There was a time in late 2011-early 2012 when several baseball writers were arguing that the Baseball Writers Association of America should re-vote the NL MVP award in light of Ryan Braun’s positive drug test. That idea was fraught will all manner of problems and was never seriously considered by the BBWAA.
But the meme is back again in light of the Ryan Braun suspension. Some reporters asked Matt Kemp — the 2011 NL MVP runner up — about it yesterday. Several people on Twitter are chatting about it. Talk radio. It’s apparently the topic du jour over at that awful Skip Bayless-Stephen A. Smith yakfest on ESPN:
Thankfully, however, the BBWAA itself is not going to entertain it. Yesterday the organization’s secretary-treasurer Jack O’Connell put the kibosh on it, saying ”the decision was already made. He won it.” Which makes sense, because you simply can’t undo history like that.
Stripping awards after the fact is idiotic. Mostly because, in most cases, you have no better idea that the man you would give the award to the second time around was clean himself. We went through this four years ago when Rick Reilly wrote a really dumb column in which he argued for re-awarding of MVP and Cy Young awards from the 1990s and early 2000s to whom he felt was more deserving. He argued that Mike Piazza should now be the 1996 NL MVP instead of Ken Caminiti. I wonder what the Hall of Fame voters who kept Piazza out on unwarranted drug suspicions think of that now. The AL was even more ridiculous. The winner: Juan Gonzalez. Yes, he’s out of course. The runner up: Alex Rodriguez. Third place: Albert Belle. Hurm.
But if you are re-awarding people, you kind of have to go all the way, don’t you? Strip Barry Bonds of his MVPs and Roger Clemens of his Cy Youngs? I presume many would say not to go back that far because it was a different era with greater uncertainty and a more fluid ethical code in the game. Never mind that these issues don’t stand in the way of people strongly opposing Bonds and Clemens’ Hall of Fame candidacies.
The upshot: history is history. We live in the present and plan for the future. But we can’t change the past and shouldn’t try. It’s too hard and accomplishes nothing. Well, apart from a giving the one doing the re-awarding a momentary sense of self-righteousness.
The Rays were busy over the weekend, trading starter Jake Odorizzi to the Twins, designating All-Star outfielder Corey Dickerson for assignment, and then picking up C.J. Cron in a deal with the Angels. The Rays saved about $4 million — Odorizzi’s $6.3 million less Cron’s $2.3 million salary — and picked up a prospect. They’re still on the hook for Dickerson’s $5.95 million salary until they can find a trade partner, which seems likely.
Those are some head-scratching moves if you’re a Rays fan or a member of the Rays. Dickerson hit .282/.325/.490 with 27 home runs, 62 RBI, and 84 runs scored in 629 plate appearances last season, part of which resulted in his first trip to the All-Star Game. Designating him for assignment is strictly a financial move, assuming he can be traded. The Rays are currently operating with a payroll below $70 million. This comes just a week and a half after Rays ownership proposed the public footing most of the bill for the club’s new stadium. And the Rays had traded third baseman Evan Longoria — then the face of the franchise — to the Giants earlier this offseason.
Longoria expressed sympathy for Rays fans for having to put up with this. Via Andrew Baggarly, Longoria said of the curious Dickerson move, “I just kind of feel sorry for the Rays fan base. … I’m not going to take too many shots but it’s pretty obvious that guy is a valuable player and didn’t deserve to be DFAd. Corey was our best player last year.”
Longoria isn’t quite on the money there. By WAR, Dickerson ranked fifth among position players on the team, according to Baseball Reference. FanGraphs is also in agreement. Still, it’s indisputable that Dickerson, who turns 29 years old this May, more than pulled his weight. The Rays do not have a surfeit of starting outfielders, so it wasn’t like they were making room for other capable players. Mallex Smith, who put up a .684 OPS in 282 PA last year, is slated to start in left field at the moment. Designating Dickerson for assignment, as well as trading Longoria and Odorizzi, were simply cost-cutting decisions.
The Rays’ M.O. has been part of the problem leading to the current stagnant free agent market (sans Eric Hosmer‘s eight-year deal on Saturday). Teams like the Rays, Phillies, Reds, and Tigers have been explicitly putting out non-competitive teams in order to facilitate a rebuilding process. Longoria is right to express sympathy for Rays fans, who see their favorite team worsening a roster that went 80-82 last year. The Rays haven’t finished at .500 or above since 2013 and doesn’t figure to halt the streak this year.