Rocket Man is right about the ambiguity as to what the MVP award is supposed to mean. The term “valuable” can be seen as implying some penalty for playing on a poor team, I suppose. But A-Rod was so much better than anyone else this year that the penalty would have to be out-and-out disqualification for him not to be the MVP, in my view. In the old days, when batting average was regarded as the key statistic, I don’t think anyone would have awarded the MVP to a candidate whose batting average was less than five-sixths of his rival’s (say .250 as opposed to .300), unless other key statistics strongly favored that candidate. Today slugging percentage has replaced batting average, and Tejada’s slugging percentage was less than five-sixths that of Rodriguez. And Rodriguez was also clearly superior in on-base percentage and runs produced.
But getting back to the ambiguity that Rocket Man noted, I find it significant that when fans and sportswriters discuss past MVP awards they tend to assume that the award was given to the best player. For example, fans and writers will note Barry Bonds’ award count in trying to show that Bonds is better than Hank Aaron and Willie Mays were. No one goes back to check how, say, the 1959 pennant race played out in order to determine whether Aaron and Mays lost the award because their teams didn’t do well enough (they did not lose it for that reason; in 1959, the MVP was shortstop Ernie Banks of the lowly Cubs, the A-Rod of his day but not as good; Banks also won it in 1958 — modern sportswriters indulge themselves more than their predecessors did in denying the award to the best player). Thus, since the MVP honor quite naturally will be viewed in retrospect as indicating who the best player was, perhaps it would be best to award it on that basis.
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