We present to you today one baseball writer’s potential American League MVP ballot as shared with his readers on Sept. 20, a mere 10 days prior to the conclusion of the 2008 regular season:
1-Kevin Youkilis, Boston; 2. Justin Morneau, Minnesota; 3. Francisco Rodriguez Los Angeles Angels; 4. Dustin Pedroia, Boston; 5. Josh Hamilton, Texas; 6. Carlos Quentin, Chicago White Sox; 7. Alex Rodriguez, New York Yankees; 8. Cliff Lee, Cleveland; 9. Joe Mauer, Minnesota; 10. Grady Sizemore, Cleveland.
The accompanying comments read as such: “One school of thought is Dustin Pedroia's peskiness atop the order makes the Red Sox go. He may win the batting title, but batting titles don't mean what they once did. This is the age of on-base percentage and on-base-plus-slugging, and Youkilis leads his teammate in both categories, by a whopping margin in OPS. He's also hitting .360 with runners in scoring position.”
Here, we present the ballot that the same said BBWA member turned in for his official MVP tally:
1-Kevin Youkilis, 2- Francisco Rodriguez, 3- Justin Morneau, 4- Josh Hamilton, 5- Carlos Quentin, 6- Alex Rodriguez, 7- Cliff Lee, 8- Joe Mauer, 9- Grady Sizemore, 10- Carlos Pena.
As you no doubt understand by now, the ballot belongs to Dallas Morning News writer Evan Grant, who was the only one of his colleagues to leave eventual winner Dustin Pedroia off his Top 10 vote-getters, a matter which Grant admirably now admits was an error.
In fact, Grant’s argument for not voting for Pedroia is actually quite sound: “I will have you know that Pedroia was 18th in on base-plus-slugging percentage (OPS), 27th in RBIs, 30th in batting average with runners in scoring position and 53rd in on-base percentage with runners in scoring position.
“I am aware he tied for the league lead in hits, led in runs scored and was second in batting average. But in the stats that to me suggest production and clutch hitting, he was dwarfed by the other players on the list.”
That’s fine. And all things considered, Youkilis probably was the better candidate, his season overshadowed for the most part though when Pedroia’s name caught fire as a possible candidate for the award during the last month of the season.
But Mauer? An MVP candidate, no doubt. But if we use Grant’s logic, the Twins catcher finished 20th in OPS and had just two more RBIs than Pedroia. Mauer did though dwarf Pedroia in terms of coming to the plate with runners in scoring position.
So, how does a player go from fourth on your ballot to not at all over the span of a week-plus? All Pedroia did over those 10 days was go 10 for 27, hit four of his 54 doubles on the season, and watched his OPS go up a point. Yet, he fell off Grant’s ballot completely while nearly everybody else moved up a slot. Morneau fell from 2 to 3 to make room for K-Rod, and Pedroia went from 4 to the teens for the emergence of Carlos Pena at No. 10.
Here’s what Pena did over those same 10 days: 5 for 24 with zero runs batted in. His OPS dropped 11 points over that time frame.
“I didn't have a Ray on my ballot, and they won 97 games,” Grant writes today. “I was going to vote to make sure Pena got recognized.”
That’s great. Hey, the Rangers, Yankees, Twins, and Indians didn’t win anywhere near 97 games, but we sure don’t want to omit their guys, including two each for Minnesota and Cleveland. Heck, Quentin went from 6 to 5 on Grant’s ballot over that period, and he didn’t even play.
Grant argued on local radio yesterday that he realized he shouldn’t take only certain aspects of a season into consideration, but the whole package, no matter how a certain player finished. Fine. Then again, these are the same esteemed BBWA members who doled out three second-place votes for Cincinnati Reds pitcher Edinson Volquez as NL Rookie of the Year despite the fact that, you know, he wasn’t a rookie.
Sorry, the BBWA old-boy network can protect its own as much as it wants, but that is simply indefensible.
How can baseball fans, let alone players who have a financial stake in the matter (having supposed objective writers decide upon such things is a whole other ethical discussion for another time) trust voters who don’t even understand the personnel they’re dealing with?
Everyone reserves the right to change his or her mind, of course, but how Pedroia can go from fourth on a ballot to not at all boggles the mind. Everyone on the list but Morneau (whose OPS dipped 23 points over the final 10 days) went up in Grant’s mind. Pedroia fell off entirely. If we’re to believe that the award should be based on the entire season, why indeed did the final 10 days prompt so much movement in his rankings?
Baseball fans shouldn’t be upset that Grant didn’t pick Pedroia for his MVP, but they should be questioning the fluidity of his selections. Ten days made all the difference, apparently, despite Pedroia doing nothing to hurt his own cause over that time span.
If Grant hadn't shared his votes prior to Pedroia's eventual omission, much of this wouldn't be a factor, as a man is entitled to his opinion. How that stance changes that quickly in 10 days though is the ultimate question.