Wednesday, September 5, 2007

The Clemente and Miller Awards Are Really Confusing

Major League Baseball has announced the nominees for the Roberto Clemente and the Marvin Miller Man of the Year Awards. What are these awards? According to MLB, the Clemente Award goes to the Major Leaguer who "best exemplifies the game of baseball, sportsmanship, community involvement and the individual's contribution to his team." In contrast the Miller Award goes to the player who "best combines on-field performance with community service."

Hmmm. Those are pretty doggone similar sets of criteria, both seeking to recognize both a players' community involvement and some notion of contribution to the team. My close reading of the criteria for the two awards leads me to believe that while both awards can only go to players who truly make a difference in their communities, you can win the Clemente Award if you kind of suck (i.e. you merely have to "contribute to the team," which may simply mean you're a nice guy to have around), but you have to actually play well if you want to win the Miller Award (i.e. it evaluates "on-field performance").

Looking at the nominees, however, leads me to believe that the players who do the nominating either don't see a distinction or else have it exactly backwards.

Eighteen of the thirty teams nominated the same player for both awards. Of the twelve teams who nominated different guys for each award, five of them (Orioles, Tigers, Yankees, Red Sox, and Diamondbacks), nominated the clearly superior player* for the Clemente award. Six of them (Royals, Blue Jays, Brewers, Giants, Dodgers, and Mets) nominated the clearly superior player for the Miller award. One team (the Devil Rays) nominated guys who are more or less equal. This seems to suggest that only six or seven out of the thirty teams appreciate the intended distinction between the Clemente Award and the Miller Award.

Finally, while the community contribution is obviously the most important aspect of these awards, it's probably worth noting that eight of the teams (Tigers, Rangers, Royals, Diamondbacks, Astros, Phillies, Giants, and Pirates) nominated players for the Miller award -- the one that seems to require some standard of on-field performance -- who are currently posting an OPS+ or ERA+ below the league average. This either means that those teams have no decent ballplayers who actually make a difference in the community, or else they're misconstruing the nomination criteria.

While I will admit that there are approximately ten million things more important in the world, all of this makes me think that they ought to either substantially change the criteria or else do away with one of these honors.
*to determine the better player, I used OPS+ and ERA+. While I realize that this leads to an apples/oranges comparison in cases where a pitcher and a position player are the two nominees, this isn't exactly quantum physics here. If anyone wants to expand this analysis using VORP or something more appropriate, you're more than welcome to do so. I'll even post it in the unlikely event you don't have a blog that gets more hits than this one.


64cardinals said...

Isn't a better topic "why does Miller have any award named after him?"

He didn't do anything to make the game of baseball better. He made the players rich, sure.

And since free agency (which I don't have a problem with) how much have ticket prices risen? And parking? And concessions? And everything the fan has to spend money on.

The players are doing great. The average fan can't afford to take his family to a game.

So, again, what has Miller done for baseball that allows him to have this award named after him?

Shyster said...

I love ya, 64C, but it looks like today is the day I have to disagree with you on everything.:-)

For starters, the award is one given to players, and you admit, players have benefited tremendously thanks to Miller. You can bet your bippy that there isn't a player around who doesn't have tremendous respect for Marvin Miller, and an award in his name is eminently appropriate in my mind.

As for his larger influence, it's impossible to dispute that since the signing of the first collective bargaining agreement and the advent of free agency, attendance has risen dramatically. Cause and effect? Oh, probably not because there are so many other factors, but it's impossible to say that Miller's work has diminished the appeal of baseball for the average fan.

As for ticket prices, simple economics and the willingness of people to pay a set price is what determined how much a ticket costs. If an owner sets his prices too high in some misguided effort to "cover" player salaries, people will stop showing up. If they continue to show up despite a rise in prices it either means (a) the price was too low before; or (b) the signings that arguably necessitated the increase in price raised the attractiveness of the product to a point where people would gladly pay more.

All of that aside, the pre-Miller system of teams dictating the terms of players' tenure and preventing player movement was simply archaic and unfair. Injecting competition into the system was, dare I say it, the American thing to do.