You’re not “valuable” unless you’re on a winning team, apparently

111 Comments

We’re destined to have a good postseason award fight every year. Last year was the great pitchers’ wins debate, in which people argued about whether or not Felix Hernandez should win the Cy Young despite not having a lot of them.  This year it’s going to be the “MVPs can only come from winning teams” debate, with Jose Bautista as the bone of contention.

Today’s Jon Heyman’s column crystallizes the issue for us. A column in which he says that Jose Bautista would be his fifth-place MVP candidate. The reasoning is familiar and not unique to Heyman:

Stats are most assuredly a major part of the equation. But they shouldn’t be completely determinative. Otherwise, let’s just run the numbers through a computer. And rename the award Most Outstanding player. Because there’s no way to put a number on the value of leading a team into the postseason, which should be everyone’s goal.

Like people, stats are imperfect. Even WAR, which I agree is a very useful stat, is imperfect because it depends on the value placed on other statistics by the person who devises the formula. The ultimate goal of any player is to win, so the value of the individual accomplishments that lead to a pennant should be viewed in that context.

So while Bautista has been the most outstanding player in the league whether you use WAR or OPS or or any other key stat, it’s a tough case to make for him as MVP in a year when so many stars are ushering their team into the playoffs.

I guess what I don’t understand here is if “leading a team into the postseason” is the criteria, how can Heyman include four Red Sox in his top ten?  Jacoby Ellsbury, Adrian Gonzalez, Dustin Pedroia and David Ortiz all being so awesome, how can it be said that anyone “led” that group?  It was a total team effort — of a stacked team — which got the Red Sox where they are. None of those guys has either (a) played as well as Bautista; or (b) done anything superhuman or singular. It’s a wolfpack of excellent players, none of whom are as good as Bautista, and none of whom — if surrounded by Bautista’s supporting cast — would be playing on a playoff team this year either.

I know the arguments that will come. I am well-aware of the how people engage in the precise parsing of the term “valuable” and put forth the idea that it’s not called the “most outstanding player award.”  But it seems to me that in order to get to the place where one can start hashing out the definition of “valuable” one has to totally ignore the fact that baseball is a team sport. And I don’t understand what good an award is if it’s premised on completely and utterly divorcing it from the essence of the game itself.

And of course there’s a final irony here. It’s usually the guys who are the biggest proponents of “team chemistry” — the guys who believe that you can’t win jack without 25 guys working together — who tend to argue that one guy can single-handedly lead a team into the playoffs.  Does that make any sense to you?  It doesn’t to me.

There was a fight in the Wrigley Field bleachers last night

Getty Images
1 Comment

The Pirates beat the Cubs pretty easily last night. There was far more fight in the folks from Chicago out in the bleachers.

A brawl erupted among a group of fans. It was fairly messy as far as fights go. Lots of shoving and yelling and some punches thrown but no one really distinguished themselves or covered themselves with honor or glory. Well, two people did, for wildly different reasons. The fight was recorded by Danny Rockett, who hosts a podcast for the BleedCubbieBlue website. There are two videos below showing most of the relevant action.

I will give some honor and glory points to the middle aged guy in the blue jacket in the first video who kept repeating, over and over again, “there’s no fighting in the bleachers!” He was dead wrong about that, obviously, as there was actually a considerable amount of fighting, but I respect his aspirational mantra:

There was also a guy who distinguished himself but for extremely dubious reasons. I’m talking about the guy here in this second video who hurled racist epithets at one of his adversaries. That was special, but nowhere near as special at his reaction when he realized that someone was filming him.

Listen for him saying “DON’T RECORD ME!” and, just after that, “if my unit sees that I’m dead!” Which I presume means a military unit, but I’m not sure:

It’s amazing what people will say when they don’t think anyone is documenting it. And how freaked out they get once they realize that, yeah, someone was. I’m sure if this guy hits the news once he’s identified he’ll talk about how “that’s not who he is” or something like that. Don’t listen to him if he says that. Because, as is quite clear here, that’s exactly who he is. That’s exactly who most people are who get caught saying stuff like this.