Let’s make one thing very clear here: we all know that Wanda Durant is both the American League and National League MVP this year and forever. All individuals discussed hereafter only differentiate themselves by the fact that they’re actually professional baseball players or whatever.
A player’s value is best seen and should be measured by its impact on his team’s performance. Colin Cowherd and others hit it right on the head every time they argue that LeBron should be the NBA MVP every season. Obviously he’s an incredibly talented player, but how valuable is a player if he can’t inspire and lead his team to success? LeBron has certainly been surrounded by talented players for most of his career, but guys like Erik Spoelstra and Ty Lue have the easiest job in sports when the King is on the court.
The same should be said in baseball. It goes without saying that comparing football to baseball is a waste of time, but teams are teams.
None of us want the Yankees to succeed. There’s nothing fun about saying “Yankees win.” However, it’s pretty hard to cheer against Bunyan incarnate Aaron Judge. His first half was about as surprising as a bulldog playing the cello (one of my craziest and, yes, most exciting dreams), and it’s brought the Yankees to a place we didn’t expect them to be for another few years.
We knew at the end of last year that the group of Gary Sánchez, Tyler Austin, Greg Bird, and Judge would certainly bring the Yankees where they wanted to be, we just didn’t expect it to happen this quickly or organically. Can you imagine what they’ll do when they sign Bryce Harper after next season? (Don’t deny it. It’s going to happen and you’re gonna be pissed.) Sánchez has stayed solid after his own fast start after his MLB debut, but it’s Judge’s explosion this year that has made all the difference. He’s a lock for AL Rookie of the Year, and a real contender for MVP.
More than a few have made the case that Chris Sale is the hands-down AL MVP as he continues to post one of the most dominant pitching seasons we’ve ever seen. He’s posting a 2.57 ERA with a 14-4 record and an insane 7.90 strikeout/walk ratio. The most impressive part? That left arm he borrowed from Jack Skellington stays attached, despite the insane amount of whip he puts on it.
Yes, Sale is putting up one of the most impressive seasons to date, particularly for a Red Sox pitcher, but the net gain on his team has yet to be fully measured. Obviously, a guy who only takes the field once every five games can only truly affect 20% of games, but how is Sale affecting the clubhouse? They currently lead the AL East with a slim lead over New York and are looking like a playoff team. Sale can go ahead and take the Cy Young award home, but has his presence been a bigger boost to Boston than Judge’s to New York?
And let’s not forget about reigning AL MVP Mike Trout. Despite missing six weeks, he’s posted 5.1 WAR and his team is in Wild Card contention. His performance over the past two nights against Seattle has (much to my chagrin) shown us all that he hasn’t missed a beat. Trout is barely old enough to rent a car for a decent price and he’s already a lock for the Hall of Fame, but his MVP chances this year hinge heavily on the Halos’ performance down the stretch. Watching this guy play is always a treat, so things could be pretty dang exciting (bulldog playing a cello exciting, that is).
If we switch our view to the National League, it looks like it’s about time we recognize a guy who continues to fly under the radar but simply can’t be ignored anymore. Paul Goldschmidt is doing things we haven’t seen since Joey Votto played like 12 hours ago, but his team is on fire this year. Goldschmidt has been consistently golden throughout his entire career. His 91 RBI and high average paired with an insane OBP show just how complete of a guy he is offensively, and we haven’t even touched his defensive prowess.
Goldy’s lack of recognition is 100% due to playing in a non-major media market, and that’s a true first-world tragedy.
Nolan Arenado has put up some MVP-caliber offensive numbers over the past three seasons, particularly in RBIs (he drove in 133 last year and already has 100 this season), but has found himself on a struggling Colorado squad that is taking full advantage of the offense-friendly vacuum in which it lives. He’s currently hitting .315, a great improvement over an already great .294 from 2016, but he lacks the consistency of all-around game of Goldschmidt. Goldy has 12 stolen bases on the year, and HE’S A FIRST BASEMAN. First basemen run about as much as the dad at the neighborhood BBQ who plays all-time QB for the kids’ football game. He never puts down his drink.
Perhaps a better contender is found in everyone’s favorite spaz, Bryce Harper. He currently sits at a .327 average with a .420 OBP, and certainly fires up his team. The Nationals currently lead the NL East, which looks like it borrowed some players from some local high schools this year (except for Giancarlo Stanton, he’s pretty decent). The MVP voting happens before the postseason occurs, but Harper’s value to his team will show the most in the postseason. If he can lead them deeper into the playoffs, we’ll see his leadership shine through.
Even then, Goldschmidt has shown his value time and time again. If you’re looking for your NL MVP, look no further.