Quote of the Day: Buster Olney and the MVP Award

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Here’s Buster Olney in his column today, in which he picked Ryan Braun and Justin Verlander as his MVP choices. First, on Braun:

For his work, and for his importance to the Brewers’ success, Braun should be the NL MVP; Matt Kemp had a spectacular season for the Dodgers, but Los Angeles — hampered by ownership issues and the team’s inability to spend on needed improvements last offseason — never contended this year.

Then on Verlander:

Some folks think that team success should have no bearing on the MVP Award, but the precedent has long been established: This award has historically been judged through the prism of the standings. To ignore that would be to ignore what the award was designed to be.

And here are the actual instructions printed on the MVP ballot:

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.

That first sentence means that Olney’s choice to go with Braun or Verlander on the basis of team strength is entirely acceptable.  That second sentence, however, makes it quite clear that team strength is no part of “what the award was designed to be.”  Nowhere on the ballot does it say that past MVP vote criteria are binding authority on future votes, blowing Olney’s notion of “precedent” out of the water. This is not the Anglo-American legal system. Stare Decisis is not in play here.  It’s baseball.

Buster can choose who he wants, and his two choices are entirely reasonable ones.  I just wish that voters who think like Buster does about such things owned up to the fact that it is their choice — their own subjective preference — to only vote for guys on winning teams and that no one is forcing them to do that.

Seattle Mariners to make a “full-court press” for Shohei Ohtani

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Mariners general manager Jerry Dipoto said in a team-sponsored podcast the other day that the M’s will make a “full-court press” for Shohei Ohtani. To that end, Dipoto said that the M’s would be willing to let the two-way star to pitch and to hit, which is something Ohtani is interested in doing in the United States. Not all clubs are likely to let him do this, with most likely seeing him as a starting pitcher only.

Ohtani, who is expected to be posted by his Japanese team, the Nippon Ham Fighters, possibly as early as today, can sign with anyone he wants. He is, however, subject to the international bonus pool caps, so the bids on him will be somewhat limited. The Texas Rangers and New York Yankees have the most money available: $3.535 million for the Rangers and $3.5 million for the Yankees. The Twins ($3.245 million), Pirates ($2.266 million), Marlins ($1.74 million) and Mariners ($1.57 million) are the only other teams with more than $1 million left. Twelve teams — including the Dodgers, Cubs, Cardinals and Astros — are limited to a maximum of $300,000, having met or exceeded their caps for this signing period already.

Ohtani, however, is said to be less motivated by money than he is by finding the right situation. While a lot of guys say that, the fact that Ohtani is coming over to the U.S. now, when his financial prospects are limited, as opposed to waiting for two years when he is not subject to the bonus caps and could sign for nine figures, suggests that he is telling the truth. As such, a team like the Mariners that is willing to allow him to hit and pitch could make up for the couple of million less they have in bonus money to spend.

As for how that might work logistically, Dipoto said that the team would be willing to play DH Nelson Cruz a few days in the outfield to accommodate Ohtani, allowing him to DH on the days he’s not pitching. That might be . . . interesting to see, but given how badly the Mariners could use a good starting pitcher, they have an incentive to be creative.

Ohtani, 23, suffered some injuries in 2017, limiting him to just five starts and 65 games as a hitter. In 2016, however, he hit .289/.356/.547 with 22 homers in 342 at-bats and went 11-3 with a 3.24 ERA, and a K/BB ratio of 146/51 in 133.1 innings as a starter.

Five clubs have more money to spend on Ohtani than the Mariners do. None of those teams are on the west coast, which some Asian players have said in the past they preferred due to faster travel back home. The Mariners, owned for a long time by a Japanese company which still retains a minority interest in the club, and long the home for high-profile Japanese players such as Ichiro and Hisashi Iwakuma, likely have a better media and marketing reach in Japan than most other teams as well, which might be a factor in his decision making process. Is all that enough to sway Ohtani?

We’ll find out over the next couple of weeks.