Monday, August 24, 2009

Why We Should Care

Last week, Dave Cameron wrote an article over at FanGraphs entitled "Why Do We Care?" that pondered why we as fans should bother getting worked up over MVP results that are decided by a group largely comprised of traditional baseball thinkers holding values with which many of us fundamentally disagree. The column echoes sentiments I've frequently seen expressed by Aaron Gleeman and other baseball writers whom I respect. Cameron's piece was well written, thoughtful and highly logical. Yet, I still disagree with the very basis of his argument.

Like it or not, these awards play a huge part in how players are remembered, and in many cases they can be the deciding factor in borderline Hall of Fame cases. Would Jim Rice have been elected to the Hall had he not won the MVP in 1978? I kind of doubt it. And there is close to zero doubt in my mind that Bert Blyleven would have been enshrined long ago if had a couple Cy Youngs on his shelf.

The next logical step in Cameron's argument is to downplay the importance of the Hall of Fame -- after all, it's voted on by the same group of baseball writers and is thus subject to the same narrow-minded viewpoint on player analysis. Yet, when we stop caring about essentially all of the game's history and legacy, at what point do we just stop caring about the game itself?

It's true that the ultimate result of this year's MVP race has "no real world impact on me" (to quote Cameron), but really, nothing that happens in baseball does. If the Twins win the World Series, it's not going to directly benefit me in any meaningful way, but I'll be ecstatic. I watch the games because I love the Twins and it pleases me when their players succeed and are recognized for their accomplishments. If Mark Teixeira wins the MVP award over Joe Mauer, I'll be incredibly frustrated, because there's a pretty good chance that this error will shape the way these two players are perceived down the line. The MVP is the most revered and prominent award in baseball, which is a point that I think is completely missed in the column. Even if Dave Cameron is smart enough to look back years from now and realize that the logic behind the vote was incredibly flawed and that Mauer was clearly a far better player, that doesn't mean the vast majority of the baseball fan base at large will view it the same way. And if he doesn't care what anybody else thinks, then why does he take the time to write daily opinion columns for public consumption?

The MVP voting is plagued by the same annoying issues annually, and Cameron is correct in stating that we seem to have these same arguments every September. But I don't necessarily agree that the debate is without purpose. There has been some shift in the overall mentality of MVP voters over the past decade or so, which has been reflected somewhat over the past couple years in the election of Dustin Pedroia and Jimmy Rollins -- both middle infielders not known for their home run power or RBI proclivity. I think the mentality continues to shift, and I do believe that if he finishes well Mauer will ultimately win the MVP award this year, something which may not have been possible 10 years ago.

Cameron may believe that debating MVP candidates is like running in circles, but with prominent voices like Joe Posnanski and Rob Neyer intelligently carrying on the battle, I think progress is being made. That won't continue to happen if people like Cameron and Gleeman simple stop caring and give up, though. Keep fighting the good fight, boys. Baseball history will thank you for it down the road.

9 comments:

Anonymous said...

Nick,

Nice article!! There is no question Joe Mauer is the MVP this season. He is having one of the greatest seasons ever by a catcher and has another month worth of at bats. He might hit over 30 HR's, drive in 100 RBI's, and hit .370. However, the sports writers have all the power in the world when it comes to selecting the MVP and that is wrong.

Tony Oliva and Bert Blyleven are not in the baseball Hall of Fame for one reason they played for the Minnesota Twins. I fear the same fate for Joe Mauer when it comes time to vote for the 2009 MVP. If the Twins stay in the race through September it would shock me if Mauer does not win.

Topper said...

It would shock me too if he's not the MVP. I plan on all the Yankee fans out here where I live start complaining to me about how Tex was robbed...

USAFChief said...

IMO, the real travesty here is in people like Dave Cameron simply taking it as fact that:

a) their method(s) of determining who is the 'Most Valuable Player' are completely valid, and

b) everybody's else's methods aren't.

Isn't that sort of exactly what he hates about the BBWAA?

Kevin said...

Jim Rice getting into the HOF solidifies the reason(s) why fans like us despise the writers. Then the more famous fans write crap like what Cameron wrote, which solidifies the despise from the writers. I'm just giddy that I can keep listening to DickBert talk about batting average and downward planes.

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