A closer look at the Yankee Clipper's 56-game feat.
Most of our writers didn't enter the world sporting an @baseballprospectus.com address; with a few exceptions, they started out somewhere else. In an effort to up your reading pleasure while tipping our caps to some of the most illuminating work being done elsewhere on the internet, we'll be yielding the stage once a week to the best and brightest baseball writers, researchers, and thinkers from outside of the BP umbrella. If you'd like to nominate a guest contributor (including yourself), please drop us a line.
Jim Albert is a Statistics professor in Ohio. Since he grew up in Philadelphia, he's faithfully followed the Phillies (even this season). He wrote a book, Curve Ball, with Jay Bennett explaining statistical thinking in baseball and has written an introductory statistics text based on baseball. Currently, he is the editor of the Journal of Quantitative Analysis of Sports, which publishes papers describing statistical studies addressing questions in a wide variety of sports.
More access to Joe Girardi doesn't make for a more interesting story, which explains why Gay Talese's new profile of the Yankees' skipper can't compare to "Silent Season."
There’s a clue to what’s wrong with Gay Talese’s recent New Yorker profile of Yankee manager Joe Girardi in these two very similar anecdotes. According to a 1973 profile of the writer, in the spring of 1950 the 18-year-old Talese went to St. Petersburg, Fla. to watch the Yankees in spring training. A young woman mistook him for the Yankees’ Jerry Coleman. Talese went along with it and, in this pinch-hitting imposture, took her deep that night. (Coleman was told about this later and was apparently livid.)
In his new piece on Girardi, Talese recounts another such story, about a time when he “embarked on a love affair in college with a young woman I had met in French class.” A few years before, Talese had gotten his first autograph from another Yankee, Johnny Lindell, who substituted for Joe DiMaggio while the Yankee Clipper was serving in the Army Air Forces. (“Lindell always posed graciously for snapshots and talked with fans before and after the games,” Talese recalls.)
The rest of this article is restricted to Baseball Prospectus Subscribers.
Not a subscriber?
Click here for more information on Baseball Prospectus subscriptions or use the buttons to the right to subscribe and get access to the best baseball content on the web.
There has never been a season when Barry Bonds was obviously the league's best player that he did not win the MVP award. Were he to lose the award this season (he is currently leading in VORP by 17 runs over Albert Pujols) it would be his first real injustice. If Bonds has not been mistreated by MVP voters though, several stars of the past have been. Although it has been 80 years since anyone has hit like Bonds has the past few years, there have been occasions when a player has dominated his league for several years and been ill-served by the voters. The rest of this article briefly discusses a few of the more famous cases. Ted Williams' problem was that he played in a time when it was difficult to win the award without winning the pennant, and his team finished second every year. From 1941 through 1954, Williams led the league in VORP every season that he wasn't either in the military (five years) or hurt (1950). He won two awards: 1946, when the Red Sox finished first, and 1949, when they finished one game behind. Let's run through a few of the more interesting losses:
Leaving aside the 2003 race, which is, after all, still ongoing--and which Bonds might very well win--let's turn our attention to how Barry has been mistreated in the past. To begin with, we have to deal with the fact that Bonds has won the award five times, two more than any other player in history. This is not necessarily a contradiction, of course--if Bonds is the best player in the league every year, then the writers have a responsibility to give him the award every year. Given this, how many MVP awards should Bonds have won?
As you have no doubt gathered, I make no distinction between the "best" player and the "most valuable" player. What could be more valuable than "greatness," after all? The distinction is often used as a crutch; rather than trying to make the case that a candidate is really the best player, one can instead try to cloud the issue with grammatical semantics. We won't do that here.