Derek Jeter and the Hank Aaron Award
Tonight, Derek Jeter received the Hank Aaron award for the “top offensive player” in the American League. Derek Jeter is a great baseball player. He batted .334 this season, with 18 home runs and 66 RBIs. If you’re into OBP and slugging percentage, he rocked .406 (not bad!) and .465 (pretty good!). Also, his team won 103 games. That’s excellent!
He was not, however, the best offensive player in the American League.
Joe Mauer, the catcher for the Minnesota Twins, led the American League in batting average. He hit .365. (That’s excellent!) If you like OBP, he got on base at a .444 clip (Wow!), also to lead the AL. And slugging? His .587 clip beat all comers (Golly!). Not only that, he put together impressive numbers for homers (28) and RBI (96). Notice what all these numbers have in common? No, not that they’re awesome (But they are!). They’re all better than Jeter’s.
Every. Single. One of them.
Let that sink in for a second. This award isn’t like the MVP, the “valuable” condition of which lends itself to interpretation. But maybe Dude X made the clubhouse better! No; this award is for offense. Nor is it like the Hall of Fame, which encourages voters to include character-related factors in the vote. Albert Belle was a poophead, and I’m not going to vote for him! None of that here. You could kick your dog in public and you’d still be eligible for this trophy. It’s all about how offensive you are.
(Chase Utley just hit a home run; huzzah!)
Before I got on a tear here, one more time: Jeter is a great baseball player. But he’s not the offensive player Joe Mauer is. Nor is he the defensive player, but that’s not important at the moment… unless it is. Mauer will win the MVP award; the Twins sneaking into the playoffs basically clinched that. Maybe the voters wanted to recognize Jeter somehow, and, realizing that his long-suffering efforts to win an MVP (When will he be recognized for his contributions? It’s like no one ever talks about him) were going to fall short yet again, decided to give him a lesser trophy. Well I’ve got bad news: giving out hardware to those who don’t deserve it devalues the hardware itself, the name associated with it, and the game they’re playing. There are times when legitimate disagreements can be had about a hitter’s value; this is not one of them. By giving Jeter an award he did not earn, the voters have devalued the award. Derek Jeter’s greatness is secure without changing the rules for him. Let’s let the story be the story, and not try to write a new one to serve our own ends.*
* And as we, the fans, voted on this, I’m talking to you.