Thursday, September 4, 2008

Is Dustin Pedroia, Derek Jeter?

I’m not sure I mean that in a good way. There’s a lot of talk around Red Sox Nation lately that Dustin Pedroia should be the MVP of the league. The “MVP” chants in Fenway pop up every time he strides to the plate. It sounds to me that the arguments being made for Dustin are the same ones I didn’t agree with when the pinstripers were pumping up Jeter. And, looking them over, there are a lot of similarities between the two players.

Both are middle infielders, which makes their offensive expectations limited. They both seem to be .300 hitters, who can collect around 200 hits a season. At the moment, Pedroia is leading the batting race, which is a title Jeter has come close to. They both have a ROY on their trophy shelf. They both look capable of double digit home runs, and double digit steals although neither is a masher or a speedster. They both bat at the top of the order (Pedroia’s recent experiments in the clean-up spot not withstanding) for an offensive juggernot. They both score plenty of runs because of it. Pedroia’s a better defender…especially since I choose to ignore Jeter’s two bogus Gold Gloves. Pedroia might get one of his own this year. On paper, I bet their numbers match up pretty well…even before Jeter’s decline.

The other similarity is that each player has their MVP case made by using something other than numbers. In each case they are described as the driving force of the team. Pedroia’s energy is what makes the Red Sox go. Or, Jeter wills the team to victory. I guess my only problem with that comes up in one question. If Jeter can “will” a team to victory, why doesn’t he have 12 rings? What happened in 1997? What happened in 2004? I’ll admit that having a guy at the top of the order that can get on base is great. It allows for more runs to be scored. But, really that’s all Jeter and Pedroia are. They’re guys who get on base a lot, who hit in front of guys who can drive them home. Again, that is extremely valuable, but not really all that rare. Lots of players have high OBP or high averages. Is there something that makes Jeter or Pedroia’s OBP more valuable than anyone else? Joe Mauer has a pretty high batting average too. Does he get MVP consideration? Is it his fault that Morneau doesn’t drive him in all the time like Ortiz or Rodriguez? Does Dustin’s spunk or attitude make his batting average more impressive? Not to me. That’s why I never thought Jeter should win an MVP, and why I don’t think Pedroia should either.

The larger question that presents itself is if Dustin Pedroia will win the 2008 AL MVP, whether or not he should. I’d say his case is a lot better than any of Jeter’s ever were. If Pedroia wins the batting title, he’ll have that to present to the voters. He won a “major” title during the year. He may also lead the league in hits and runs. He’s a solid defender who, as I mentioned, may win the gold glove. That puts him in a good position to win the silver slugger and gold glove at second base. That’s not a bad combination if you want to make the case that you’re the best second baseman in the league. So, those are some nice lines in the MVP resume. He’s also getting especially hot at the right time. You could argue that he’s carried the sox the last few weeks while Lowell, Drew, and Youk have missed time. If he stays hot while the Sox drive to the playoffs, and especially if they overtake Tampa, that would help a lot. It’s the “clutch” September performance that got Yaz and Chipper Jones their MVP’s. It also helps that his main competition, Josh Hamilton and Carlos Quentin, are fading. Hamilton is feeling the Home Run Derby after effects on a sub 500 club, and Quentin is currently nursing an injury. If those slides continue, and especially if the White Sox miss the playoffs because of it, Pedroia’s stock will rise. Pedroia’s starting to get the national publicity he needs as well. The more times his MVP candidacy is discussed on ESPN, the more voters who will at least put his name on the list.

So, if the Pedroia gets hot, the Sox win the East, and Chicago misses the playoffs, I think the MVP is Pedroia’s. Otherwise, I think it’s Quentin’s. Pedroia’s top three either way.

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