BOSTON -- The snow started falling hard in Boston not long after it was announced that Mookie Betts had won the American League Most Valuable Player Award. Some of the lights above Fenway Park were still lit, but Jersey Street was mostly empty as the snow kept coming down. The
BOSTON -- The snow started falling hard in Boston not long after it was announced that Mookie Betts had won the American League Most Valuable Player Award. Some of the lights above Fenway Park were still lit, but Jersey Street was mostly empty as the snow kept coming down. The first win for the 2018 Red Sox, out of the 119 they would win through the World Series, came in the late spring. Now it looked like winter had come early in Boston. But with the news about Betts, it was as if it were still summer for one more night. Or at least October.
Betts is a magical player. He wasn't just the best all-around player in his league this season, he is also the best all-around player the Red Sox have ever had. That is saying plenty. But it is true.
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The Red Sox had Babe Ruth when Ruth was young and both a hitter and a starting pitcher. He is still the greatest figure in baseball history. But even Ruth couldn't do as many things as Betts can do on a baseball field.
Ted Williams was the best pure hitter of all time. Not only is he the last .400 hitter in baseball, but he also hit .388 the year he turned 39. Even Williams couldn't do as many baseball things as Betts.
Neither could the great Carl Yastrzemski, who won the Triple Crown for the Red Sox in their own magical, Impossible Dream season of 1967, one that ended one victory short of the Sox winning the World Series. In addition to everything else, Yastrzemski was a genius at playing left field at Fenway, in front of the Green Monster. It isn't the same as playing right field at Fenway, and it certainly isn't the same as playing right field the way Betts does.
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"He is the best right fielder I've ever seen with my own eyes," former Orioles manager Buck Showalter told me earlier this season. "Every time I'd even hear the suggestion that they might move him to center, you know what I was? Really, really happy."
David Ortiz sometimes felt like the Ruth of the modern era, at least for the Red Sox, and he was in the middle of the order and the middle of everything when his Sox won three World Series between 2004 and '13. He didn't have all the tools for baseball that Betts has. Again: No Sox player has had as many tools as Betts.
Betts came close to winning the AL MVP Award in 2016. This year, he closed the deal. It is more clear than ever that the award he won on Thursday night should simply be called the Best Player Award, and not be tied to any old-time definition of valuable. The voters continue to say there is no distinction between "valuable" and "best." But do you know what the highest honor paid to Betts was on Thursday night? The voters said he was a better baseball player than Michael Trout, who finished second in the voting this season.
Betts can hit, hit for power, steal bases and make throws from the outfield that you have to see to believe. There are all these times when he shows you how much Willie Mays he has in him, running toward the line in right field and at the short wall or chasing down another ball and then wheeling and looking for a force on the bases.
Betts can jump, too. You saw how his glove ended up over the right-field wall at Minute Maid Park in Game 4 of the AL Championship Series, trying to take a home run away from Jose Altuve before a couple of fans took it away from Betts. Then an umpire, Joe West, was the one who took Altuve's home run away, citing fan interference.
Betts was exactly where he was supposed to be in the outfield, though. He was where the ball was, part of the best defensive outfield -- along with Andrew Benintendi and Jackie Bradley Jr. -- that I've ever seen. It is funny how often that happens. It is funny how big moments seem to follow this 5-foot-9 kid around.
"It's definitely a special award and something that I cherish," Betts said on Thursday night. "But I think the most important thing is that we won a World Series and got to bring a trophy back to Boston."
Betts' numbers were wonderful, of course, a .346 batting average, 129 runs and a .640 slugging percentage, along with 47 doubles, 32 home runs and 30 stolen bases. And his FanGraphs WAR was 10.4, the highest number any player has had since Barry Bonds (11.8) in 2002.
"Obviously, I really wanted to win [in 2016]. Just being in that spot, you don't ever know if you're going to make it back," Betts said in a conference call after the vote was announced. He said that winning this award after so many people thought he should have won in '16 was "everything I imagined and more."
Betts wins this award in the time when Trout has established himself as one of the most complete players of all time. Betts is not just a complete player, but he's also is a joyful one. The Red Sox have had players who hit more home runs, obviously. They have had players produce higher batting averages. They once had Ruth, the most famous player of them all. But they have never had a better all-around baseball player than Betts.
Mike Lupica is a columnist for MLB.com.