Call it retribution for 2005.
OK, so David Ortiz still doesn't have the MVP trophy he rightly deserved last year. But at least the baseball writers did the next best thing one year later. They got the vote right.
Long-sold as a slam-dunk by New York fan boys and media alike, Derek Jeter lost out on his MVP award today to Twins first baseman Justin Morneau, who hit .321 with 34 homers and 130 RBIs, helping the Twins win the AL Central with a stunning second-half surge.
George King of the New York Post had reported earlier today that an unsubstantiated rumor made the rounds yesterday claiming that Twins first baseman Justin Morneau had tied the Yankees shortstop for the honor. As it turns out, he took the award outright.
Morneau received 15 first-place votes for 320 points. Jeter had 306 points, while Ortiz finished third with 193 points. Oakland's Frank Thomas (174), Chicago's Jermaine Dye (156), Minnesota's Joe Mauer (116) and Twins pitcher Johan Santana (114), rounded out the top eight.
It was widely assumed in the weeks leading up to the announcement that this was Jeter's award to lose. But we've been surprised before. Red Sox fans certainly enjoyed the moment, but was there any way you thought Mo Vaughn should have beaten out Albert Belle in 1995? As it turns out, we have a similar surprise 11 years later.
It's not because Jeter is some malcontent like the egg-tossing Belle once was. More or less it was a case of the voters coming to their senses.
Newsday's Ken Davidoff said that if he had a vote this season, it would have gone to Morneau because of the Twin's superior numbers, particularly when it counted the most. Not only did his home run total (34) more than double that of Jeter's (14), his .559 slugging percentage dwarfed Jeter's .483. Jeter's OPS was .900; Morneau's .934. Morneau drove in 130, while Jeter's number was 97.
However, as the New York Daily News' Anthony McCarron points out: "One voter from the Baseball Writers Association of America, which votes for the award, said Jeter's .381 average with RISP was a "critical" statistic in determining his first-place ballot for the Yankee shortstop. Jeter was second in the majors in the category, behind Texas' Michael Young, who hit .412. Ortiz, often cited as the game's best clutch hitter, was at .288 in RISP, 43rd overall. "
That's all well and good, but if we're going to use that as a major determining factor, then let's dig a little deeper, shall we? Two spots down from Jeter on that list is the Twins' Joe Mauer, who had a better average, slugging percentage, and on-base percentage than the Yankee shortstop. Mauer's 54 strikeouts were almost half as many as Jeter, despite playing only 14 fewer games. And before you release your "aha" as that being the determining factor to distinguish between the two, don't forget that Mauer spent much of his season squatting behind the plate in the grueling role of catching. We could even get into his contribution to calling the games of one of baseball's best staffs.
And yet, hardly ever did we hear his name come into the equation, while columnists and poets alike fawned over the wonder of Jeter.
Morneau might have beaten out Jeter because of the "power factor," his home run and RBI totals in the end dwarfing those of the shortstop. And in that, perhaps some folks will find the fault of ignorance on the part of the writers for simply looking at the numbers and not taking into account their overall meaning. But the bottom line is this: You cannot consider Jeter's numbers and claim they are MVP-worthy without looking over Mauer. To have voted Jeter first, before considering anyone else other than Mauer would have proven a bias toward the shortstop. Their numbers are far too similar to argue any different.
Did Jeter lose out on his MVP like Belle more than a decade ago because of a perceived antagonism with teammate Alex Rodriguez that he should be willing to overcome as the team captain? Doubtful. Morneau was simply the most deserving candidate out there.
Which is why it's somewhat of a shock to see him win.