A lot of acronyms in my last two posts, eh?
First off, some follow up to my last post about Rick Ankiel's alleged use of HGH in 2004. As ajooja points out "...it wasn't a banned substance, so it's not really that big of a deal. It's not like he's an admitted illegal steroids user like Jason Giambi." This is true, and Slate.com argues that HGH as a performance enhancer is pure myth. So there are two other points of view for ya. Me? I don't buy it. Gia knew some bouncers a few years ago who swore off steroids because HGH took them to new strength levels that steroids never did, even if their bodies weren't getting as big. So who knows?
Now for some fun.
There was an article the other day in Newsday (a local NY/Long Island daily newspaper) advocating both Alex Rodriguez of the NY Yankees and David Wright of the NY Mets as MVPs of their respective leagues. A not-so-surprising take from a hometown paper for its' hometown heroes, if you ask me.
But it got me thinking. Why has there never been a consensus from sportswriters as to exactly what merits an MVP award? Should it go the the player with the most outstanding statistics? Should that include pitchers? Or maybe it should go to the most valuable player out of those teams contending for the playoffs that year.
The writers have been wishy-washy on this subject for years.
Take the case of the NL MVP awards for 1987 and 1988. In '87 Andre Dawson led the league in HRs and RBI with 49 and 137, respectively. He also played for the Chicago Cubs who finished dead last in the NL East that year. Jack Clark of the 1st place St. Louis Cardinals also had a great year at the plate with 35 HR and 106 RBI. He also led the league in On-base percentage and Slugging percentage...two statistics that have become more widely acknowledged by writers since the late 80's. Tim Raines of the 3rd place Montreal Expos also had a great year, including leading the league in runs scored. And Eric Davis of the 2nd place Cincinnati Reds was fantastic with 37 HR, 100 RBI and 50 SB.
So why did the voters grant Dawson the MVP that year? Sure his power and run production numbers were better than the rest of the candidates, but he played for a last place team. It's as if the writers were telling us that it doesn't matter where your team is in the standing, if you have the better numbers you will get the award.
Then 1988 happened. Sure, it was a down offensive year for the entire National League, but Kirk Gibson as MVP? He had really good numbers (25 HR, 76 RBI, 31 SB, 106 Runs) for a 1st place team, but in my opinion there were better candidates for sure. Darryl Strawberry (also playing for a 1st place team) had 39 HR and 101 RBI along with 29 SB. All better or equal to those of Gibson's. And Andres Gallaraga of the 5th place Montreal Expos had a great year with 29 HR and 92 RBI. His batting average, on-base percentage and slugging percentage were all greater than Gibson's as well.
So why didn't he win the award? A whole year after Dawson's win, the writer's changed their minds again as to what it means to be MVP. Hell, even light-hitting, slick-fielding Ozzie Smith finished 2nd in the balloting for MVP behind Gibson in 1988. So apparently defense counts too! Or they are just making up the rules as they go along and gleefully breaking them whenever they want.
My favorite examples of the writer's indecision on what it takes to be an MVP are the two awards won by Cal Ripken, Jr. In 1983 he won the award for the 1st place Orioles despite better statistical years from Jim Rice (led the league in HR and RBI for the 6th place Sox) and Cecil Cooper. Then in 1991, he had a monster offensive year for the 6th place Orioles and won the award. A couple of guys named Frank Thomas and Cecil Fielder easily could have been seen as the MVP that year for teams that at least contended for the post-season. And either Kirby Puckett of the 1st place Twins or Joe Carter of the 1st place Blue Jays, despite statistically inferior years to Cal's, could have won the award. You know, the way Cal did in 1983.
It seems to be the rule that if a player on a non-contending team has a ridiculous statistical year, they can win the MVP. But in a year without a clear-cut outstanding season from a player, then the award will go to the best player on a contending team regardless of that player's ranking in the statistical categories that the writers normally consider.
So it's a crapshoot. I don't think anyone is going to argue about A-Rod's MVP award this year. Magglio Ordonez has been great, as has Ichiro. But A-Rod has been something special this year. As for the NL award...who knows. David Wright certainly deserves some consideration, but I see at least 5 or 6 other guys who have a shot. It's really going to depend on the last 3 weeks of the season, and it's anyone's game.
Or the baseball writers can just through a dart at a board. Who knows their methods.