Jockbeat: Yankees’ MVP? Allen Barra Ranks Jeter Fifth


With all the talk of Derek Jeter as the possible MVP winner for 2009, an
important question has been overlooked: who is the Yankees MVP? Bill Madden
inadvertently weighed in on the issue last Sunday with a piece headlined “Ring In The Old — Yanks rediscover formula for success: more Jeter, less
A-Rod & AL-proven arms.”

Madden’s thesis, pretty much summed up by the subtitle to the story, is that “the erosion of the Yankees’ championship mantra could be explained by their big acquisitions since their dynasty ended in 2001: Jason Giambi, Alex Rodriguez, Randy Johnson, Carl Pavano, Jaret Wright, Kevin Brown.” And: “At the same time, Cashman’s signing of Mark Teixeira to replace Jason Giambi did more than boost the offense and defense. I provided relief for A-Rod in the middle of the lineup. And with A-Rod no longer the main attraction… it is once again Jeter’s team, which means a team team, which was the whole idea during Torre’s glory years.”

Madden has been an astute follower of the Yankees in this and other years, but not on this occasion. Where to start?…

First, notice how Rodriguez is lumped intogether with Randy Johnson, Carl Pavano, etc. Madden’s assertion is just plain false: The Yankees acquired Rodriguez in his prime, and he has come through splendidly, winning two MVPs. How do you equate the performance of
Johnson, Pavano, Jaret Wright and Kevin Brown with what A-Rod has done for the Yankees?

Second, how does Madden go from the signing of Mark Teixeira for “relief for A-Rod” to A-Rod no longer being “the main attraction” to “it is once again Jeter’s team”? Through what mystical maze does Teixeira’s presence mean that it is “Jeter’s team”? Yes, Teixeira provides relief for A-Rod, but doesn’t A-Rod, who bats after Teixeira, provide relief for him? And why aren’t both of them providing “relief” for Derek Jeter?

In what sense does Madden mean that A-Rod is no longer “the main attraction “? If he means on the field, then he’s flat out wrong. Though Rodriguez has played in 29 fewer games fewer than Jeter and batted 189 fewer times, he has a higher on-base average (.411 to .397), higher slugging percentage (.520 to .468), and has driven in 21 more runs. True, Jeter has scored 32 more runs, but that is in part because Jeter gets on base a lot and is a terrific base runner. But it’s also due in part to Rodriguez hitting behind him. Jeter is responsible for 11 more total runs (164 scored and batted in) than Rodriguez (153), but it cost the team more than 100 extra outs for Jeter to produce those runs.

So unless you want to argue Jeter’s inspirational value, it’s silly to make an objective case that Jeter has been more valuable than Rodriguez. But even if A-Rod had not missed those 30-35 games because of his hip problem, it’s doubtful that he would be more valuable than Mark Teixeira.

So where does that leave Jeter as far as the Yankees MVP is concerned? Fifth, we’d say, behind Teixeira, C.C. Sabathia, Mariano Rivera, and Alex Rodriguez. We love Derek, we’re thrilled he passed Gehrig’s hit mark, and we think he’s a first ballot Hall of Famer. And, to tell the truth, he’s deserved the AL MVP award twice in the past, so if he wins this year after all, it will be far from the worst selection in league history. But he isn’t the Yankees MVP for 2009 by a long shot.

Oh, and a memo to Bill Madden: part of your formula for the success of this year’s Yankees was “AL-proven arms.” One of those arms belongs to A.J. Burnett, who is just 11-9 with a mediocre 4.33 ERA, and the other is C.C. Sabathia, who was undazzling in the AL in 2008 (6-8, 3.83) and dazzling in the National (11-2, 1.65).