After their performances this season, the Boston Red Sox’s Jacoby Ellsbury and the Los Angeles Dodgers’ Matt Kemp deserved to win the MVP awards in their respective leagues. Considering neither took home the hardware, it is difficult to maintain the belief that writers should vote for the Most Valuable Player or any other meaningful award. They are biased, and, given the dispersal of votes, they don’t follow players on other teams very closely, if at all. They don’t know the game as well as those who play or those who coach. Judging by how they voted and who they voted for, changes have to be made in the voting process. Maybe let the players and managers vote. Instances where Jacoby Ellsbury gets a 10th place vote while Michael Young gets a first-place vote can’t happen.
The pitchers have their own award, the Cy Young, which Detroit Tigers ace Justin Verlander won earlier this offseason. He was without a doubt the best pitcher in the American League. Yet, giving the MVP to someone who appears in 35 games a season, no matter his impact, instead of a everyday player who appears in 155-plus games is hard to fathom. Major League Baseball needs to make the MVP the MVEDP (Most Valuable Every Day Player, as proposed to me by LittleSaintClouds). The league won’t, but they will have to live with the reality that Ellsbury and Kemp were robbed of the award.
Ellsbury’s candidacy among the Baseball Writers Association of America was particularly questionable. Four writers put him fifth on the ballot. This is a player who hit .321 with 32 homers, 105 rbi’s, 119 runs, 212 hits, 39 stolen bases, and 46 doubles. While nearly everyone else struggled in September, he hit .358 with a .400 OBP, eight homers, and 21 rbi’s. He was the best all-around player in the American League and perhaps all of baseball for the Boston Red Sox. He didn’t make an error in center-field, either. And he did all this coming off a season in which he missed all but 18 games due to a rib injury. It was a career year, and all he has to show for it is a Silver Slugger Award and a Comeback Player of the Year Award. Those are nice, but his season-long performance warranted the most noteworthy individual award of all.
Teammate Dustin Pedroia, who won the MVP in 2008, was frustrated at Ellsbury’s second-place finish, as documented by ESPN Boston‘s Joe McDonald:
“Obviously if you ask any of our guys we’re going to be biased to Jacoby because we saw it firsthand what kind of year he had and what he means to our team. Obviously I feel he deserves to win it.
“We all know Verlander’s year was pretty incredible with his numbers and he deserves the attention he’s getting. He had an unbelievable season, but in my opinion, he pitched 34 games and Ells played 158, so I think if a pitcher should win it he should impact, in those 34 games, in an extraordinary amount of the time and he did that, no question. But Ells impacted a lot more than 34 games for our team.”
Ballots are cast before the postseason begins, but it appears the team’s finish factors into decisions. Detroit made the playoffs and Boston crumbled. That shouldn’t matter. As Pedroia said, Ellsbury proved to be far more valuable on a day-to-day basis than Verlander. The Tigers ace would sit on the pine four out of every five games and chew gum while Ellsbury worked his tail off, game in game out, trying to get on base, swipe bags, crush homers, and make diving catches.
Kemp was going against a fellow position player, but it seemed to be a forgone conclusion that he would win despite his Dodgers struggles. He was the best hitter in the National League–their glue, their engine. He was better than the Milwaukee Brewers’ Ryan Braun, who won the NL MVP, in every noteworthy statistical category except batting average. He missed only one game; Braun missed 12. He drove in 126 runs; Braun drove in 111. He hit 39 homers; Braun had 33. He stole 40 bases; Braun stole 33. He also had more hits and a higher OBP. And he got six third-place votes. Unbelievable.
This is a much closer race than in the American League. Braun nearly matched Kemp’s numbers while playing in less games. That’s impressive, but Kemp was nonetheless better. He played center-field while Braun played left-field. There’s a large gap in the defensive talent it takes to play center compared to left. Kemp made five errors, which is a very small amount given how much ground he has to cover. Braun committed only one, but he covers far less ground.
Fresh off the snub and the signing of a eight-year, $160 million deal, Kemp set his sights eye. He was one steal away from becoming just the fifth member of the 40-stolen base, 40-home-run club this season, but accomplishing that in 2012 is not what he is looking to do. He wants to become the first to do 50-50.
Ellsbury will look to get even better, too. That is all these two players can do in their effort to acquire the number of first-place votes they deserve–votes they should have got after their remarkable 2011 seasons.