Monday, December 04, 2006

Pujols has short memory

Stop me if you've heard this one before: an MVP award is handed out to a player who wasn't even the best in the NL at his own position, but was a bigger sensation and played for a team with a better record.

Ryan Howard? No, I'm talking about Albert Pujols, version 2005.

Quick, who won the 2005 Silver Slugger for NL first basemen? How about the Gold Glove? Who had the highest VORP? Highest WARP? Most home runs? Highest batting average? Most win shares? The answer to all these questions is the same guy, and his name isn't Albert Pujols, it's Derrek Lee.

Pujols had a great season in 2005, but it is obvious, even by conventional stats, that Lee had a better year. Pujols won the MVP solely because the Cardinals won 100 games and made it to the playoffs, while the Cubs finished below .500. A year later, Pujols is apparently miffed that Ryan Howard took the award on the strength of his outstanding August and September and the Phillies' late charge for the Wild Card.

I'm not going to comment on Pujols' personality, because this remark really tells me nothing about his character, and I'm confident the media can ostracize or lionize anyone they want to. Surely, however, Prince Albert understands that the system he criticizes is the same one that handed him last year's MVP, after Barry Bonds' strangehold on the award was finally broken. After receiving an award he didn't earn, he was denied one that he deserved. Two wrongs may not make a right in life, but for something as unimportant as sports award voting, can't we just call it even?

While we're at it, it's hard to argue that team performance should boost Pujols' MVP credentials when his team won fewer games than Howard's. Shouldn't the MVP award go to the Cubs' front office for showing up woefully unprepared for the season? How about the Brewers medical staff after injuries knocked their team out of the race? The Astros lineup for failing to get on base, or Phil Garner for benching the guy who did?

It's obvious to me that Pujols was the most valuable player--note the lack of capitalization--in the NL in 2006; the only other guy with a real case is Carlos Beltran. Unfortunately, being the most valuable player only makes you the Most Valuable Player roughly half the time, historically speaking. The voters went 0-for-2 this year, of course.

In a way, though, there is a sense of justice in all the poor MVP voting results. After Sammy Sosa robbed Mark McGwire in 1998 on the strength of the Cubs' playoff appearance, Pujols took the 2005 award over Lee. In the end, Pujols has his one MVP trophy, and the Cubs and Cardinals wash out. The system works.

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