Hall Of Fame Is Why Awards Still Matter

For Internet baseball writers, cries of apathy have drowned out the usual complaining about the BBWAA Awards voting. What used to be "here's why Johan Santana was a much better choice for the Cy than Bartolo Colon" has become "holy crap I couldn't care less who wins the Cy Young Award". I touched on this awhile back but there is a significant reason why people should still care about getting these awards right - the important* Hall of Fame voting. Each Hall voting season, ballots are justified at least partially on past MVP and Cy Young Award voting. I won't recap a ton of examples but here's a classic one for illustration, from Sean McAdam about Bert Blyleven:

For a guy who pitched 22 seasons, he received Cy Young votes in four years. Put another way, only once every five years, Blyleven was considered one of his league's 10 best pitchers. Sorry, but that doesn't exactly scream "all-time great" to me.

The rationale is that this is a great way to gauge how a player was perceived during his playing days. This rationale is, of course, incredibly flawed. With better ways of evaluating players at our fingertips, I'm not sure why, for example, Alan Trammell's failure to win an MVP Award (despite deserving it in 1987) should hurt his Hall candidacy. This is not to say that all voters in the past were total fools. Advanced statistics were not readily available, and concepts like positional adjustments and the importance of defense were not prevalent.  To their credit, BBWAA members generally have taken steps in the right direction, and it's likely that the major awards this season will be correctly handed out. Nevertheless, as long as the same group votes on both postseason awards and the Hall, past MVP and Cy voting will likely impact a player's entrance to Cooperstown.

Ideally, the BBWAA wouldn't have a say in the Hall voting process. The system stinks but it's going to be in place for the foreseeable future. Until the day when induction is determined by an objective SABR committee (or something similar) which realizes past mistakes by awards voters are meaningless, the MVP and Cy Young Awards should continue to be scrutinized. Several BBWAA members have modified their voting standards in the Internet age and I like to think public analysis of past mistakes played a small role.

* - I feel that the Hall of Fame is very important but if you don't, that's fine. And you probably won't agree with this post at all.

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