If only filling out the other nine spots were as easy as the top one.
Mike Trout topped my first-ever MVP ballot, as he would have for the previous two years (when I didn't have a vote). It was the rest of the players on my ballot that caused me more consternation. How do you order contributions? Which defensive metrics should be trusted? Do you add a pitcher?
From July until late September, my ballot changed at least 15 times. Trout remained in the top spot the entire time, but every other spot remained fluid. The thing about these sorts of rankings is that no one will agree completely. I'd be shocked if one other person had my exact order.
But, at the same time, it's very worrisome. People take these ballots seriously. What kind of backlash might be headed my way if people missed out? Imagine if I would have voted for Corey Kluber for Cy Young instead of Felix?
Plenty of thought and discussion went into my list. It's not perfect, but it's the best I could do. Here's my list and why each player made it.
1. Mike Trout - He is good.
2. Josh Donaldson - Controversial? I don't know. Donaldson had one of the best combinations of offensive and defensive production in the American League this season. He was easily the best overall player on the A's this season, a team that played like the best team in baseball for months.
3. Michael Brantley - If Donaldson was the best two-way player in the AL this season, Brantley made it this high because of his bat. His defense wasn't stellar, but he hit and hit and hit for that Cleveland team. Easy pick.
4. Alex Gordon - Oh, should we revisit those nasty fielding discussions about how valuable a left fielder really is? Nope, let's not. Gordon was very valuable for the Royals and deserved this spot.
5. Robinson Cano - One of my biggest struggles was where to put Cano. On some ballots, I had him outside the top 10. On others, he was around eighth. Yet, he settled here, largely on the strength of his offense for a team that had precious few sources of it.
6. Jose Bautista - Underrated great season for the slugger. How many guys can post a .400 OBP with 30+ home runs any more?
7. Corey Kluber - Should pitchers be on MVP lists? Unquestionably, Kluber deserved to be in the Cy Young running. But, I put him here because there were plenty of metrics that showed him much higher. This felt like a good spot for him.
8. Jose Abreu - Coulda been much higher if not for his second half slump. A phenomenal freshman season for the Cuban slugger.
9. Adrian Beltre - Just because the Rangers stunk, don't ignore how great a season Beltre had again. He hit and played defense. In fact, he might have been better than Donaldson in those areas.
10. Jose Altuve - When I told a buddy about my ballot, he responded, "Altuve's not higher?" A star-making turn of a season for the second baseman, who was already a name around baseball. He deserved a nod here.
Turns out, the "controversial" part was not putting Victor Martinez on the list. I was the only voter to leave him off entirely. Which makes perfect sense to me, since he wasn't the best player on his own team. I had Miguel Cabrera on a few ballots and even Ian Kinsler a time or two. But, V-Mart is all batting average and no defense. How can I vote for him over guys who did nearly as well with the bat but better defensively?
I'll grant you, I don't have an ingrained respect for gaudy batting averages or RBI totals. But, by every measure I tried, there were plenty of others ahead of V-Mart. He probably makes my top 15, but not my top 10.