Tuesday, August 30, 2011


And yes, we mean "fix" in just the way you think we mean it.

Look, here's the bottom line--these seasonal awards have become more clotted than month-old cream. There continues to be a raging disconnect between the BBWAA and the blogosphere in terms of the criteria involved in voting for them.

Hue and cry over these awards is the type of fallout that most folks would lump into the "there's no such thing as bad publicity" dustbin, but the problem is that none of this can actually close the gap between the "modeled value" calculations of the numbers crowd and the intuitive shell game that is the BBWAA voting process.

This perpetually periodic Mexican standoff isn't always a catastrophe--let's face it, the BBWAA isn't quite that bad at their job--but there are years in which this situation just comes up against a brick wall. Somewhere between 20-30% of all seasonal awards become accident victims in a pileup of conflicting factors, where no one can reasonably discriminate between prospective candidates.

Count the 2011 AL Most Valuable Player race as the latest Perfect Storm Scenario. With a month left in the season, things are shaping themselves into at least a three-player photo finish:

Jose Bautista, Toronto
Adrian Gonzalez, Boston
Curtis Granderson, New York

(There are some out there that want to add the Tigers' Justin Verlander to this group. As fine a year as Justin is having, his only chance to be in that discussion would be for him to win 25 games--a bitter irony to those who have staked their careers on the notion that pitcher wins are meaningless.)

Constituencies are already forming around these three, and countless metric tons of bandwith will be expended by those arguing their cases over the next six to eight weeks. We won't try to paraphrase these arguments here: that would be almost as tiresome as what's going to be flying around as the season winds down. What we can do is simply summarize the specific strong points for the candidates:

Bautista (home runs, OBP, SLG, OPS+)
Gonzalez (RBI, batting average, doubles, OBP, playoff team)
Granderson (home runs, triples, XBH, runs scored, RBI, stolen bases, playoff team)

Any and all "weighting systems" that attempt to tease out anything resembling a significant gap between these players--including Wins Above Replacement--are floating in the fog.

Assuming these players' performance strengths remain the same at season's end, two of them are going to be cheated.

At this moment, they are each MVPs.

The best thing we can tell the writers to do is to rig the vote. That's right, rig it.

Of course, the one time they rigged it (1979 NL MVP), the BBWAA didn't go far enough...they decided that Willie Stargell deserved a lifetime award ahead of his enshrinement in the Hall, and they rightly admired the unique hitting peak of Keith Hernandez.

Problem is that they should have handed a third piece of hardware to Dave Winfield.

But, of course, if they'd done that, people would have said that they'd rigged it.

And, naturally, we can't rig anything in this country.

Of course not.

Anyway--we've grown up a lot since 1979. We know better now. So we should just agree right now that the MVP candidate pool is too big to fail and we should just rig it.

Just throw a blanket over the whole thing and give the Three Amigos their diamond-studded earrings and free Range Rovers from Bud's car lot.

It worked for the 1981 World Series. The writers simply decided that three Dodgers were each deserving of the MVP award, and they handed one out to Ron Cey, one to Steve Yeager, and one to Pedro Guerrero.

Is that a lousy example? Sure it is: it's not a full season, it's just six games. Things can't be expected to sort out in six games.

But sometimes they don't sort out in 162 games, either. When it becomes crashingly obvious that it doesn't, the BBWAA needs to invoke a hitherto unnoticed clause in their voting rules--the "Too Close to Call" clause.

Sometimes you've got to not try to stop the buck, you've got to pass it. At this moment, it looks like the 2011 AL MVP race is just such a scenario.