Ryan Howard was the most valuable player in the National League in 2008. That he was not voted MVP by the Baseball Writers' Association of America says more about the association than about Howard, Albert Pujols or America. Pujols was not an embarrassing selection, not with his excellent numbers, but was still the wrong selection. And that should embarrass the association enough to do what it should have done long ago: get out of the business of voting on baseball's postseason awards - as well as the Hall of Fame.He may be right about the writers getting out of the voting business, but if he is, it's for the wrong reasons. I mean really, after all of the bad choices over the years, voting Albert Pujols the MVP in 2008 is the last straw? Was Sheridan cool with Mo Vaughn in 1995, or is this just a rehashed column?
The arguments against the writers' participation in the voting are well-established and have been covered here before. It is ethically indefensible for the journalists who cover baseball to vote for official awards that have an impact on players' financial rewards. Imagine Howard's 2009 arbitration hearing. It will be different because he finished second in this voting as opposed to first. That alone is reason enough for the association to recuse itself from this annual charade.I've heard this argument before -- Posnanski made a huge fuss about this in connection with the proposed Curt Schilling contract clause last year -- but I've never been that impressed with it. Yes, voting on awards can directly enrich ballplayers, but so can a lot of other things writers do. Like giving guys years of good press, which may cause a team to retain players who are perceived as good citizens and stand-up guys. Indeed, such reputations often turn on the very words written by BBWAA members alone. As a lawyer I appreciate integrity and appearance-of-impropriety arguments as much as the next guy, but I don't think a writer's single vote has done as much to enrich, say, Derek Jeter as much as the columns lauding his greatness have. Hey writers: don't want to influence people and events? Don't write about them.
It is similarly impossible to justify the association's giving thumbs up or down to players from the steroid era who become eligible for Hall of Fame voting . . . It should be much more of a concern that the same group that rewarded Barry Bonds with four consecutive MVP Awards in this decade will sit in judgment of whether his alleged cheating should keep him from the Hall.I agree with Sheridan that we're going to run into some serious double standards and outright incoherence when more steroid-era ballplayers start coming eligible for the Hall of Fame, but I don't know that MVP votes which occurred at a time when most people weren't aware of the scope of the problem are an appropriate measure of hypocrisy.
If the MVP is the player with the best all-round statistical season, a computer could figure that out. And a computer might well have spit out Pujols' name this season. He was terrific. But Howard got hot in September, hitting 11 home runs and driving in 32 runs to carry the Phillies into the playoffs. That's the very definition of valuable.Albert Pujols in September: .321/.427/.702 8 HR, 27 RBI
Ryan Howard in September: .352/.422/.852 11 HR, 32 RBI
Yes, Howard had a better September. But he had a worse March, April, May, June, and August, all by much greater margins than his slightly better September. They had equal OPSs in July, though Pujols' was far more OBP heavy, which is preferable.
The group-think association argument for Pujols, if I'm smart enough to get it right, is that he single-handedly kept the Cardinals in the wild-card race. That is brilliant, except it ignores the presence of Ryan Ludwick, Rick Ankiel and Troy Glaus (so much for "single-handedly"), and the fact that the National League wild-card race was a watered-down farce.I wonder if Sheridan -- a Philly journalist, mind you -- is willing to go tell Chase Utley, Jimmy Rollins, Shane Victorino, Cole Hamels, and Brad Lidge that they had nothing to do with the NL East crown. A crown, by the way, that was won with only two more victories than the winner of the "watered-down farce" that was the wild card race.
The association seamheads love to throw around stats - OPS, VORP, ASPCA - to make a case for Pujols. That's all great. Yes, he struck out less and hit for a higher average. But Howard won actual baseball games in an honest-Abe pennant race. He had 11 more home runs than Pujols, scored five more runs than Pujols, and drove in 30 more runs than Pujols."Stats suck and are for losers, and to show you just how deluded you nerds are, here's some stats that make my case . . ."
Notice there are no decimal points involved there, only whole numbers that madeSo I take it that Sheridan believes that Cole Hamels (3.09 ERA) was no more effective than Ubaldo Jimenez (3.99) was this year? In other news, if the coffee shop near Sheridan's office is looking for a cashier, I highly recommend that you Philadelphians rush to apply.
a difference in real baseball games.
That takes care of the logic.
Wait, that was the logical part? Fasten your seat belts, it's going to be a bumpy night!
Of the 32 MVP voters (two from each chapter, which means two from each NL market), only one failed to put Howard on his ballot at all. Rich Campbell of the Fredericksburg (Va.) Free Lance-Star was contacted by my astute colleague Todd Zolecki. He had no comment.I'll grant him that leaving Howard off the ballot is ridiculous. He wouldn't be my number one pick, obviously, but if you leave Howard off entirely, you have pretty much disqualified yourself as a serious voter.
Howard's next-lowest spot - 10th out of 10 - was on the ballot of Mark Zuckerman of the Washington Times. Zuckerman and Campbell both cover the Nationals. They both cast ballots utterly out of step with the norm, at least regarding Howard. If that's a coincidence, I'm Red Smith. It's easy to pick on the Nats' beat writers. They were no doubt numb after watching that team for a full season. But the point is that the association's voting is rife with personal agendas, flawed logic, favor trading, and plain old sloppiness.Again, I agree that Howard as tenth makes no sense. But really, Mr. Sheridan, is your boosterism of Howard purely a function of that logic you claimed to be dropping, or is the fact that you cover the guy entering into this at all?
Three members of the association cast rookie of the year votes for Reds pitcher Edinson Volquez, who was not a rookie this year. If the howling ethical malfeasance weren't enough to shut this farce down, that should do the trick. Ryan Howard - who has added a World Series ring to his 2005 rookie of the year and 2006 MVP trophies - will survive this voting nicely. The process that produced it should not.And we're back to where we started: Sheridan being right on the macro level -- that there are some serious flaws in BBWAA voting -- but deluded on the micro level -- that Ryan Howard not winning the MVP is evidence of the problem.
OK, that was both frustrating and exhausting. No wonder the FJM guys quit.
(thanks to reader Scott M for the heads up)