We’re now about a week and a half removed from learning the winners of Major League Baseball’s Most Valuable Player Award. We saw a pair of tight races in the NL and AL that yielded the the results many people had come to expect.
Essentially every non-Yankee fan in baseball already knew that Jose Altuve was going to walk away with the American League MVP. And regardless of how many times we prayed to Ruth, Mantle, Gehrig, and Berra that Aaron Judge would’ve usurped A-Rod as the most recent Bomber to win the award, we can’t really be too upset with the results. Altuve had a beyond impressive 2017 campaign, and it resulted in his team winning their division – and ultimately the World Series but voters aren’t supposed to take the postseason into account.
I have absolutely no problem with the decision made in the American League. When it comes to the National League however I have a much bigger issue.
Let me begin by saying that this piece is in no way shape or form meant to detract from the 2017 accomplishments of Giancarlo Stanton or Joey Votto. The offensive numbers that each slugger boasted this year were nothing short of miraculous. But that shouldn’t be what the MVP Award represents.
By its very definition, the MVP Award honors the player in their respective league who contributed the most value to their teams all-around success. This year’s NL recipient tallied a remarkable 59 round-trippers and 132 RBI, but how much value did that really add to a team that finished the season 10 games out of the Wild Card and 20 games out of their division.
His runner-up in the MVP vote, Joey Votto, defied expectations that he’d begin to decline in his age 33 season. Instead he posted a .320 batting average for a second consecutive season, and added to it with 36 homers and 100 RBI. Those are definitely some high marks indeed, but similar to Stanton, Votto’s production wasn’t enough to raise his team into playoff contention. Moreover, the Votto-led Reds were the 3rd worst team in the National League (and 5th worst in all of Major League Baseball).
I understand baseball is a team sport and it is truly hard for a player at any position to lead their team to victory consistently. That being said though, voters of baseball’s annual awards need to come to a unanimous understanding of what an MVP should constitute. How can you justify Stanton winning the award with his Marlins team sitting below .500, but deny Mike Trout because his Angels finished a game out of the Wild Card in 2015?
Don’t misunderstand me, I think it’s very important to acknowledge the best offensive contributor in each league. If pitchers have the Cy Young Award then hitters need something. And if you’re under the impression that the MVP should just go to the game’s premier offensive player than how do we justify dominant pitchers winning Cy Young and MVP in the same season, a la Clayton Kershaw in 2014.
Fun Fact: There is an award that honors the best offensive player in each league already. But if you’re not an avid player of MLB The Show odds are you’ve never heard of the Hank Aaron Award.
Wouldn’t it just be a quick fix to boost the prestige, and media attention surrounding this award up to the standards of the Cy Young? And then just hold the MVP as the highest possible honor contended for, by the premier pitchers and hitters in each league whose success led to tangible success by their teams?
This year could’ve seen Nolan Arenado finally reach the MVP milestone as his team ascended from the cellar to the postseason. Or maybe his teammate, Charlie Blackmon, who paved a new trail or leadoff men in baseball. How about third runner up Paul Goldschmidt who found individual success amidst his team’s first playoff appearance since 2011.
The MVP Award should be to baseball what a Hall of Fame selection is: illustrious and exclusive. It’s hard to say someone was truly the best in a team sport that year when their team couldn’t win.