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

Yoenis Cespedes says he does not plan to opt out of his contract

NEW YORK, NY - JULY 04: Yoenis Cespedes #52 of the New York Mets reacts after he hit a two run double in the eighth inning inning against the Miami Marlins during a game at Citi Field on July 4, 2016 in the Flushing neighborhood of the Queens borough of New York City. (Photo by Rich Schultz/Getty Images)
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Yoenis Cespedes is in the first year of a three-year, $75 million deal with the Mets that includes an opt-out clause leading into 2017. It’s a great situation for him. If he was hurt or ineffective this year, hey, he still gets $75 million. If he rakes he can go back out on the free agent market this November and see if he can’t do better than the two years and $50 million he’ll have left.

Cespedes said today, however, that he does not plan to exercise his opt-out this winter:

Speaking through an interpreter, Cespedes stayed on message, saying his focus is on “helping the team win so we can hopefully make it to the playoffs.”

When asked by The Record’s Matt Ehalt if he intended to honor all three years of his current $75 million contract, without opting out, Cespedes flatly said, “Yes.”

The beautiful thing about baseball contracts is that the Bergen Record is not a party to them and thus statements made to them about the contract are not legally binding. Cespedes can most certainly change his mind on the matter — or just lie to the press even if he fully intends to opt-out — and nothing can be done to him. At least nothing apart from having someone write bad things about him, but that’s gonna happen anyway. The guy can’t play golf without someone who has no idea how to Cespedes’ job say that he “just doesn’t get it.”

So, will Cespedes opt-out? He’s certainly making a case that it’d be a wise thing to do purely on financial terms. He’s hitting .295/.365/.570 with 25 homers in 98 games. And those numbers are dragged down a bit by the fact that the Mets kept playing him through an injury for the second half of July.

Maybe Cespedes just likes New York and maybe he’s happy with his two-year, $50 million guarantee and won’t opt out. Maybe he doesn’t want to deal with the drama and uncertainty of free agency again, even if he would have no trouble finding a job. Maybe he thinks that he’ll fall short of the $25 million average annual value he’s looking at for 2017 and 2018 if he opts out, even if he does get a longer deal as a result.

We have no idea and we have no say. But it’s not hard to imagine that, if he keeps hitting and especially if he helps the Mets get into the playoffs, he’d be leaving a ton of money on the table if he doesn’t test the market once again.

Oakland A’s officials taking a tour of a possible waterfront ballpark site

OAKLAND, CA - FEBRUARY 19:  A Maersk Line container ship sits docked in a berth  at the Port of Oakland on February 19, 2015 in Oakland, California. International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU) longshoremen at the Port of Oakland took the day shift off today to attend a union meeting amidst ongoing contract negotiations between dockworkers and terminal operators at west coast ports. The port closure, the seventh one this month, has left 12 container ships stuck at the dock with no workers to load and unload them. The ILWU members at 29 West Coast ports have been without a contract for 9 months. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)
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The Oakland Athletics’ ballpark saga has gone on for years now, with false starts in Fremont and San Jose, lawsuits and seemingly interminable talks with the City of Oakland over a new place on the current Coliseum site. That’s all complicated, of course, by the presence of the Raiders, on whose address — be it Oakland, Las Vegas or someplace else — the A’s future is still largely contingent.

The city has tried to get the A’s interested in a waterfront site for several years now. There are a lot of problems with that due mostly to zoning and regulatory matters, as well as proximity to transit and other practical concerns. The artist’s renderings are often pretty, but it takes more than artist’s renderings to make a good ballpark plan.

But no one is giving up on that and, it seems, even the A’s are willing to at least listen to such proposals now:

Oakland A’s co-owner John Fisher is expected to join officials Thursday for a hush-hush tour of the Port of Oakland’s Howard Terminal, a cargo-loading area near Jack London Square that Mayor Libby Schaaf tirelessly promotes as “a fantastic site for a ballpark.”

Guess it ain’t so “hush-hush” anymore. As with all Oakland ballpark stories, however, feel free to continue snoozing until someone gives us a real reason to wake up.

Note: The above photo is from the Port of Oakland. I have no idea what the proximity of the working part of the city’s port is to where they’d build a ballpark, but I used this picture because I love the story about how George Lucas spotted those things from an airplane as he was leaving Oakland or San Francisco or whatever and used them as inspiration for the AT-AT Imperial Walkers in “Empire Strikes Back.” Which may be a totally aprocyphal story, but one I love so much that I told it to my kids when we flew in to Oakland back in June and will choose to believe despite whatever evidence you provide.