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in many ways Rodriguez also outclassed Ortiz at the plate. A-Rod had a significantly better batting average (.321--.300), more runs (124--119), more hits (194--180), more home runs (48--47), more total bases (369--363), a better on-base percentage (.421--.397) and a better slugging percentage (.610--.604). He also stole more bases (21--1) and had a higher batting average in September and October (.330--.321), when the AL East race was decided. Rodriguez's combination of numbers in the Triple Crown categories (.321, 48, 130 RBIs) has been attained by only 12 other players in history--including no third basemen and only four players who did so for first-place teams (the Yankees' Babe Ruth in 1921, '27 and '28, Lou Gehrig in '36 and Mickey Mantle in '56, and the Arizona Diamondbacks' Luis Gonzalez in 2001).
Throw in Rodriguez's prowess on the base paths, and his season is even more exceptional. He joined Willie Mays ( New York Giants, 1955), Barry Bonds ( San Francisco Giants, '93) and Larry Walker ( Colorado Rockies, '97) as the only .300 hitters to exceed 45 homers and 20 steals--and is the first player to do so for a team that made the postseason.
Ortiz, nicknamed Big Papi, is known for his outsized smile and his Willie Stargell--like clubhouse bearing. His candidacy, however, traffics mainly on the measures, real and imagined, of his clutch hitting. He batted .352 with runners in scoring position and tied the Braves' Andruw Jones's major-league-leading 19 home runs after the sixth inning. (Although, contrary to Stanton's belief, he hit .291--slightly below his overall average--from the seventh inning on.) Also, as The Boston Globe breathlessly reported on Saturday, "Nineteen of his home runs have either tied the game or given his team the lead. That is an eye-popping statistic.... "
Left unreported was the fact that Rodriguez--hold on to your eyeballs--also had 19 home runs that had either tied the game or given his team the lead. "Alex hit a home run [last week] in Baltimore in a 1--0 game we had to have, and it doesn't get mentioned because it's the sixth inning," Mattingly says.
says steve hirdt, executive vice president of the Elias Sports Bureau, "The temptation is to overreact because of the many ways you can quantify Ortiz's late-game dramatics and the widespread publicity they get. The highlights, starting with the walk-off hits in the postseason last year, begin to run together in the mind's eye, and the perception is he's doing it all the time. I go with A-Rod [for MVP] because you have to give him credit for playing defense and playing it well. You'd be hard-pressed to find anyone else on the Yankees who fields his position as well as A-Rod does. And you can't just say about a DH, 'That's just the role he's given.' The DH doesn't field his position well enough to be among the nine guys on the field."
Rodriguez started every game, committed only two errors over the final 90 games and never let his batting average slip below .310 after May 21. Yankees manager Joe Torre was so appreciative of what Rodriguez gave the team this season that as he hugged and thanked him on the pitcher's mound after Saturday's last out, Torre began to weep. "That will always be special to me," Rodriguez said later in the clubhouse.
Off in another corner, Yankees adviser and 1973 AL MVP Reggie Jackson saw fit to declare the election over because New York had clinched the division. "If your team wins, then that's the team with the MVP," he said. " Ortiz has had a little more of a--what's the word?--dramatic year. But Alex put up the same numbers plus he plays Gold Glove defense, and he steals bases. He's earned it.
"But it's like I told him: 'Now you're even,'" continued Jackson, also a two-time World Series MVP. "Forty-eight homers, 130 RBIs? It's what he should do when he's making 25 [million] bucks a year. But with the high standards this team has set, you're only even. Now you have to get it done in the playoffs."