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.