Two different debates converge with Jeter

Originally Published: November 21, 2006
By Rob Neyer | ESPN Insider
As you might recall from Monday's column, those of an Aristotelian bent might split the population into two camps: empiricists and intuitionists. And the second-easiest place to see the difference between the two camps is among the sports media (the easiest place is the conflict between scientists and creationists).

Granted, nobody is completely empirical or completely intuitional; we're all somewhere on a continuum between the two. But there is a divide here, and essentially it comes down to this: An empiricist would consider Travis Hafner -- and especially a healthy-for-six-months Travis Hafner -- to be the American League's Most Valuable Player, and an intuitionist would not. The intuitionist is happy to divine the meaning of "most valuable," while the empiricist would rather not divine anything at all, and focus on something quantifiable, like who was the best player in the league.

In 2006, Hafner was the best hitter in the American League, per plate appearance. Because he missed the season's last month, he finished just sixth in runs created, but if he'd played out the season he certainly would have been No. 1 in that category. Nevertheless, Hafner would not have been considered a serious MVP candidate, because his accomplishments, however impressive, would have come with a fourth-place team, and MVP voters don't like fourth-place players unless they just don't have any reasonable choice.


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