P.J.R.: 'Most Valuable' was a well-chosen phrase, then and now
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Brian Kenny is a star of the Major League Baseball Network and a hero to the believers who have dived into the deep end of new-age baseball stats. He can use those numbers to make an articulate argument that Mike Trout should have been the American League's Most Valuable Player over the past two seasons rather than Miguel Cabrera.
What's amazing to me is that Kenny either does not understand the ownership of the MVP awards, or he's choosing to ignore it to better manipulate his arguments.
Kenny's Tweets on the subject when Cabrera's cruise to another victory in MVP voting was announced last week included the following:
"In the 1930s, it made perfect sense to give writers the MVP and HoF votes ... They were the only ones going to games.''
"We have an entire industry devoted to competitive analysis. Why wouldn't MLB use the very best people to do these jobs?''
Kenny must have known when he sent out that second message of 140 characters (or less) that MLB - as in, Major League Baseball - has no involvement with the MVP awards, other than providing the product.
The Baseball Writers Association of America was formed in 1908, mostly to try to convince big-league teams to provide some room at the ballparks for sportswriters to observe the game and to type their stories.
The BBWAA set up a voting system to honor a player from each league in 1931.
In doing this, the BBWAA of eight decades ago also coined the phrase "Most Valuable Player.'' Since this was not a common usage in sports at the time, we have to assume the BBWAA used that phrase advisedly: Most VALUABLE Player.
As pointed out on the BBWAA's Website, there is no clear-cut definition of what "Most Valuable'' means. It is up to the individual voter to decide who was the Most Valuable Player in each league to his team. Specifically, the MVP need not come from a division winner or other playoff qualifers.
The rules for voting are the same as they were written on the first ballot in 1931, with these as the primary points: 1-Actual value of a player to his team; that is, strength of offense and defense; 2-Number of games played; and 3-General character, disposition, loyalty and effort.
Kenny and others can argue that Trout's defense should have weighed more heavily in his favor in a competition with Cabrera. They can claim that a theory such as WAR - Wins Above Replacement over a faceless player - should mean more than the Triple Crown numbers that would appear to be favored by a majority of BBWAA voters.
What can't be argued is this:
The Most Valuable Player awards belong to Baseball Writers Association of America. They are under our trademark. So are three more awards on which we conduct votes at the end of the regular season:
*The Cy Young Awards for pitchers, started in 1956.
*The Jackie Robinson Rookie of Year Awards, started in 1947 and named after Robinson in 1987, on the 40th anniversary of his integration of major league baseball.
*Manager of the Year Awards, started in 1983 after the wire services stopped naming their top managers.
One suggestion by Kenny was that the MVPs should be renamed the Babe Ruth Awards, thus making it more clearly a best player award by taking away the "valuable'' term (that has favored players from contenders).
Two things: The MVPs already have an official historic link, having been named in honor of Kennesaw Landis in 1944, the first baseball commissioner from 1920 until his death in 1944; and there are numerous "best player'' awards from which Kenny and other complainers can choose.
The Sporting News has been naming a "Player of the Year,'' covering both leagues, since 1936. The MLB Players Association has been offering an Outstanding Player Award since 1998.
Therer are the People's Choice Awards. There's an ESPY Award. There are Henry Aaron Awards to top hitters, and Baseball America awards, and there's now an Internet Baseball Writers Association offering its awards.
So, Brian, huddle up with Fan Graphs, get the MLB Network behind it, have a big banquet and give the WAR Is Good Player of the Year Award for the American League to Mike Trout as often as you see fit.
Go for it ... but the Most Valuable Player, that belongs to us, and as the carrier of card No. 10 on the BBWAA's seniority list, I'm confident those wonderfully crafted guidelines are going to remain the same, as well as the voting system:
Two BBWAA designees from each franchise-holding city in each league, voting 1 to 10 on the players they consider to have been the most valuable "to his team.''
FOOTNOTE: As for the Hall of Fame voting, that's an arrangement between the BBWAA and the decision-makers at the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum. The folks in Cooperstown can drop us and go with "the very best people'' whenever they so wish.
--PATRICK JAMES REUSSE.