The MLBPA Player’s Choice Awards aren’t as big a deal as the BBWAA awards, but they’re not nothing. The players certainly think they’re significant as anyone who is awarded something by their peers is likely to feel. Justin Verlander certainly feels that way, as his comments after being awarded the MLBPA’s Player of the Year award last night make clear.
What interests me is whether this award is a harbinger of Verlander winning the MVP.
In the 13 years the Player of the Year Award has existed, the players voted for a guy who went on to win the MVP award six times, with all six of them coming in the last ten years. The players, like the BBWAA, are likewise not crazy about voting for pitchers, having given the Player of the Year award to a pitcher only once: 1999 to Pedro Martinez. Martinez should have won the MVP that year too, but that’s another rant.
Another potential harbinger is the Sporting News Player of the Year award, which Verlander also won this year. In the past ten years, the winner of that award has gone to be win the MVP award seven times. And again, the award is not handed out willy-nilly to pitchers, so the fact that Verlander won it is somewhat significant.
Obviously anything can happen with this stuff and obviously we won’t know for sure who wins the MVP award for a couple of weeks. But I can’t shake the notion, based on how the season ended — Boston flaming out and Jose Bautista’s second half being somewhat less-electrifying than his first — and based on the sentiment from the non-BBWAA award givers, that Verlander is gonna take home the hardware everyone cares about.
All spring training there was at least some mild confusion about Nationals first baseman Ryan Zimmerman. He played in almost no regular big league spring training games, instead, staying on the back fields, playing in simulated and minor league contests. When that usually happens, it’s because a player is rehabbing or even hiding an injury, but the Nats insisted that was not the case with Zimmerman. Not everyone believed it. I, for one, was skeptical.
The skepticism was unwarranted, as Zimmerman answered the bell for Opening Day and has played all season. As Jared Diamond of the Wall Street Journal writes today, it was all by design. He skipped spring training because he doesn’t like it and because he thinks it’ll help him avoid late-season injuries and slowdowns, the likes of which he has suffered over the years.
It’s hard to really judge this now, of course. On the one hand Zimmerman has started really slow this season. What’s more, he has started to show signs of warming up only in the past week, after getting almost as many big league, full-speed plate appearances under his belt as a normal spring training would’ve given him. On the other hand, April is his worst month across his entire 14-year career, so one slow April doesn’t really prove anything and, again, Zimmerman and the Nats will consider this a success if he’s healthy and productive in August and September.
It is sort of a missed opportunity, though. Players hate spring training. They really do. if Zimmerman had made a big deal out of skipping it and came out raking this month, I bet a lot more teams would be amenable to letting a veteran or three take it much more easy next spring. Good ideas can be good ideas even if they don’t produce immediately obvious results, but baseball tends to encourage a copycat culture only when someone can point to a stat line or to standings as justification.
Way to ruin it for everyone, Ryan. 😉