If I were told to vote right this minute for the AL MVP, my pick would be Derek Jeter. No other player has done more to keep his team afloat consistently throughout the entire season.
The idea of the MVP award has become skewed as your average fan (influenced by many media outlets) deems it the most important award in all of Major League Baseball.
Awards like the Sporting News’ Player of the Year award should be held in higher regard as it is more geared towards individual achievement as opposed to the impact that the player has on his team.
Where it gets confusing is the fact that fans are lead to believe that this individual is the best player in baseball. It also induces outrage that a player from a lesser team gets ignored because he doesn’t play for a contender.
And that’s how it should be. The player that is most valuable to a team that is (at the very least) in contention for the post-season.
Consider Toronto Blue Jays third baseman Edwin Encarnacion.
Is he a traditional MVP candidate? No, because the Blue Jays would be doing no worse, nor any better without him. They are in last place no thanks to him. Does that mean the year he’s having is null and void? No. He’s part of the top tier in wOBA, OBP, runs scored, and home runs to name a few. He’s POY material but not an overwhelming valuable asset (tied for 11th in WAR with Joe Mauer and Adam Jones).
That’s where Jeter comes in.
With the team was fledgling in April/May, there were only eight games where he did not get a hit and five where he wasn’t on base at least once. Almost everyone was in or experienced one type of slump in that two-month stretch but the captain kept going. Even at the team’s highest production points this year, Jeter has always been a part of the offensive, having six different hitting streaks of at least six games; his two highest of 13 and 15.
While his defense will always leave something to be desired, his baseball eye (50% swing rate, 85% contact) will never be questioned.
Nor can his leadership and poise. I seem to have noticed it more this year because, at 38, no one (including myself) expected him to continue to be this much of a factor. On a team full of (fading) stars, he still stands head and shoulders above the others.
Another element to consider is that he is one of a few Yankees that have not spent any significant time on the DL. Had he gone down for any period of time, would the production at the top of the order be the same?
Would the lineup even be the same?
Who would fill that time hitting leadoff in a Jeter-less lineup? The strikeout-prone Curtis Granderson? If so, why put a hitter with his power an ability to drive in runs in a spot were he’ll have less chance to do so?
Obviously you can’t consider Brett Gardner, who was lost after nine games.
Although acquired just recently, would you feel comfortable with Ichiro hitting leadoff; a position he was ‘demoted’ from in the meager Mariner lineup?
You could make an argument for Nick Swisher and you could also have a counter argument that he has a tendency to be very streaky. When he’s on, he’s an on-base machine. When he’s bad, you get absolutely nothing out of him (see his post-season career with NY).
His lack of (easy) replacement in the lineup this year would be the main point I’d lobby for in an attempt to sway my fellow voters, knowing full well I’d be branded nothing more than a homer. That and the fact he leads the majors in hits by nearly 10 proves that, despite all the injury the Bombers have faced this year, he’s been a huge factor in keeping the team in first place.
Jeter needs to, at the very least, be considered for the MVP award at this point in the season. I’m not going to go into full sabermetric mode and start drawing straws with the other, more likely, candidates (see Mike Trout, Miguel Cabrera, Robinson Cano). And even though WAR will tell me different, I firmly believe he may be the hardest player to replace in the AL thus far.