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.

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.

    • The problem is that "most valuable" allows these premises, and makes them not false.

      Take your two MVP examples.

      A writer saying that he doesn't think that a pitcher should win the MVP because they have their own award makes the premise false because of the MVP rules. However, if he says that he doesn't think that a pitcher can be more valuable than a position player, his premise is not false.

      Same argument for a losing team. If a writer thinks that a player is not as valuable on a losing team as another player on a winning team, that is his prerogative, and until the award is made "best player" is not a false premise.

      As for the rookie from other pro leagues, it is a false premise as the ROY allows them to be voted for.

      By the way, I think that if they do make a "Most Bestest Player", it should be limited to non-pitchers, because they do have there own award.

      • To think a player with the same stats is more "valuable" on a winning team (because he happens to be surrounded by better players) is a bit crazy. And the fact that professional writers get so flumoxed by the word "Value" is a bit sad.

        • I hate that it seems that I am defending writers. I think that in general sports writers are easily flumoxed by two syllable words and zippers. However, value is very subjective and allows people to put whatever variables they want into the definition.

          Take our non-sports fan lives. Does Kobe beef represent value? Not for me, but it would definitely be in my top 2 for "Best Beef". Does a private jet home for Christmas represent value? No, but, man, would it be the best way to go!!!

          • Unless you're talking about nutrition, whether Kobe beef has "value" is purely a matter of taste, and you're right about it being subjective.

            That doesn't work in baseball because there is a purpose that is objectively determined. The purpose in baseball is to win games. And if there is a way to measure how well a player contributes to that purpose (hint: there is), then I think that's how best to determine value. That makes value in baseball at least fairly objective.

            If value in baseball were as subjective as you submit, then the voters would be justified in voting really based upon any reason whatsoever. Maybe they prefer one guy's batting stance to another. Maybe facial hair. Maybe they would think GB% for hitters is a good measure of value. If what you say is true, then all of that is fair game. The thing is: everybody, and I mean EVERYBODY, knows that value in baseball is actually not subjective. Some don't know how to measure it, so they cast stupid votes. Some think they see value in qualities that are difficult to measure (leadership, scrappiness, whatever it is that Evan Grant thinks Michael Young is), but they're still talking about helping a team win.

      • The peer review idea was conceived for the HOF voting process, which is a different animal than the MVP voting where, as I said, I don't think it would work, except perhaps in the extreme case of Ingraham who left Verlander off of his ballot altogether.

        On the other hand:

        "By the way, I think that if they do make a "Most Bestest Player", it should be limited to non-pitchers, because they do have there own award. "

        Is silly. Hitters have their own award to, that the Cy Young award gets more attention than the Hank Aaron Award doesn't mean the latter doesn't exist. The notion that pitchers by definition can't be the best player is silly, and even if it *were* true it wouldn't need to be codified.

  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.

    • The problem isn't that Ingraham's opinion is untenable (like saying that Verlander isn't one of the 10 best players this year). He is saying that I don't like the BBWAA rules so I will replace them with ones I like better.

      • Yes, I agree. But the problem I see with these new hypothetical rules is the same problem that "dar34" wrote earlier. It's very easy to make up some sort of answer that sounds defensible. If we start moderating what seems defensible and what doesn't seem defensible then we're going to run into problems in some years that are just like problems in our years – deserving candidates will be left out of MVP selection because the group said so.

        What Ingraham did is terrible, but to be honest placing a "you must defend your opinion" rule isn't going to stop the problems. What will though is clear guidelines (not vague statements) from the top that specifically define what voters should look for in their MVP candidate.

        • No it isn't. Unless the panel is going to deliberately play dense, there's no believable rationale for leaving Verlander off of the ballot entirely given the season he had. To say "I think Jose Bautista was more valuable than Verlander because he's a position player" is one thing, to replace Bautista with, say, Adrian Beltre is another.

    • With respect to the Hall of Fame process there's not really so much grey, but that's a topic for another day.

  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? :)

    • And while I know the Hank Aaron award exists, it's not promoted nearly in the same way as the Cy and the other "Major" awards (it's given out during the World Series, not afterward)…it should be treated as an equal to the Cy…