Saturday, October 30, 2004

Foulke Hero, or Manny of the Hour?

For a while in the late nineties, before he became the exclusive property of ESPN, Peter Gammons and the baseball column he wrote in the Sunday Globe was the closest thing I had to a religion. It is therefore with no small reluctance that I must respectfully disagree with the following declaration in his latest column:"If Major League Baseball actually took such things seriously, Foulke would have been the MVP of the World Series."

Gammons is not alone in this opinion, and it's easy to understand why so many Sox fans share it. The most obvious difference between the Yankees and the Sox the past five years (for that matter, between the Yankees and the rest of baseball) has been Mariano Rivera. Further, it was the conspicuous lack of someone like Rivera in the Sox bullpen last year that set the stage for Gradygate. Foulke out-Rivera'd Rivera in the LCS, the reasoning goes, and since he got the last out in all four games of the Series sweep, he should be MVP.

Look, I'm really impressed with what Foulke did against the Yankees, and I agree with Gammons that Foulke was even better than expected this October. But the World Series MVP doesn't have anything to do with the previous round, and it doesn't have anything to do with expectations. Foulke pitched five innings in the World Series, earning a win and a save. He would have had a save instead of a win in Game One with reasonable defense behind him. He protected four-run leads in Games Two and Three, and a three-run lead in Game Four. This is not negligible; I'm not saying Calvin Schiraldi or Chad Fox could have done it. But it wouldn't have taken Mariano Rivera to do it, either.

Manny Ramirez didn't dazzle us during the Series by lashing homers in Beltranesque fashion on a daily basis. He did, however, lead the team in slugging and OPS. He was part of a three-way tie for the team lead in RBI. It might be a little foolish to talk about a "turning point" in a sweep, but if there was one, it was the first inning Manny had in Game Three. Slugging a homer in the top of the inning and cutting down a runner at the plate in the bottom of the inning indicated that the Cardinals, previously unbeaten at home in the postseason, would need more than the toasted ravioli version of Mystique and Aura to save them.

There have been some questionable World Series MVP choices in the past; it boggles my chips-'n'-salsa craving mind that Livan Hernandez was deemed more valuable than Moises Alou in 1997, for example. The 2004 World Series did not present a clear-cut choice. There were many solid contributions, and no spectacular ones. The writers had to pick someone, though, and I think that on this occasion they got it right.


At 9:14 AM, Blogger adenzeno said...

I thought that Larry Walker should have gotten it.


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