Big League Stew - MLB

Could Chase Utley(notes) be voted the World Series MVP even if the Phillies check out in six or seven?

That's the question being asked today by The Sporting News' Dan Levy, a noted Phillies fan and a Philadelphia-area based friend of The Stew. 

(Translation: Don't get all over my case, because it was a Fightins' fan who first brought it up.) 

At any rate, I love this type of argument, particularly for the lazy workout day before what should be a great Game 6 on Wednesday. Losing MVPs are the farthest thing from a frequent occurrence in the playoffs, but they haven't been completely absent either. There's been one losing Super Bowl MVP (the Cowboys' Chuck Howley in Super Bowl V), one losing NBA Finals MVP (the Lakers' Jerry West in 1969) and five losing Conn Smythe winners in the NHL (which is based on the entire Stanley Cup run, not just the finals).

There's also been only one losing World Series MVP in Yankees second baseman Bobby Richardson, who had 12 RBIs against Pittsburgh in the 1960 World Series and presented a case that apparently couldn't be swayed by his Pirates counterpart hitting one of the most famous home runs in the history of baseball.  

So could Utley join Richardson as guys who left with a nice parting gift?

As much as I'd like to be non-conformist and say yes, I think I have to say probably not. 

If you were to take a vote right now — ie: without a World Series winner having been decided —  there's probably no question that Utley would get the award. His two multi-homer games have keyed both of Philadelphia's wins and he's hit five overall homers to join Reggie Jackson as the most homeriffic Fall Classicker. He's hitting .333 overall and produced enough power to pull the weight of the guy striking out behind him

But MVP cases have also been mounted on the other side of the field by Alex Rodriguez(notes), Mariano Rivera(notes) and Johnny Damon(notes), while Derek Jeter(notes) is just waiting for one signature moment to build a case. It's hard to imagine that one of them (or another late-charging Yankee) won't figure even more prominently into a World Series clinching win.

Throw in the fact that the media will be eager to give either A-Rod or Rivera a lifetime achievement award and it's hard to see Utley stealing the MVP — no matter how good his numbers are.

But Utley, of course, is just a way of Trojan horsing our way into the debate on whether a player from a losing team can ever win World Series MVP. The Phillies could win the next two games while A-Rod hits a grand slam in both of them and this argument would be completely reversed. 

My take: While a player can win a regular season MVP without a plethora of team achievements, I tend to think that the World Series MVP should be reserved as an honor for the winning team, much like the extra playoff kitty they get to divide up into shares.

If the award was defined by the entire postseason run — in which case it'd be going to A-Rod — that might be another story. But in a six- or seven-game series, the spoils should mostly go to the victor with an exception only being made in the rarest of cases.

What do you think? Should a World Series MVP ever come from the losing squad?

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