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Posted: Wednesday September 9, 2009 12:26PM; Updated: Wednesday September 9, 2009 1:13PM
Jon Heyman Jon Heyman >

Mauer is my AL MVP, and these are my award ballots as of right now

Story Highlights

Mauer leads the league in batting average, OBP and slugging percentage

There's no debating the National League's Most Valuable Player

It's silly to suggest that Greinke needs more wins to earn the Cy Young Award

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Joe Mauer
Twins star Joe Mauer is enjoying one of the finest offensive seasons ever for a catcher.
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There are at least three reasons of varying value going around for why folks shouldn't vote for Twins catcher Joe Mauer for American League MVP. But none of them should distract anyone from the fact that Mauer is having a season for the ages.

Mauer leads the American League in batting average (.368), on-base percentage (.434) and slugging percentage (.605). This kind of Triple Crown occurs a bit more often than the traditional Triple Crown, though it doesn't make it any less impressive. Plus, Mauer is a catcher (and not just any catcher, but one of the best defensive catchers in the game).

Let's dispense with the three biggest reasons why some try to make the case that the AL MVP should be someone other than Mauer.

1. His team isn't good enough. This is the strongest argument, as the Twins have remained barely on the fringe of the playoff race for most of the year. They are currently at 69-69, 6 1/2 games behind the Tigers in the AL Central and are obviously unlikely to catch Detroit. (They're buried in the wild-card race, 11 games behind Boston.) However, they trailed the Tigers by only 3 1/2 games at the end of August, so they were certainly a bona fide contender entering the final month. The Twins themselves obviously felt they were in contention, as the small-market team has acquired three veteran players for the September run (Jon Rauch, Ron Mahay and Carl Pavano) and is also known to have won a waiver claim on Rich Harden, though it ultimately didn't acquire Harden. (The Cubs, a big-market team with less hope than the Twins, didn't want to surrender their last hope to make the postseason).

Some would say that the MVP should come from a playoff team. After all, how valuable can a player be if his team doesn't make it to October? But while it's preferable for the MVP to come from a playoff team, exceptions can be made in cases of all-time great years. Alex Rodriguez (2003 Rangers) and Andre Dawson (1987 Cubs) won MVPs for last-place teams. Mauer has a better case than them -- at least his team was a threat. Thanks to Mauer, the Twins played meaningful games in September.

2. He missed a month. Mauer's absence cost him in his home run and RBI totals, though 26 (twice his career high) and 82 (three shy of his personal best) aren't too shabby for a catcher. Catchers historically have lower numbers anyway, since they aren't expected to play close to 162 games and spend half the games they do play squatting. Catchers such as Yogi Berra, Roy Campanella and Ivan Rodriguez have won MVPs without being league leaders in these categories. The one set of numbers that might hurt Mauer is that the Twins were doing as well without him as they are with him. They were a .500 team when he returned from his back ailment on May 1, and they have continued to be a .500 team with him. But that's no fault of his. Without Mauer, they'd be in oblivion by now.

3. His season isn't that great. This one's a crock. No catcher has ever come close to leading the league in the three main percentage categories. Before Mauer won a batting title in 2006, in fact, no American League catcher had ever won one. Now, if he keeps his lead over Ichiro, Mauer will have done it three times (he also won last year). The difference in Mauer, though, is the added power. Lots of other AL players are having terrific seasons -- most notably the great Derek Jeter and several excellent first basemen (Mark Teixeira, Miguel Cabrera, Kendry Morales and Kevin Youkilis) -- but no one is having close to this sort of season.

None of these reasons should be enough to prevent the 26-year-old Mauer from being the first catcher since Pudge to win the MVP. And neither should the fourth occasionally-cited reason, which I don't really believe exists. And that is the so-called "New York bias.''


There are those who say that there's a New York-centric element to baseball's honors, even the postseason awards. I am not sure how that's possible, as the awards are determined by a vote of two writers from every city. That's two votes from New York and two from Kansas City (not to mention Minnesota) for the AL awards. So simple mathematics will tell you that the voting is as much Kansas City-centric as it is New York-centric. It's true that many more stories are written about the New York players, but I doubt that the writers in Kansas City or other major league cities are so easily influenced by these stories. Sometimes they may be turned off by them.

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