As you likely know by now, Andrew McCutchen of the Pittsburgh Pirates was the overwhelming winner in the National League Most Valuable Player voting, capturing 28 of the 30 first place votes. Yadier Molina received the other two first place votes — cast by Derrick Goold and Rick Hummel of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch — yet finished in third place with 219 total points. Paul Goldschmidt of the Arizona Diamondbacks was second with 242 points. Matt Carpenter finished fourth with 194 points.
Frankly, I figured McCutchen would win — though I did think Yadi would finish second. Because for as great as Yadi is and as invaluable as he was to the Cardinals’ success in 2013 (and 2012, and 2011, and …) it seems to me every single thing he does is just expected from him now.
All the unquantifiable “intangibles” being touted as reasons why Yadi is without a doubt most valuable are all very true. Defensively, he is without peer. He strikes fear in opposing baserunners so that they often don’t even attempt to steal second. He is the heart and soul and leader of the team, taking charge of the pitching staff — no matter who comprises it, from veterans to rookies — and provides whatever type of counsel and calming is needed during the heat of a game. Plus he’s improved his batting average, number of hits and RBI every year since 2010 and even led the National League in hitting for a stretch this season.
He exemplifies this quote from Aristotle: “We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.”
Excellence and Yadier Molina? Absolutely you’d use that word to describe him. It’s just Yadi being Yadi.
Thus the expectation — that’s what he’s supposed to do, game in and game out and year after year.
Which is why I’m not surprised at the MVP results other than the margin of victory for McCutchen.
But maybe I shouldn’t be surprised about that either. Because, like it or not, it seems like two things matter most in today’s baseball world are narrative and numbers.
When it comes to narrative, there was none bigger than the 2013 Pittsburgh Pirates. The details, of course, are very familiar: a Cinderella story of the team that, despite making strides in 2011 and coming even closer in 2012 before collapsing, had 20 straight losing seasons before winning 94 games this year and making it to October. And McCutchen was the center, literally, of it all.
The narrative for the Cardinals, and Yadi, doesn’t quite have the same “great story” details on a big-picture scale. Because, even though we know each and every detail of the many injuries and the many rookie contributors and the ups and downs and struggles the 2013 team went through and the indelible impact Yadi made throughout all of it, the Cards are a perennial contending team which did just that again — made the playoffs for the third straight year and seventh time in the last 10 seasons.
There are the numbers too, the .317/.404/.508 with 21 homers, 84 RBI and 8.2 WAR for McCutchen and .319/.359/.477 with 12 homers, 80 RBI and 5.6 WAR for Yadi. Yet there also was the .318/.392/.481 with 11 homers, 199 hits, 78 RBI plus an MLB-best 126 runs scored and 55 doubles along with 7.0 WAR for Matt Carpenter. His contributions obviously did not go unrecognized by the BBWAA voters, as we can see from his fourth place finish. Rick Hummel even thought he was more valuable than the McCutchen, voting Carpenter second. But the Cardinals had two players making such an impact. The Pirates had one.
Beyond those sportswriters, though, Yadi’s contributions and value are well known and touted. On MLB Network Wednesday night, in previewing the MVP announcement, both Dave Valle and Mitch Williams said Yadi would have their MVP vote — citing the very things we know and appreciate about him, from his handling of the pitching staff with such a rotating cast of so many rookies this year and his increased offensive production. Yadi was mentioned last week on the network, in a discussion about the hiring of former catcher Brad Ausmus as the Tigers manager, as a future manager as well because of his supreme knowledge of the game and way he leads the team.
The greatness and value of Yadier Molina are just part of who he is, game in and game out, season in and season out. We know it, we love it, we applaud it.
But when that’s the expectation — and that expectation is consistently fulfilled — not everyone sees it as award worthy.
Christine Coleman is the lead writer for Aaron Miles’ Fastball. Follow her on Twitter, @CColeman802, or email firstname.lastname@example.org. Also follow @AMilesFastball for the latest updates.
I can’t say I would’ve necessarily voted for Yadi for MVP — there were legitimate, compelling cases for McCutchen and Goldschmidt as well — but I do think you’re onto something here. It probably does hurt him that his all-around excellence is expected every year, and I agree that the Pittsburgh narrative probably boosted McCutchen’s numbers. Yadi’s time may come eventually, and it may even be in a “lesser” season for him, because as Mike Trout can attest, whether or not you win certainly depends on who you happen to be up against in the voting, too.
Thanks for the comment, Craig! And, oh, Mike Trout — such a tremendous player, off to such an unbelievable start to his career. Just happened that last year and this year were his first years with Cabrera also doing what he’s doing.
And lest we all forget, the scenario you describe played out almost identically with Albert Pujols in 2002, 2003 and 2006.
In the first two, he was up against the (allegedly) HGH boosted 37-38 year old body of Barry Bonds (Aside: As a baseball fan it just makes me sad every time I think about the fact that he was a *legit* hall of famer well before his hat size started getting bigger around the turn of the millenium… *sigh*) and in 2006, he took a third of the first place votes from Ryan Howard (12/32), who won mostly because of the 58HR he hit, because his team finished 2nd in the NL East that year (the Cards won the NL Central), and when you compare triple slash & WAR (.331/.431/.671 & *8.4* vs. .313/.425/.659 & 5.2), it’s not even close!
All that being said, I feel for Trout. I *really* do. In hindsight, it’s easy to feel jilted by Bond’s (alleged) cheating and the voters just blowing it in 2006, because as Cardinals fans we have legitimate targets for the perceived slights. Other than last year’s 10.6 vs. 7.3 WAR, Miggy doesn’t give Halos fans anything of substance to latch onto (I mean, c’mon… say what you want about advanced metrics. The guy won the Triple Crown last year and came close again this season… Ridiculous.). Trout’s just up against a truly GREAT hitter who’s in the prime production years of his career and has actually had protection in his lineup for the past two seasons. And on that note, today’s DET/TEX trade may be seen a “blockbuster”, but it may be the best news Mr. Trout has heard in his short (albeit freaking BRILLIANT) career when he considers his MVP prospects moving forward. 🙂
I almost forgot!
Inevitable charges and harps of homerism aside, I watched *so* much Cardinals baseball this season it would have been really hard for me to not vote for Yadi, just like Derrick Goold and Rick Hummel ended up doing. I know they’re taking a lot of heat from other writers and from people who don’t count themselves as Cards fans, but in truthfully trying to look at it with an objective eye, I can’t find fault in their logic. I watched every game during the stretch that Tony filled in for while Yadi rested his knee, and it’s hard to put into words the tangible change in the ebb/flow of the game and how dramatically different, well, the feel of it all was. The body language of the pitchers, the pitch sequencing, the confidence exuded (especially by Miller and Lynn) on the bump, the changes in Matheny’s actions (even in his body language!) when it may or may not have been time to make moves. It was all just… different.
All in all, I seriously can’t even *count* the number of times I watched the little things Yadi would do behind the dish and with that staff (and I mean EVERY pitcher on the team) and have them end up making a tangible difference in more key moments that won games (especially in August & September) for the Redbirds this year. In a season in which they were tied with PIT with 12 games to play, and their largest lead (and most games back) in the NL Central was 4?
Yeah, well, in my book that says that the little things that Yadi did every.single.day. made the most difference on the team with the best record in the NL. How can that be *anything* but Most Valuable?
Just sayin’. 🙂