Midseason AL Most Valuable Player

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I went with Zack Greinke as AL MVP one-third of the way through the season,
but he’s fallen back to the pack by posting a 3.97 ERA since the
beginning of June. The focus will return to the position players this
time around.

Here’s the top 16, according to VORP:

1. Joe Mauer – 46.2
2. Jason Bartlett – 38.2
3. Ben Zobrist – 36.9
4. Ichiro Suzuki – 35.3
5. Derek Jeter – 34.8
6. Justin Morneau – 34.8
7. Torii Hunter – 32.7
8. Adam Lind – 32.4
9. Kevin Youkilis – 30.2
10. Shin-Soo Choo – 29.8
11. Evan Longoria – 29.4
12. Carl Crawford – 28.7
13. Jermaine Dye – 28.4
14. Marco Scutaro – 28.3
15. Jason Bay – 28.0
16. Russell Branyan – 28.0

And here is the OPS leaderboard, along with how many games each player has played:

1. Joe Mauer – 1069 – 64 games
2. Ben Zobrist – 1012 – 81 games
3. Kevin Youkilis – 985 – 74 games
4. Justin Morneau – 965 – 88 games
5. Russell Branyan – 956 – 79 games
6. Jermaine Dye – 942 – 81 games
7. Torii Hunter – 938 – 77 games
8*. Jason Bartlett – 930 – 68 games
9. Adam Lind – 928 – 87 games
10. Miguel Cabrera – 926 – 85 games
11. Jason Kubel – 914 – 77 games
12. Mark Teixeira – 913 – 84 games
13. Jason Bay – 908 – 86 games
14. Evan Longoria – 898 – 84 games

Bartlett actually falls just short of qualifying.

WPA
is also interesting in this case. I’m now going to go too far down the
list, but the stat does add to the candidacy of a few of our top
candidates.

WPA, for those who don’t know, measures how much every at-bat in every game increased or decreased a team’s chances of winning.

1. Johnny Damon – 3.12
2. Jason Bay – 3.10
3. Ben Zobrist – 2.91
4. Franklin Gutierrez – 2.47
5. Joe Mauer – 2.29
6. Mark Teixeira – 2.24

Gutierrez really sticks out like a sore thumb, but he has his OPS up
to 801 now and he’s one of the game’s most valuable defensive players.
He isn’t far away from deserving serious consideration for down-ballot
votes.

OK, enough lists. Let’s try to figure this out. I do have a top 10 in mind:

Mauer
Bartlett
Zobrist
Youkilis
Bay
Jeter
Longoria
Morneau
Hunter
Ichiro

Teixeira’s numbers are Yankee Stadium inflated, so I’m comfortable
leaving him out. Cabrera doesn’t offer much defensively, and he has
just 50 RBI. Aaron Hill and Brandon Inge were the next two players on
my list, and considering their gloves, there’s pretty good arguments
for including both in the top 10.

In terms of quality, Mauer is undeniably the AL’s MVP to date. The
problem is that he’s played in only 72 percent of Minnesota’s games.
Then again, several other top candidates have missed time, Bartlett
most notably. Youkilis has sat out 14 games, and while Zobrist has
played in 81 games, he’s started only 64.

Quantity is important, so I think it’s worth looking at the RBI
list. Bay leads with 72, followed by Morneau at 70, Longoria at 66 and
Hunter at 65. Hunter may well be overrated with the glove at this point
in his career, but he’s still contributing quite a bit on defense, as
is Longoria. Bay and Morneau are the only ones in the top 10 who really
aren’t. Hunter and Ichiro are Gold Glove locks, and Mauer, Bartlett and
Longoria are top contenders. The numbers say Jeter is playing an
average shortstop, which is plenty valuable. Youkilis and Zobrist both
add a great deal to their value by playing multiple positions.

I have to say that after all of this, I’m just about as confused as
I was going in. I’m ready to put Mauer at the top of the list, though
I’d feel more comfortable about it if he had played an additional 8-10
games. I also believe that Greinke has to be on there somewhere, and
Ichiro is the most logical candidate to get the boot. While he’s
currently sporting a career-high 873 OPS, he hasn’t been nearly as good
with runners on. And, yeah, it’s mostly the fault of his teammates, but
he has fewer runs+RBI than Bay or Morneau have RBI alone.

AL MVP

1. Mauer
2. Zobrist
3. Bartlett
4. Youkilis
5. Jeter
6. Greinke
7. Bay
8. Morneau
9. Hunter
10. Longoria

Reds sign Ryan Raburn to minor league deal

DENVER, COLORADO - APRIL 10:  Ryan Raburn #6 of the Colorado Rockies rounds the bases on his solo home run off of James Shields #33 of the San Diego Padres to take a 4-2 lead in the seventh inning on April 10, 2016 in Denver, Colorado. The Rockies defeated the Padres 6-3.  (Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)
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Veteran infielder/outfielder Ryan Raburn has a minor league contract with the Reds, the club announced on Sunday. The deal was reported last week, but had been pending a physical. It includes an invitation to spring training, where Raburn is expected to compete against Desmond Jennings for a major league utility role. According to the Cincinnati Enquirer’s C. Trent Rosecrans, there’s a $900,000 base salary waiting for him if he makes the big league roster by Opening Day.

Raburn, 35, is coming off of a down year with the Rockies in 2016. He slashed .220/.309/.404 for the team last season, clubbing nine home runs as he struggled to stay above the Mendoza line. Raburn was stationed in left field for much of the season, but also saw some time at DH, first base and right field toward the end of the year. Assuming he can turn out a production rate that skews closer to the .301 average and .936 OPS he put up with the Indians in 2015, however, the Reds should have little trouble finding a place for him off the bench or as a platoon option with Scott Schebler in right field.

Dexter Fowler unhappy with President Trump’s attempts to institute a travel ban

CLEVELAND, OH - NOVEMBER 01:  Dexter Fowler #24 of the Chicago Cubs looks on during the first inning against the Cleveland Indians in Game Six of the 2016 World Series at Progressive Field on November 1, 2016 in Cleveland, Ohio.  (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)
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ESPN’s Mark Saxon reports that new Cardinals outfielder Dexter Fowler isn’t a fan of President Trump’s ongoing effort to institute a travel ban. Trump signed Executive Order 13769 on January 27, 2017, which limited incoming travelers from Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, and Yemen. However, a temporary restraining order was placed by Judge James L. Robart following Washington v. Trump.

Fowler’s wife was born in Iran. Fowler said that her sister delayed her return from a business trip to Qatar to avoid potentially being detained. Fowler and his wife have also delayed traveling to visit her relatives in Iran.

Fowler said, “It’s huge. Especially any time you’re not able to see family, it’s unfortunate.”

The response by Cardinals fans was predictably terrible. Via the BestFansStLouis Twitter account:

One of the commenters wrote, “He signed a contract with the Cardinals so that makes him property of stl cardinals and mlb so he needs to keep his mouth shut. His personal opinions, problems, beliefs and political views should be kept to himself as long as he’s under a mlb contract…” He continued, “It’s not our fault he married someone from another country.”

Fowler caught wind of this and other responses to his statement, so he tweeted:

Fowler, of course, is one thousand percent correct.

These same “stick to sports,” “keep your politics out of my sports” people either said nothing or cheered when athletes and coaches espoused political views from the other side of the spectrum. Like when Patriots quarterback Tom Brady hung a “Make America Great Again” hat in his locker. Or when reliever Jonathan Papelbon played a pro-Trump song in the clubhouse. Or when former NFL head coach and ESPN commentator Mike Ditka said last year, “Obama’s the worst president we’ve ever had.”

Even Saxon and Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch have received myriad “stick to sports” comments simply for acknowledging that Fowler made a comment on the matter.

As we’ve pointed out here countless times, it is impossible to separate sports from politics. It is irresponsible to pretend like it’s even possible. Sports and politics intersect in so many ways, including race, religion, gender, sexuality, and class. This particular situation with Trump’s executive order impacts baseball quite a bit as Fowler’s individual situation shows. He’s certainly not the only player to have a loved one who came from one of the seven aforementioned countries. Non-white players are also much more likely to have a bad experience at the airport — consider how often players are at the airport during the season — and their family and friends may be subject to one of the many ugly ICE raids that have taken place over the last three weeks.

Kudos to Fowler for speaking up and kudos for Saxon and others for reporting on it. This is certainly not a time during which we should pretend we can keep sports and politics separate.