Only because of the long-standing dispute over what the "Most Valuable Player" means and the illogical voting patterns of the members of the Baseball Writers Association of America (BBWAA) did the baseball fans of America have to anxiously wait until the formal announcement on Monday afternoon to learn whether the man clearly most deserving of the award, St. Louis Cardinals first baseman Albert Pujols, would get shafted again or instead would finally pick up his second MVP in his eight years of National League dominance.
The rest of the baseball world had already spoken loudly and with one voice as to the best player in the Senior Circuit in 2008, not to mention the best man off the field, too.
So far this off-season, Pujols had already collected eight major awards, including The Dick Schaap Memorial Player of the Year and National League Player of the Year Awards from the MLB Players Alumni Association, the Roberto Clemente Award from MLB, the Players Choice Player of the Year Award and NL Outstanding Player Award voted by his peer players, the Oscar Charleston Legacy Award as the best player in the NL from The Negro Leagues Baseball Museum along with the Sporting News MLB Player of the Year – all taken by Pujols so far this off-season. Oh yeah, I forgot the NL Silver Slugger Award at first base.
Albert's primary competition, Philadelphia Phillies first baseman Ryan Howard, has a piece of the World Series trophy and some cheesy Subway sandwich commercials, but not much else to show for his season.
Fortunately, the baseball writers didn't botch up the voting again, and made Pujols the winner of the 2008 National League Most Valuable Player Award over Howard in a race that was closer than it should have been. The latter also had a fine season, but is a one-dimensional player, offering power, but little else. Apparently that appeals to one-dimensional voters.
2008 NL MVP Results
The voting panel consists of two BBWAA members from each of the 16 chapters in National League cities. Players receive five points for a first-place vote, three for a second-place vote and one for a third-place vote. Balloting is conducted prior to postseason play.
Pujols was the only player mentioned on all 32 ballots. He was listed first on 18 ballots, second on 10, third on two, fourth on one and one idiot voted Pujols seventh for a total of 369 points, based on the scoring system that rewards 14 points for first place, nine for second, eight for third and on down to one for 10th.
Howard was not far back with 12 first-place votes as he finished second with 308 points. The other two first-place votes incredibly went to Howard's teammate, relief pitcher Brad Lidge, who placed eighth overall with 104 points. Cardinals outfielder Ryan Ludwick came in 16th with 17 points.
Why Pujols won: 18 of the 32 voters, or 56%, were able to look past the fact the Cardinals missed the post-season to recognize the best player in the game, who put up tremendous numbers while playing hurt the entire season.
Pujols ranked second in the NL in batting average and on-base percentage and first in intentional walks, total bases and slugging, with the latter supposedly Howard's forte. Albert's OPS of 1.114 is not only the league-best, it is his personal career-best.
For the sabermetrically inclined, Pujols was first in Adjusted OPS+, Runs Created, Adjusted Batting Runs, Batting Wins and Offensive Win Percentage.
Why Howard lost: Lousy defender, poor average (.251) which was worse late in the game, and he fanned 199 times, tying his own record for second most all-time, set in 2007. His OPS was a paltry (in comparison to Pujols) .882. There is more to being a most valuable player than leading the league in home runs and RBI.
It is also worth noting that in late September, the Philadelphia chapter of the BBWAA voted Lidge as the Phillies' 2008 team MVP, not Howard. Since they see the club every day all season long, that should speak volumes.
The lowest batting average in history for an MVP winner was posted by the Cardinals' shortstop Marty Marion, who hit .267 back in 1944, a season in which the Cards won 105 regular season games and took the World Series over the Browns. The man known as "The Octopus" won the award for his defensive wizardry, a term that will never come up in any credible analysis of Howard's game.
Past MVP results for Pujols: (results by year with Pujols' ranking, number of first-place votes out of 32, his total votes out of a possible 448, the winner and commentary)
|2001||fourth||none||222||Bonds||Pujols Rookie of Year|
|2002||second||none||276||Bonds||Not an All-Star!|
|2003||second||three||303||Bonds||Cards miss playoffs|
|2004||third||one||247||Bonds||MV3 voter confusion|
|2006||second||12||347||Howard||Phils miss playoffs|
This was the eighth consecutive top-10 finish in MVP voting for Pujols, 28, who became the 25th multiple winner of the award. Barry Bonds is the all-time record holder with seven MVP Awards. Eight players won three times, and Pujols is the 16th two-time winner. Pujols is also only the fifth former Rookie of the Year Award winner to go on to win two MVPs, joining fellow National Leaguers Willie Mays and Johnny Bench, American Leaguer Cal Ripken Jr. and Frank Robinson, the only player to win the MVP Award in both leagues.
It marked the 16th time a Cardinals player has been honored. St. Louis' total of MVP winners is the most in the NL and second only to the New York Yankees' 20 in the AL. Stan Musial was a three-time MVP for the Cardinals, as an outfielder in 1943 and 1948 and as a first baseman in 1946. Other Cardinals winners were second baseman Frankie Frisch in 1931, pitcher Dizzy Dean in 1934, left fielder Joe Medwick in 1937, pitcher Mort Cooper in 1942, shortstop Marty Marion in 1944, third baseman Ken Boyer in 1964, first baseman Orlando Cepeda in 1967, pitcher Bob Gibson in 1968, third baseman Joe Torre in 1971, first baseman Keith Hernandez (co-winner with the Pittsburgh Pirates' Willie Stargell) in 1979 and center fielder Willie McGee in 1985.
The 2008 win was a bit of a reversal of fortune for Pujols, who was widely considered the legitimate winner in 2003, but was discounted by many voters due to the fact the Cardinals missed out on post-season play. Despite that, with the 2006 Cardinals on the way to the World Championship, Pujols lost out to Howard from a Phillies club that didn't play any October ball. Go figure.
In another indication of how screwed up the season awards process is, the Cy Young Award is given to the "best" pitcher as opposed to the "most valuable" one. This enables voters to ignore the respective team records when casting their ballots and pick the pitcher that put together the best season.
As a result,
a deserving hurler such as Tim Lincecum won the 2008 NL Cy Young Award despite
toiling on a sub-.500
Instead for the MVP, the ambiguity as to the definition of "most valuable" always leads to confusion and too often, bad results, yet the BBWAA doesn't seem to care. If they allow pitchers to be eligible for MVP, why aren't hitters considered for the Cy Young Award? Better yet, if they can't decide, create a "best player" award equivalent to the Cy Young Award. Pretty absurd all the way around.
These are supposed to be the writers most knowledgeable about the game. Yet, this same insular gene pool of "experts" has yet to universally agree that any player in the history of the game has deserved Hall of Fame recognition.
Specifically, 16% of these accredited writers or 64 individuals didn't feel that Bob Gibson deserved a spot in the Hall. Say what? Stan Musial and Ozzie Smith were passed over by almost 7% and 8% of the voters, respectively. More recently, almost 2.5% didn't think Tony Gwynn was worthy. Incredibly, even Cal Ripken was snubbed by 1.5% of these ever-so-knowledgeable experts.
Do these guys watch the game at all or have they been asleep for years, like some typewriter-toting Rip Van Winkles? The self-respecting members of the BBWAA should root out these fools and ship them off to the retirement home. But they don't and won't.
Remember, a different subset of 32 of the most active and deserving members are selected to vote on each of the yearly major awards, including the MVP. Certainly they should know what is going on, right?
Clearly not. How could anyone honestly defend voting Pujols seventh or leaving Howard off their ballot entirely, for that matter?
Some of the more outspoken members of their own community strike out at the rampant ignorance among them, yet nothing positive results from it. One such example is the Post-Dispatch's Bernie Miklasz, who just this past weekend labeled his peers focused on the Cardinals' fourth-place finish as the reason to downgrade Pujols' candidacy as "dim-bulb voters".
Fortunately, there was just enough candlelight in the baseball writers' basements this year to enable them to see clearly enough to elect the right man.
Congratulations to the 2008 National League Most Valuable Player, Albert Pujols.
Brian Walton can be reached via email at email@example.com.
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