Stopping the fools

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.

Born in Southwestern Ohio and currently residing on the Chesapeake Bay, Brien is a former editor-in-chief of IIATMS who now spends most of his time sitting on his deck watching his tomatoes ripen and consuming far more MLB Network programming than is safe for one's health or sanity.

About Brien Jackson

Born in Southwestern Ohio and currently residing on the Chesapeake Bay, Brien is a former editor-in-chief of IIATMS who now spends most of his time sitting on his deck watching his tomatoes ripen and consuming far more MLB Network programming than is safe for one's health or sanity.

16 thoughts on “Stopping the fools

  1. There is always an uproar when somebody like Keith Law casts an out-of-the-box ballot, even though he has a well thought out reason (and usually very public break down of that thought process).

    However when some of these old-school writers follow a dumb narrative, or stick to some long-held belief (like a pitcher shouldn't win, a player on a losing team can't be valuable, a player from another country's professional league can't be a rookie) poeple just shrug and say "well they are entitled to their opinion". If their vote is based on a false premise, they shoudn't be entitled to vote in the future.

  2. What I'd like to see is some large company put up a huge prize/PR blitz and award the MVP to the players with the highest fWAR (or dWAR or whichever they can use most cheaply). That would make it much less subjective and at the same time highlight the importance of "advanced" performance metrics.

  3. Nah. Any time you base a process on getting rid of opinions you find untenable, you risk making it possible to get rid of opinions that you don't find untenable. Instead, they should expand the voter pool so that fringe opinions have less chance to mess with the voting.

  4. I think the vagueness of the rules helps the BWAA more than it hurts. You see, once all the votes are cast (and even before that) it allows the writers to write not only about the merits of the system but also about themselves and each other. It's a perfectly self aggrandizing copy mill, and I don't see them giving up those easy stories any time soon. I mean, would you rather spend time carefully researching your vote based on clear and stringent standards or simply cast your ballot to the wind and churn out the same old fluff year after year. It all pays the same, right?

  5. I think they should have an additional "Bestest Hitter" award, that way we can arrive at a more fair definition of MVP so that pitchers can always be considered "qualified".

    One other thing I've never heard mentioned, perhaps it's a silly thought but: if "value" is really going to be nit-picked, shouldn't those younger players making far less money be much more valued? :)