The Yankees will have a direct impact on the American League Wild Card race as they face the Boston Red Sox and Texas Rangers in the next week. The outcome of those games may not only help to determine the Wild Card winner, but the AL MVP winner as well.
The two biggest names being bandied about for AL MVP are Minnesota Twins catcher Joe Mauer and Yankees 1st baseman Mark Teixeira. But a long time Yankee, Derek Jeter, may be the true AL MVP. The Yankees are 25-8 since the All-Star break and much of that can be contributed to the play of their captain. Jeter has played in all 33 games, putting up a .357/.392/.497 split with 5 home runs and 17 RBI. He’s also scored 25 runs and played Gold Glove caliber shortstop.
Jeter has been even hotter of late. On the just completed 7 game roat trip (5-2), Jeter was 16-29 (.552) with 6 multi-hit games (he’s also had 5 3-hit games in his last 10 games played). Overall Jeter is batting .331-15-54 with 81 runs scored and 21 steals.
The Mauer-Teixeira debate has brought fiery response from fans of the two teams and created a lot of fodder for the beat and baseball writers that cover the two squads. Mauer has been phenomenal after missing the start of the season due to injury. He never had more than 13 home runs in a season prior to 2009, but has already hit 25 dingers. In addition to 77 RBI,Mauer is hitting a torrid .378. He and 1st baseman Justin Morneau have carried the otherwise limp Minnesota lineup. And of course, Mauer plays the most physically, and possibly mentally, demanding position in baseball.
The knock against Mauer is, of course, the lackluster season the Twins are having. Minnesota is 58-63, well out of the AL Central and Wild Card races. Though Minny has struggled since the break, going just 13-19, Mauer has been even hotter, hitting .388-10-28 with an 1.126 OPS in 32 games. In addition, Mauer’s defense and game calling skills are among the best in baseball.
But where is the delineation between “Player of the Year” and “Most Valuable Player”. The latter refers to the most valuable to the team. While the Twins would not be as good withoutMauer, they’ve fallen out of both the division and Wild Card races. To me, that is a major knock against the player in question when it comes to MVP voting.
The absurd knock on Jeter, is that he is surrounded by so many good players, that it doesn’t really matter who the Yankees shortstop is/was. But would the Yankees be anywhere this year withoutJeter’s consistent play and table setting skills at the top of the order (and at 35 yrs of age to boot).
Teixeira will also suffer a lack of recognition because of the all the All-Star caliber ability of his teammates. Teixeira is a notoriously slow starter, who started getting hot just when Alex Rodriguez returned and was able to protect him in the lineup. But Teixeira would have been putting up those numbers with or without A-Rod. Teixeira has averaged 34 home runs and 113 RBI over his first six big league seasons. It’s been made even more impressive by the fact the last two seasons were split between the two leagues.
But enough about the past (kudos to Mark McGwire). Teixeira is putting up his usual numbers this season. He’s hit 31 home runs and driven in 89 runs in 117 games. He’s posted a .937 OPS and played a Gold Glove 1st base that has helped improved the entire Yankees infield defense.
So who will win the MVP? Probably Mauer. Based on the love/hate/anti-NY biased that affects all of the voting, Mauer probably will win. Most Yankees fans won’t have a with that. Especially if Derek Jeter and Mark Teixeira are hoisting the World Series trophy.