His team is floundering, his heart is aching, and now David Ortiz is embroiled in controversy.
Turns out he's the hacker in the HP board scandal. Of course. Who else?
There's also that whole MVP thing.
After hitting his 48th home run of the season Sunday, he's just two away from Jimmie Foxx, a milestone we seem to be going gaga over for reasons unknown. Perhaps we ought to focus on the fact that he's just five home runs shy of Rob Deer's career mark based on what turns out to be his MVP criteria.
Following Sunday's 9-3 win over Kansas City, Boston's first in six tries against Major League Baseball's worst team, Ortiz said he isn't concerned about winning the MVP, and then proceeded to list off the reasons why he should win it.
``I'm right there," he said, ``but I'm not going to win it. They give it to Alex [Rodriguez] one year, even though his team was in last place, so now they can't play that BS anymore, just because your team didn't make it. They gave it to Alex that year because of his numbers. But they always have a reason to vote for whatever, so that's why I don't worry about it."
"But they'll vote for a position player, use that as an excuse. They're talking about [Derek] Jeter a lot, right? He's done a great job, he's having a great season, but Jeter is not a 40-homer hitter or an RBI guy. It doesn't matter how much you've done for your ball club, the bottom line is, the guy who hits 40 home runs and knocks in 100, that's the guy you know helped your team win games.
``Don't get me wrong -- he's a great player, having a great season, but he's got a lot of guys in that lineup. Top to bottom, you've got a guy who can hurt you. Come hit in this lineup, see how good you can be."
In his response yesterday, likely with drooling New York writers ("Papi disses Derek" read the headline in the New York Post) surrounding him in anticipation of firing the next shot, Jeter simply said, "I'm not thinking about winning an MVP, I'm thinking about winning the division," he said. "Our focus here isn't on individual awards. We've still got something to play for."
Yikes. Now Ortiz must know how Costanza felt. Jerk store, indeed.
No matter how many times you see Ortiz crossing home plate in that new promo spot, accompanied by that god-awful Trace Adkins junk, it doesn't change the fact that his team is well out of the race and simply playing out the string before an October of raking leaves instead of pitches into right-center.
Jeter's Yankees, on the other hand, all of a sudden have the best record in the American League.
We should all know by now that Ortiz is never going to win the MVP. Baseball writers are far too invested in the nonsense that a candidate has to wear leather in the diamond in order to merit consideration. The moment the Red Sox fell out of the race, the voters instantly had their excuse to ignore Ortiz's stats and look toward Jeter in fanboy admiration for the supposed embodiment of baseball. The vote in New York could end up being a handful for Jeter as MVP, one or two for sainthood.
But that doesn't shed Ortiz's comments in a better light, even if it does serve as a somewhat apropos, though misguided, slap at the voters' wishy-washy annual selection process.
Home runs and RBIs are flashy, but to assume they are the end all as far as a player's importance to his team is incorrect. Had Ortiz campaigned for himself by simply saying, "How much worse would my team have been if I didn't dig them out time and time again?" well, he would have certainly taken a ton of flak for tossing his mates under the bus, but he wouldn't lose points for lying.
Still, before folks go attacking Ortiz for being misguided, let's not ignore the fact that he's not without merit based on how voters have seen things in the past. Of the last 16 AL MVP winners, only Ichiro Suzuki in 2001 and Dennis Eckersley, the last pitcher to win the award, in 1992 didn't put up power numbers.
I agree with Ortiz on one thing: Jeter shouldn't be the runaway candidate that some appear to think he is. He is backed more by where he plays than what he does. That's not taking anything away from the Yankees captain, rather attempting to shift credit where it's been ignored, perhaps one of the main goals of Ortiz's comments.
Ortiz suggested that if he had a vote, he'd push for Paul Konerko, Jermaine Dye, or Justin Morneau to win the MVP. But even then, Ortiz digs himself a hole. When asked which he'd vote for, he said, "All depends on who makes the playoffs."
This of course was the very opposite reason why he said he should be considered. Following?
Joe Mauer's name comes up and at least Ortiz stays consistent, arguing that Mauer's power numbers and run production aren't up to snuff, and too similar to Jeter's it turns out, to be worthy of consideration. Sorry, Papi, but that's wrong. Not only is Mauer aiming to win the batting title (currently at .350 to Jeter's .346), but if he does, he'd be the first catcher to do so since the Boston Braves' Ernie Lombardi in 1942. Nineteen-forty-two. All this while crouching behind the plate, calling games for what's morphed into the pitching staff darn near nobody wants to touch come next month. And what he lacks in power (11 home runs), he makes up for in on base percentage, where his .433 mark is only surpassed by dudes named Manny Ramirez and Travis Hafner. Morneau and Mauer are 8-9 in the league in OPS.
Oh, and he's 23.
``Tell me about the guy bringing him in," Ortiz said. ``I'm not saying anything about my man [Mauer], I love that kid, but you've got to talk about Morneau because he's the guy who's done what people haven't done in years there."
Not to take anything away from Morneau, but then why not Travis Hafner as MVP? Why didn't Ortiz mention him? Maybe because his Indians are out of the race?
If I had to vote today, I'd go something like this:
3. Frank Thomas (who is getting ignored despite 36 homers, 98 runs batted in, and a .396 OBP)
9. Jim Thome
10. Carlos Guillen
That's two, count 'em, two players who aren't exactly sluggers who deserve to win more than Ortiz. We understand there's a lot for Ortiz to comprehend these days, the realization of sitting home next month the hopeful more disappointing aspect than the one that deep down tells him he'll never win the MVP while the positional bias against him still exists. But while that may have been the wrongful determining factor last year, it certainly isn't the case this season.
There are just simply better candidates that might actually win based on criteria for which the award was meant in the first place. Not Most Proficient, but, yes indeed, Most Valuable.