There's no team in MVP
By Eric Neel
Page 2 columnist

Editor's Note: In lieu of a regular column, Eric Neel sent the the following letter to Page 2 editor Michael Knisley on Tuesday morning.

Hey Michael,

So, Alex Rodriguez is the American League MVP.

Whaddayaknow? There goes my 'why-A-Rod-should-have-been-mvp' column, eh?

Gotta say, I didn't figure it would go like this.

Alex Rodriguez
There's only so much Alex Rodriguez can do -- and he did it.
I figured Delgado, Posada, or maybe Boone.

Last night, waking up in a cold sweat, I figured it might even be Ortiz or Stewart.

I figured nobody much liked him, for starters. Too smart, too handsome, too rich, and too laid-back to have true grit and real greatness, don't you know.

Beyond that, I figured voters might take this moment to (once again) scold Alex for taking Tom Hicks' money and scold Tom for giving it to him; that they'd use it to rehearse old lines about today's players being so greedy they lose sight of what really matters, yadda, yadda, yadda; and that the vote would turn on what Rodriguez represents more than what he did on the field this year.

Don't get me wrong, MPK, I've got no love for his big, fat contract; but this ain't a vote for best or worst deal in the last five winters, and it isn't a vote on the state of the game's economy or its conscience, either.

Still, I thought maybe 47 home runs, 124 runs, 118 RBI, a .600 slugging percentage, some stellar day-in-day-out D at the hardest position on the dirt, and a Value Over Replacement Player score of 86.3 runs (that is, A-Rod produced 86 more runs than a replacement-level player)

I thought his value -- a thing, by the way, measured in runs scored, produced, and prevented, and a thing in A-Rod that really cannot be disputed on any of these scores -- would get buried under the Rangers' 91 losses. I thought we'd be hearing all day yesterday about how he's somehow not exactly valuable because his production hasn't translated into a winning record for his team, although he's done exactly what a superstar player is supposed to do and has done it better than anyone else in the American league. And not just this year but for about five years running but that's a whole other thing, so I'll let that go.

It's a team, right? Twenty-five guys on the roster, and a bunch of them pitchers responsible for slowing down opposing hitters and stuff like that, right? What do we think: that A-Rod on a diamond should be like Stevie in the studio? That he should be able to do everything? Do we think a player's output exists in a vacuum, disconnected from the output of the players around him? We don't think that, do we? We don't think if he were just better, just more incredibly good, more wildly productive than he already is, that the current Rangers team would suddenly rise up and win the West, do we? So who's our beef with?

It's with Hicks.

Anyway, I saw the vote going some other way.

I saw David Ortiz, basking in the heat and light of the pennant chase, up on the podium.

I saw Jorge Posada driving the pinstripe Series train, waving the hardware out the window so the people of Winnersville could get a glimpse.

I saw the sweet, mythic, magic game of baseball, a game played by heroes delivering titanic blows on epic stages in crucial circumstances, hanging in the gloaming.

I saw what we want to be true -- that victory is the stuff of bold action and history is written by great men -- being The Truth. I saw an idea we hate, an idea that cuts us to the uncertain quick -- that one man isn't always enough to make a difference, that the factors that add up to victory are many and varied, and that they almost certainly include luck both good and bad -- run out of town on a rail.

I swear, too, I could almost hear Kirk Gibson, singing "You Gotta Have Heart."

And I heard Lombardi's growling voice whisper that "winning isn't everything, it's the only thing" thing, too.

I heard speeches on the integrity of the award, arguments for intanglibles and chemistry uber alles.

Alex Rodriguez
Forget the record, A-Rod is a winner.
I heard us tying our tongues in knots trying to come up with reasons why Alex wasn't the choice, when he seemed like the simple, elegant, and obvious pick all along -- one AB, one game, and one mighty impressive season at a time.

Do we think he's missing something? I was ready to ask. Do we think he's somehow genetically deficient in the area of valuable? I was set to ask. Do we think Delgado was worth more because the Jays hung around longer than the Rangers did? I wanted to know. Isn't that just letting the ending tell the whole story? I was gonna say. Isn't that beginning with the Rangers record and then going back and somehow trying to cheapen what Rodriguez accomplished, what he did day-by-day, even after the hope of a winning season was long gone? Isn't that just one step up from superstition? I wore blue shoes and we won; therefore, these are my lucky, valuable shoes. I started A-Rod at short and we lost; therefore, he is my impressive, but not quite valuable, shortstop.

I was getting all amped up on this stuff, Michael. But then the announcement came: Alex Rodriguez has been voted American League MVP.

It didn't go the way I'd figured. It went the other way.

So, turns out, I've got nothing to say on this subject.

So, because she was always willing to admit when she got it wrong, and because her hair was an awe-inspiring force of nature, in the words of Roseanne Rosannadanna, I'll just say this . . .

Never mind.

Sorry. Can't get you the column today.

Take care,

E

Eric Neel is a regular columnist for Page 2.





NO TEAM IN MVP

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Eric Neel Archive

Campus Tailgate Tour: Ohio State

Neel: The duel

Neel: More than money

Neel: 20 reasons to watch

Neel: Knuckles vs. kisses

Neel: C'mon, confess

Neel: Cubbyholed

Neel: East coast envy





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