Who Deserves the MVP Award in a Particular Sport?

Mark HauserCorrespondent IIFebruary 24, 2009

It is the most prestigious individual award in sports and also the most controversial. 

But is it the most controversial because it is the most prestigious and hence, the award that people care about the most? 

Or is it because people apply different standards in making their determination? 

Or is it because it is so difficult to determine who is really the most valuable? 

Or is it because the award is just so subjective? 

I suggest to you it is all of these reasons.

Logically, the MVP award should be determined this way:  if you could magically take each player off his (or her) team and make their team play their season all over again, which player's departure would cause that team to drop the most in the standings (i.e., incur the most additional losses)?

I am quite certain that is what is meant by an MVP in a team sport. I am equally certain not everyone uses this exact standard.  But, logically, I think they should, or they should rename the award to correlate with whatever standard they are using. 

If they are voting for the "best player in the league" then they should name the award, "Player of the Year Award."  I think we can agree that a person could theoretically could be the Player of the Year and not the MVP (and vice versa), since some players are better at making other players around them better for various reasons. 

Hence, ideally, there should be both awards in all team sports.  Sometimes there would not be duplication; sometimes there would be duplication.  However, this type of potential duplication would not be a travesty and would in fact, make things fairer and more interesting. 

It would be fairer for two reasons.  First, it seems unfair to be the best player in the league and not receive an award to signify this. 

Second, most sportswriters and sportscasters do not really vote for the "true" MVP—instead, they vote for the best player on one of the top two teams in the league. 

If you think I am overstating this, take the NBA, for instance.  Starting with the 1988-89 season and through the 2004-05 season, the winner of the MVP Award was on the team with the first- or second-best record 17 straight years!

This eliminates all the players on the roughly 30 (assuming 32 teams, which is typical for major team sports in the US) other teams in the league.  How is this fair, consistent, or logically correct?  Obviously, it is not. 

A bright 10-year old could come up with the question:  what if the person who means the most to his team (i.e., the "true" MVP) is stuck on a lousy team?  Or, more specifically, what if the highest this great player can drag his non-talented team to, is say, the sixth or even the eighth best record in the league?  After all, he led them to the playoffs and a decent winning percentage. 

Sorry, no vote for you. 

This is silly, ridiculous, and moronic (do you get the impression I feel strongly about this?).  After all, theoretically, the MVP could actually play on the team with the worst record in the league, but this is extremely unlikely with all the parity in the league nowadays and even I would not go that far if I was voting. 

Besides, since it is impossible to know for sure who the "true" MVP is, it seems reasonable to give the benefit of the doubt (in a close call) to the player on a team with at least a record close to .500. 

It seems to me that to regularly limit your consideration to a player who plays on one of the top two teams just does not seem right unless you are going to find another name for the award. 

I cannot think of a good name ("The Best Player on the Top Two Teams Award" seems a bit awkward), nor do I have the perfect solution to all of this.  But, making more of an effort to vote for the "true" MVP would be a good start. 

And having the two awards to counter the fact that sportswriters and sportscasters apparently do not have the inclination or the ability to do this would be an improvement.  

This is exactly what I have done at my site, UltimateSportsRankings.com.  As long there are MVP awards in sports, there will always be controversy, and while this may not be a bad thing, it cannot hurt to be as fair as possible.


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