The 2015 AL MVP vote is a two-man race between Josh Donaldson and Mike Trout. We won't find out the actual winner for another month, but if I had to put money on it I'd bet Donaldson without a second thought. Trout's overall numbers are slightly better, but the difference isn't huge and Donaldson's traditional stats are actually prettier than Trout's thanks to his stronger teammates and friendlier home park. Furthermore, Donaldson's Blue Jays ran away with their division, whereas Trout's Angels missed the second wild card by one game, partly thanks to their dismal 10-19 August during which he posted the worst single-month OPS of his career. Donaldson is probably going to win, and even if he doesn't he'll finish as a close runner-up. And you know what, A's fans? That's okay.
Sure, this one isn't easy to swallow. We've seen a lot of stars leave town over the years, but we've never seen one immediately reach this level of success with his new club. In fact, as noted by Jon Morosi of Fox Sports, no fanbase has had to watch this since 1984, when the Phillies traded reliever Willie Hernandez to the Tigers before the voters stupidly handed him the hardware (with respect to Eck and Rollie, no closer should ever be the league's MVP). The last time a non-closer won the award after a trade was White Sox slugger Dick Allen in 1972, but even then the Dodgers team that dealt him had only been his home for one season and he was three years removed from the Phillies squad that drafted him. The best comp might be Frank Robinson in 1966, after going from the Reds to the Orioles (he also won a ring that year with Baltimore, as Donaldson might with Toronto). Of course, lets not forget that the Expos let Andre Dawson and Vlad Guerrero walk via free agency, and then watched each win MVP the next year with their new teams ('87 Cubs, '04 Angels, respectively). It's not unprecedented, but it's rare. And seriously, it's okay.
It's okay because this is what happens when you trade a present superstar for future assets. The team acquiring the star gets better and looks smart, and the other side gets worse and looks dumb. In some cases, the young players never pan out and the team who traded the star looks dumb forever. Sometimes the opposite happens, and still other times both teams end up getting what they want, as the acquiring team wins its ring today and the trading team eventually develops its new parts into stars. But the point is that we still don't yet know what the final result of this trade will be, and Donaldson being great in his first year in Toronto doesn't really affect the A's side of the ledger.
There wasn't any question about what the A's were giving up in this one. Everyone knew Donaldson was a star, and even those of us who think he'll begin his decline soon didn't pretend like he wasn't still going to be great in 2015 (maybe not this great, but great nonetheless). But Billy Beane determined that the 2014 squad would not be able to compete in 2015, so he started to rebuild, and the first step in a rebuild is to trade some present value for future value.
I can't say he was wrong, either. Brandon Moss and Jeff Samardzija were awful with their new teams, and Derek Norris was inferior to his replacement in Oakland (Stephen Vogt). Coco Crisp and Sean Doolittle essentially missed the year with injuries. Scott Kazmir and Jesse Chavez both ran out of gas in the second half once again, though Kaz at least did so for another team. If Beane had gone into the year with that core, backed up by the well-planned bullpen that no one vehemently doubted entering the year but that finished as statistically one of the worst in baseball history, the end result would have been no better than what we watched in reality. This would have been a sad, injury-plagued, last-place season, but with an aging win-now roster rather than a young roster with upside. Basically, we'd be the Padres, and I promise you that's worse than being the A's right now.
Having Donaldson in Oakland in 2015 wouldn't have made the A's a playoff team, or even a winning team. There was too much else going wrong, some of which was predictable and some of which simply wasn't. It's possible that he could have contributed to a good A's team in 2016 or beyond, but with every passing year it becomes more likely that the package of 3B-turned-2B Brett Lawrie, starters Kendall Graveman and Sean Nolin, and top-50 prospect Franklin Barreto (not to mention Danny Valencia, acquired from Toronto as an indirect result) could combine to outplay him in any given season. It's also possible that could never happen, but until we know for sure there is no way to fully judge this trade and no reason to be bummed that Donaldson is still playing at an elite level in Toronto. The only information that we have so far is that Donaldson is still great and the young guys we got are still marinating with an eye toward 2016 and beyond, and that was always the plan all along.
Heck, Donaldson didn't even make the Jays a contender on his own. They were still treading water at .500 on July 29, even with Donaldson balling out all year, and it wasn't until they went big to acquire Tulo and Price that they really took off and became a contender. One player doesn't make a team, and one player did not make the Blue Jays good on his own.
So, as you watch Donaldson in the playoffs, and maybe even in the World Series, don't think about how that could have been Oakland. It couldn't have, not in any reasonable alternate universe. When he wins the MVP, know that his great season would have been wasted here on a losing team and another also-ran MVP finish (due to being on a losing team), and that his numbers wouldn't have been as good without the chance to bomb away at the Rogers Centre (his OPS was over 200 points higher in his super-friendly home park than on the road). In fact, consider that without Donaldson leading the way in Toronto, there's a great chance that Trout would have run away with his second straight MVP award, regardless of whether the Angels made or barely missed the postseason, since no one else is particularly close to him statistically or talent-wise.
Instead, just be happy. Donaldson was probably one of your favorite players in Oakland, and he might still be even now that he's gone. He's a delight to watch. And now he's getting the recognition that he richly deserved all along. He's going to win the 2015 MVP, and that's okay. In fact, it's more than okay; it's awesome. Congrats to the Bringer Of Rain, and good luck in the playoffs!
The Blue Jays are playing the Rangers in the ALDS, with Game 1 starting just minutes from now. It's up to you whom to root for, but I can't imagine why you'd pick the division rival Rangers over the exciting and star-laden Blue Jays who just waited two decades for their return to October. I'm rooting Jays all the way in this series.
|TEXAS RANGERS||TORONTO BLUE JAYS|
|Delino DeShields Jr. - CF||Ben Revere - LF|
|Shin-Soo Choo - RF||Josh Donaldson - 3B|
|Adrian Beltre - 3B||Jose Bautista - RF|
|Prince Fielder - DH||Edwin Encarnacion - DH|
|Mike Napoli - 1B||Troy Tulowitzki - SS|
|Josh Hamilton - LF||Justin Smoak - 1B|
|Elvis Andrus - SS||Russell Martin - C|
|Rougned Odor - 2B||Ryan Goins - 2B|
|Robinson Chirinos - C||Kevin Pillar - CF|
|Yovani Gallardo - RHP||David Price - LHP|