The biggest story of the 2016 MLB season has been the swan song of baseball legend, and icon, David Ortiz. David "Big Papi" Ortiz is 40 years old, and still one-hundred percent in the race for AL MVP, one of the few accolades the slugger has yet to win in his illustrious career. While some people may be more inclined to give it to him purely based off the facts that it is his last season, he is putting up monster numbers at 40 years old, and he has never won it before, several other players will certainly give him a run for his money. There are about five players that I believe will be a problem for Ortiz, but let's dig into the top three of them.
We've all known that Jose Altuve is one of the best in the game for a few years now, but prior to 2016, we probably never would have thought he would be in the MVP discussion. With his added power in 2016 (Previous HR career high was 15 in 2015), there is literally nothing that Jose Altuve can't do on a baseball field. There is almost no pitch Jose cannot hit, almost no ball Jose cannot field, and almost no base Jose cannot steal, but is he MVP worthy? Altuve ranks third in the league in WAR (Behind Mike Trout and Mookie Betts), leads the AL in batting average and hits, is fourth in the AL in doubles, eighth in runs and RBI, second in steals, third in on-base percentage, seventh in slugging percentage, and fourth in OPS. Altuve certainly has a strong case for the award, with MVP caliber numbers and with his team still in the thick of the playoff hunt, but let's move on to the next candidate.
The perennial MVP candidate Mike Trout is back at it again, and for the 5th straight season could finish as one of the top three MVP finalists. Trout is having his best season since his ROY winning 2012 season, and leads the MLB in WAR despite the fact that his team is just 63-79. As it seems like it always is, Trout's achilles heal in the MVP voting will likely be that he is on a non-contender. Whether you agree with the voters reasoning or not, the real reason Trout has only won one MVP is because the Angels have held him back by making it to the playoffs only one time during his career (which was coincidentally the same year he won the MVP).
The number one roadblock for David Ortiz winning his first MVP award could be none other than his own teammate, Mookie Betts. Betts broke out towards the end of last year, and he has continued that in 2016 in a far better bigger and better way than any of us imagined. Betts is second in all of baseball in WAR, ranks second in the AL in hits, fourth in the AL in runs, second in doubles, sixteenth in homeruns, fourth in RBI, sixth in steals, seventh in batting average, eighth in SLG, and ninth in OPS. While Altuve ranks higher in most of these categories than Betts, the fact that Mookie is on a team that could potentially win the AL East could garner him more votes than Altuve.
Finally, we dig into the one and only David Ortiz. Ortiz is having an age defying, incredible season, and even at age 40 has threatened some of his career highs, but unfortunately MVP might be a stretch. Despite leading the AL in doubles, slugging percentage, and OPS, plus being second in OBP and RBI, the new age voters are going to look at the one stat he trails far behind in - WAR. Ortiz ranks 44th in baseball in Wins above replacement, largely due to the fact that he is a DH and can't gain any value on defense. While many people, including myself, would really like to see the voters bias towards designated hitters disappear, it is there, and it is going to prevent a baseball legend from ever winning an MVP award.
As bad as I want to see Ortiz win an MVP award, even I might not cast my vote his way, if I had one. Ortiz certainly has a very strong case with a few weeks left to build on it, but some of the other guys in the league, including some not mentioned in this article, are having unbelievable years and deserve at least some consideration if not more. Nobody would be happier than me to see Ortiz win an MVP, but I also am willing to recognize the deserving talent around the rest of the league as well.