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September 19, 2002

Analyze This

We Need More Awards

by Derek Zumsteg

I understand why sports columnists write about their soul-rending debates over who should get their MVP or Cy Young vote (or hypothetical vote). When I wrote for the Daily Prospectus once in a while, it was easy to write when the Muse spoke to me (of games and the men, skilled in all forms of contending). Now that I'm trying to work in a regular, longer format, the blank Document1 window stares back at me as I go through that week's notes, and I find myself wishing I had something as easy, as gift-wrapped for discussion as who I'd vote for my MVP and Cy Young.

It's been suggested that there should be different awards, so the MVP would be split into (essentially) the Best Player and the Best Player for a Contender Awards (stackable). This won't ever happen, if for no other reason than the fact that MVP votes are writers who need topics, and no topic's better than themselves and the importance of their jobs.

But I'd like to propose more awards for the columnists. Sure, we had the Hank Aaron Award, which was supposed to clear some of this up, but MLB managed to botch that (way to honor Hank there, by the way). Some may argue we don't need any more awards. But if three/league are good (MVP, Cy Young, Rookie of the Year), I say, the more the better. As rosters expand, so should our hearts.

First, split the Rookie of the Year Award:

Best Debut Season Award
Best first season by a player in Major League Baseball, considering only the accomplishments of the season.
 
Most Promising Debut
Player whose first season points to the best future career.
 
Best Debut Season, non-Japanese Players/Most Promising Debut, non-Japanese Players
Same awards, but Japanese players are ineligible "to honor" the Japanese leagues. Possibly could be expanded to non-Far East if players from other countries in the region break into the major leagues. Everyone who argues that Japanese players shouldn't be eligible for normal awards can vote for this award, after which they can go back to yelling for those kids to get off their lawn.
 
Ryan Minor Least Promising Debut Season
To the prospect most widely and unrealistically saddled with expectations of immediate superstardom who (predictably) utterly fails to meet the hype his organization has slapped on him. Bonus points if shattered confidence threatens to erode actual skills or value of player.

The MVP award really needs to be broken down even further than just "Best Player"/"Most Valuable Player."

I recommend specific categories based on an analysis of voting patterns:

Best Season-Long Performance by and Individual on Any Team
Best Season-Long Performance by an Individual on a Contending Team
Best Season-Long Performance by an Individual on a Non-Contending Team
Best Season-Long Performance by an Individual on a Writer's Home Team Who That Writer Will Need to Interview Next Year
Hank Aaron Award 2
To the player who through a career of lifelong play has achieved historical career or season milestones during the season. Barry! Barry!
 
Most Superficial Player
Given to the hitter that, if you're not paying attention, would seem to be a legitimate MVP candidate but is, in fact, not really all that valuable. Qualifications include high batting average and RBI totals, but with few walks, little power, and poor defense.
 
Always a Bridesmaid Veil of Shame
Given to Alex Rodriguez every time he's robbed of an MVP award. It is unlikely Alex will be able to see through the thick sheaf of them by 2010. And for the Cy Young, you can do the same kind of breakdowns. But even better:
 
Silver Frayed Rotator Cuff
Awarded to the pitcher who takes on the highest workload. Innings pitched, batters faced, and total pitches thrown are all considered. Randy Johnson dominates NL competition, of course.
 
Stoics Society Lantern
The pitcher who accumulates the most depressing record without complaint, as judged reaction to hearing record spoken out loud. Ties won by pitchers who performed well and still got hung with a bad record. Tanyon Sturtze is the clear leader this season with his 3-17 record at press time.
 
Carl Everett Appreciation Society Seal of Approval
Most dangerous pitcher to face, as measured by hit batters.
 
Mr. Snappy Award for Accuracy
Wildest pitcher, measured by walks and hit batters.

And we need new awards for individual achievement:

The Bronze Narcoleptic Dormouse
Bestowed on the player who most seems to give up during the season after it becomes obvious their team is no longer in contention. Giving up running out ground balls, working counts, showing up for batting practice, and planning off-season skiing trips on the clubhouse phone during games are all considered.

And its converse:

The Dying Light
A barbarian with fist upraised, granted to the best and most dedicated player on an utterly hopeless or rebuilding franchise. This valiant player tries to break up double plays or takes off for first on dropped third strikes while behind 10-2 in the game and 20 games in the standings. Award includes a discreet trade clause, if the player cares to exercise it.
 
The Gnat Award
To the player who sees the most pitches per plate appearance, wasting the league's arms and trying pitcher patience, be it through foul balls or exceptional batting eye, by a player who is not otherwise an excellent hitter. For 2002, I nominate Mike Young, who's at 3.9 pitches/plate appearance. (Does seeing a lot of pitches predict future success? Email me thoughts. Or studies, if you're ambitious.)
 
Mike Hargrove Rain Delay Award
In honor of the master, this Lucite-encased clock runs so slowly it lulls viewers into fitful sleep. Total time delayed through the season is counted, so both frequency and length of between-pitch fidgeting is important.
 
Army Corps of Engineers Badge
To the player who through application of spikes and bat demonstrates his season-long dedication to the destruction of batters boxes through wiping of lines and digging of back-foot holes. This year's winner would be Sammy Sosa, of course, who should be allowed to take a hand trowel up to the plate in the interests of speeding the game up.
 
The Eddie Murray Payback Apology Award
Granted to the player whose achievements are most underplayed by reporters and columnists resentful of the player's attitude towards interviews (running some stats, I found that Barry Bonds won the award every year since Eddie Murray's retirement until 2001).
 
The Reacharound Award
Given to the player who gives local media types the most unsourced dirt on teammates and in return is praised for his character and leadership qualities. No name is put on the plaque, which is hidden by the appreciative player in question.
 
The Rickey Henderson Golden Tongue
Recognizes the player who offers the most consistent humor and enlightenment through the season in his interactions with the press, whether he means to or not.
 
Speak from the Mountain Stone Tablets
Given to players who for whatever reason breaks free of the cliches and easy answers that have been drilled into them and say something of unusual enlightenment.

For example, Jose Lima's recent "If I can't pitch on this team--the worst or second-worst team in baseball--where am I going to pitch? If I can't start on this ballclub, I must be the worst pitcher on Earth" after being released by Detroit.

Derek Zumsteg is an author of Baseball Prospectus. You can contact him by clicking here.

 

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