Anthopoulos: Bautista slam dunk for MVP

Blue Jays slugger Jose Bautista may deserve to win the AL MVP award, but playing in Canada on a...

Blue Jays slugger Jose Bautista may deserve to win the AL MVP award, but playing in Canada on a non-playoff team could hurt his chances. (Reuters)

STEVE BUFFERY, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 9:40 PM ET

TORONTO - So, is Blue Jays outfielder Jose Bautista this year’s AL MVP?

Alex Anthopoulos is biased, obviously. But the Jays’ GM believes that if the season ended right now, it would be no contest. Bautista wins.

“I don’t even think it’s close,” Anthopoulos told QMI Agency, prior to Wednesday’s game against the Kansas City Royals.

The way Anthopoulos sees it, Bautista brings much more to the table than just MVP stats — though his stats definitely are MVP-worthy.

“On and off the field you can’t find anybody more complete than him,” said the Jays’ second year GM. “His work ethic, community work, character in the clubhouse, helping out teammates, they’re all first-rate. And his performance on the field has been as good as it gets ... defensively, offensively, changing positions in the middle of the season. I mean, check off all the boxes.”

Stats-wise, there’s an argument to made that the numbers alone put Bautista, who hit a home run against the Royals Wednesday to tie the game 2-2 in the fourth inning, in driver’s seat. He leads the American League in five major offensive categories (prior to Wednesday’s game); home runs (36), walks (103), on-base percentage (.456), slugging percentage (.645) and on-base plus slugging (1.101). He’s also second in runs (91). The New York Yankees outfielder Curtis Granderson (first in runs and RBI), Boston infielder Adrian Gonzalez (first in average) and outfielder Jacoby Ellsbury are also gaining a lot of notice. (If Bautista should win, he would only be the second Blue Jay ever to win the award. George Bell won back 1987).

But here’s the kicker. While Anthopoulos and pretty well all of Bautista’s teammates believe their man is the ‘The Man’, there are some major obstacles for the Jays’ outfielder to overcome in his bid to win the AL MVP award, even if his numbers remain strong until the end of the season.

There’s the question of playing on a team that is not post-season bound. In the last 20 years, only two AL MVPs played on teams that did not qualify for the post-season, Alex Rodriquez of the Texas Rangers in 2003 and Cal Ripkin Jr. of the Baltimore Orioles in 1991.

That’s a pretty clear indication that the writers who vote on the award (the MVP Trophy is chosen by the Baseball Writers Association of America) tend to favour players on playoff-bound teams.

And there’s the question of playing in Canada.

There’s long been the theory that playing in Canada is a detriment to players in terms of getting their due recognition in the U.S.

“Unfortunately, I’d probably say yes,” said veteran Jays pitcher Casey Janssen, when asked if that theory holds water. “The coverage the Blue Jays get compared to other teams ... well, if Jose had a Yankee or Red Sox uniform on, would he be even more of a big name? Absolutely. And that’s too bad. But hopefully there comes a day when, again, the Blue Jays are the talk of baseball. And that’s what we’re building towards.”

Anthopoulos isn’t so sure that playing in Toronto will hurt Bautista’s chances of winning the MVP, pointing out that this season he set the all-time MLB record for the most all-star votes ever received by a single player, with 7,454,753 which surpassed the previous record of 6,069,688 set by Seattle’s Ken Griffey Jr. in 1994.

Besides Bell winning the MVP in 1987, Jays pitchers have also won four Cy Young Awards (Pat Hentgen, 1996, Roger Clemens in 1997 and 1998 and Roy Halladay in 2003). Players in Toronto can win major awards.

Still, there’s no disputing that players in New York and Boston get more attention than anywhere else in baseball, and three of the four supposed front-runners for this year’s AL MVP Award are playing in those markets. Bautista is not one of them.

But Anthopoulos is hopeful that, when all is said and done, the MVP Award will be selected purely on merit and not geography. And in his mind, Bautista, at this point of the season, is the MVP.

“We’re lucky to have him,” said Anthopoulos. “That’s probably the best way to put it.”

And, of course, it wouldn’t hurt the Jays, in terms of signing potential free agents, if players believe they can win major awards playing in Canada.

steve.buffery@sunmedia.ca

twitter @beezersun


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