Way too much is being made of the decision by the local chapter of the BBWAA to name Jason Bartlett the Rays’ MVP.
First it was the guys at Fire Joe Morgan taking exception to the vote.
“…if any baseball analyst of any kind tells me that “you really have to watch Jason Bartlett play every day to understand how much he means to this team,” and that same analyst is found drowned at the bottom of my hot tub the next morning, and I am found standing upon that corpse, in the hot tub…” [You get the idea]
Then Big League Stew challenges his readers to try an name the pictured MVP.
I honestly have no idea why the Tampa Bay baseball writers just named Monsieur Bartlett the Rays’ season MVP, well ahead of Evan Longoria and Carlos Pena.
Somebody even hoped it was an April Fools Joke (funny is following along in the comments on that link as the author arrogantly dismisses anybody that disagrees with his assertion that Bartlett is not in the top 10 MVPs for the Rays).
An argument can be made that other players are more deserving, but to completely discount the notion of Bartlett as MVP as a “joke” is indicative of somebody that is just not paying attention.
The single biggest reason the Rays have improved by 27 games in the win column (so far) is the ability of the team to prevent runs. In 2007, the Rays pitching staff allowed 944 runs. This season the Rays are on pace to give up 663 runs, a 281 run improvement.
While each pitcher contributed to the improvement, Bartlett contributed to the improvement of every pitcher. He was also the keystone to the improvement of the entire defense. Just as Troy Percival improved the entire bullpen by slotting the rest of the relievers into positions more suited for their talents, Bartlett solidified a defense that cost the Rays games in 2007. And Bartlett’s value is magnified having replaced a group that cost the Rays more runs than they prevented.
Evan Longoria and Carlos Pena have better offensive numbers and both play excellent defense. But, the Rays made it clear that if the team was to improve, they needed to be stronger up the middle. And that is what Bartlett brings to the team. Defense begins with the shortstop, catcher and center fielder. If those are weak, the entire defense is weak.
Bartlett would not have been our first choice for MVP. We would have voted for Dioner Navarro (the catcher in us may be biased), and Longoria, Pena and Upton deserve consideration. But Bartlett would be in our top 5 and we have no problem with anybody else that would do the same.