I've been fighting the temptation to write something about this for the last couple of days, but I wasn't quite sure how I wanted to approach it, and, even more importantly, I wasn't convinced it was a real great idea to say anything about it, given that I thought I had already said everything I wanted to say about it about six weeks ago, and given that the majority of the buzz around this topic had died down in those intervening six week.
So, my intent was to clam up about this and spare the world any further thought about it -- and then I saw this headline pop up in my newsreader early this morning:
Interested in the underlying argument as I was, I read onward while simultaneously picking up whatever fragments of my jaw remained intact after it hit the floor:
On which Rangers have a chance at postseason awards:
Evan Grant: Michael Young is emerging as a legit MVP contender. To me he has been the most valuable player, but people don't know the intrinsic value he brings. They see that he's hitting .338 and has 105 RBIs, but they don't see that his 14 games at 2B probably had some impact on Ian Kinsler staying fully healthy for the first time in his career; they don't see that he gave Ron Washington an attractive option at first to try and rest Mitch Moreland, particularly against lefties; they may not be aware that he hit in the No. 3 spot when Josh Hamilton was hurt, took over the No. 4 spot for most of the year and hit No. 5 as well.
They don't know that Derek Holland has met with him after almost every start lately for a critique and that Young and Holland have a special player-pitcher rapport. They don't know that Mike Napoli, who is having a career year, lockers next to Young and has followed him around like a puppy dog. No, they will see stats. They will see his WAR or his OPS and believe that others are more valuable. I can't see how one player meant more to all facets of his team than Young.
So, clearly, any counterargument with a quantitative backbone is going to fall on deaf ears here, because it is apparently Evan's position that Michael Young's positional flexibility and vast intangible qualities not only render him the most valuable player on the Rangers' roster this season, but the most valuable player in the entire Junior Circuit -- more valuable than even Jacoby Ellsbury, or Jose Bautista, or Justin Verlander, or Curtis Granderson, or Dustin Pedroia, or CC Sabathia. I also interpret this to mean that if Evan could have the production (and accompanying presence) of any player in the American League this season, he would take Michael Young above all the rest.
And you know what? Evan could be right, at least to the extent that there may be some amount of deserved legitimacy to Young's MVP bid. I may be drawing on every bit of baseball knowledge I have ever bothered to accumulate when I vigorously disagree, but I also know that there is enough of a grey area when it comes to player valuation and enough uncertainty enveloping the intangible element that I can't rule out the possibility out of hand. Baseball and absolutes don't tend to mix very well.
But while we're busy apportioning credit to Young for having Napoli "follow him around like a puppy dog" and the like, shouldn't we be even busier apportioning credit to Adrian Beltre for posting one of the great power/defense seasons from a third baseman in this generation? Or C.J. Wilson, for posting one of the greatest seasons ever by a Rangers starting pitcher and kicking his game into overdrive during the regular season's decisive second half? Or Ian Kinsler, for dominating in almost every aspect of the game this season (sans batting average, which is largely neutralized by his .350-plus on-base percentage) and arguably being the best player at his position this season? And those are the issues you face after distilling this down to just a team MVP argument; I don't even want to begin prodding the Young-as-AL MVP notion again in earnest.
I appreciate the hell out of what Young has given the Rangers this season, but I still can't fully wrap my head around the media's fascination with labeling him as the team MVP, or (in Jon Heyman's case) as the "clear [team] MVP," which basically implies that his off-the-field contributions have a stratospheric amount of value compared to those that surround him on an everyday basis. And as for the bold claim that drove this entire piece -- well, if Evan sticks with Young as his AL MVP into the final balloting process, I sincerely hope that it ends up working out better for him than that whole 2008 debacle did.