Stat freaks be damned: SportsAngle endorses Teixeira for AL MVP

And they say money can't buy happiness... Now most of you have dismissed this before you even read it. I’d be lucky to get any of you back. To paraphrase my man Billy Hoyle, I’m going to write it anyway.

I know what you’re all saying: Joe Mauer has to be the MVP of the American League. And I’ll bet you have all sorts of fancy statistics to back it up, to “prove me wrong.”

You’re probably thinking right now that I don’t know baseball very well, and maybe that’s true. But I estimate that I watch about 200-250 games a year of various teams, so you’d think I would have picked something up by now.

And now you’re thinking that I just don’t get how good a season Mauer is having, and that one I’m pretty sure isn’t true, as I’ve been cognizant of his greatness for, well, possibly longer than you’ve been. Back on July 17, this site had this:

When all is said and done, Mauer may have one of the greatest seasons a catcher has ever had, ranking up there with some of Mike Piazza’s finest.

Now you’re considering that I probably don’t understand all the statistical nuances that make Mauer so great – the VORP, WAR, wOBA, UZR, runs created and so on and so forth. I’ll put it this way, I’ve read about sabermetrics (though don’t give me any pop quizzes) and feel that it has a place in the game in terms of scouting Major League players. I just disagree that these robotic statistical concoctions should replace entirely what our eyes tell us.

I prefer to work in the abstract with this award. I watch enough of the game to see players’ impacts on teams in real life without needing some numbers to tell me what I should think.

So all this isn’t meant to start a debate, so put away your calculators and abacuses. I’m just going to explain why I think Mark Teixeira’s the most valuable player to his team in his league.

Because if you haven’t noticed a difference between the Yankees this year and the Yankees last year, you haven’t been paying attention. And that difference is Teixeira.

Last year’s Yankees had no heart, no chemistry, no identity. They were a soulless, joyless, flawed group. They had a team leader who seemed weary of his teammates and organization, and a super-expensive superstar who wilted in the spotlight of outrageous expectations. They had a boom-or-bust first baseman who was popular in the clubhouse but lacking at the plate and especially in the field.

I understand that the Yankees also brought in CC Sabathia and A.J. Burnett, being that they were the only team that could afford to import that amount of free-agent talent, and that provided a much-needed face lift to an aging rotation.

But Teixeira was the piece de resistance. Not only did the Yankees achieve a huge upgrade over what they previously had at the position on both offense and defense, but the signing meant that their biggest rival did not have Teixeira. Make no mistake, though they both made the playoffs, the Yankees were a lot better team than the Red Sox this year, and the main reason was that the Yanks had Tex and the Sox didn’t. You can pinpoint the Yankees’ division title to the day that they scored Teixeira.

Tex had A-Rod's back in ALDS Game 2 -- and for the rest of the seasonDerek Jeter had perhaps his best year, making him the most logical alternative to Mauer for MVP. Know what? Matsui was great too, and Damon, and Posada, and Cano – even Melky Cabrera proved to have some value. Nick Swisher hit 30 points higher than he did last year. What was different for all these players from last? They were part of a lineup with Teixeira. A presence like his elevates everyone around him. It’s no coincidence that each and every one of these players stepped up their game.

And Tex helped them on defense, as well. Nobody seems to talk about Jeter’s defense being faulty anymore. He didn’t get better, sure as hell didn’t get younger. But Teixeira’s Gold Glove-caliber defense raised the level of the entire infield.

I mean, you talk about Mauer’s value over a replacement player. How about Teixeira’s value over the player he replaced?

Possibly the greatest impact Teixeira has made is on Alex Rodriguez. Free of the burden of being the lone major power threat in the Yankees lineup, A-Rod is allowed to just be one of the guys. Well, as much as he can ever be. But with the spotlight not shining quite so brightly on him, Rodriguez got more and more comfortable as the year continued. His batting average and OPS improved every month from June on, to where he’s peaked at exactly the right time.

Suddenly, A-Rod – who has spent his entire career being a flawed player at the worst possible times – has blossomed into a postseason force. What’s different this year from the past few? The presence of Teixeira. And that of Kate Hudson, I guess, but I’m not willing to give her my MVP vote. 

I realize you can’t quantify Teixeira’s influence on Rodriguez. But it makes sense, doesn’t it? And if Teixeira has helped to enhance the Yankees’ return on their investment in Rodriguez, wouldn’t his value skyrocket considering that A-Rod is a $275 million player?

This is a new Yankees team we’re seeing. I don’t think chemistry can be understated, and they finally have it after years of being moribund. And I really do feel that Teixeira – in conjunction with Swisher and Burnett – has made an enormous difference in that regard. He’sHas anyone yet figured out why the hell Kate Hudson was at a game with Jay-Z? Or why he insists on wearing glasses from the 1930's? changed the culture of this team.

Tex also led the league in homers and RBIs. You know, if you’re into that sort of thing. And yes, I know the ballpark is small.

I think Joe Mauer is a wonderful player. Obviously, he’s incomparable in terms of being a catcher, and his importance to a playoff Twins team that would have never made it in a million years cannot be discounted. In addition, he was probably the most well-rounded hitter in baseball this season – he led the American League in both on-base and slugging percentage, hit .365, virtually never struck out and doubled his career home run total. I can’t say enough about him.

But Teixeira was just as important to his team. He plays for the Yankees, the most significant team in the sport, and one that was missing a major piece last year. Teixeira was that piece.

Mauer was the difference between the Twins making the playoffs or staying home.

In my estimation, so was Teixeira. And in this case, adding Tex may just have made the Yankees into world champions again, and he most certainly helped change their entire culture.

That, to me, is true, unmistakable value.

And that is why Teixeira is the most valuable player in his league.

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The following players all saw noticeable upticks in their production this season from last. I admit that the stadium switch played a fairly big role, particularly for left-handed hitters, but I contend that the presence of Teixeira made a huge difference as well in improving the entire Yankees lineup, as it’s too much to expect every one of these players to improve markedly.
Player 2008 2009
Derek Jeter .300, 11 HR, 69 RBI, 88 R — 596 AB .334, 18 HR, 66 RBI, 107 R — 634 AB
Johnny Damon .303, 17 HR, 71 RBI, 95 R — 555 AB .282, 24 HR, 82 RBI, 107 R — 550 AB
Jorge Posada .268, 3 HR, 22 RBI, 18 R — 168 AB .285, 22 HR, 81 RBI, 55 R — 383 AB
Melky Cabrera .249, 8 HR, 37 RBI, 42 R — 414 AB .274, 13 HR, 68 RBI, 66 R — 485 AB
Nick Swisher .219, 24 HR, 69 RBI, 86 R — 497 AB .249, 29 HR, 82 RBI, 84 R — 498 AB
Hideki Matsui .294, 9 HR, 45 RBI, 43 R — 337 AB .274, 28 HR, 90 RBI, 62 R — 456 AB
Robinson Cano .271, 14 HR, 72 RBI, 70 R — 597 AB .320, 25 HR, 85 RBI, 103 R — 637 AB

Esoteric

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