Yankees Derek Jeter, above, and Mariano Rivera, below, deserve accolades.
First, let’s get this straight. This ain’t no stinking lobby for some sort of lifetime achievement awards.
Yes, you could make a strong argument for Derek Jeter as the best shortstop ever, at least in the same conversation as Honus Wagner, a guy none of us ever saw, and the ultimate iron man, Cal Ripken. Jeter, of course, is now chasing down another iron man, another legendary Yankee captain, for most hits in team history.
And for Mariano Rivera there is no debate. He’s simply the best closer in baseball history, second on the all-time saves list with more than 500, and with an unbelievable post-season pedigree to boot.
But this isn’t a discussion about the best ever. No, we’re talking about Jeter for American League MVP and Rivera for the Cy Young Award, key performers on a Yankee team that is running away with the American League East and has the best record in baseball.
Great Year for Jeter
Jeter is having one of his finest years in a career full of stellar seasons. Sure, he’s hitting in the clutch as he always does, and is among the league leaders in batting, runs, and hits. And he’s also playing some of the best shortstop he’s shown in years.
Perhaps Jeter’s biggest competition will come from his own teammate, Mark Teixeira. The first baseman has fit in nicely in the Bronx, and leads the AL in RBIs and the Yankees in home runs.
The other major candidate, standout catcher Joe Mauer of the Twins, could stand to gain if scribes split their votes between Jeter and Teixeira. Mauer is leading the AL in batting, but Minnesota has fallen out of the pennant race.
On the Mariano case, conventional wisdom says that starters, not closers, win the Cy Young. Since A’s closer and Hall of Famer Dennis Eckersley won the Cy Young in 1992, the Dodgers Eric Gagne in 2003 is the only other reliever to win.
Other candidates for the AL Cy Young, all starters, include CC Sabathia of the Yankees, Justin Verlander of the Tigers and Zack Greinke of the Royals. Two others, Roy Halladay of the Blue Jays and Josh Beckett of the Red So,x have fallen behind in the race.
Relief Isn’t Spelled Cy Young
Relievers have won only 11 of 97 times the Cy Young has been awarded. A strong case can be made for Rivera winning the award in 2005, when he had 43 saves and a career low 1.38 ERA.
However Mo finished a distant second to Bartolo Colon, who won 21 games but benefitted by good run support by the Angels. Rivera has finished third in the Cy Young balloting on three other occasions.
Jeter twice has come close to winning an MVP. In 2006 he finished second to Justin Morneau of Minnesota and in 1998 he was third when Juan Gonzalez of Texas won the MVP. Both times Jeter’s teams finished with a better record than the eventual winners.
It goes without mentioning that Jeter and Rivera each own four World Series rings.
Now is time. Jeter for MVP. Rivera for Cy Young.