The problem with both ballots should be obvious enough that I’m not going to spend much time on that. Rather, I’m interested in what the BBWAA can do to fix these problems, and to keep future voters from similarly insulting the process and embarrassing the awards as well. There are two obvious answers I see that could go a long way to doing just that.
The first is making voting rights revokable in the event a voter casts an indefensible ballot. I’ve put this idea forward for Hall of Fame voting, where the problem is more stark at the margins (though not as impactful, because the voting pool is much larger), but the basic idea is that you would have to sign your ballots, and there would be some sort of peer review process by which fellow voters could review ballots and punish any voter who submits an obviously indefensible vote. I think this is a good idea for the Hall of Fame balloting, where some really absurd ballots get cast every year, and mostly by people who aren’t terribly engaged in following baseball, but I’m not sure how well it would work in practice here. Maybe in the case of Ingraham, who brazenly flouted the rules of the voting, it might be effective, but in Grant’s case I’m skeptical that other writers would vote to inflict any sort of penalty on him if he couldcome up with any sort of convoluted rationale for why Michael Young was the most valuable player. (Though, for what it’s worth, Grant appears to also have left Dustin Pedroia off of his ballot entirely in 2008, so the BBWAA may want to consider that he’s simply using his voting rights to troll for attention)
Which brings me to my second, probably more effective, proposal: just define “most valuable player” as “best player” already! As I’ve argued before, the ultimate problem here is that, without a standard definition of value, every voter not only has to determine which player was the most valuable player that year, but what it means to be the most valuable player. In effect, every voter can have not just a different MVP, but a definition of value, and in that world there really isn’t any way to say anyone’s vote is wrong. And frankly, that’s no way to run a voting process. It’s time to codify what the MVP award is for and, by extension, to hold the Evan Grant’s and Jim Ingraham’s responsible for making a mockery of the process.