16 September 2002

Stark, Others Grasping at Straws

David Pinto has an article about the AL MVP race from a few days ago in which he comments on Jayson Stark's article on ESPN. Stark, just like Dan Patrick, Dave Campbell, Peter Gammons, Bob Klapisch, Phil Donohue and Dr. Joyce Brothers, thinks that Alex Rodriguez should not be named the MVP because he plays on a bad team, and that therefore Miguel Tejada should be MVP. Pinto uses Bill James' new metric, Win Shares, to debunk this argument, and it is convincing if you believe in those. As I have not yet had the chance to read the book, I'll hafta take his word for it. However, by virtually any other rational and reasonably encompassing statistical measure, Rodriguez has been the better player of the two, and probably the best player in the league. The best Stark can come up with in Tejada's defense is, "Through Thursday, Tejada had more hits, more doubles, fewer strikeouts and a higher batting average [editor's note: by .001 on 9/16] than A-Rod. Second only to A-Rod in RBI." To which we should all reply, "So what?" A-Rod leads Tejada in HR (by 24!), RBI (14), runs (15), walks (39!), Steals, OBP, SLG, OPS, total bases (62!), extra base hits, runs created, RC/27outs, Range Factor, goals scored, touchdowns, penalty minutes, 3-point shooting %, hot dogs eaten....well, you get the point.

The question is not whether or not Alex Rodriguez is the best player. Everyone knows he is. Jayson Stark is wasting his time and insulting your intelligence if he tries to convince you otherwise. The question is whether he should be considered for MVP given that he's not on a "contender". Pinto and Rob Neyer have made the point that the team really isn't that bad, but that it would be horrible with a replacement-level SS (not to mention that nobody'd ever go to see a game). I think the question of value can be dealt with using a simple analogy:

You are the proprietor of a jewelry shop. You have a modest establishment, selling mostly stuff that working class people can afford. Nice, but not too froofy or expensive. However, you have one, very expensive diamond, worth $1 million . It's your drawing card, what gets people to come to your shop, so they can gawk at it and then buy less expensive jewelry. The rest of your inventory isn't worth ten grand. Your competition, across the street, has no such draw, but he does carry a lot of nice jewelry, and he has a necklace with a $50,000 sapphire in it, which is his most expensive piece. His total inventory is worth $10 million. Is the value of the most expensive piece in your competition's collection somehow higher because it's supporting cast is better? Well, maybe a little higher than it would be on it's own, but there's really no competition about which is the most valuable piece (MVP) of jewelry on the block. If you both get robbed, he'll collect insurance and get more inventory, but you're screwed, because that piece was irreplaceable.

A-Rod is one of a kind. And he's about to get robbed, too.

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