Even Manny Ramirez thinks Albert Pujols should be the NL MVP.
The Dodgers left fielder says he voted for Pujols for player of the year in Players Choice Awards voting and says, “Someone who was only here for two months doesn’t deserve it. It should go to someone who played the six months of the season.”
Moreover, Ramirez said he has resigned himself to the reality that he might never win an MVP award.
“I’ve played 16 years, I’ve been a pretty good player and I’ve never won it,” he said. “It’s not a big deal. I’ll go on with my life.”
Now, I don’t want to rip Manny, who seems to be taking a very mature attitude towards his MVP candidacy, or lack thereof. But I couldn’t help thinking that Ramirez probably would be a leading MVP candidate if only he hadn’t forced his way out of Boston.
This season, Manny has 34 HR and 112 RBI to go with a .330 batting average and an otherworldly .425 OBP. The problem, of course, is that voters don’t know what to do with a player who has spent time on two different teams, let alone two different leagues (Shannon Stewart split the 2003 season between the Twins and Blue Jays and ended up fourth in MVP voting, despite amazingly underwhelming stats).
Manny had 20 HR, 68 RBI, a .299 batting average and a .398 OBP when he left Boston. If he had kept up that pace he would’ve finished with 32 homers and 110 RBI. That projection takes for granted that Ramirez’s August and September explosion has been entirely a result of his moving to the Dodgers. But even 32 homers and 110 RBI would probably have been enough to win the AL MVP.
Consider the current front-runners: former teammate Dustin Pedroia has put up less impressive numbers in every major category except batting average (.326), and Twins first baseman Justin Morneau has a higher batting average and more RBI, but fewer home runs (23) and a lower OBP (.383). If Ramirez only managed to keep up his pre-trade pace, he would have finished the year with 114 runs created. Pedroia currently has 114 runs created and Morneau has 111 (not that many sports writers care).
Morneau would have been Ramirez’s toughest competition (Morneau and “projected Manny” have nearly identical slugging percentage and OPS+) and Ramirez would have had a number of things working in his favor. First, Ramirez’s team has a better record, while playing in a much tougher division. We know the Red Sox will make the playoffs, and if the season ended today the Twins would not. Second, Ramirez plays for a big market team and, like it or not, big market guys get more attention and therefore more votes. Finally, Manny would have been the sentimental favorite. He’s a Hall of Fame player who has never won an MVP. Morneau, on the other hand, is simply a good player who already has one MVP and probably didn’t deserve that one.
I want to emphasize that all of this speculation is based on a projection that assumes that Manny’s late season surge wouldn’t have occurred had he stayed in Boston. But I think by now it’s clear that the only thing holding Manny back in Beantown was Manny. Sure, he’s probably playing against inferior pitching in the NL West, but not that inferior. After all, how bad can a league with Lincecum, Webb, Haren, Cain and Peavy be?
No, this MVP was Manny’s to lose. He started off well, showing up to spring training this season in top shape with seemingly the right attitude. He was going to play hard and he wasn’t going to worry about his contract until after the season. And then he decided that getting to free agency was all that mattered. More important than the fans, his teammates, his reputation — and more important than winning his first MVP.