In the convoluted spheres of American democracy, the voters rarely deserve praise.
With so much misdirection, so much double-speak, and so many battling special interests, true merit almost never enters the equation that determines the eventual winner and it's generally an afterthought when it manages to sneak into the fray. If the right man or woman ends up on top, coincidence is usually to blame.
Consequently, the Baseball Writers' Association of America should stand up and take a bow after its stellar performance handing out Major League Baseball's regular season awards. Especially the men and women who actually cast the ballots.
When the participating bloc dubs the St. Louis Cardinals' Albert Pujols the National League's Most Valuable Player later today, the voting members of the BBWAA will complete a perfect trip through what is generally a precarious minefield.
Although there were a fair share of gimmes in the American League as well as the Senior Circuit, there were a couple possible stumbling blocks that the writers negotiated almost flawlessly—luckily for them, the noxious odor emanating from the Gold Gloves and Silver Sluggers can't be traced to the BBWAA.
To recap, here are the winners the reps did choose:
Managers of the Year—Mike Scioscia, Anaheim Angels in the AL; Jim Tracy, Colorado Rockies in the NL
Rookies of the Year—Andrew Bailey, Oakland Athletics in the AL; Chris Coghlan, Florida Marlins in the NL
Cy Young Awards—Zack Greinke, Kansas City Royals in the AL; Tim Lincecum, San Francisco Giants in the NL
Most Valuable Players—Joe Mauer, Minnesota Twins in the AL; Albert Pujols, St. Louis Cardinals in the NL
As I said, there were several softballs in the group.
The managers were easy choices because of the way Scioscia navigated the tragic loss of Nick Adenhart and the turnaround Tracy orchestrated in Colorado. Coghlan was equally obvious, as his final month opened a considerable gap between him and the field as represented by the Philadelphia Phillies' J.A. Happ. Similarly, the unparalleled brilliance of Pujols should net him the hardware walking away.
Conversely, the AL Rookie of the Year race was wide open with the Texas Rangers' Elvis Andrus, the Detroit Tigers' Rick Porcello, and several others drawing well-deserved attention.
While you can make very strong arguments for several other newbies in the Junior Circuit, you certainly can't claim Bailey's 83 innings-pitched, 26 saves, 1.84 earned run average, 0.88 WHIP, 91 strikeouts, .167 opponents' average, and .474 opponents' on-base-plus-slugging percentage were unworthy of the recognition.
However, the two Cy Youngs and Mauer weren't as obvious as some would have you believe. Yet the BBWAA members, with the right to do so, sifted through the murky statistical waters and fished out the correct names.
AL MVP—Joe Mauer, Minnesota Twins
Sure, the dude was a statistical monster from the catcher's position. The awesome production from what is usually a void in the modern game gets the Twinkie major bonus points, as does his stellar defense—whether or not Mauer should have won the Gold Glove at backstop, that he did win it shows his skills behind the dish are nice.
Nevertheless, there were a couple pinstriped spoilers lurking in the depths.
The New York Yankees always command an embarrassing wealth of media adulation and both Mark Teixeira as well as Derek Jeter cobbled together outstanding years. Thus, there was the very real danger that details such as both enjoying each other's support or enjoying that of Alex Rodriguez, Johnny Damon, Hideki Matsui, Jorge Posada, Nick Swisher, Robinson Cano, CC Sabathia, A.J. Burnett, Mariano Rivera, etc. would be reduced to minor footnotes while filling in the ballot.
Not to mention the Detroit Tigers' Miguel Cabrera, who had an equally ridiculous year with the splinter. Numbers like Cabrera's might've allowed some to overlook his horrendously selfish disappearing act from that last crucial series to decide the AL Central—one writer unwisely did just that.
In the end, though, sanity ruled the day.
Cy Young—Zack Greinke, Kansas City Royals; Tim Lincecum, San Francisco Giants
Greinke was the cleaner of the two decisions since he obliterated his competitors, if you leave wins out of the picture. Lincecum was a far tougher call because, while he led his closest chasers (both Cardinals, Chris Carpenter and Adam Wainwright), in most of the traditional metrics and virtually all of the advanced ones, he also suffered from a deficiency in wins; not to mention slight deficits in earned run average and WHIP to Carpenter.
Notwithstanding their slight imperfections, the voters again saw the forest through the trees. They sloughed off any antiquated reluctance to ignore meager win totals and instead embraced the new version of baseball.
The one that saw only three starters who threw over 100 innings make it out of the seventh inning during an average outing—the Toronto Blue Jays' Roy Halladay, the Seattle Mariners' Felix Hernandez, and Lincecum. The one where the bullpen handles the last three innings of a game under normal circumstances. The one that understands that wins and losses no longer accurately reflect an individual pitcher's prowess, except in extreme circumstances (like when a stud can win games for a putrid team a la Greinke).
Granted, the highest total of first place votes went to Wano, who led the Senior Circuit in the hallowed win. Oh well.
Lincecum still won, which means his season was held in higher regard when the dust settled.
Ultimately, the representatives of the Baseball Writers' Association of America used this year's awards to announce the collective is shaking off the cobwebs and adopting a more progressive approach to analyzing the game—one that appreciates all its facets and looks beneath the surface of traditional bias.
For that above all else, the group should be applauded, because turning back years of convention is easier said than done.
And the voters look like they're trying.