By Tim Baffoe-
(CBS) The best pitcher in the American League is worthy of an MVP award. But he shouldn’t get it. Makes sense, right?
No pitcher has been given MLB’s Most Valuable Player award since Dennis Eckersley won it as Oakland’s closer in 1992, and no starting pitcher has won it since Roger Clemens with Boston in 1986. But due to Detroit’s Justin Verlander, who starts against the Cleveland Indians Wednesday, and his dominant 2011 season so far, the pitcher-for-MVP talk is bubbling again, and a debate is beginning to boil.
It is not one of the more common debates in a sport that lends itself to argument more than any other. The validity of the designated hitter, will anyone ever get a hit .400 in a season again, and whether or not Jeff Samardzija is actually the fourth Musketeer are much more popular bar stool banter. But can a pitcher truly be an MVP? No, and nobody should be, really.
As you wrap your brain around that insane and outlandish statement, let’s first examine the Verlander debate as it exists right now.
Those who think it is baseball sacrilege for a pitcher to be voted an MVP usually first claim that no player who plays in at most 20 percent of his team’s games can be considered that team’s most valuable. Fair enough, but despite playing once every five games, doesn’t a starting pitcher face about as many if not more batters during the course of an entire season than a position player gets at-bats? So the pound-for-pound value argument is thus neutralized.
Then there is the fact that pitchers have the Cy Young Award already and that seemingly should be enough, right? But rookies get their own award, too. There is also a Comeback Player of the Year award. So should those guys be exempt from eligibility as well? And then there is that pesky Hank Aaron Award, given to each league’s best hitter, which sort of throws a wrench in the “Cy Young is enough” claim.
The pro-Verlanderers likely lean on the Tigers probably not being a first place team without him. Entering Wednesday, Detroit is eight games ahead in first place over the White Sox. Also, as of Monday night, Verlander has a Wins Above Replacement (WAR) of 7.7, tops among MLB pitchers according to BaseballReference.com, who also defines an 8+ WAR as MVP-quality. The Dodgers’ Matt Kemp (8.6) and Blue Jays’ Jose Bautista (8.1) are the only players currently above an 8 WAR. Maybe the Tigers are not in first with another guy filling in for Verlander, but there’s a chance they are, too.
So Verlander and any other great pitcher should have as much of a right to be MVP as anyone else. And yet he should not be the AL MVP. No player should be. In any sport. Why?
Most VALUABLE Player. What the heck does that even mean? Most valuable to his team? Andre Dawson in 1987 with the Cubs and Alex Rodriguez in 2003 with the Rangers must have had the immeasurable value of not having their last place teams be historically bad, I guess.
How can it even be measured who is more valuable to his team than someone else? I could argue that Carlos Zambrano not rejoining the Cubs for the rest of the season is pretty damn valuable, at least for my sanity and that of the ballclub. Kyle Farnsworth may be the most valuable to every tavern owner near the Rays’ hotel and every piece of road beef scattered across the baseball landscape (and I’m working on a road beef metric, in case you were wondering). With Bautista, the MVP pick by most anti-Verlanderistas, the Blue Jays are 18 games out of first place currently. Is he the most valuable because they’d be over 25 games out without him? Is that the value the award represents?
The problem is not merely the measure of so-called “value” a player has to his team but also that many people consider the MVP to equate to the best player in the league. Should that guy be penalized for being awesome but not perhaps having to carry a team on his back like a Derrick Rose? To say that Lebron James is not a better player than Rose means you probably think college basketball is better than pro because the players try harder (by the way, the harder one has to try at something, the less talented the person is. A three-year old would have to try much harder than me to drive a car. That doesn’t make the kid a better driver than me, pizza delivery be damned).
Or why does a statistically better player on a poor team often get the shaft because his team does not make the playoffs, those often being a deciding factor for many voters?
Whether or not the award equates to a sport’s best player I’m not going to debate. Actually, check that. Screw the guy who’s fortunate enough to be pretty good whose team just sneaked into the playoffs because of him. This is America, land of Capitalism and the American Dream, those most Darwinist of cultural aspects. The best win in real life here, and if all other things “USA USA USA!” have to be shoved down our throats in sports—the National Anthem, God Bless America, honoring veterans, and sandwiches at minor league games that in Third World countries only exist in bedtime stories—then “almost the best” shouldn’t be good enough either. Best overall player should get the hardware.
The fact that it could be and often is debated, though—the very best in the game or most valuable to his team—should warrant some revision of the award itself. And it wouldn’t be that difficult to do really. Watch!
NFL: It gets sticky here because there are 4,302 NFL MVP awards chosen by different organizations, including the Associated Press, The Sporting News, something called Philadelphia’s Maxwell Club, my Uncle Carl, and the Congressman who represents the District of Kathleen Turner’s ass. So now we must kill all the writers who screw stuff like this up all the time (not literally kill… at least not all of them. Barry Rozner seems like a nice guy). The AP is usually the accepted standard, but even they have picked co-MVPs before (Peyton Manning and Steve McNair in ’03 because they knew McNair would die on a couch at the hands of his insane girlfriend and Barry Sanders and Brett Favre in ’97 because they knew Favre would become an embarrassment to himself and drug addicted egomaniac white trash everywhere). Tying for MVP is like kissing your sister if your sister was Barry Sanders and you were on too much Vicodin to know it. Writers like ties, though, because then they don’t get accused of getting a pick wrong. Well, that ends because writers don’t get to vote anymore. All player awards in all leagues are voted on by fellow players and coaches only. And in the NFL they pick an Offensive Player of the Year and a Defensive Player of the Year. Done. If kickers complain about being left out, don’t worry—they’re either too drunk to take seriously or immigrants.
MLB: Scrap the MVP completely, keep the Cy Young, keep the Hank Aaron (given to the best hitter in each league). Done. Pitchers and position players get treated like the different animals most consider them to be anyway and get their respective “best” trophies. Fielding doesn’t get factored in because appreciation for fielding is for dorks and the stupid DH exists.
NBA: Rename it the Most Outstanding Player. Done. And take away one of Steve Nash’s back-to-back awards retroactively while we’re at it.
WNBA: Continue to point and laugh at the players. Their award is actually in the form of gift certificates to Lane Bryant, by the way.
NHL: Keep the fancy trophy names because hockey fans get angry when you change things in their game or their Lunchables. Hart Trophy goes to best non goalie. Goalies get their Cy Vezina. Done.
See? Was that so difficult? Bad sports argument gone forever. Now on to solving this whole jobs crisis thing…
Tim Baffoe attended the University of Iowa and Governors State University and began blogging at The Score after winning the 2011 Pepsi Max Score Search. He enjoys writing things about stuff, but not so much stuff about things. When not writing for 670TheScore.com, Tim corrupts America’s youth as a high school English teacher and provides a great service to his South Side community delivering pizzas (please tip him and his colleagues well). You can follow Tim’s inappropriate brain droppings on Twitter @Ten_Foot_Midget , but please don’t follow him in real life. He grew up in Chicago’s Beverly To read more of Tim’s blogs click here.