Here are the MVP voting criteria

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The MVP post from earlier today has, predictably, set off a lot of debate. And it’s understandable debate given that there aren’t hard and fast guidelines for what actually constitutes the Most Valuable Player.

But that doesn’t mean there are no guidelines.

Indeed, as Anna McDonald of The Hardball Times reported last year after her conversation with the secretary-treasurer for the BBWAA, voters are given some guidelines.  Among them, with the ones I feel to be germane to our discussion today bolded and italicized for emphasis:

 “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. The MVP need not come from a division winner or other playoff qualifier.

“The rules of the voting remain the same as they were written on the first ballot in 1931: (1) actual value of a player to his team, that is, strength of offense and defense; (2) number of games played; (3) general character, disposition, loyalty and effort; (4) former winners are eligible; and (5) members of the committee may vote for more than one member of a team.”

So yes, that is pretty wide open. But there is at least some guidance there. Guidance which suggests that by making one’s MVP choices contingent on the player’s team being in the playoff race, one is reading in their own rules, not following any rule set forth by the BBWAA. It also provides at least some definition of “valuable,” and no part of that definition here contains the concept of “where would this team be without this player.”  It’s merely the “strength of their offense and defense.”  Strength which can be easily measured by statistics.

No, that doesn’t keep people from going off in their own direction. The voters can do whatever they want.  But it should also be understood that many who make their voting decisions are bringing in their own predispositions to the process, not following some hard and fast rules written in stone.

Which, I should add, is actually kind of beautiful in a really frustrating way.  My criticism of the “contenders only” camp does not mean that I find their views illegitimate. I just disagree with them and I find this kind of philosophical debate to be one of the things that make baseball — and arguing about baseball — so damn fun.

Athletics hire third base coach Matt Williams

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The Athletics have hired former MLB manager Matt Williams, the team announced Friday. Williams will take over third base coaching duties under manager Bob Melvin, filling the vacancy left by Nationals’ bench coach Chip Hale after the 2017 season.

Williams is no stranger to the Bay Area, but this will be his first time sporting the green and gold. He got his start in pro ball with the rival Giants in 1987, where he manned third base and collected four All-Star nominations before jumping ship to the American League in 1997. After a one-year stint in the Indians’ organization, he returned to the NL to finish off his 17-season career and eventually hung up his cleats with the Diamondbacks in 2003.

Post-retirement, Williams has crafted a resume that almost over-qualifies him for a coaching gig. He led the Nationals to a cumulative 179-145 record from 2014 to 2015 and earned props as NL Manager of the Year after bringing the team to a first-place finish in 2014. In 2016, he split the season as a first and third base coach in the D-backs’ organization, then accepted a studio analyst position with the Giants for the 2017 season. Although he has yet to suit up for the Athletics in any role, he’s not unfamiliar with skipper Bob Melvin. The two were teammates on the Giants’ 1987-88 roster and spent some time in Arizona together when Melvin took a coaching job there in the early 2000s.

While next year’s reunion will be fun to watch (unless, I suppose, you’re a Giants fan with a long memory), Williams may not have his sights set on a coaching role forever. As the San Francisco Chronicle’s John Shea reported back in July, the 51-year-old knows what it feels like to win as a manager, and it’s a position he might be open to pursuing in the future.

“For me, my most comfortable space is in uniform,” he told Shea. “I’ve done the ownership thing and front-office stuff, and that’s fun. The most gratification I get is swinging a fungo and throwing batting practice and being on the field. It’s what you know and love. I look at myself as a teacher first and foremost. At the end of the day, I think that’s how I have my greatest influence.”