1. Mookie Betts, RF, Boston
Writers are humans. Really. There’s going to be some personal experience mixed in to our final decisions. Mike Trout is the best player on the planet. I believe that. But when I watched Betts play in person this year, he was the best baseball-playing human in the galaxy.
In 10 games at Camden Yards, Betts homered eight times, drove in 15 runs and scored 18. He hit .514 with a .609 on-base percentage and he made several huge plays in right field. I’ve never seen one player dominate a season series the way Betts did, and I’ve been doing this a long time. Overall, in 19 games against the O’s, Betts hit .408 in 76 at-bats.
Years ago, you could say, “Well, it was against the Orioles.” But this Orioles team battled with the Red Sox all season; Boston won the season series 11-8 and captured the division by four games over the Orioles and Toronto Blue Jays.
And Betts absolutely controlled the games when it counted. Don’t misunderstand. I’m not saying that small sample size is why I voted for Betts, but he sure did make an impression on me.
He also was superb against just about everyone; he hit .338 in the second half and spent most of his time this season at either leadoff or clean-up. And he won a Gold Glove – and led in defensive runs saved – in right field, which isn’t his natural position. Betts outpaced Trout in hits, doubles, homers, RBIs and scored one fewer run.
Trout crushed Betts in walks and on-base percentage and bested him in slugging percentage and WAR, too. It obviously was close for me, but I went with my gut and the guy who excelled in meaningful games. I’m not apologizing for it. So, give me that blindfold.