Wednesday, November 22, 2006

A Player Named "Hard"

That's what it sound like if ya say his name fast.
For those of us who live in what the locals call "Hard Canny," we salute you RyinHard, 2006 NL MVP.
And major props to you, Canada's own Justin Morneau.

Now that we have our two semi-surprise MVPs (Howard and Morneau) of '06, it's time to rip apart their games ... to put them under the microscope andWAIT-A-SECOND! You can't put those guys under a microscope! That would require peeling off their flesh and placing onto the slide an examinable sample of those players' DNA makeup and molecular/enzyme interaction.
This is not the time to get all proton-oriented.

Big-Fly Ry edged out Phat Albert (or, if you like the super-queer tag which Berman invented ... "Winnie The Pujols") because, "neer iz ennywun kin figger," Ryan Howard put the Phillies on his back and carried the ballclub through late Aug. and early Sept.

'Round here, we like to think of these awards as the "Most Outstanding Player" or "Player of the Year" -- which is why we're still steamed that Don Mattingly's 1984 A.L. MVP was given to Willie Hernandez and his 1986 A.L. MVP was givenj to Roger Clemens (to its credit, The Sporting News made Donnie Baseball its Player of the Year for 1984, 1985 and 1986).
Once we open the Pandora's box which is what's "valuable" and whose OPS bags more women, well ... once you go there, girlfriend, the name-calling and switchblade-pullin' gets mighty intense, not to mention indiscriminate.

Admittedly, Howard might've had a better supporting cast with the table-setting Jimmy Rollins and Chase Utley, but, on the other hand, Howard DID have Pat Burrell hitting behind him (one of the most-one-dimensional hitters alive, despite his so-called "numbers").
Howard's 58 HRs, 149 RBI and .313 avg. were gigantic, maybe moreso when one considers that during the final two months of the season (58 games), Howard had 23 HRs, 62 RBI and a .365 avg.
For 96 percent of the baseball players in your baseball card collection, they would've killed for 23-62-.365 for an ENTIRE SEASON, not just two months.
Those whopper stats, luckily, obscured Ryan's insanely-high 181 strikeouts, although none of us who watched him closely will forget how during the final three weeks, Howard lost his bid for 60 homers when a potential grand slam which was grabbed at the wall by Andruw Jones and an opposite-field homer at Minute Maid Park which that little kid in the front row couldn't hold and dropped back onto the field, which caused the umps to call it a ground-rule double.
Farging bastages!

Comparing Howard to players in St. Loo, it's funny how the St. Louis infield of Pujols, Aaron Miles, David Eckstein -- each of whom had 426 ABs -- had 202 strikeouts in 1,982 ABs.
In many ways, batters who make consistent contact are more of a threat to an opposing pitcher than the big, fence-busting hackers, so no one can claim that Pujols didn't have a supporting cast.
Because he did.
The super-weird thing about the Cards was how Jason Marquis and Mark Mulder, in a combined 50 starts, teamed for a 20-23 record with an ERA of 6.38.
Ergo, St. Louis' "most-valuables" were Carpenter, Suppan and guys in middle relief who really clutched-up.

In the A.L., some of us had Joe Mauer penciled in as the sentimental favorite, mostly because he became the first catcher in A.L. history to win a batting title (with a .347 mark).
Sentimentality aside, Joe Mauer was probably "the best player."
It's difficult to emphasize to people the degree of difficulty in playing catcher ... and to play it better than batting .246 due to season-long wear n' tear.
Putting on the mask, chest protector and shin guards for nine innings on a sweltering night in Arlington or Baltimore ... and then still doing better at the plate than 1-Hit-Per-3-ABs ... that's frickin' insane, okay?

Something else: In the climate-controlled Metrodome, Mauer batted .335 -- on the road, he hit .359 (in more ABs ... and 10 of his 13 homers were away from the HomerDome).
Something else we like around here: Joe Mauer was 5-for-5 in stolen bases on the road.
(Pat Burrell has gone the past two seasons without attempting a stolen base .. which is exactly the kind of "athlete" you want out in left field ... a frickin' statue ...)

Ya can't say enough (ya can try, but it can't be done) about the St. Paul Stud who, in the eyes of many, should have been the Florida State QB in 2001-04 instead of Chris Rix, who replaced Heisman Trophy winner Chris Weinke (also a St. Paul native).

Just for fun, we explored Howard's home/away figures and it mapped out like this:
He batted less than .200 in five different stadiums (Fenway, Wrigley, Dodger Stadium, PNC Park in Pittsburgh, Rogers Centre in Toronto).
In the "However for Howard" quotient, he frickin' wore out the five teams in the NL East (the Braves, the Mets, the Marlins and the Nats). In 36 games in their home parks, Howard hit .391 with 13 HRs and 38 RBI.
That's sick, sick, sick.

In every statistical sense, Joe Mauer was The MLB's most-consistent player, start to finish, in baseball this past season season. In addition to being a freakish hittin' machine, Joe played (let's say it altogether) "cat-shurrr."
It's a just a guess, but Joe Mauer could play first base a lot better than Pujols or Howard could play catcher.

Morneau, meanwhile, ripped it up during the final four months (.352), but was kind of a brick during the first two months (.244).
He was good ... but not Joe Mauer good.
And, he didn't play catcher.

So, that's a wrap.
Ryan Howard and Joe Mauer were your Most Oustanding Players ...

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