Rangers manager Ron Washington was asked about the race for the American League Most Valuable Player recently and his response showed that he's a better teammate than judge of things like the league's most valuable player.
Washington said that he'd split his vote four ways between Adrian Beltre, Josh Hamilton, Mike Trout and Miguel Cabrera, which is about the most political answer a man could give to a question without coming close to actually answering it. We get why he chose that route, although it would be nice to hear a different answer.
An answer that says while Beltre and Hamilton have had great seasons, they haven't reached the heights necessary to be honored with an MVP for their mantle. Such an answer could talk about how winning a World Series trumps any individual honors and that Washington would rather manage a team with multiple down ballot contenders rather than one superstar.
Individual awards are swell, but the entire ethos of the Rangers organization is that you win by building deep teams that aren't overly reliant on any one player. As great as Beltre and Hamilton have been this year, they've remained cogs in a bigger wheel that has continued to find ways to win even when those players aren't at their best.
This is the second straight year without a serious candidate for one of the big baseball awards for the Rangers. Yes, we know Michael Young got a first-place MVP vote last year, but he wasn't a serious candidate and the writer that voted for him clearly doesn't take the process seriously enough to merit future votes.
That makes it all the more impressive that the team is on track for another division title and holds the potential for another run deep into the postseason. As baseball observers have grown more sophisticated than the days when Juan Gonzalez could win MVPs by benefitting from the work of others, award winners have moved away from simply being given to the best players on winning teams.
Voters take everything into account and understand that the fact that the Angels and the Tigers might not make the playoffs doesn't make Trout or Cabrera less valuable. It actually makes them more valuable because they have to create for themselves and set up the rest of the team to win. Both have done that this year because taking them off their respective teams would leave those teams way out of the running.
By the same token, the fact that no serious observer of the game could vote for Beltre or Hamilton doesn't mean that they don't have value. They have enormous value, but they are also part of a team filled with players who have enormous value and the cohesive whole is much greater than any of the individual parts.
As long as the Rangers keep traveling down this road, they will find it hard to come by MVPs and/or Cy Young Awards. They will find it much easier to come up with shots at the sport's real prize, however, and those flags mean a lot more than anything that comes with an award for individual excellence.