We are the jockeys; the jockeys are we.
So a lot of people have been talking up the idea of Dustin Pedroia winning the MVP award lately: the Fenway crowd chanted it at him, Ozzie Guillen famously called him a "jockey," David Pinto used his success in the cleanup role as an excuse to post the video of Andy Kaufman performing the Mighty Mouse theme on Saturday Night Live, and even Rick Sutcliffe floated the possibility during the broadcast of Wednesday's Rays-Yankees game. On Sons of Sam Horn, they're comparing him to the likes of George Brett, Derek Jeter, Pete Rose, and vintage Nomar. He is hitting (ready for this?) .667/.667/1.222 when batting fourth in the lineup (sample size, etc.) He's leading all second basemen in Nerdy McNerderson stats like VORP and Wins Probability Added. He is awesome.
The question, of course, is not whether or not he deserves the MVP award. He deserves to be considered as a serious candidate, for sure, along with Carlos Quentin, Justin Morneau, Josh Hamilton, Joe Mauer, Alex Rodriguez, Jermaine Dye, Grady Sizemore, and . . . well, Kevin Youkilis, but he's probably a different blog post altogether. The real question, though, is whether or not he can win the award when you factor in the mercurial nature of the voting members of the Baseball Writers Association of America. Just looking at how they've voted in the past, they tend to look at a couple of things. First, with some exceptions, they tend to believe the MVP should come from a winning team, one that either makes the playoffs or comes close to doing so (closer than expected anyway.) They like guys who reach the classic plateaus in the Triple Crown stat categories - batting .300, hitting 20 home runs, and driving in 100 runs, though that last one has been negotiable for leadoff types. And sometimes, being a vocal-leader type, "clutch," or just generally a guy the media likes and would make a good story help out.
Pedroia fits all of those criteria - the Red Sox are likely to make the playoffs and 20 homers and a .300 average are within reach for him. He's perceived as "clutch" and he never shuts up. He gets a lot of "heart and soul of the Red Sox" ink. Would he make a great story? Of course he would! The media loves stuff like this! Pedroia's got more talent than most guys of his stature. But at the same time, when a lot of the people who write about baseball for a living see the guy, all they see is his height. And they love it! Couldn't this be a case of the media's ignorance playing into Pedroia's favor? Pedroia and Eckstein aren't similar players - Pedroia is, to put it succinctly, better at baseball - but the media frequently mentions them in the same breath, because they're both short guys. And they love Eckstein so much. They would have voted Eckstein for MVP five times over had his numbers been even remotely good enough to justify it. So they see Pedroia, who is a media-approved candidate, who is kind of short and plays up the middle like Eckstein . . . I mean, would you be surprised if they made the connection? They'd be voting for a good candidate, but for a bad reason. And I suspect Pedroia and the Red Sox would be okay with that.