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An MVP, Not Burnett, Saved the Yankees Season

What is an MVP? We debate this throughout each season in the world of stat-overload. A couple of years ago Joe Mauer brought the Twins back from the dead to win the AL Central. His numbers at the catching position were historic. That is an MVP. Last year Josh Hamilton put up the best numbers in the American League and the Rangers won their division. We didn’t know he was the MVP at the time, but he validated his selection during the ALCS by hitting 4 home runs and driving in 7 runs to lead Texas over the Yankees. This year we have heard Jose Bautista, Justin Verlander, and even Jacoby Ellsbury and the Red Sox trio that includes Dustin Pedroia and Adrian Gonzalez were in the MVP talks. I said during the summer that I thought Curtis Granderson was shaping up to be the AL MVP. Last night might not matter in the voting, but he sealed it in my book.

Everyone will talk about A.J. Burnett’s performance, but the real story is Granderson’s first inning catch that saved 3-runs. Yes, maybe he misjudged the ball a bit, but any ballplayer will tell you how difficult those screaming line drives right at you are. Knowing the recent bad history of Yankees elimination games on the road, a 3-0 deficit probably is one they don’t overcome; even against the shaky Rick Porcello.

I didn’t see anyone outside of Ellsbury during the season produce a season of power, speed, and defense like Granderson. When the Yankees were struggling offensively during the middle of the season he seemed to carry them on a nightly basis. Mark Teixeira, Robinson Cano, Derek Jeter, and A-Rod all went through significant valleys during that period, but Granderson was there. For all his power, Jose Bautista helped the Blue Jays to a .500 season. Ellsbury is eliminated on the basis of what happened to Boston. Same goes for Pedrioa and Gonzalez who fizzled down the stretch. I don’t mind an argument for Verlander, but there is an award for a pitcher called the Cy Young. It’s hard to give the MVP, in my opinion, to someone who pitches once every five days.

I am sure there are a good deal of you that need a stat to validate Granderson’s candidacy. I hate to cite Wins Above Replacement, as it’s such a flawed stat, but Granderson’s WAR of 7 is the difference between a 3-team Wild Card race on the last day of the season, and the Yankees comfortable preparing for the ALDS.

Kudos to Burnett for stepping up, but it was an MVP that brought the Yankees back to New York last night.

***
I am sure you saw Miguel Cabrera joke with A-Rod at first about whether he wanted the ball after his 8th inning single. I am not sure how that would sit with me if I were in the Tigers dugout.

I complained about the amount of in-game fraternizing by players earlier in the season. Can you please tone it down for the playoffs? That act by Cabrera, not my most favorite player mind you, is cute in the middle of a blow out game in June; not during an ALDS elimination game. At that point it was still 4-1 and the Yankees hadn’t blown it open either.

Detroit’s trash talk hasn’t sat well with me this series. I know it adds some spice, and most of it is just fun, but that kind of stuff can come back to bite you.

***

I have heard all sorts of complaints from Yankees fans about the TBS booth of Brian Anderson, Ron Darling, and John Smoltz. Honestly, I don’t understand why they are so upset.

This is a fan base that has to suffer though Michael Kay for 162 games, and if they aren’t able to watch the game on TV, have to deal with “Ma and Pa Kettle” on the radio.

To me, Darling is one of the best analysts in the game. Smoltz seems to do ok, and Brian Anderson is just another play-by-play voice. He is polished and seems to do the PBP without any latent bias.

For as much as Yankees fans complain about Kay et al, I think they have been fed so many pom-poms over the years they can’t handle objectivity.

The only complaint I have with TBS is their strike tracker in the right hand corner. All its doing is causing fans to gripe about the strike zone. If a tool like that were so accurate we could replace umpires and just use it. Pull the plug; it’s too busy on the screen and causing too much discontent amongst the fan base.

***

There was the irony of A.J. Burnett being asked to save the season, but Game 5 has a bit of irony as well. The Yankees were criticized by some for not pulling off a deal at the trade deadline. Instead, Brian Cashman elected to stand pat and go with the status quo. One of the status quo was a long-time Cashman favorite in Ivan Nova.

As I said earlier in the series, this isn’t Phil Hughes or Joba Chamberlain starting Game 5. This is a pitcher with the makeup to handle the moment. This is a pitcher that has improved since the beginning of the year and never seems to get rattled during his starts. You want CC Sabathia on the mound tomorrow, but since that isn’t realistic, Ivan Nova is the next best thing.

Across the field you have Doug Fister. Dave Dombrowski pushed Jack Zduriencik and the Mariners for Fister. Word is that Jack Z didn’t want to deal Fister, but the persistence of Dowbrowski was the difference.

The Tigers starting pitching is pretty shaky. If they do win this series its going to come down to an acquisition he made that received little fanfare.

By Mike Silva
Thursday, 6 Oct 2011

 

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Tagged:
A.J. Burnett, Detroit Tigers, New York Yankees

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