Off the Cuff Vol. 3: Rethinking the MLB Awards Race

Posted on September 8, 2011

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By Jeremy Sickel

Geoff Ratliff, Editor

Every year around early September, the MVP debate heats up in Major League Baseball with a handful of worthy recipients in play. Hitters typically dominate the discussions, but every so often a pitcher turns in a special year bringing his name to the forefront of the debate. Through the 2010 season only twenty pitchers have won the MVP, nine in the NL and eleven in the AL.

There are a number of factors that have traditionally made it difficult for pitchers to receive serious MVP consideration; the most obvious being the fact that they only take the mound every fifth day, and do not have to deal with the everyday grind that a hitter endures throughout the 162 game season. I believe there is a more glaring dynamic preventing pitchers from winning the award; pitchers already have their own “MVP” hardware, the Cy Young Award.

The Cy Young is awarded to that particular season’s best pitcher, but MLB does not have an official award to honor the best overall hitter for that season. This makes it easy to award the MVP to a hitter, but it simply isn’t the Most Valuable Hitter Award; it is the Most Valuable Player Award.  That player is occasionally a pitcher that gets overlooked because the voters can’t get past a few very antiquated theories about what makes an MVP.

MLB can take a step towards solving this dilemma by creating an Offensive Player of the Year Award (OPOY). The NFL has gotten this right for years by having separate awards to recognize the League’s top defensive player, top offensive player, and MVP. MLB is two thirds of the way there, so adding the final piece to the puzzle shouldn’t radically impact the game’s history, nor diminish the significance of the MVP or the Cy Young awards. Making this change still allows for the MVP to be just that…the most valuable player to their particular team with respect to the entire league. By doing so, MLB gives voters an opportunity to recognize the outstanding season of a player like Matt Kemp, without having to make a questionable argument about his “value” to a losing club.

Establishing this award will allow voters to open their minds to more pitchers winning the MVP and not losing out simply as a result of the position they play. There is something to be said for the positive impact on a team’s psyche that having a reliable guy toe the rubber every fifth day has; shutting an opponent down, and restoring confidence to the entire roster, regardless of how the team had been playing prior to their start. Voters should take that leadership into account.

The MVP goes to the most valuable player, the CY goes to the best pitcher and the OPOY goes to the best offensive player in each league. It really is so simple that even MLB should be able to get this right.

Posted in: Off the Cuff