A quicky from the comments
“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)!