MVP

Further evidence, if any were needed, that sportswriters can’t read. Here are the instructions accompanying the MVP ballot:

Dear Voter:

There is no clear-cut definition of what Most Valuable means. It is up to the individual voter to decide who was the Most Valuable Player in each league to his team. The MVP need not come from a division winner or other playoff qualifier.

The rules of the voting remain the same as they were written on the first ballot in 1931:

1. Actual value of a player to his team, that is, strength of offense and defense.
2. Number of games played.
3. General character, disposition, loyalty and effort.
4. Former winners are eligible.
5. Members of the committee may vote for more than one member of a team.

You are also urged to give serious consideration to all your selections, from 1 to 10. A 10th-place vote can influence the outcome of an election. You must fill in all 10 places on your ballot.

Keep in mind that all players are eligible for MVP, and that includes pitchers and designated hitters.

Only regular-season performances are to be taken into consideration.

“The MVP need not come from a division winner or any other playoff qualifier.” Which means there’s no point in arguing for Miguel Tejada or Alfonso Soriano over Alex Rodriguez, as Jayson Stark does in the very article in which he prints these instructions. The Rangers are in last place because Rodriguez doesn’t pitch. Tejada and Soriano don’t pitch either.

“All players are eligible for MVP, and that includes pitchers and designated hitters.” OK, so Barry Bonds was wrong. But he doesn’t have a vote and probably hasn’t read the ballot. The writers who passed over some of the greatest pitching seasons of all time for MVP, like Greg Maddux’s 1994 and 1995 or Pedro Martinez’s 1999 and 2000, have no such excuse.

“Former winners are eligible.” Sure, as long as they didn’t formerly win too often. Three MVP awards appears to be the limit. Bonds, who ought to have seven or eight MVP awards, more or less forced the writers to give him his fourth by having the greatest offensive year in history, which is hard to ignore. Nor is it wise to outdistance the rest of the league to the point where you are taken for granted, like a force of nature. This is Alex Rodriguez’s problem. He ought to have three or four MVP awards. He has none.

“Members of the committee may vote for more than one member of a team.” Yet every year we hear that candidates on teams with two players having great seasons, like Soriano and Giambi on the Yankees, or Bonds and Kent on the Giants, will cancel each other. And they nearly always do.

The first criterion for “most valuable” is not merely specified — “actual value of a player to his team” — it is defined — “strength of offense and defense.” Would all the baseball writers who draw scholastic distinctions between “best” and “most valuable” please explain how “best” can be distinguished from “[greatest] strength of offense and defense”? Please?

Aaron Haspel | Posted September 15, 2002 @ 4:11 PM | General

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