Wednesday, November 22, 2006

'Bronx Bias Strikes Jeter,' VACCARO, NY Post

11/21/2006, "Bronx Bias strikes Jeter," Mike Vaccaro, NY Post: "If Derek Jeter had the season he had playing for the Minnesota Twins, and if Justin Morneau had the season he had playing for the Yankees, it would be Jeter who would be reserving space on his shelf for the MVP plaque.

But Jeter doesn't play for the Twins. He plays for the Yankees. He plays in New York City. He makes a lot of commercials, and he dates a lot of starlets, and he makes a lot of money, and if you think that doesn't count in the minds of the people who cast these votes, you're a greater believer in the purity of human nature than I am.

And here's the thing: This is only the warm-up.

  • Just wait another 15 years or so, when it's time for the same assemblage of writers to size up Jeter's credentials as a Hall of Famer. Just wait, especially, when the arbiters of immortality decide whether Jeter's career merits the honor of a first-ballot selection, or whether they'll force him to endure a few years of consolation phone calls first."

From Mike Vaccaro's column in the NY Post, 11/22/06 on the MVP voting, "Bronx bias strikes Jeter"

  • Another blog wrote about Vaccaro's article, but ridicules the idea of bias in baseball awards voting. "The Feed: The Rage of Vaccaro," 11/22/06. The blogger is proved wrong by Christensen's comments on XM radio in Sept. 2006.
----------------------------------------- Also for the record, Ian O'Connor also says Jeter was robbed and references the NY profile. I say 'for the record' because it was a fairly weak article. Either he doesn't feel strongly about the topic, or knows it's better for his own career not to betray what really goes on in baseball awards voting. NEW YORK - "Derek Jeter will get over it, this much we know. He still goes home to a Victoria's Secret catalog for a black book, to a piggy bank carrying the balance of his $189 million contract and to a treasure chest holding the four championship rings he won in a different Yankees life.

But just for the record, Jeter did get ripped off. As sure as a burglar lifting one of those rings in the dead of night, the MVP voters might have swiped the final chance Jeter had of adding that me-first award to his team-first legacy.

This was the captain's year. All those loud Yankees hitters collapsed around him - the victims of human frailty - leaving the baseball community to see, once and for all, that Jeter is far more than the beneficiary of George Steinbrenner's budget, far more than a myth created by the purveyors of New York hype.

No Sheffield, no Matsui and no Cano meant no problem for Jeter in 2006. The shortstop kept the Yankees being the Yankees through all the injuries and all the turbulent turns in Alex Rodriguez's drama-queen summer. For this, Mr. October was the most valuable regular-sea son player in the American League.

The voting members of the Baseball Writers' Association of America went for Justin Morneau instead. Mourneau is a a good story out of the small-market hinterlands, a kid slugger who made $385,000 this year, tip money for a Yankee whose face was made for billboards and magazine shoots. Jeter is something of an international celebrity. The Twin who beat him could plant himself on a Times Square corner and go unrecognized by 19 out of every 20 New Yorkers who crossed his path.

So this is an upset, if not one of the Lake Placid variety. Morneau was a worthy choice for MVP.

Jeter just happened to be the most worthy.

"You've heard me say it a thousand times," Jeter said in a gracious statement that made Morneau out to be the next Harmon Killebrew, "but winning the World Series for the New York Yankees continues to be my main focus. There is no individual award that can compare with a championship trophy. ... "

True, but Jeter hasn't claimed one of those championship trophies since 2000. He would have gladly accepted this MVP award as a consolation prize.

Jeter's human. He hurts when a Sports Illustrated poll of major-leaguers identifies him as the sport's most overrated star. He hurts when Alex Rodriguez mocks his skills for the record and when Steinbrenner rages about his late-night schedule and challenges his commitment to the cause.

Jeter hurts when a dedicated circle of writers decide Justin Morneau is more valuable to the Twins than he is to the Yankees.

He should hurt over this one, too, because Jeter was more deserving this year than A-Rod was last year. David Ortiz should have been the 2005 winner, and that cold, hard fact didn't help A-Rod's current teammate and former friend this time around.

Now Jeter will likely play out his career without a single MVP award to his name. He's never going to put up scoreboard-tilting power numbers. And he's not likely to see another season quite like 2006, where fellow Yankees stars drop like dominoes and leave Jeter all alone to refute the suspicions that he is a product of Steinbrenner's $200 million system and the overwhelming lineup protection it provides.

That's why, on truth serum, Jeter would tell you how much this one stings.

Morneau delivered the necessary homers (34) and RBI (130) for a playoff-bound team. But Jeter batted .343 to the first baseman's .321 and hit .381 with runners in scoring position to Morneau's .323.

Jeter's best case was made the night of Aug. 18, on the back end of a day-night doubleheader that would lead to a five-game sweep of the Red Sox.

With the bases loaded and two out in the seventh, Boston up 10-8, Jeter hit a three-run double off Mike Timlin.

Two nights later, with two outs in the ninth and Boston up by one, Jeter blooped home the tying run against Jonathan Papelbon, who had just struck out Bernie Williams and Johnny Damon to leave Fenway quaking around a small tremor of hope.

Jeter singlehandedly put the Red Sox to sleep, ultimately inspiring them to bid an absurd $51.1 million for the right to talk to Daisuke Matsuzaka and, of course, to scare the Yankees straight.

That's value. And losing a close MVP race despite that value?

Well, that's life.

Derek Jeter has an otherwise charmed one. He'll get over this, but not until he spends a few weeks feeling the very human pain of being robbed."

"Ian O'Connor writes for the Westchester Journal News."

  • ---------------------------------

11/22/2006, On the Jeter was robbed topic, Peter Abraham says:

  • "You can decide for yourself which columnists in New York have an agenda when it comes to the Yankees. Obviously there is a lot of opinion out there. But if one of the Mets - say David Wright - was in the same position, you'd hear the howls of protest. That much is certain."
  • Tim Marchman's NY Sun article (though the paper is called the NY Sun, I believe he lives in Chicago)
"The selection, announced yesterday, of Minnesota first baseman Justin Morneau as the American League's Most Valuable Player is dumb and indefensible, good evidence of why no one takes baseball writers seriously. Morneau wasn't the best, or the second-best, or the third-best player among first basemen and designated hitters. He wasn't the best or second-best player on his own team. He wasn't even the best player with the initials "JM" on his own team. (You take the guy with 130 RBI and I'll take Joe Mauer, a Gold Glove-caliber catcher who led the league in batting average, and we'll see who wins more games.) He wasn't one of the five best players in the division. He wasn't one of the 10 best players in the league. There is, of course, nothing at all unusual about this. Ten years ago, for instance, Alex Rodriguez hit .358 BA/.414 OBA/.631 SLG with 36 home runs, 123 RBI, and 143 runs scored while playing an excellent shortstop. He lost the AL MVP award to Juan Gonzalez, who played in 10 fewer games, scored 54 fewer runs, reached base 60 fewer times, stroked nine fewer extra-base hits, and did all this while playing in a better hitter's park than Rodriguez. Gonzalez also played a quarter of his games as a designated hitter and the other three-quarters as an inept right fielder. Rodriguez was a better hitter for average, a better power hitter, a better clutch hitter, a better on-base threat, and a much better runner. He played more often, played a vastly more difficult position far more skillfully, was better looking, a better quote, and by all accounts he was a better presence in the clubhouse. Gonzalez led the league in RBI because he had three good on-base threats ahead of him, so he won the MVP.

The year before that, Albert Belle became the first player since 1948 to crack 100 extra-base hits; he did so for a team that won 100 games in a strike shortened season. He lost to Mo Vaughn, who tied him for the league lead in RBI despite a slugging average more than 100 points lower. Belle lost because his team won the division by 30 games while Vaughn's won its by seven, and because he was an insufferable jackass. The year after Gonzalez's illgotten award, Mike Piazza hit .362 with 40 home runs as a catcher while playing half his games in Dodger Stadium; right fielder Larry Walker hit .366 with 49 home runs while playing half his games in Coors Field. Unsurprisingly, Piazza did not win the MVP.

One could go on. The illegitimate triumph of Roger Peckinpaugh in the 1925 voting no doubt rankles Al Simmons partisans to this day. (Peckinpaugh hit .294 in 422 at-bats, Simmons .387 in 654 at-bats; closer scrutiny makes Peckinpaugh look much worse and Simmons much better.) The point is that MVP voters, individually the best of men, become fools when they cast their ballots. They were fools before the Great Depression, fools through World War II, fools during Vietnam, and they are fools today. One day, while we war as one planet against three-eyed Venutians, MVP voters will, insofar as it is humanly possible to do so, vote the player with the highest RBI total on a playoff team as the MVP.

No one need feel outraged on Derek Jeter's behalf, anymore than they need to feel retroactive anger on behalf of Al Simmons. He was the best player in the league, and deserved the award. Everyone knows this. Jeter will have to console himself with his hundreds of millions of dollars, World Series rings, and fond memories of Scarlett Johansson. Nor should anyone begrudge Justin Morneau his award. He had a great two months in which he hit 18 home runs and managed to keep his slugging average near .500 the rest of the time. That's not nothing. His award is a triumph for British Columbia and a triumph for a very well-run Minnesota club, and those are good things.

If there's any indignant outrage to be directed anywhere, it should be directed at those of us who legitimize this silly award with columns like this one. The MVP award, all agree, has no credibility; it's as relevant as a moss-covered, three-handled family credenza, or a tin of Boer War rations, slightly more meaningful than a Gold Glove. Why treat it with any seriousness at all?

To which I say that the award's very silliness is the point exactly. This marvelously preposterous award, and the pretext for bewilderment it will offer future generations, are wonderful additions to the game's ridiculous lore. Looking through the indices of past MVPs, there's little joy in seeing the names of Willie Mays, Ted Williams, and Mickey Mantle; there is, however, great joy in seeing the names of George Bell, Jim Konstanty, and Marty Marion. A name has been added to this pantheon. Between now and the time the Venutians invade, thousands and perhaps millions of drinks will be won on bets involving Justin Morneau's name. That's a joy no superfluous validation of Derek Jeter's already overvalidated greatness could bring. It's an occasion to be celebrated."
  • ---------------------------

Only one of NY's 2 writers in the 2006 MVP award voted for Jeter. The award is decided when the voters are chosen. It is impossible the person who selected the jury did not know how they would vote. These people know each other very, very well and over much time. Look at what Joe Christensen said in when speaking in an unguarded setting on radio, Sept. 19, 2006

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