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MLB Awards: Where They've Gone Wrong & How To Fix Them

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Robbed.
Robbed.
As a manager for an SBN site representing an AL team, I was given a vote toward our big awards: Cy Young and Most Valuable Player.* For the most part, we got it right, awarding the CYAs to Roy Halladay/Clayton Kershaw and Justin Verlander and the MVPs to Matt Kemp and Jose Bautista.

My beef, though, is with the BBWAA (the "official" voting body for MLB's awards). And so you don't think I'm going to write 500+ words of bitching, I'll also offer fixes.

The MVP Award, to this day, is extremely vague. The BBWAA still doesn't define value, leaving it up to each voter to decide what it means. Hmmm... how about we just go to, you know, the dictionary to find out what the word means. According to Webster's, "value" means "relative worth, utility, or importance"; that sounds a lot like "best" to me. Why not just rename the award the "Player of the Year"? That damn "value" adds so much unneeded complexity to what should be a simple question: Who was the best player this year? In other words, if you could create a team from scratch that competed only for this one season, who would be the first player chosen? That makes it much simpler. The quality of a player's team has no bearing on an individual award (a ridiculous notion to begin with).
I know this is going back aways, but it's for a good reason. The 1934 AL MVP was one of the biggest mistakes the BBWAA ever made. They awarded a fine player (and future Hall of Famer), Mickey Cochrane, with the MVP Award. He had a very good season: 129 games, .320/.428/.412, 4.3 bWAR. But he wasn't even the best player on his own team. Second-baseman Charlie Gehringer, who played in 25 more games, OPS'd almost .130 points higher, and more than doubled his WAR (9.5), finished second. Never mind that the actual best player that year - Lou Gehrig - finished fifth with an 1.172 OPS and 10.7 WAR. Unfortunately for him, the Yankees finished seven games behind the Tigers in the AL. Apparently the two Detroit players had to be more "valuable" because their team was better. Why does the BBWAA have such trouble separating individual quality from team quality?

It's wasn't just in the past either. Both MVP winners this very season were outdone by others in their respective leagues. Matt Kemp (and possibly Roy Halladay and Clayton Kershaw) was superior to Ryan Braun and a handful of American Leaguers were better than Justin Verlander, starting with Jose Bautista and Jacoby Ellsbury.

That brings us to the Cy Young Award. It's much more clearly about the best at that position. It's not Most Valuable Pitcher, it's just about who's the best. And why should the CYA exclude position players while the MVP includes pitchers? I don't think it's fair to position players.

Anyway, a pretty easy fix would be to do one of two things: Have one Player of the Year for both leagues (inclusive of pitchers) or one POY and CYA for all MLB.** Put pitchers on a true even keel with position players so we can award the best among everyone, or combine the league-specific awards into one best pitcher and one best player from all MLB. I think it would create incredible interest and discussion: Imagine trying to figure out who was best among Verlander, Halladay and Kershaw; or Kemp, Bautista, Braun and Ellsbury. Or all those players vying against each other!

So MLB, fix it!

(And don't get me started on Gold Gloves.)


* I voted for Justin Verlander and Jose Bautista.

** Because there are too many baseball awards. No other major sport hands out more than two "Player of the Year" awards. MLB essentially has four: two MVPs and two CYAs.