American MVP: Jeter or Ortiz?

Point – Counterpoint

Derek Jeter, New York Yankees

Love ’em or hate ’em, the New York Yankees’ contention for the World Series is almost as surefire as my housemate’s inability to lock down a Saturday night date.

With a $200 million payroll and eight consecutive AL East Division titles under their belt, how can one expect any less from this squad?

But regardless of these facts, only one Yankee, Alex Rodriguez, has captured the AL MVP title in the last 20 years. Until last year, the superstardom of the Yankee whole has overshadowed the individual accomplishments of its players.

2006 will continue the reversal of the MVP curse on Yankee sluggers, as Derek Jeter becomes Major League Baseball’s next American League MVP.

It’s no stretch of the imagination to say that Derek Jeter carried the Yankees this season to a title-clinching lead over the Boston Red Sox in the AL East.

The Yankees experienced crippling injuries earlier in the year, losing Hideki Matsui for four months and Gary Sheffield for more than half the season.

Without a doubt, the turning point for the Yankees this year was their five-game sweep over the Red Sox on the road at Fenway Park.

In the five-game set Jeter had the game-winning hit in game two and the game-tying hit in game four, which came with two outs in the bottom of the ninth.

Statistically, Jeter is no slouch when compared to any of the top contenders for the AL MVP. At present Jeter is flirting with a .340 batting average (3rd in MLB) and is on pace to drive in over 100 RBIs for the first time since 1999.

His .414 on base percentage is dangerous to any team attempting to pitch around him, as he has stolen a career high 32 bases while being thrown out on only three occasions.

Jeter’s defensive play and consistent ability to perform in the New York spotlight is what distinguishes him from other MVP candidates.

He consistently performs in clutch situations, batting almost .391 with runners in scoring position, .455 with the bases loaded and .366 when leading off an inning. The New York faithful have yet to turn on the 32-year-old shortstop and have instead jumped on the horse’s back, riding him to the second best record in baseball.

As far as I’m concerned, Derek Jeter is overdue for the AL MVP title and 2006 will represent the culmination of his career’s successes.

— James Theuerle

David Ortiz, Boston Red Sox

With another MLB season coming to a close, whispers of MVP, Cy Young and Rookie of the Year candidates have been popping up. However, it’s safe to say that this season’s most interesting and exciting competition is the chase for American League’s most valuable player.

Of course, the two names that come to any baseball fan’s mind are Boston Red Sox’ David Ortiz and the Yankees’ Derek Jeter. Only one player can win it, so who should it be? The answer is clearly David Ortiz.

Ortiz has had another monster season with the Red Sox, helping to keep Boston in the playoff race until late August when the team was marred by injuries of all sorts, including Ortiz’s heart problems.

Despite the setbacks, Ortiz continued his tear and now sits at a slick 50 homeruns and 130 RBIs.

While Jeter may hold a 57-point edge in batting average, Ortiz still scores as many runs and gets on base as much as Jeter. Pretty impressive for a clean-up hitter, especially considering that Jeter is the Yanks’ number two batter.

Finally, I have to admit that I agree with Ortiz’s infamous statement about Jeter a few weeks ago to the New York media: “Don’t misinterpret me. He is a great player and is having a great year, but there are lots of good players in that team. From top to bottom, they have guys that can hurt you. Let’s bring him here so he can show us how good he is.” Sure, Ortiz is probably being a little harsh. But he does have a point. Look at some of the players on the Yankees lineup: A-Rod, Johnny Damon, Jason Giambi, Hideki Matsui. With only the help of Manny Ramirez, Ortiz had to carry the offensive load at Fenway Park by himself.

Bottom line, Ortiz is batting .283 and leads the league in home runs and RBI. He’s second in walks (107), third in OPS (1,031) and slugging (.625), fourth in runs scored (107) and seventh in on-base percentage (.405).

Even more interesting, at press time, the Dominican designated hitter tied Jimmie Foxx’s 68-year-old franchise record for home runs in a single year. Given that ten games remain, Ortiz should own the title all to himself before season’s end. If these aren’t AL MVP stats, then something is wrong with the system.

— Rohit Aiyer

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