The moment I submitted my American League Most Valuable Player ballot, I had a feeling I would be writing this column.
Like the vast majority of my BBWAA brethren, I take the responsibility of voting for postseason awards very seriously. They are, after all, our awards. If we don’t take them seriously, who will?
This year’s AL MVP race was as difficult and interesting as I can remember during my 10 years of voting. There were no fewer than seven players that had a legitimate case for the top spot on the ballot, though each ultimately had a stain on his résumé, presenting a challenge for voters.
At least this voter, anyway.
Josh Donaldson, Manny Machado, Jose Altuve, Mookie Betts and Robinson Cano — all difference-makers on contending teams — were each candidates for my first-place vote. Mike Trout, the consensus best player in baseball and winner of the award Thursday night, was also on my radar, though I have trouble giving a guy my first-place vote when he didn’t play a meaningful game after May 1.
After much deliberation, I voted David Ortiz in the top spot on my ballot. And I don’t regret it for one moment.
Before you ask, yes, I’m aware that he doesn’t play in the field. Voting for a designated hitter was not something I did without serious thought, but after examining all the numbers, talking to players, coaches and managers around the league and crunching the numbers some more, I felt Ortiz was the most impactful player in the AL this season.
That he did it at the age of 40 was just a bonus.
Big Papi led the league in slugging percentage (.620), OPS (1.021), doubles (48), extra-base hits (87) and RBI (127). He ranked third in on-base percentage (.401) and sixth in average (.315), not to mention second in adjusted OPS+ (162) for those that think Fenway Park is the primary reason for his success.
For the season, Ortiz hit .343 with a league-best 1.090 OPS with runners in scoring position.
One manager told me something that stuck with me as I struggled with my vote.
Mike Trout won his second AL MVP award on Thursday.
“Every time Betts comes up with two guys on base and two outs, I feel confident that my pitcher will get him out,” the manager said. “When Ortiz comes up with two on and two out, if I’m dumb enough not to walk him, the only question is whether he’s going to hit a double or a home run. He’s terrifying.”
Another player told me, “There isn’t a bigger weapon in the league than Papi’s bat. Trout may be the best player, but Ortiz is the most dangerous.”
In fact, a majority of the 20 or so players, coaches and managers that I spoke with during the season’s final month argued that Ortiz’s monster offensive season was enough to look past his lack of defensive contribution. Trout’s superb season might have been enough for me to look beyond the fact that he didn’t have a meaningful at-bat after the first month, but in the end, I felt Ortiz’s season was more impactful on the league.
The ballot itself begins with the following words: “There is no clear-cut definition of what Most Valuable means. It is up to the individual voter to decide who was the Most Valuable Player in each league to his team.”
Ortiz has finished in the top five of MVP voting six times in his career and earned 16 first-place votes along the way, so plenty of people have placed the glove-less one high on their ballots before. I hardly broke ground in that area.
Some argue that every game counts the same, whether it’s April, July or September. While this is mathematically correct, I put more stock into how a player performs down the stretch when the lights are brightest and the stakes are highest. Unfortunately for Trout, he didn’t have the opportunity to do that.
The Red Sox entered September two games out of first place in the AL East. Boston finished 19-10 thanks largely to Ortiz, who hit .323 with seven homers, 25 RBI and a 1.017 OPS. Betts hit one home run with a .772 OPS during that final month. The Red Sox don’t cruise to the AL East title without Ortiz, period.
Ortiz won MLB’s Hank Aaron Award last month, recognizing him as the best offensive player in the AL. Just as the Golden Globes can often be a precursor to an Academy Award, the AL’s Hank Aaron winner had gone on to win MVP in each of the past four seasons.
And for those shouting about the media’s impact on these awards, keep in mind that the Aaron award is voted on by a panel of Hall of Famers — Aaron, Ken Griffey Jr., Roberto Alomar, Johnny Bench, Craig Biggio, Eddie Murray and Robin Yount — with an element of fan voting included, too.
Trout is a deserving winner. I just felt Ortiz was more deserving.
(Rich Schultz/Getty Images)
MARK FEINSAND’S AL MVP BALLOT
1) David Ortiz, Red Sox
2) Mike Trout, Angels
3) Mookie Betts, Red Sox
4) Jose Altuve, Astros
5) Robinson Cano, Mariners
6) Josh Donaldson, Blue Jays
7) Manny Machado, Orioles
8) Adrian Beltre, Rangers
9) Miguel Cabrera, Tigers
10) Zach Britton, Orioles
Source: NY Daily News Headlines Sports News