Kallas Remarks by Steve Kallas
Maybe it’s a National League thing, but it’s stunning how often the wrong person gets the Most Valuable Player Award. While the rules allow for players who don’t make the post-season to win the award, it’s hard to believe that, especially in today’s watered-down playoff system, a player on a team that makes the post-season should not get the award. I guess one could argue that, if there’s no player who had an excellent season on every team that did make the post-season, maybe a non-playoff player should get the award. But, now, with four teams making it, it’s hard to believe that that ever happens.
MOST VALUABLE PLAYER OR MOST OUTSTANDING PLAYER?
The reality is that, for decades, writers have voted for the most outstanding player in the league as the most valuable player in the league. You don’t need a brain or a dictionary to know the difference between “valuable” and “outstanding.” If you have a great season and your team goes nowhere, you shouldn’t get the award.
Which brings us to the 2008 NL MVP Award. Given to Albert Pujols, a superstar if there ever was one, Pujols had a magnificent year, hitting .357 with 37 home runs and 116 runs batted in. But he led the Cardinals to …, to …, well, to nowhere. The Cardinals finished fourth in the NL Central, eleven-and-a-half games behind the Cubs. They were never a threat to the division-winning Cubs and finished fourth in the wild card race.
On the other hand, Ryan Howard put the Phillies on his back and carried them to an NL East Division title (don’t forget that, even though the Phillies won the World Series, that’s irrelevant for MVP because the votes are cast before the playoffs begin). Howard certainly wasn’t very good for much of the season. But, come crunch time, Howard was the man, winding up with a major league-leading 46 home runs and a major league-leading 146 runs batted in, staggering numbers in the post-steroids era (although he only hit .251), as he led the Phillies to the playoffs by overtaking the New York Mets.
Yet, when the votes came out, Pujols, with 18 first-place and 10 second-place votes, beat Howard, with 12 first-place votes and 8 second-place votes (one brilliant writer didn’t have Howard in the top ten – seriously).
It’s a simple concept – valuable can’t really equate to a middle-of-the-pack team.
IT’S CERTAINLY HAPPENED IN THE PAST
But this is old news if you follow the National League. The most stirring examples are the great Ernie Banks and Andre Dawson. In 1958 and 1959, Banks was the NL MVP. He must have been the best player in the NL (and that’s a big statement when you consider Mays, Aaron, etc.). But there’s no chance he was the most valuable as his Cubs finished fifth in an eight-team league, under .500 in both seasons (they were called, back then, a “second-division” club, the name for the bottom half of each eight-team league prior to 1960s expansion). In 1987, Andre Dawson’s Cubs finished in last place in the NL East (two divisions per league by then) with a sub .500 record as well. But he was given the MVP, again as the Most Outstanding Player.
MAYBE THERE’S SOME JUSTICE IN PUJOLS’ SELECTION
If you follow the National League, however, maybe there’s some justice in the 2008 selection. You see, in 2006, Ryan Howard was the MVP and Albert Pujols finished second. The funny thing, of course, was that Pujols’ Cardinals won their division (and would be an unlikely World Series winner) and Howard’s Phillies finished 12 games behind the New York Mets in the NL East and three games out of the Wild Card.
But Pujols, who hit .331 with 49 homers and 137 runs batted in for a division-winner in 2006, couldn’t beat Howard, who hit .313 with 58 homers and 149 runs batted in for a non-playoff team. Indeed, Pujols was quoted at the time as saying that Howard shouldn’t be the MVP because his team didn’t make the playoffs. Interesting, no?
So maybe that’s what happened. Maybe some writers were unhappy that a non-winner (a guy on a non-playoff team, I should say) won the MVP Award in 2006. So, with the same two players in play in 2008, maybe some writers voted for their 2006 division-winner who lost the award (Pujols) even though he was not a post-season guy in 2008. Turnabout is fair play, isn’t that what they say?
WHAT ABOUT THE CY YOUNG AWARD?
Well, the Cy Young Award, unlike the MVP, is simply for the best pitcher. It’s not called an MVP Award. That’s why it doesn’t matter if Cliff Lee wins it, because he was clearly the best pitcher in the American League. If you’re going to give the award for MVP to the MOP, change the name and call it the Most Outstanding Player Award.
So, to recap, the 2006 NL MVP should have gone to Albert Pujols, who had a great year and led his team to the post-season. But he was beaten out in 2006 by Ryan Howard, who had a great year and didn’t lead his team to the post-season. In 2008, the NL MVP should have gone to Ryan Howard, who had a great year and led his team to the post-season. But he was beaten out in 2008 by Albert Pujols, who had a great year and didn’t lead his team to the post-season.
Hey, I guess you could say that now they are even. Fortunately for both, each time they were wrongly denied the award, that player won the World Series; Pujols in 2006, Howard in 2008. And both, I’m sure, would prefer the ring to the hardware.
As for the voters, maybe a dictionary is in order before they vote for next season’s MVP.
© Copyright 2008 by Steve Kallas. All rights reserved.