A quicky from the comments

bernie_250_031609.jpg“Remember when the Yanks were winning the World Series that we never had an MVP winner on our team (1996-2000)? We had guys who knew how to perform as a team.”

Steve, could you get your Webmaster to fix it so that any time somebody types some version of those quoted sentiments, they automatically get an electric shock through their Web connection? Thanks! — lorodov

I’m pretty sure your suggestion would have been legal just a few months ago but wouldn’t pass muster with the current Justice Department. Congratulations: you’ve actually made me miss the old guys. I didn’t think that was possible… I’m trying to figure out the best way to say that the MVP vote is just a poll of a bunch of guys who write about baseball and may or may not reflect the best player in the league in a given year, often not. That no Yankees player received an MVP award in the years 1996-2000 is not evidence that they received no MVP-level performances during those years, but that the voters had their heads up their — how to put this politely — fundaments.

Bernie Williams played at an MVP-level in the four years under examination — a center fielder who hit .324/.410/.551 in the years in question, winning a batting title and (deserved or not) four Gold Gloves as well. In two of those years, 1996 and 1998, the award went to the cranky corner outfielder Juan Gonzalez, who had a ton of home runs and RBIs, but when you look at Williams’ more important defensive position and superior ability to reach base it rapidly becomes apparent that Bernie was the superior player.

Derek Jeter would have been deserving of an MVP award in any of the three years from 1998 to 2000, and I will always contend that he should have won it in 1999 rather than Pudge Rodriguez’s double play machine. Rodriguez was not one of the 10 best hitters in the AL that year. Jeter was, at least by one measure, the best.

Jorge Posada’s 2000 season (.287/.417/.527, 151 games) lacked the RBIs usually associated with an MVP winner, but was of that quality given that it was produced by a catcher. Tino Martinez’s 1997 had all the hallmarks of an MVP season — 44 home runs, 141 RBIs. He finished a distant second in the balloting to Junior Griffey.

There were several players throughout, including Paul O’Neill (through 1998), who made star-level contributions to those Yankees teams. They were very deep clubs, with talent spread nicely around the roster, but they weren’t some gutty version of the Pittsburgh Pirates, grinding it out with a bunch of mediocre players. These were Cadillacs, not K-Cars, and we haven’t yet discussed the pitching or the defense, the latter of which was surprisingly effective in those years, far, far more effective than anything the current unit has done or will do.

Sure, the media liked to celebrate Scott Brosius, Joe Girardi, and the like, and no doubt they played their part, but without the big guys they would have “known how to win” right into fourth place. The Yankees need their stars. In the absence of Alex Rodriguez, the Yankees are down on just one on offense. Citing the 1996-2000 teams as evidence that one is enough fails the exam before you even pick up your pencil.

MORE FROM ME…
…After today’s game. In the meantime, this week my travels take me to Washington, DC, where I’ll be doing two events on Wednesday. First, Jay Jaffe and I will be hosted by the Georgetown Lecture Fund at Georgetown University at 4:30 p.m. This event is open to the public, if public I have. The location is McShain Lounge at McCarthy Hall (Building 42), 27th and O Street NW.

Following rapidly on the heels of that, Jay, Clay Davenport, and I will be traveling to one of my favorite tour events, the great independent Politics & Prose bookstore, for a 7 p.m. chat ‘n’ sign. The address: 5015 Connecticut Avenue NW. They usually have pizza and beer available. I’m not sure that that will be the case this year, but we can hope.

Finally, I’ve continued and will continue to update Wholesome Reading. Warning: Politics (and a Harold Reynolds reference)!

7 Comments

I always believed the only rational arguement AGAINST “an all-star at every position” was financial. The idea that “true-yankees,” “winners,” and “team chemistry” somehow trump talent is just plain stupid.

I want all the A-Rods I can get!

I would have to disagree with jimlyttle – if the team has no chemistry – then I’m sorry – I just don’t think the team will be very successful.

Julia
http://werbiefitz.mlblogs.com/

I respectfully disagree with Julia! On what basis is your “good chemistry = success” theory based?
Why not “success = good chemistry?” Not sure how you tell the difference between the two.
The 1977 and 1978 Yankees were pretty successful, but they weren’t exactly the poster boys for team chemistry.

The term MVP really mans Most Visible Player. It has much more to do with stats than value. To me, the MVP is the player that if you replaced him with a player whose performance was the average of all players at that position would have the biggest negative impact on his team.

You could argue that one of the years ARod won the MVP with the Yanks he wasn’t even the most valuable player on the Yanks, Mo was.

Hey Steve,
I agree with almost every point you made except pitching and defense. These (today’s) Yankees have great pitching and a very good defesne! Weren’t we lin the top three last year in errors (correct me if I’m wrong!)? Think about it…A-Rod, Tex, and Jeet all have gold gloves (that’s right, I said I think Jeet is still a good shortstop.I’ve argued it in the past and I’m not changing my stance now.) and Cano is pretty good. Yes, he makes a lot of errors, but only because he has great range. He’ll fix the error porblem. At cathcer we’re suspect with Posada but with Molina we have perhaps the best defensive catcher in the league! Our centerfielder, be it Gardner or Melky, will be an excellent defender. And Damon (minus the chicken arm) and Nady aren’t terrible. And our pitching staff speaks for itself.
Our defense is pretty darn good!

I was referring to this comment: “These were Cadillacs, not K-Cars, and we haven’t yet discussed the pitching or the defense, the latter of which was surprisingly effective in those years, far, far more effective than anything the current unit has done or will do.”

(Thinking out loud)-The Yankees are trying to recreate the teams of 96-00. Think about it. First priority has become pitching, then hitting, and we have an excellent defense. The style of this team is very similar to the style of all those teams. True?

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