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MVP voting and inter-league trades.


Lt Melmo

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There's been a big stink this year over a bunch of baseball writers endorsing either Manny or CC for NL MVP, despite the fact that they've only played about a third of the season in the NL. I'm noticing that a lot of the people who are against these writers are those (myself included) who feel that "Most Valuable" should be defined by the players who did the most for their teams regardless of whether or not the rest of the team was good enough to make the postseason, etc. Basically, the best player should win the award.

This brings up a problem though. If CC or Manny posted their stat-lines in one league or the other, there wouldn't be any real discussion; they've both had overall seasons that, while they may not be MVP-worthy, should definitely be in the discussion.

CC posted a 162 ERA+ over 253 innings. That's a similar ERA+ to Lincecum and Johan (164, 163) who pitched much fewer innings (227, 234). Had CC posted his line in the NL all year, I'd have no qualms with him winning the CY over them. In the AL, his season total resulted in more innings and a better ERA+ than Halladay (246, 155). Cliff Lee beats him in ERA+ (175) but loses in IP (223). Of course, IP and ERA+ are pretty simple metrics that don't tell the whole story, but these numbers at least show that if he had posted his numbers in either league year-round, he would easily be in the discussion for either the CY voting or, in the case of the AL at least, the MVP.

There was a great post in Beyond the Box Score basically saying that if you were to take out CC's first four starts, his season would rank among the best in recent years (1.88 ERA in 235 innings).

It's the same deal with Manny, hitting .332/.430/.601 on the year. It isn't as dominant as CC has been with pitching and probably not an MVP-worthy season, but the fact that he's only getting considered for his NL games makes it so many writers would avoid voting for him. He was extremely valuable to the Dodgers and clearly valuable to the Red Sox. He was an extremely valuable player year-round.

So, I don't really know how to deal with this. There isn't some inter-league MVP/CY award, and it would be lame if there was. I think that CC's collective year is potentially greater than the rest of the NL crop, but, correct me if I'm wrong, you're only supposed to consider their accomplishments within the league they finish with. And it'd be silly to say a guy who only played a third of the season contributed the most out of anyone.

So what do you do? Great accomplishments can potentially be under-appreciated because the way things are, mid-season trades seem to relinquish the achievements of a player pre-trade. This just doesn't seem right to me.

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I can see the cases for them and against them. They have both played extremely siginficant roles in getting their respective teams to the post season. If that's your definition of value...
"Most Valuable" should be defined by the players who did the most for their teams regardless of whether or not the rest of the team was good enough to make the postseason, etc. Basically, the best player should win the award.

What I'm saying is it's a bit wacky that, after they're traded, their accomplishments on their ex-team are basically thrown out the window in favor of August and September. People sometimes also do this regardless of whether or not they're traded (Ryan Howard). But in cases like these, people treat traded players as if they were injured for two-thirds of a season, and as a result their accomplishments can go unappreciated.

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This is just an artifact of history and tradition. 50 or 60 years ago the NL and AL were much more separated - different umps, different styles of play, separate league offices, etc. There were still people around who remembered the really early days when the AL and NL would fight over players and Nap Lajoie would have to avoid games in Pennsylvania to keep from getting arrested for jumping his contract with the Phillies to play in the other league. And of course no interleague play, so you could go an entire career without ever playing the other league. Brooks never played in Wrigley, or Atlanta, or San Francisco. It kind of made sense to have separate awards for each league.

But if they were just getting around to making up these awards today there's no way they'd have separate AL and NL awards. It would make no more sense than having an Eastern Conference MVP and a Western Conference MVP in basketball, but no NBA MVP.

So it probably makes sense to have one award.

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But oddly, for the first 11 years it existed (1956-1966) there was only one Cy Young award given out each year. So Sabathia probably would had had a better chance of winning it back then.

This is off topic, but I noticed that Sandy Koufax won all three of his Cy Youngs during that 11-year period, and even competing against both leagues, he won all of them unanimously. I guess he was pretty good.

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The MVP and Cy Young awards are on a league basis, so only play within that league should count. The contributions of Manny and Sabathia after they were traded should be compared with the full season's accomplishments of the other players being considered for awards, which puts them at a considerable disadvantage.

In other words, if either Manny or Sabathia win, it would be a travesty.

Actually, there is a precedent. In 1990, Willie McGee was traded from the Cardinals to the Athletics for Felix Jose, Stan Royer, and Daryl Green on August 29th. However, McGee ended up winning the NL batting title because he had already achieved enough plate appearances to qualify, before he was traded to the AL. It's probably the only time in history that a player in one league has won a title in the other league.

Bonus points to anyone who can name the NL player who finished runner up to McGee in BA that season.

Another curious fact; McGee only hit .274 after the trade and finished at .324 for the season. If he'd remained with St. Louis and hit exactly what he hit with Oakland, he wouldn't have won his 2nd batting title. In fact, he would have finished 5th in the NL.

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