As another baseball season comes to a close, tis the season for the rumblings and grumblings of media folks and bloggers telling us which player should win what award.
Vote for Pujols for NL MVP! He is the second coming of (insert legendary player).
Vote for (Grienke, Sabathia, Verlander, etc, etc.) for AL Cy Young!
Vote for Coghlan for NL Rookie of the Year! He plays for the Marlins! Yes, they are still a team!
Perhaps the most discussed awards race so far is for the American League MVP. There is no dispute several players are having great years. Players such as Mark Teixiera, Kendry Morales, Carl Crawford, and Miguel Cabrera.
Despite the great years by these players, most columns have focused on one of two players, either the Yankees' Derek Jeter or the Twins' Joe Mauer.
Mauer has the support of numerous writers, bloggers, statisticians, and analysis web sites. He is leading in most offensive categories, from traditional stats like batting average, slugging percentage, and on-base percentage, to advanced SABRmetric measurements such as Value Over Replacement Player (VORP), OPS+, Win Shares, etc, etc, etc. He is also playing Gold Glove caliber defense at perhaps the toughest position in baseball: catcher.
Jeter has his own supporters in the baseball media, including writers, columnists, reporters, and other die-hard fans. Although Jeter's on-the-field numbers maybe not be as good as Mauer's, Jeter-backers advocate Jeter's intangibles, such as leadership, presence, and clutchiness. They even bring up the fact that he now holds the all-time record for hits by a Yankee.
From reading what has been written so far, you would think the battle is Mauer's stats versus Jeter's reputation and body of work. It is of course impossible to make this comparison. There is no way to match performance data with intangibles. None.
So far, the Mauer-backers have taken the lead in matching up the two candidates. They point out that Mauer beats Jeter in every category, bar none. It is their conclusion that because Mauer has better numbers, he should be MVP.
In response, the Jeter-backers call the Mauer-backers "nerds" and "stat geeks".
End of conversation, right?
As Lee Corso would say, not so fast, my friend.
Where the Jeter-backers fail is that they don't level the playing field. They sit back and get destroyed by conceding that Mauer is having a better season. They never attempt to hold Mauer up to the standards they hold Jeter to. This is their Achilles Heel. They don't bring up the fact that while Jeter has led the pristine life of a living Yankee legend seemingly since birth, Mauer didn't become the man he is until after he put on a Twins uniform.
The bottom line is that Joe Mauer can't be trusted.
Before his professional baseball debut, Joe Mauer did something so heinous, so outrageous, and so destructive, it should be forever held against him during the consideration of any and all awards.
Joe Mauer turned his back on Bobby Bowden and the Florida State Seminoles.
Following his senior year in high school, Joe Mauer was the most highly recruited quarterback in the nation. According to reports, he won three national football player of the year awards, and had the poise and potential to be among the greatest ever.
One writer claimed, "it is possible that in 50 years people will sit around and talk about those who were football’s finest; they will speak of Sayers and Payton and Unitas and Montana and Marino, but they may very well save a sentence for someone else, and that someone might be Joe Mauer."
At the time, Florida State was the premier football program in the nation. They had come off three straight national championship appearances and were chock full of future NFL players. And they had Joe Mauer.
Mauer's verbal agreement that he would be wearing garnet and gold after high school made Florida State the number one recruiting class of 2001. Mauer was to fit in behind Chris Rix and compete with Adrian McPherson for future field general of the Seminoles. With hindsight being what it is, there was probably little doubt Mauer would have even taken the job from Rix before Rix's graduation. With Mauer, the Florida State dynasty was set to continue.
Then Mauer "turned down (his) football scholarship from Florida State University to enter the Major League Baseball Draft". Despite a verbal commitment, Mauer was off to play baseball. According to Sam Mellinger of The Kansas City Star, Bobby Bowden remained so enamored by Mauer's potential he claimed he would "keep a scholarship open for Mauer 12 years after he was done with baseball".
Would Derek Jeter dare break a verbal agreement of that magnitude? Although Jeter received a scholarship to play baseball in Michigan, there is no evidence he let the Wolverine program hang out to dry. Jeter is a class act and a gentleman. Had someone with Jeter's character and the skills of Mauer committed to FSU, there is little doubt he would have been a Seminole. He would have followed his word.
It is for that reason that I can not possibly endorse Joe Mauer for AL MVP. Mauer may have the statistical advantage, he may be the greatest player in the American League, and he may even be seven feet tall and shoot fireballs from his eyes and bolts of lightning from his arse. But after what he did to Florida State University, Joe Mauer does not have the moral composition to be a most valuable player.
(This post was of course written by an FSU alumnus.)