No player in Major League Baseball history has won the Most Valuable Player Award after changing teams, let alone leagues, during the course of the season.
Frank Robinson is still the only player to win the award in both leagues.
So when Yoenis Cespedes was traded from the Detroit Tigers to the New York Mets at this year’s trade deadline, that historically meant that Cespedes’ chance of being named league MVP was over. But, just like his new team the New York Mets, Cespedes is trying to beat the odds.
As a team the Mets have been besting the Washington Nationals, who were widely picked to win the National League East division, all season. They currently hold a 9.5 game lead over the Nats who have been very disappointing this year.
The lone, consistent bright spot for Washington has been the play of Bryce Harper, who leads the National League in average (.333) and is third in home runs (37).
Since coming to the Mets, Cespedes is batting a slash line of .308/.356/.691. His 17 home runs and 42 runs batted in over that time lead the National League.
Better than Harper.
Harper’s 86 RBIs on the year rank him in ninth in the NL, where as Cespedes’ 103 runs driven in would rank him second in the National League.
Despite Harper’s impressive season, and whether or not they want to admit it or not, voters tend to vote awards to players that are in the playoffs. Barring a historic meltdown by the Mets, Harper and the Nationals will be sitting at home watching the Wild Card Round games on October 6 and 7 like the rest of us.
Cespedes, on the other hand, will be right in the think of the playoffs.
Also, prior to Cespedes coming to the Mets, New York trailed Washington by one game. Since his arrival in New York, the Mets have gone 29-11 while the Nationals have played at an 19-22 pace.
Simply put, without Cespedes the Mets were probably not going to make the playoffs. With him, they’re a bonafied championship contender. And despite Harper’s season, the Nationals have been a big disappointment, and even if they did make the playoffs, they weren’t getting past the first round.
Cespedes filled a void in the Mets lineup that was vastly average through the first half of the season. He becomes the player that opposing pitchers concentrate most on and attempt to get out the most (which hasn’t been working greatly so far), where as before pitchers squaring off against the Mets were most concerned with Curtis Granderson and Daniel Murphy.
The head to head matchup also bodes well in Cespedes’ favor.
In 60 at bats against the Mets this season, Harper batting just .250 with only three home runs and six RBI. He also has struck out 18 times.
Though in a much smaller sample size, Cespedes’ numbers against the Nationals are much better – a .333 AVG, .762 SLG, two home runs and seven runs batted in. A big portion of those numbers coming from an important three-game series the two teams played in last week that the Mets swept to really take a hold on the division.
Their numbers against playoff teams are comparable.
Cespedes is batting .335, has hit three home runs and driven in 15 runs in games against playoff teams. Harper has a lower average (.295), but has hit eight long balls and has batted in 16 runs against teams that are in position to make the post season.
Harper has had quite the season; there is no denying it. But if the voters’ decision comes down to whether or not they want their MVP vote to go to a player that is going to be playing in October, Cespedes could make history in multiple ways this fall.
There’s a possibility that both the Commissioner’s Trophy and the MVP Award could be headed to New York. Not to the Bronx, though, but to Queens.