9 9 126
C. Delgado 4 3 1 1 9 73
J. Posada 2 1 3 2 1 9 55
B. Boone 1 1 3 1 1 1 8 49
M. Ramirez 3 1 1 1 2 8 47
C. Beltran 1 2 1 1 5 34
N. Garciaparra 4 1 2 1 8 29
T. Hudson 2 1 3 20
V. Wells 1 1 1 1 1 5 17
B. Mueller 1 1 2 1 5 16
E. Loaiza 1 1 1 3 13
J. Giambi 1 1 1 1 4 11
R. Halladay 1 1 1 3 11
A. Soriano 2 2 4 10
F. Thomas 1 1 2 7
M. Ordonez 1 1 2 5
E. Chavez 1 1 4
J. Moyer 1 1 3
A. Huff 1 1 1
Dan 'The Boy' Werr
Posted: November 10, 2003 at 06:00 AM | 14 comment(s)
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