Most Valuable Player

There are times that I am left scratching my head trying to understand what the Baseball Writers of America define as the Most Valuable Player. Should the definition be the Most Valuable Player who puts up the best combination of offensive and defensive statistics thereby defining themselves as the best overall baseball player in each specific league? Or should the award describe which one player meant more to the success of his team? This could include statistical categories but really relies more on intangibles such as clubhouse presence, mentoring and leadership ability, and who motivates their team to greatness? The latter category would somehow take into consideration the individual’s role and importance in a team game. How for example do you quantify the importance of the leadership skills of someone like Tony Clark to a young Arizona Diamondbacks roster? How much significance does a team’s success have on the deciding the value of an individual player? Are you judging a player’s value to their specific team or are you judging their value to the league and the betterment of baseball? These are the ponder able questions that arise around this time of year when baseball awards begin to be handed out.

This year’s awards are especially confusing to understand what the voters were rewarding. From the American League New York Yankees third baseman Alex Rodriguez was the runaway winner capturing every first place vote except for 2. The two dissenting votes belonged to Jim Hawkins of the Oakland Press in Pontiac and Tom Gage of the Detroit News who cast their votes for Magglio Ordonez.

“I saw Magglio play every day,” Hawkins said. “What I saw was a player having an MVP year. I have no quarrel with anyone who voted for A-Rod. He also had an MVP year. But with the injuries the Tigers had and the effort and performance I saw from Magglio, there’s no question he had an MVP year.”

“I went with what I saw,” Gage said. “So many times, you have to vote off the stat sheet. I fully expected A Rod to win. He had a great year. But I saw an MVP year. There were stats to back up the impression that I came away with from the regular season.”

These quotes would suggest that the members vote specifically on a player’s statistics and offensive statistics at that. It is unclear from the votes that A-Rod received if those were based on the impressive offensive numbers he accumulated or if some of the voters included intangibles such as bringing the Yankees back into play-off contention. Interestingly enough the top 7 vote getters for the AL MVP all played for teams that reached the post season with the exception of Magglio Ordonez who finished second in the voting. In fact, 15 of the 24 vote getters all played for teams in the post season. You could make an argument then that the MVP award is predominantly based on offensive statistics with a team’s success in the standings used as a tie breaker but the inclusion of Carlos Pena from Tampa Bay shows that even if you play for the team with the worst record in baseball you are still able to finish in the top 10 in voting for the MVP.

When the National League MVP was announced today the talk was on leadership and carrying the team as Jimmy Rollins was introduced as the winner. Granted Rollins had some great offensive statistics but the press release focused on carrying the team, executing flawless defense, and managing the distractions the team was struggling with to reach the playoffs. That would lead one to believe that the MVP is an award that focuses on how a player is able to manage not only his game but that of his teammates to make sure they are all working together for a common goal of reaching the post season. The second place finisher Matt Holliday could likewise be put in that same context. If it were not for his leadership the Rockies would never have been able to go on that incredible hot streak to make the play-offs and ultimately their first World Series berth. From a perspective of the National League voting 13 of the 26 players to receive votes came from teams who made the post season. But where 6 of the top 7 AL players played for play-off teams, only 3 of the top 7 in the National League voting came from teams which made the post season.

At the end I don’t feel like I am any closer to understanding what the criteria is for measuring a player’s merit for receiving the MVP. I would say this process was completely broken but Eric Byrnes, Jose Valverde, and Brandon Webb all received more votes than “the great Troy Tulowitzki” so it can’t be all bad.

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