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:
Should Braun be stripped of the MVP?
— ESPN First Take (@ESPN_FirstTake) July 24, 2013
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.