Jon Heyman prefaces his awards column with an explanation that he does take winning into account when he chooses an MVP. He also says that, if you differ, and if you simply view the MVP award as a “best player award” that’s fine. He just sees it another way.
This, I think, is reasonable. He’s clear and he’s open to alternative approaches even if he’s not likely to adopt them. It’s his ballot and he can do what he wants with it. As such — and I am being 100% sincere here — the purpose of this post is not to mock Heyman’s choices. He chooses Miguel Cabrera as his MVP as I feel the voters will as well. I’ve said several times that it’s not a bad choice, even if I’d make a different one. Cabrera is probably the best hitter in baseball, especially when he’s healthy, and we’re a long way from the days when Juan Gonzalez was winning this award.
My point is merely to say that, when you choose to make a winning team matter — and when you choose to make finishing strong an important factor — you should probably be consistent with it. Here’s what Heyman wrote in his 2012 awards column:
Cabrera, I believe, won the award with his big finish. He had a 1.032 OPS in September compared to .836 for Trout. Cabrera’s big finish put the Tigers into the playoffs.
[Cabrera] couldn’t do much the last month because he was hurt, costing him a shot at back-to-back Triple Crowns. But he pretty well had the MVP wrapped up by August. His batting percentages are better than anyone else, and way better than anyone on a contender. (Note: the reason his big September last year counted so much is the Tigers needed it, whereas they had things pretty well wrapped up by September this year even if they only wound up winning the division by a game.)
That parenthetical does a lot of work here. It has to given that the Tigers won the division by three games last year and one this year. It has to given that last year Heyman said that Trout’s .836 September OPS cost him while Cabrera’s sub-.800 OPS is brushed aside.
Again, as Heyman explains what he’s doing it’s merely a difference of opinion, and he is entitled to his. But it does illustrate that, the farther you stray from merely picking the best player for the MVP and step into the tall, amorphous weeds of “value,” the harder it is to apply consistent criteria. Sometimes September matters, sometimes it doesn’t. Sometimes a team that wins by one game had it in the bag all along, sometimes a team that won by three was fighting for its playoff life. Some games are pressure free, some games are pressure packed. It can get a little messy. And I don’t figure any reporter would dare tell Mike Trout, as Heyman says here, that he didn’t play any meaningful games after May, thus had no pressure.
My view: pick the best player and you reduce the number of impossible to quantify variables. You also, you know, reward the best player for something. Which, under the “winning matters” criteria, often won’t happen. And that seems like quite an oversight.