As baseball season has opened with exciting games and a surprising amount of offense, I've been playing catch-up on all the "preview" columns and magazines. I love to see which teams experts and writers are picking to win it all and which players they have taking him individual awards. This year, I have noticed a very interesting trend in regard to the American League MVP Award. Namely, that people are making some very surprising picks.
The Cleveland Indians host a plethora of sudden MVP candidates among their young stars, most noticeably do-it-all outfielder Grady Sizemore. The A's are being hailed as a World Series contender and many pundits have latched on to Oakland shortstop Bobby Crosby as an MVP candidate to boot. No less authorities on the game than Peter Gammons, Jayson Stark, and Harold Reynolds have all predicted MVP hardware for Crosby.
On some level, these "reach" picks make sense. One reason is that everybody loves to pick a sleeper. It is the reason that you see people try to guess the upsets in the NCAA Tournament. It is more fun to be right about George Mason reaching the Final Four than it is to correctly pick UCLA to play in the title game. It is natural to see "creative" predictions, because being right is a lot more impressive when you are coming out of left field.
However, with the American League, I think it goes deeper than that. The prime candidates are Vlad Guerrero (injury concerns), A-Rod (unlikable and a boring choice since he won last year and in 2003), David Ortiz (still limited by his DH position), and Manny Ramirez (clearly insane). None of these players are appealing choices, so the desire to take a shot on someone fresh and exciting is even more appealing.
While it might make sense to cast your lot with a guy like Sizemore or Crosby, Is there any historical precedent for predicting a second or third-year player to win the AL MVP? Let's take a look at the last 10 winners and see what recent history tells us about the award. Where any of these winners young breakout stars?
1996 - Juan Gonzalez, OF, Texas Rangers. Juan Gone won the award in his sixth full season and already posted seasons of 43 and 46 home runs and in 1993 hit .310 with 46 home runs and 118 RBI.