Bad news, Met fans. My sources tell me that Jimmy Rollins is going to win the National League MVP award. From what Joe Morgan and Keith Hernandez tell me, he deserves it. Leadership? If he hadn't thrown down the gauntlet in spring training, the Phillies might have just been another second place team. Defense? He plays shortstop. And his consistency on offense can be measured by a single stat, as he closes in on the all-time single-season record for
outs at bats.
You can hear the tortured screams cascade throughout the Tri-State. Nooo! Not Rollins! We hate that guy - he's the new Chipper Jones, and we haven't had time to come up with a "Larry" taunt for him. Please, please, anyone but Rollins!
True enough, Rollins would be a terrible pick. You'd hope the voters would pick a more likeable candidate - a Scott Olsen type, maybe. With his over-inflated counting stats and mediocre defense, Rollins would be a disgrace to the MVP award, which has always gone to the most deserving candidate in either league.
Huh. On closer reflection - and for "closer reflection" read "taking five seconds to recall who won in the past" - the MVP rarely goes to the most deserving candidate. Sure, for a while there, Barry Bonds and his amazing head made it an easy call, so easy a caveman sportswriter could do it. The rest of the time, the voters routinely display the same biases and retrograde thinking that are sure to push Met fans even further over the edge of insanity this year, and just in time for the Thanksgiving family reunion. Yum.
These aren't even the tougher questions on the LSATs the voters get wrong - we're talking easy ones here. Easy like "you got two first basemen, one guy is better with the bat and the glove and he plays for a first-place team" easy. Don't even bother trying to point out that Albert Pujols played in a tougher park last year; Ryan Howard had the voters as soon as they saw that RBI total. And that Justin Mourneau had a lot of RBI in 2006 - he must have been the most valuable player in the league, and on his team, too.
They get it wrong all the time. And even if they were reading this blog or that blog, where we painstakingly point out the concept of a "pitcher's park," they would still get it wrong. You want to talk about Rollins' zone rating? These guys barely have the concept of on-base percentage down. They're leery of anything Moneyball - it's suspiciously "out there," possibly unmanly. Try telling them David Wright has 32 Win Shares: "That doesn't sound like much. Why, Chase Utley already has 47 doubles!"
The mistakes are legion, obvious, and sad; it's like we fought in the SABR wars for nothing. It's a shame to see the prize go to an unworthy candidate. It's a shame, but it's also the way it's done, and not only in baseball. Anyone who thinks we have a golden meritocracy in this country need only refer to the anointed presidential candidates of either political party, going back as long as you can stand, for a sobering reality check.
The good news is that everyone* knows that the awards are about as cockeyed as the Oscars, and everyone forgets the winners just as quick. (Pop quiz: Best Picture, 2005 - no googling.) Knowing in advance that the award is almost guaranteed to go to the wrong man can at least spare you some grief. And at least it provides grist for the mill. We could have Neyer and James pick the winners every year - what fun would that be?
More good news. I was just kidding about Rollins winning the MVP. My contacts tell me it's actually going to be a more reasonable selection: Matt Holliday.
* Everyone who matters.