Wednesday, December 23, 2009
Most Valuable Player of the decade
By Jayson Stark ESPN.com
Numero uno: Pujols won the NL MVP award three times and finished in the top four eight times.
Sorry, A-Rod. Sorry, Barry. Sorry, Ichiro. Sorry, Derek. The MVP of the '00s can only be one man -- Sir Albert Pujols.
After all, what didn't Sir Albert do in this decade, outside of forgetting to get to the big leagues until 2001, neglecting to finish in the top four in the MVP voting once and never quite getting around to winning any Nobel Peace Prizes?
Well, here's one thing Pujols did win: the National League Triple Crown. For the whole stinking decade. And I could just about rest my case for the man right there, couldn't I?
Granted, it's not like this had never been done before. It happened as recently as, oh, six decades ago (when Ted Williams hit that trifecta in the American League). And it was done in the National League a mere eight decades ago (by Rogers Hornsby). So it's not as if Albert is the only man in history.
But he's the only living human ever to do it, and that's good enough for me. And by the way, he didn't stop there. He also led the league in runs scored, times reaching base and total bases in the Double Zeroes. And if you just look at guys who got to the plate 5,000 times, he was also No. 1 in slugging, OPS, adjusted OPS-Plus, home run ratio, runs created per 27 outs and, I'm pretty sure, most managers wishing he'd decided to play soccer for a living.
The best way to measure Albert Pujols' "value," though, is to look at the one barometer that measures that quality every darned year -- i.e., the annual MVP voting.
Over the past two seasons, a span of 308 games, Pujols has a .342 batting average and a 1.108 OPS.
Well, let's just say that if you study those results in the '00s, you'd think MVP stood for Most Valuable Pujols.
What blows me away isn't just that Pujols won three MVP awards in this decade. It's that he's the only man who could ever say, nine years into his career, that he'd nearly won the MVP award in every season in the big leagues.
Not once has he ever had a season in which he didn't wind up in the top 10. Not once. And if you toss out one ninth-place finish in 2007 (when the Cardinals went 78-84), he's never been outside the top four (three firsts, three seconds, one third, one fourth). Is it me, or is that truly unbelievable?
According to Baseball-Reference.com, Pujols got 58.9 percent of all the MVP voting points it was possible to get in the '00s (and he didn't even play in one of those seasons). In the history of MVP voting, no player has ever gotten that high a percentage. Not Barry Bonds in the '90s or Yogi Berra in the '50s or Stan Musial in the '40s. Or anybody else in any other decade for that matter.
So is there really any argument here? If a man has pretty much been the MVP of his league in every single year of an entire decade, what would be the case that he isn't the MVP for the decade as a whole? Correct answer: There's no case. None. So Albert, congratulations. Your non-trophy for this prestigious honor is in the mail.
The rest of the ballot:
2. Barry Bonds
3. Alex Rodriguez
4. Derek Jeter
5. Manny Ramirez
6. Ichiro Suzuki
7. Mariano Rivera
8. Vladimir Guerrero
9. Todd Helton
10. Lance BerkmanJayson Stark is a senior writer for ESPN.com. His new book, "Worth The Wait: Tales of the 2008 Phillies," was published by Triumph Books and is available in bookstores and online. Click here to order a copy.