Assistant Sports Editor
Yeah, I know, MVP stands for Most Valuable Player and not “Most Valuable Pitcher.” I’m also well aware that Justin Verlander doesn’t play every day, so let’s throw that counterargument out the door now. That being said, there’s no doubt in my mind that this year’s MVP should be Justin Verlander. When the old-school, non-outside-the-box thinkers anoint Bautista, Granderson, Cano or Ellsbury the AL MVP, do not come around campus looking for me, either. I said should, not will.
Let me also preface this argument with saying that it is true that I may be a little biased in this situation. I’m a big-time fantasy sports player (it’s not geeky, it can serve as a nice income if you’re good at it), and I had Justin Verlander in my fantasy baseball league this year. He single-handedly made the fantasy baseball season enjoyable and far less of a grinding marathon. For the record, I think fantasy baseball is better than fantasy football, but that’s an argument for another day, maybe even for my next column.
What is an MVP? It’s much deeper than the three words it represents. It’s an individual award inside a team sport, so that can be tricky enough. The goal of every baseball player, every professional athlete, is to win every game they take part in. In my mind, an MVP is the one that most drastically improves a team’s chances of winning. I watched almost all of Verlander’s starts, and that, my friends, was someone who drastically improved his team’s chances of winning every single time out there.
Verlander won the pitching triple crown in the AL, even though that is something that people don’t pay attention to like the offensive triple crown. He led all of the major leagues with 24 wins, three more than the closest competitor, and five more than the closest AL pitcher, C.C. Sabathia. He also led the entire AL with a 2.40 ERA and led all of the major leagues with 250 strikeouts. Stats aren’t everything, I’ll agree on that, but imagine where the playoff-bound Tigers would be without him. The city of Detroit would be paying a lot more attention to the undefeated Lions right now, that’s for sure.
I understand that the Cy Young is the pitcher’s version of the MVP. But that wouldn’t be a high enough honor for the season put together by Verlander. A pitcher wins the Cy Young every year, but a pitcher doesn’t perform every year the way that Verlander has this year. No one would ever say a rookie can’t win the MVP because there’s a separate award for rookies, so why do so many people say it about pitchers?
Much of my MVP logic comes down to who of this year’s candidates I would choose first to start my team around. The answer to that question would be, in this order, Verlander, Ellsbury and Cano. If you want to start your team and build around Bautista, Granderson or even Pedroia, then be my guest, but you’d be better off agreeing with me on this. The one word that comes to my mind when evaluating the MVP is dominant.
You can look back as far as you want, and I would argue with you that no one has ever been as dominant as Verlander is right now. He’s an old-school horse and a bulldog that wants the ball for all nine innings. He threw the Motor City’s baseball team on his back (or his right arm) this year and willed them to win the division. Plus, he has the same first name as my boss here at the paper, so what’s not to love? Verlander for MVP, please.
Dylan Tully may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org