TORONTO – Jose Bautista doesn’t think starting pitchers should qualify for MVP awards.
The Toronto Blue Jays slugger spoke out after Detroit Tigers ace Justin Verlander took the American League MVP award on Monday ahead of Boston’s Jacoby Ellsbury and Bautista.
“There’s nothing in the criteria that says a pitcher cannot receive the award,” said Bautista on a conference call. “But at the same time, there’s a couple of items that should eliminate a pitcher from receiving the award from the get go.”
In particular, Bautista was critical of the amount of time starting pitchers play compared to fielders who are in the lineup on a daily basis.
“When one of the first items in the criteria for the MVP award states that the player should be on the field for the most amount of games for their own particular team and knowing that us position players have to be out there 150 plus times over … I don’t know, 30, 32, 33 times that a pitcher has to go out there, in my eyes that’s pretty much an elimination right there,” said Bautista.
Verlander received 13 of 28 first-place votes and 280 points in voting announced by the Baseball Writers’ Association of America.
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Ellsbury came second with four firsts and 242 points, followed by Bautista with five firsts and 231 points.
“It doesn’t make a difference to me if Verlander of Ellsbury wins,” said Bautista. “The bottom line is that I wasn’t chosen but, at the same time, I know that he (Verlander) had a great season and I feel excited for him, that he was able to get the award. Congratulations to him.
Added Bautista: “I’m not knocking on Verlander or the year that he had.”
Verlander is the first starting pitcher to win an MVP in 27 years. He was given the Cy Young Award as the league’s best pitcher on Nov. 15 after winning 24 games in 34 starts with a 2.40 earned-run average and 250 strikeouts.
He also threw a no-hitter in Toronto on May 7.
Bautista wasn’t alone in his criticism of a pitcher winning the MVP.
Jim Ingraham of The Herald-News in Ohio did not have Verlander on his ballot. Sheldon Ocker of the Akron Beacon Journal voted Verlander eighth.
Ingraham thinks pitchers should not be eligible for MVP awards.
“I’d wrestled with this for a long time. If I was ever going to vote for pitcher for MVP, it would be him this year,” said Ingraham, who was one of Bautista’s first-place votes. “He hasn’t appeared in 79 per cent of their games, any starting pitcher really doesn’t appear in 79 per cent of his team’s games in a year.”
Ingraham compared baseball’s MVP to other sports to underscore his point.
“Would you vote for an NFL quarterback for MVP if he only appeared in three of his team’s 16 games, which would be 21 per cent? So that’s part of it,” Ingraham said to The Associated Press. “Another part of it is I think they’re apples and oranges. The guys that are in there every day, there’s a grind to a season that a starting pitcher doesn’t, I don’t think, experience the way the everyday position players do playing 150, 160 games.”
Other pitchers to win MVP and Cy Young in the same year were Brooklyn’s Don Newcombe (1956), Los Angeles’ Sandy Koufax (1963), St. Louis’ Bob Gibson and Detroit’s Denny McLain (1968), Oakland’s Vida Blue (1971) , Milwaukee’s Rollie Fingers (1981) and Detroit’s Willie Hernandez (1984).
Bautista won the AL’s Hank Aaron Award as the league’s best offensive player and a Silver Slugger as the best hitter at his position. He finished 2011 with a .302 batting average, 43 home runs and 103 RBIs.
The 31-year-old Jays slugger was the only player who earned a vote that was not on a team in the playoff picture in October.
“I don’t see how only guys that are on playoff-bound teams should be considered for the award,” said Bautista. “The name of the award is ‘MVP’ not ‘MVP for playoff’ teams, but, that’s just the way I look at it.”
Despite his obvious disappointment, Bautista tried to keep the MVP snub in perspective.
“I play the game to win on a daily basis and hopefully accumulate enough Ws at the end of the year to get into the playoffs and win the World Series,” said Bautista. “I don’t put on a uniform that says ‘Blue Jays’ on the front on a daily basis to garner personal accolades, that’s not what I’m about.
“Even though they’re nice – it’s nice to be recognized by the league and by the writers – it’s not what I go out on the field every day for.”
With files from The Associated Press.