The line on Tigers outfielder Magglio Ordonez was that, in any other year, he would have been the winner of the American League MVP Award. But two Detroit-area writers asked the question: Why not this year?
Sure, Alex Rodriguez had the hype -- and now he has the MVP Award to go with it. But in the minds of Jim Hawkins of the Oakland Press in Pontiac, Mich., and Tom Gage of the Detroit News, Ordonez had the numbers worthy of recognition. Hawkins and Gage were the only two members of the Baseball Writers Association of America to cast a vote for someone other than A-Rod in the MVP race, and they both went with Ordonez. "I saw Magglio play every day," Hawkins said. "What I saw was a player having an MVP year. I have no quarrel with anyone who voted for A-Rod. He also had an MVP year. But with the injuries the Tigers had and the effort and performance I saw from Magglio, there's no question he had an MVP year." Gage uttered much the same belief. "I went with what I saw," he said. "So many times, you have to vote off the stat sheet. I fully expected A Rod to win. He had a great year. But I saw an MVP year. There were stats to back up the impression that I came away with from the regular season." The stat that most appealed to Gage and Hawkins was average with runners in scoring position. Ordonez had the best such mark in the AL with a .429 average that was nearly 100 points higher than Rodriguez's .333 average. Ordonez also won the AL batting title with a .363 mark that bested Rodriguez's .314. The rest of the voters, meanwhile, were especially enamored with Rodriguez's superior numbers in the home run (54 to Ordonez's 28) and RBI (156 to Ordonez's 139) departments. "Home runs are a glamour stat," said Gage, who has been a BBWAA member for 30 years. "Home runs and RBIs grab everybody's attention, but why isn't it equally impressive that Magglio had a .363 batting average -- the highest by a Tiger since Norm Cash in 1961?" Hawkins first became a member of the BBWAA in 1970. And since that time, he's always put particular stock into the true essence of the award -- a players' value to his club. "You have to ask yourself where the Yankees would have finished without A-Rod and where the Tigers would have finished without Ordonez," Hawkins said. "A-Rod had a better supporting cast than Magglio did. I know for a fact the Tigers would not have been anywhere close and certainly not in Wild Card contention without Magglio." The Tigers, who were the defending AL champs in 2007, finished eight games behind the Indians in the AL Central and six games behind the Yanks in the Wild Card chase. Throughout a tumultuous year, Ordonez was a model of consistency for Detroit. "Frankly, I'm surprised the election was not closer," Hawkins said. "I'm not surprised A-Rod won, but I was a little shocked to see that four writers placed Magglio third." Hawkins wasn't as surprised to receive backlash for his ballot. "I just counted it up," he said less than three hours after the voting had been announced, "and as of a few minutes ago, I had gotten 30-some e-mails. All but two or three of them said, 'You're an idiot.'" Gage also knew people would call him out for being a "homer." But to that, he offers his heartfelt dissent. "If there's any integrity in the vote, you can't vote for selfish reasons," he said. "That just doesn't enter into it. I expected a lot of calls. But [Ordonez had] the finest season I've ever seen a Tiger have since I've covered baseball. I don't take these things lightly. Knew what the response and accusations would be, but I voted for the player who I feel deserved it."
Anthony Castrovince is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.