One coming all the way from Pensacola, Florida, the other flying over from Turin, Italy. The pair naturally don’t have much in common, Josh Donaldson measures in at six feet, while Sebastian Giovinco is a whopping five feet four. One thing that the Toronto athletes share? Both winning their league’s respected MVP trophies. But after a full off-season of letting it all soak in, which player was actually more dominant in their respected sport.
There is so much to say about the Atomic Ant. The 28-year-old is coming off the best statistical season in Major League Soccer (MLS) history. Not only did he break every offensive Toronto FC record, but Giovinco set a number of league records as well. He became the first player to record at least 20 goals and 10 assists in a single season, while also being awarded the Golden Boot, awarded to the top goal scorer in the MLS.
To review, the Atomic Ant notched 22 goals – tying for first, he led the league in assists with 16. His 38 points were a MLS league best, and to follow he was named to the team of the week 10 times, he was player of the month twice, and also landed himself on the MLS starting eleven, which seemed a given.
But now the question remains, how does Giovinco stack up to the other 2015 MVP candidates in the MLS?
Had it not been for Giovinco’s historical season, Kei Kamara of the Columbus Crew would have been 2015’s Golden Boot winner and probably the league MVP as well. Kamara finished tied for the league best with 22 goals, but fell short in the assist category, which was the main difference between himself and the Atomic Ant.
One difference between the two attackers is that none of Kamara’s goals came from the penalty spot. Sporting KC’s Benny Feilhaber definitely wasn’t a glorified candidate because he didn’t find the back of the net as often, only notching 10 goals, what made it more impressive is he also tallied 10 assists in the process. The 31-year-old was a major factor in winning the 2015 Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup.
If it wasn’t for Giovinco’s astonishing individual statistics, his biggest accomplishment may have been leading Toronto to the franchise’s first playoff appearance since arriving in the MLS in 2006.
Josh Donaldson didn’t just transform the Toronto Blue Jays from a very good team into a ridiculously offensive one, he was also a key factor in changing the Jays’ identity. Donaldson finished the season being awarded the American League (AL) MVP, the Hank Aaron Award, a Silver Slugger for third basemen and two Players Choice honours. The Bringer of Rain hit .297 with a league-best 123 runs batted in (RBI), which helped the Blue Jays win their first AL title and make their first playoff appearance since 1993. He joined 1987 winner George Bell as the only other Jays winner to be named AL MVP. To reinforce Donaldson’s phenomenal season, he also had a .371 on-base percentage (OBP), and a .568 slugging percentage (SLG). In addition, he had 184 hits, 41 home runs (most in a single-season for him) and scored 122 runs.
Nearing the end of the 2015 campaign, there was a legitimate debate over whether the Jays third baseman, or Los Angeles Angels centre-fielder Mike Trout had better numbers. In comparison, Trout hit .299 with a .402 OBP and had a SLG of .590. Furthermore, Trout had 172 hits, tied Donaldson for 41 home runs but fell short with 90 RBIs and 104 runs. In terms of statistics alone, many believed that Donaldson benefited from being in a lineup that also featured Jose Bautista, Edwin Encarnacion, Russell Martin, and the addition of Troy Tulowitzki mid-season. But regardless, there was still more that Donaldson brought to the table, such stats that cannot be taken into account during the voting process like wins above replacement, win probability added and weighted runs created including other advanced elements of baseball.
What was characterized as a close race as the season came to an end ultimately turned into an easy win for Donaldson, who earned 23 first-place votes and seven second-place votes. Trout, the runner-up had seven first-place votes and 22 second-place votes. A name that hasn’t been mentioned yet is Lorenzo Cain, World Series winner with the Kansas City Royals who finished third with 20 third-place votes. From baseball fans perspective Cain was not nearly as impressive tallying 16 homers, 72 RBIs and also followed with a .361 OBP, .477 SLG and a .838 OPS. Nonetheless what Cain provided his team with defensively and as a leader was what put him in the MVP discussion.
The argument of which player is more dominant in their respective sport is hard to calculate given the difference in sports, but given what teammates surrounded Donaldson in comparison to Giovinco is what sets both MVPs apart.
Although Toronto FC brought in players like Jozy Altidore, Michael Bradley, and even Benoit Cheyrou, aside from Bradley, they aren’t the calibre players the Blue Jays have in Tulowitzki, Bautista, Encarnacion, and even Russell Martin. Those Jays players alone allowed Donaldson to shine, being able to do the little things like getting on base, taking walks, and just being all-star calibre players.
My pick: The Atomic Ant, the most dominant player that Toronto sports franchises have ever witnessed. Maybe now more Torontonians will head down to BMO field to watch TFC in action this season, starting with the home opener May 7 against FC Dallas.