Josh Hamilton wins the AL MVP Award

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The voting for the final award of the year is in and the trophy goes to Josh Hamilton, who beat out Miquel Cabrera and Robinson Cano for the AL MVP award.  Hamilton received 22 of the 28 first place votes. Cabrera had five and Jose Bautista — who finished fourth overall — had one.

I think Hamilton, Cabrera and, to a slightly lesser extent Cano, were all plausible choices, and if either Cabrera or Cano had won there wouldn’t be a ton of room for squawking.

Hamilton, when healthy, was probably the best player in the American League this year. But Cabrera was close and had a few more plate appearances.  Cano trailed them offensively, but was tremendously valuable on defensive and, for long stretches, carried a Yankees team that saw slumps and injuries from putative big guns Alex Rodriguez, Mark Teixeira, Derek Jeter and Jorge Posada. If I had a vote I would have given it to Hamilton, but again, this is not a year where my favored guy not getting it would have been an atrocity.

As for these results: I think that both Joey Votto’s comfortable win yesterday and Hamilton’s today shows us that voters still think of the MVP award as very much a team award, not a purely individual one. Votto’s and Pujols’ years were virtually identical, but Votto’s overwhelming margin of victory was attributable to the fact that the Reds beat the Cardinals. Some voters came right out and said so.  I think a lot of that was at work here as well, with team results hurting Cabrera while helping Hamilton and Cano.

Which did not, it should be noted, lead to any sort of injustice this season.  But it has in the past when there weren’t as many obvious good choices on contenders, and could in the future. And that’s somewhat troubling to me.  I appreciate that there are multiple definitions of the word “valuable,” but how voters have come to view the team’s overall performance as having such significance to an award that we all appreciate is an individual award is baffling.

But let’s leave that battle for another day. Today we should (a) congratulate Josh Hamilton for his award; and (b) congratulate the BBWAA for — once again — doing what I feel was a pretty damn fine job on the awards voting.

Now, if we can only do something about those gold glove voters . . .

The day Giancarlo Stanton became a “True Yankee”

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Personally, I would’ve assumed that the day Giancarlo Stanton became a “True Yankee” was when the Yankees traded for him, thereby willingly incurring a legal obligation to pay him hundreds of millions of dollars and pencil him in the lineup until his knees fell off and, probably, for some time after. That, however, is not how things go with the New York Yankees.

The Yankees can trade for you, but that does not make you a “True Yankee.” They can sign you to a nine-figure deal in free agency, but your signature on the contract is not your “signature Yankee moment.” They can draft you, develop you for six years and play you for another three and you still may not have enough time and accomplishments under your belt to be anything other than, more or less, a probationary employee.

No, to be a “True Yankee” you have to be declared so by the media after doing something neat like hitting a big home run like Stanton did last night to lead the Yankees to victory over the Mariners. Until then — until you become the hero of a Wednesday night game in June, I guess — you’re suspect. After that, well . . .

And:


And:

Seeing these headlines and the many other stories and tweets with references to Stanton’s newfound “True Yankee”-dom makes me wonder when, say, Jonathan Villar, became a “True Brewer” or when Daniel Descalso will deliver his “Signature Diamondback Moment.” I’m sure someone will tell us.

Haha, just kidding. No other team does that. Probably because no other team likes to stoke its own mystique like the Yankees do. They have always done this to some degree — and given the franchise’s success, they are allowed a bit more leeway to boast than other ones are — but I blame George Steinbrenner for taking this to silly levels.

Big Stein was the first owner to really take advantage of free agency, but that also made him the first owner to stigmatize the players he signed as somehow owing the team more than any other player for their having accepted a big paycheck. For having to prove themselves in ways other players didn’t. He famously did this with Dave Winfield, contrasting him poorly with Reggie Jackson, who had proven himself in ways that made Steinbrenner happy. He never really did this with homegrown Yankees players. It was like a parent being partial to their natural child and cold to the adopted one.

Steinbrenner also built up the level of expectations for Yankees players — all of them — beyond reason. I think it was in the late 90s that he started up with that “anything less than a World Series title is failure” jazz. I question whether that was motivational to highly-trained and already motivated baseball players, but it was certainly good for building the Yankees brand. The idea that you’re not a “True Yankee” — which I seem to first remember being a sticking point with Jason Giambi — is a logical extension of that. While it may not be the best way to run an organization it is, as a matter of brand-building, pretty effective to portray your team as having higher expectations and something of an initiation period for its players. It’s a way of making fans feel like the club and the players they root for are a level above everyone else.

Of course, George Steinbrenner was George Steinbrenner, and being sorta crazy and sorta unfair and working overtime to build the Yankees brand was what made him The Boss. It was literally his job to do that kind of thing, so let’s not be too hard on him. I get why he did it that way.

I do wonder why, however, the media tasked with covering the Yankees has so eagerly taken up the job of Yankees brand-building like that. Wherever Big Stein is today, he’s likely beyond caring about things like money, but I bet he’s still probably pretty happy with all of the free P.R. work his team continues to get, long after he shuffled off this planet and became an immortal Yankee.

Wait. I’ve gotta talk to a trademark lawyer, stat.