Last year there was a lot of indignation on the part of Tigers fans when an MVP voter — Jim Ingrahm of the News-Herald — left Justin Verlander off of his MVP ballot, arguing that he didn’t think pitchers should be eligible for the award.
The source of the indignation: pitchers ARE eligible! It says so right on the MVP ballot itself! While it may have been defensible to not have voted Verlander number one on his ballot, Hughes’ political statement — that he thinks pitchers shouldn’t be eligible so he didn’t include Verlander at all — was wholly illegitimate. There’s no reasonable argument that Verlander wasn’t a top-10 player in 2011.
Fair enough. But I have this feeling Tigers fans won’t feel the same way about voters reading extra criteria into the MVP award this year.
I say this because I have been besieged by people — mostly Tigers fans — making some variation of this argument:
@craigcalcaterra if Angels miss….Tigers make playoffs…u can’t give him MVP
— Shaun (@ShaunMichael80) September 22, 2012
You can’t? Really? Why not? Show me where on the MVP ballot it says that you should take a team’s playoff status into account? If anything, the ballot instructions tell voters to ignore such things:
There is no clear-cut definition of what Most Valuable means. 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.
The rules of the voting remain the same as they were written on the first ballot in 1931:
1. Actual value of a player to his team, that is, strength of offense and defense.
2. Number of games played.
3. General character, disposition, loyalty and effort.
4. Former winners are eligible.
5. Members of the committee may vote for more than one member of a team.
You are also urged to give serious consideration to all your selections, from 1 to 10. A 10th-place vote can influence the outcome of an election. You must fill in all 10 places on your ballot. Only regular-season performances are to be taken into consideration.
Keep in mind that all players are eligible for MVP, including pitchers and designated hitters.
Granted, there is no penalty to voters who do, in fact, consider the playoff status of a candidate’s team. It happens all the time, just like people leaving pitchers off the ballot and the BBWAA has decided, wisely I think, that it’s not going to get into the business of policing such things.
But make no mistake: a voter giving Miguel Cabrera a bump over Mike Trout if the Tigers make the playoffs and the Angels don’t is doing the same thing that the guy who left Justin Verlander off his ballot last year did. He’s reading in his own criteria. He’s ignoring the guidelines that the very organization which sanctions the award has established.
If that pissed you off when the guy left Justin Verlander off the MVP ballot last year, you have no standing whatsoever to demand that voters take the Angels and Tigers playoff position into account this year in the event that such a thing favors Miguel Cabrera.