Who should win the MVP Awards? And who will?

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With the regular season ending on Sunday and almost all of the playoff spots locked up, there’s really only one big thing left to argue about: postseason awards. Today and tomorrow we will spend some time looking at who should win each of the four major awards and who will win them. Which are often totally different things. First up: the MVP

Who should win the AL MVP Award

This is a two horse race between Josh Donaldson and Mike Trout. You can’t find anyone who knows a lick about baseball who seriously thinks anyone else is in the mix for actually winning the award, even if there are a handful of “[so-and-so] should be in the conversation” deadenders. Screw “the conversation.” I don’t care who should be given downballot consideration. If you’re a voter and your 1-2 isn’t Donaldson or Trout in either order your criteria is sorta wacky. Whether you’re a “the MVP should be the best player” person or whether you’re one of those people who like to parse the meaning of the world “valuable,” it’s hard to make a case for anyone but these two.

And it’s a close damn case. As of this moment Donaldson is hitting .300/.375/.577, with 41 HR, 123 RBI and an OPS+ of 158. Trout is hitting .299/.402/.589 with 41 HR, 89 RBI and an OPS+ of 176. Trout hits in a much tougher park and has almost no one worth a tinker’s damn surrounding him in the lineup, thus explaining the advantage in OPS+ and the low RBI totals. Donaldson is on the best offensive team since steroids went out of style and has had a lot of chances to knock in guys.

However, this is not one of those classic (and frankly tired) old arguments between a SABR-friendly candidate with low RBI totals in Trout and some lucky RBI-gobbler in Donaldson. Donaldson is no Juan Gonzalez here, people. Sure he’s had more opportunities do do damage, but when you dig down into other meaningful stats he closes the gap with Trout a good deal. Trout is a gold glove center fielder but Donaldson is a fantastic third baseman and some defensive metrics (i.e. UZR and Defensive Runs Saved) favor his overall contributions. He’s been a great baserunner this year too. Probably better than Trout actually in terms of efficiency, and that’s saying something.

As for softer factors? Josh Donaldson has hit a bunch of walkoffs. Trout has made some highlight reel catches, robbing homers. Donaldson is on the best player on the best team and many will claim — not altogether inaccurately — that he brought fire and drive and all of that stuff to a perpetually underperforming Jays team. Many will say — almost certainly accurately — that Trout has almost singlehandedly carried a pretty flawed Angels team to the doorstep of the playoffs. You can argue this stuff around and around.

All of which is to say that either guy is a good pick. We’ve had co-MVPs in the past before and this would be a great year to get them again. If I had to vote I’d probably say Trout — I trust the offensive metrics more than the defensive ones and he does have an edge there — but I’d feel really bad choosing one over the other. Thing is, there isn’t a bad choice or a clear choice here and if you come across people arguing on TV or radio shows or on the Internet that there is one and anyone who thinks otherwise is stupid, you’ve encountered either a homer or a hot take artist and that person should not be taken seriously. Flip a damn coin: heads you win, tails you win.

Who will win the AL MVP Award

I feel like Donaldson will win it for a few reasons. None of them fantastic reasons but, because he is deserving on the merits anyway, it won’t be a tragedy. Toronto is a better story this year than Anaheim. Trout is old news who won it last year. There are still some people who will look at the RBI totals as a conversation-ender. There are still some people who like the “best player on the best team” stuff and they’ll be especially emboldened if the Angels fall short of the Wild Card. And I still think there are people angry about past Trout-Cabrera MVP arguments that were really referenda on sabermetrics and they’ll take some satisfaction in picking a candidate other than Trout.

Who should win the NL MVP Award

Bryce Harper.

Who will win the NL MVP Award

Bryce Harper.

Sorry if that’s rather curt, but really, no one is even in the conversation. Harper is hitting .331/.463/.649 with 41 HR 96 RBI and an OPS+ of 196. He’s tied for the lead league in batting. He’s tied for the league lead in OBP. He has nearly 100 points of slugging on everyone else.

Those are stupid numbers to which no one else compares be they on a good team or a bad team. And the two who come closest to him in sheer offensive numbers — Joey Votto and Paul Goldschmidt, and they aren’t terribly close in some categories — play on bad teams, nullifying any of that “what does ‘valuable’ really mean?” claptrap. The best position players on contenders — Anthony Rizzo and Andrew McCutchen — are really far off Harper’s pace. Like, 200 points of OPS off his pace. That’s an awful lot.

We give the MVP to Bryce Harper for the same reason that we used to give to Barry Bonds even if the Giants missed the playoffs: he’s just way better than anyone else and, even if you think the guy is a jerk for some reason, it’s not worth spraining your brain to make the argument to the contrary.

Marlins clinch 1st playoff berth since 2003, beat Yanks 4-3

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NEW YORK (AP) Forced from the field by COVID-19, the Miami Marlins returned with enough force to reach the playoffs for the first time since their 2003 championship.

An NL-worst 57-105 a year ago, they sealed the improbable berth on the field of the team that Miami CEO Derek Jeter and manager Don Mattingly once captained.

“I think this is a good lesson for everyone. It really goes back to the players believing,” Mattingly said Friday night after a 4-3, 10-inning win over the New York Yankees.

Miami will start the playoffs on the road Wednesday, its first postseason game since winning the 2003 World Series as the Florida Marlins, capped by a Game 6 victory in the Bronx over Jeter and his New York teammates at the previous version of Yankee Stadium.

“We play loose. We got nothing to lose. We’re playing with house money.,” said Brandon Kintzler, who got DJ LeMahieu to ground into a game-ending double play with the bases loaded after Jesus Aguilar hit a sacrifice fly in the top of the 10th. “We are a dangerous team. And we really don’t care if anyone says we’re overachievers.”

Miami (30-28), second behind Atlanta in the NL East, became the first team to make the playoffs in the year following a 100-loss season. The Marlins achieved the feat despite being beset by a virus outbreak early this season that prevented them from playing for more than a week.

After the final out, Marlins players ran onto the field, formed a line and exchanged non socially-distant hugs, then posed for photos across the mound.

“I can’t contain the tears, because it’s a lot of grind, a lot of passion,” shortstop Miguel Rojas said. “It wasn’t just the virus. Last year we lost 100 games. But we came out this year with the hope everything was going to be better. When we had the outbreak, the guys who got an opportunity to help the organization, thank you for everything you did.”

Miami was one of baseball’s great doubts at the start of the most shortened season since 1878, forced off the field when 18 players tested positive for COVID-19 following the opening series in Philadelphia.

“Yeah, we’ve been through a lot. Other teams have been through a lot, too,” Mattingly said “This just not a been a great situation. It’s just good to be able to put the game back on the map.”

New York (32-26) had already wrapped up a playoff spot but has lost four of five following a 10-game winning streak and is assured of starting the playoffs on the road. Toronto clinched a berth by beating the Yankees on Thursday.

“I don’t like any time somebody celebrates on our field or if we’re at somebody else’s place and they celebrate on their field,” Yankees star Aaron Judge said. “I’m seeing that too much.”

Mattingly captained the Yankees from 1991-95 and is in his fifth season managing the Marlins, Jeter captained the Yankees from 2003-14 as part of a career that included five World Series titles in 20 seasons and is part of the group headed by Bruce Sherman that bought the Marlins in October 2017.

Garrett Cooper, traded to the Marlins by the Yankees after the 2017 season, hit a three-run homer in the first inning off J.A. Happ.

After the Yankees tied it on Aaron Hicks‘ two-run double off Sandy Alcantara in the third and Judge’s RBI single off Yimi Garcia in the eighth following an error by the pitcher on a pickoff throw, the Marlins regained the lead with an unearned run in the 10th against Chad Green (3-3).

Jon Berti sacrificed pinch-runner Monte Harrison to third and, with the infield in, Starling Marte grounded to shortstop. Gleyber Torres ran at Harrison and threw to the plate, and catcher Kyle Higashioka‘s throw to third hit Harrison in the back, giving the Yankees a four-error night for the second time in three games.

With runners at second and third, Aguilar hit a sacrifice fly.

Brad Boxberger (1-0) walked his leadoff batter in the ninth but got Luke Voit to ground into a double play, and Kintzler held on for his 12th save in 14 chances.

Miami ended the second-longest postseason drought in the majors – the Seattle Mariners have been absent since 2001.

Miami returned Aug. 4 following an eight-day layoff with reinforcements from its alternate training site, the trade market and the waiver wire to replace the 18 players on the injured list and won its first five games.

“We’re just starting,” said Alcantara, who handed a 3-2 lead to his bullpen in the eighth. “We’ve got to keep doing what we’re doing.”

TOSSED

Yankees manager Aaron Boone was ejected for arguing from the dugout in the first inning. Plate umpire John Tumpane called out Judge on a full-count slider that appeared to drop well below the knees and Boone argued during the next pitch, to Hicks, then was ejected. Television microphones caught several of Boone’s profane shouts.

“Reacting to a terrible call and then following it up,” Boone said. “Obviously, we see Aaron get called a lot on some bad ones down.”

ODD

Pinch-runner Michael Tauchman stole second base in the eighth following a leadoff single by Gary Sanchez but was sent back to first because Tumpane interfered with the throw by catcher Chad Wallach. Clint Frazier struck out on the next pitch and snapped his bat over a leg.

SLOPPY

New York took the major league lead with 47 errors. Sanchez was called for catcher’s interference for the third time in five days and fourth time this month.

REMEMBERING

Mattingly thought of Jose Fernandez, the former Marlins All-Star pitcher who died four years earlier to the night at age 24 while piloting a boat that crashed. An investigation found he was legally drunk and had cocaine in his system. The night also marked the sixth anniversary of Jeter’s final game at Yankee Stadium.

UP NEXT

RHP Deivi Garcia (2-2, 4.88) starts Saturday for the Yankees and LHP Trevor Rogers (1-2, 6.84) for the Marlins. Garcia will be making the sixth start of his rookie season.