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.



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.


albert-pujolsWhich 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.




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.




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?




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.


  1. Most Valuable Player, you question the definition of this award. The MVP should be the player who was obviously the most valuable to his team. In the case of Howard vs. Pujols… Pujols was clearly the most valuable. The Cardinals were not expected to reach .500 let alone 10 games over. Without Pujols who consistantly carried his team all year long, they might not have been that close. True Howard lead his team to the play-offs. But he also did most of that in the second half to a team that was assumed to go to post season play anyways. Pujols’s numbers didn’t get better or worse, they were amazing all year long. Remember we’re talking about MVP here not the Pepsi Clutch Award. Howard got that and granted he deserved it. However being a clutch player towards the end of the season on a team who was going to the play-offs with or without him doesn’t constitute the Most valuable Player of the NL.

  2. Kallas,

    You continue to embarrass yourself with these blog posts. First the one about bunting, now this. The MVP should go to the player who contributed most to his team winning ballgames – if you look at the voting criteria (which are explicitly stated) nowhere does it say “the player must be on a playoff team.” End of story. Pujols had one of the best seasons of the last 25 years, and his team missed the playoffs by 4 games. How are you going to deny him the MVP?

  3. Hah, so what if the Cardinals lost 10 more games? Now what? What happens? They get a better draft pick, that’s what happens. I agree with the MOP, because that’s what the MVP is, it’s like A-Rod winning it when his team won v71 games. Your argument is, “well, without him, they would have won 63.” My argument is, who the hell cares? Good article, again.

  4. James K, my question to you is do you understand the meaning of the word “valuable.” And for the record, you continue to show your pathetic understanding of baseball and apparently the dictionary. Your right, no where does it say anything about making the playoffs, but the word valuable makes it seem like the award should go to someone that actually did something extremely positive for the team, like I don’t know, leading his team to the playoffs and then going on to win the World Series. Yes, Pujols had a hell of a year and I’m sure the Cards would have lost at least 10 more games without him, but that is freaking irrelevant, don’t you understand that? That is being an outstanding player, but the goal is to get into the playoffs, not to miss by less than 5 games. Cards had a good year, not denying that, but the Phillies had a better one (unless you want to debate that as well).

    Look at my A-Rod example in my last post.

    How are you going to deny Pujols the MVP? MAYBE BECAUSE HIS TEAM DID NOT MAKE THE PLAYOFFS AND IT’S IRRELEVANT IF THEY LOSE 10 MORE GAMES. I like the MOP thing, because that’s what Pujols was, but he was not the most valuable player, how can you not understand that??

  5. Wow, getting pretty heated here dude, no reason for that.

    Put it this way – if Howard and Pujols traded places this past season, all other things being constant, who would you have thought was more “valuable”? You’d be on here screaming that Pujols is more valuable simply because he was on a playoff team.

    You, and the voters, are factoring in too many things outside the individual player’s control – i.e. how good the team around him was. The MVP should be about which player’s individual contributions most helped his team win ballgames. Pujols is the winner in this category, undeniably.

    Read this post which better supports what I’m saying: http://www.fangraphs.com/blogs/index.php/he-hit-when-it-counted/

    Additionally, Howard wasn’t even the MVP of his team – that title goes to Chase Utley or Brad Lidge. The season is 162 games long – games in April and May and June (when Howard was God-awful) count as much as games in September.

    P.S. I’m thinking you’re the kind of guy that thinks batting average, RBI and W-L record are the best stats in baseball.

  6. Tony, if the award HAS to go to someone on the Phillies, why not Utley? He was more valuable to the Phillies, the team that won the world series, being that he was better offensively and defensively.

    Besides, Utley led the team in Sacrifice flies. HE GIVES UP HIS STATS FOR THE GOOD OF THE TEAM!! Also I thought all you statistophobes hated people who struck out a lot. Why all the love for Howard?

  7. if pujols wasn’t on the cardinals, they win at least 20 less games. and they were in contention for most of the first half -which is absurd, considering they have no one BUT pujols. he is INCREDIBLY valuable to that team, because howard is surrounded by so many more good players. the phillies still won when howard wasn’t producing. they won a LITTLE more when he was.

  8. I am going to have to pass on the blog you showed me from statistically speaking, no thanks. The thing I am questioning is the wording of the award, MVP, Most VALUABLE Player. MOP- Most OUTSTANDING Player. How was Pujols valuable? Yea, he had a better statistical season then Howard, but for what purpose? So his team could be 10 games better and miss the playoffs by 5 games instead of 15? Yea, that’s extremely valuable.

    “The season is 162 games long – games in April and May and June (when Howard was God-awful) count as much as games in September. ”
    -Thanks for proving your asinine approach to understanding baseball, the old 3rd game of the season counts as much as the playoff deciding 163rd game (do not try and make the pathetic attempt at making your point by saying, “well, if they won this game, then they would have already made the playoffs”)

    P.S. I’m thinking you’re the kind of guy that never really played baseball and focuses too much on stats in general.

    Keep up the great METS Blog!

  9. Mike From Manhattan

    This is just a matter of semantics, the MVP has always gone to the player who had the best year, regardless of where his team finished. There are countless examples, A ROD in Texas (71 wins),
    Pujols, Howard, etc. Cy Young goes to best pitcher, MVP goes to best player, simple.

  10. shammgod, you can make a case for giving it to Utley, but that’s not what I am debating. I am debating on why the hell if Pujols more of a valuable player than Howard when his team did not make the playoffs.

    Yea, maybe the Cardinals would have lost 20 more games, so now they miss the playoffs by 25 games instead of 5, and have a better draft pick. How is that valuable??? You missed the playoffs!!!

    I am not against stats, just people use them too much (namely people who did NOT play the game)

  11. What? are Steve and Tony the only ones who understand ‘MVP’? in order for a player to be the most valuable player, I believe his team must have great value. In this day and age, where 4 teams make the playoffs in each league, and a few other teams remain hotly competitive into the very last week of the season, only those teams could be considered to have great value for that season. Only a player from one of those teams ought to be considered as the most valuable player. The cardinals finished one place out of last. What value is there in that? Sure, Pujols is a great player, an outstanding player. But even he stated two years ago that only a player from a team that makes the playoffs ought to be considered for MVP. I am being even kinder, and I’m saying that teams which remain competitive to the very end can have players considered for the MVP. I’ve been watching baseball since the day my father pointed out Joe Dimaggio to me on a small TV screen, playing centerfield for the NY Yankees. Most valuable players are only most valuable if the team is most competitive. Several players from the Phillies would have been a better choice than Albert Pujols. Even players from the Dodgers, and any other team that was much more competitive than the cardinals to the very end could have had deserving NL MVPs. Good for you, Steve, and good for you, Tony! The rest of you, start campaigning for an MOP where the player dn have to be on a hotly contending team.


  12. Thank you for the kind words about my blog Tony.

    By your definition, Shane Victorino and Corey Hart were more valuable than Pujols because they were on a playoff team. Wonderful. Until they name the award “Most Valuable Player on a Playoff Team”, I’ll stick with my logical and objective interpretation.

    I played 3 years of varsity baseball in high school and club baseball in college… for what it’s worth.

  13. Well if you did some research, Steve played D-1 baseball… for what it’s worth of course (I think that means he beats your prestigious club team)

    No, you have shown me your lack of understanding posts as well! I am complaining about the definition of the award, a player can’t be valuable because he led his team to being 5 games away from the playoffs, come on guy, even you can understand that.

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