I don’t even think it’s up for debate. David Ortiz is the most valuable player in all of Major League Baseball.
That, obviously, would make him my choice for American League MVP.
Full disclosure: Ortiz’ retirement at the end of this season is going to hit me pretty hard, when it actually hits me. Perhaps that won’t be until next season, when I’m watching the Red Sox on Opening Day and wondering why the hell Big Papi isn’t in the lineup.
Still, my choice for Ortiz as the AL MVP has no sentimental value. It’s strictly based on the numbers, the eye test, and the answer to a very important question.
Who else would you rather have in your lineup?
I get it. Designated hitters don’t receive MVP awards. To some, historically, a DH’s value takes a hit because he doesn’t play the field. And in the case of Ortiz, that value might take an even larger hit because of his lack of speed on the base paths.
That’s not to say Ortiz is the slowest guy in the league. He’s not. And he’s certainly not lacking anything between the ears when it comes to his base-running IQ. But let’s face it, he’s no Mookie Betts.
Betts leads the Red Sox with 26 stolen bags, and entering Thursday night’s game in the Bronx, his team-high 119 runs scored trailed only Mike Trout (123), Josh Donaldson (122), and Kris Bryant (120) in all of baseball. Combine that with what he does in right field, it will be argued that Betts has more value than Ortiz.
Both players are having tremendous offensive seasons. Ortiz’ 37 home runs, 124 RBI, .401 on-base percentage and 1.023 OPS leads the Red Sox. Not too shabby either is his .316 bating average.
Betts has a .320 batting average, 31 home runs, 112 RBI, a .365 OBP, and a .903 OPS. He began the season as the team’s lead-off hitter, but his home-run power pushed manager John Farrell to put him in the clean-up spot, where he is now — behind Ortiz.
Unfortunately, for Betts, Ortiz isn’t the only other Red Sox player who could see some AL MVP votes. Dustin Pedroia and his .319 batting average will also get consideration. And if you really wanted to get nuts, you could think about the impact Hanley Ramirez has had with his 110 RBI that ranks sixth in the majors. It all makes Xander Bogaerts’ season look pedestrian with 20 homers, 88 RBI, and a .295 batting average. That’s how good this Red Sox lineup is.
But if you took every hitter in the American League and lined them up against a wall — heck, line up every hitter in Major League Baseball, this season, who would be your first pick?
I can tell you this much. I’m not taking anybody over Ortiz. Not this year, at least. What Ortiz provides as the No. 3 hitter in the Red Sox lineup this season is just too valuable to pass up.
Give me one pitcher who wants to pitch to Ortiz. You can’t.
Give me one pitcher who wants to see Ortiz stick around for one more season. You can’t.
Sure, Betts drove in two huge runs on Wednesday night against the Yankees with bases loaded. But who was intentionally walked to get to Betts?
Ortiz’ hands seem as quick as ever before. His bat speed certainly hasn’t slowed down. His power at the plate is still on display. And he’s as locked in as anyone could possibly be.
You shouldn’t make Ortiz the MVP just because this is his final season. But you can’t ignore the fact that his farewell tour has brought out the very best in the guy.
Ortiz wants to go out on top. And he’s been swinging the bat like it all season long. Sure, he doesn’t play the field, and he’s not the guy to steal you a base in a big spot late in a playoff game. But his dominant offensive numbers this season, combined with the motivation to go out on top, makes him the most dangerous hitter in Major League Baseball.
For that, this season, there’s nobody more valuable than Ortiz. And I don’t even think it’s up for debate.