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September 26, 2012

BP Unfiltered

A Modest Point About the AL MVP Race

by Colin Wyers

I know the crowd I'm writing for, and I know where 90 percent of my readers (if not more) are going to fall on the issue of whether or not Miguel Cabrera or Mike Trout deserves to be named the Most Valuable Player in the American League. And I know this has been discussed to death, but I do want to raise one little point—just raise it, nothing more or less.

According to the Baseball Writers Association of America:

Dear Voter:
 
There is no clear-cut definition of what Most Valuable means. It is up to the individual voter to decide who was the Most Valuable Player in each league to his team. The MVP need not come from a division winner or other playoff qualifier.
 
The rules of the voting remain the same as they were written on the first ballot in 1931:
 
1.  Actual value of a player to his team, that is, strength of offense and defense.
 
2.  Number of games played.
 
3.  General character, disposition, loyalty and effort.
 
4.  Former winners are eligible.
 
5.  Members of the committee may vote for more than one member of a team.
 
You are also urged to give serious consideration to all your selections, from 1 to 10. A 10th-place vote can influence the outcome of an election. You must fill in all 10 places on your ballot. Only regular-season performances are to be taken into consideration.
 
Keep in mind that all players are eligible for MVP, including pitchers and designated hitters.
So. The question I have for all of you is, given the third listed rule, what are we (or really, voters) to make of the fact that Cabrera has been known to get drunk and then drive a car?

Colin Wyers is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
Click here to see Colin's other articles. You can contact Colin by clicking here

51 comments have been left for this article. (Click to hide comments)

BP Comment Quick Links

ncassino

I don't believe that those examples of drinking and driving should have anything to do with it but not because I don't think that type of thing should ever be considered. In this case, those things happened prior to the 2012 baseball season. The voters are voting for only what happened this season so, unless those types of things can be proven to have happened this year, they should be irrelevant.

Sep 26, 2012 11:37 AM
rating: 4
 
cuculi13
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As a subscriber of Baseball Prospectus, i found this kind of post absolutely pathetic. This is the kind of bullshit you think you will find at some old newspaper, a story by a pathetic old and bitter writer. But not here. What's the point of bringing this kind of think now? We are talking about 2012, about the MVP race, not about a contest for best human being ever. And even then, Mr Wyers, i guess that you believe that people that made mistakes in the past should paid forever for those.

There are a ton of arguments to support Trout's case, so use them. There is no need for this kind of garbage at Baseball Prospectus

Sep 26, 2012 11:42 AM
rating: -9
 
BP staff member Colin Wyers
BP staff

I phrased it as a question for a reason (well, for a number of reasons). And while the MVP race is not purely a contest for best human ever, it does have a character clause. I am asking for opinions about the application of that clause, but I didn't put the clause in there.

Sep 26, 2012 11:47 AM
 
SC

"Just asking the question" is a notorious way of saying otherwise ridiculous things. "I'm not saying Barack Obama was born in Kenya, I'm just asking the question."

Sep 26, 2012 12:10 PM
rating: 1
 
BP staff member Colin Wyers
BP staff

What you're referring to is insinuating things, but in this case the existence of a character clause AND Cabrera's DUI are both things on public record, and most people were aware of both before the post. I'm asking how you apply one to the other. I note that I didn't suggest how I would apply one to the other, but a lot of people seem to be attempting to infer how I would have answered the question (in other words, treating it as a rhetorical question, not an actual one).

Sep 26, 2012 12:15 PM
 
toanstrom

This is a good point. I just can't justify voting for Mike Trout because he has never been proven to not murder hookers.

Sep 27, 2012 10:58 AM
rating: 0
 
craigburley

Colin, my view is that the third category is intended to be applied to the games on the field. In other words, "general character" matters to the extent it matters to the winning of ballgames. Others may reasonably differ. As I always say, that's why we have a vote.

The BBWAA should probably clarify the meaning of this, but I think leaving it to the interpretation of each voter will do OK.

Sep 26, 2012 11:49 AM
rating: 5
 
BP staff member Colin Wyers
BP staff

Is this a matter of what you think the intent was, or how you would prefer that the rule be applied?

Sep 26, 2012 12:01 PM
 
cuculi13
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Like you dont know how BP readers will answer that question. Please, Mr Wyers...

Sep 26, 2012 11:56 AM
rating: -10
 
Chad Moriyama

Reading through the comments thus far, they seem to be looking at it rationally, IMO.

Just saying.

Sep 27, 2012 01:02 AM
rating: 1
 
Otisbird

Obvs, I'd vote for Trout, but:

By your rationale, Cabrera has played more games than Trout and is a better choice under Item 2. It does not matter that the Angels kept Trout in the minors, Cabrera has played in about 18% of the season more than Trout.

As for item 3, does that mean you have to give consideration to the other enumerated identifiers? Does willingness to move to 3B for the team and work at not sucking at it, suiting up (nearly) every day, also address disposition, effort, and loyalty?

Sep 26, 2012 12:05 PM
rating: 5
 
BP staff member Colin Wyers
BP staff

Well obviously every enumerated item deserves consideration -- it's not at all clear to me whether the order is supposed to matter, that is to say, whether the intent is to have 1 matter more than 2 and so on and so forth.

You're right, number two is in Cabrera's favor.

As for three, yes, I think you do have to consider the totality of what character means, not just one isolated example. And as Craig noted above, it's possible to privilege on-field (and really, in-clubhouse) character above character in one's off hours.

Sep 26, 2012 12:08 PM
 
Otisbird

I don't think I meant to imply the criteria were ranked in ordinal fashion. If so, Trout probably wins on Item 1 (which, now that I think about it is where a lot of the pro-Trout arguments come from...).

I was just thinking that Items 4 and 5 are eligibility criteria, whereas Items 1-3 are about quality (weighted equally or not). Assuming arguendo that they were weighted equally, "character" - which may or may not include off field issues - is a fraction of the list as opposed to games played.

Sep 26, 2012 12:25 PM
rating: 1
 
davidlopezh
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I agree with the second comment, this is not why I became a subscriber of BP. This just takes the entire discussion to a low level, while bringing something that in my opinion is not relevant to the discussion. How would you've felt if Braun had been stripped of his MVP if the appeal hadn't been admitted? Do you think that would've been right?

Should baseball do something about DUI's? I agree. Should Trout be the MVP? Also agreed. But that doesn't warrant bringing up these type of things that adds absolutely nothing positive to the discussion.

Sep 26, 2012 12:06 PM
rating: -4
 
BP staff member Colin Wyers
BP staff

As I noted on Friday, I do not approve of rescinding awards once they've been given, in general. If Braun's test sample had been public knowledge when MVP voters were making their decision, though, would that have been something they should have considered, though? I'm asking.

Sep 26, 2012 12:12 PM
 
eighteen

Curious whether such a clause also applies to HOF voting.

The clause clearly doesn't apply to anything off the field, since it's a consideration to be used in determining a player's "Value' relative to other players; and the only thing that makes one "Valuable" as a player is what one does on the field.

If off the field issues count, Mother Theresa could've been an MVP candidate.

Sep 26, 2012 12:14 PM
rating: -2
 
BP staff member Ben Lindbergh
BP staff

I don't think it's clear that the clause doesn't apply to anything off the field, since it doesn't say that. Not much about that clause is clear.

Sep 26, 2012 12:27 PM
 
BP staff member Ben Lindbergh
BP staff

Also, I'm guessing Mother Theresa wouldn't have fared too well when it came to the first clause.

By the way, to answer your question about whether the character clause also applies to Hall of Fame voting: it does, or at least it's supposed to:

"5. Voting: Voting shall be based upon the player's record, playing ability, integrity, sportsmanship, character, and contributions to the team(s) on which the player played."

Sep 26, 2012 12:32 PM
 
Matt

I don't understand all the objections here. The character clause is there. Colin is just bringing our attention to it, that's all. There is an obvious character flaw in Cabrera.

If you vote, you have to ask the questions:
Will I consider the character clause?
Should Cabrera's transgressions affect my consideration of the character clause?

Those are valid questions to raise.

Sep 26, 2012 12:23 PM
rating: 9
 
ChinMusic

How far back do you go in evaluating someone's character? Junior high? Should private investigators be hired to determine the MVP? Do you investigate whether the character flaw has been corrected? This seems like a ridiculous exercise to me.

Sep 26, 2012 19:27 PM
rating: 2
 
Chad Moriyama

Um ... isn't that the point of discussion?

People bashing the question and accusing it of being tabloid journalism are the ones currently dragging down the level of discourse.

Ironic.

Sep 27, 2012 01:05 AM
rating: 0
 
ChinMusic

With all due respect, I wasn't bashing the question. I was giving my response to it. I don't think the question is ridiculous, I think the notion of judging the character of someone you don't know is ridiculous. How would you even begin to measure one person's character against anothers involving off the field issues? The only character issues that would go into the voting process would be those for which a player is exposed. Is the absence of being exposed for a character issue evidence of good character? Performance is objective and can be measured. Relative character, I believe, is impossible for an outsider to measure objectively.

Sep 27, 2012 04:38 AM
rating: 6
 
jhardman

If this article got a defensive rating in Strat-O-Matic, it would be a 5 in a corner outfield spot.

Sep 26, 2012 12:28 PM
rating: 0
 
swarmee

So...has Cabrera drove drunk this season? If not, it should not be considered. The MVP award is a single-season award.

However, if he had a DUI this season, would it be okay to drop him to the #7 slot on your ballot to make it more difficult for him to win the award based on other's voting?

Sep 26, 2012 12:31 PM
rating: 2
 
swarmee

To flesh out rule #1, if Trout and Cabrera were statistically equal in WAR, would Trout be worth more to his team because he's being paid $400K this season compared to ~$25 Million?

Sep 26, 2012 12:34 PM
rating: 0
 
tonyfranco

I believe criteria #3 pertains specifically within the context of the team, not off the field behavior. In other words, what is the player like off the field BUT in the clubhouse?

Sep 26, 2012 12:34 PM
rating: 1
 
swarmee

How would a writer for the Padres be able to know that about a member of the Tigers? Is it an attempt to quantify #intangibles and #want?

Sep 26, 2012 12:39 PM
rating: 0
 
Shawn

I'm confused Colin. Are you trying to imply that the MVP voting guidelines could/would allow a voter to use the fact that Cabrera has had transgressions in his past? Because the guidelines are clearly meant to be for the current season only. And as far as I can tell, Cabrera has been a model player on and off the field this year. In fact, the incident a few weeks ago where he took the Fire Leyland sign would be to me a positive in Cabrera's column as he handled himself very well.

If you are trying to imply that rule 3 above could possibly allow consideration of the past, then that would also mean that voters could look at past year stats, games played, etc.

I think everyone would be in agreement that the MVP is meant to be decided on events that happen during the season. And by virtue of rule 3 above, voters CAN consider events (negative and positive) that are not necessarily strictly statistical/performance based. If Braun's PED tests came to light before the voting was done, then yes, any voter could consider it as part of his decision-making process. But also conversely, if a voter decided to leave Braun off his ballot this year because of last year's PED investigation, then they would not be following the above guidelines for MVP.

We all know that some voters WILL do this and there is nothing any of us can do about it.

Sep 26, 2012 12:42 PM
rating: 3
 
deeswan

The reality is that, regardless of whether or not the character clause is supposed to be only for this year, people will consider the totality of what they know about the player. That said, I don't think Cabrera's past history with DUIs will sway many voters, although I'm pretty sure Braun will be left of some NL MVP ballots on "principal." One thing to consider, while driving under the influence is reprehensible, it may be a symptom of a problem Cabrera has, as opposed to a just a poor choice or bad behavior.

Sep 26, 2012 12:59 PM
rating: 0
 
deeswan

That should read "left off some NL", not "left of."

Sep 26, 2012 13:00 PM
rating: 0
 
BP staff member Dave Pease
BP staff
(2)

Prepare to act on the question, everyone... the Greg Spira Internet Baseball Awards are coming soon.

Sep 26, 2012 13:20 PM
 
sandriola

"Only regular-season performances are to be taken into consideration."

Even if you stretch the character clause prior to 2012, the Cabrera DUI happened in Spring Training, not the regular season. Thus, you have another gray area argument on your hands.

Of course, if you're going back that far already, the regular season clause has already been busted.

Sep 26, 2012 14:31 PM
rating: 0
 
BillJohnson

The DUI may have happened during spring training, but I have a hard time with the notion that his "general character [and] disposition" was off playing golf during the off season and needed to be whipped into playing shape during the spring. Bodies may get out of shape during the winter. The underlying person remains what it is.

This said, for me, rule #3 would be a tie-breaker rather than something that absolutely vetoes voting for a guy, unless the breaches of character, disposition, loyalty and effort are blatant and huge.

Sep 26, 2012 17:35 PM
rating: 2
 
sandriola

I'm arguing the semantics of the BBWAA rules as interpreted by Colin's post.

The whole thing is so vague, and purposely so. However, it seems like too many BBWAA writers take parts of the voting rules for the awards and HOF too literally when it's convenient to them.

Sep 26, 2012 17:58 PM
rating: 1
 
toanstrom

Actually the DUI happened before Spring Training in 2011. This offseason Miggy lost about 30 lbs so he would be able to play third - because that's the Tigers asked him to do.

Sep 27, 2012 10:57 AM
rating: 2
 
Michael
(736)

Like others, I would give clause 3 little weight and also would interpret it in the context of a "Most Valuable Player" award to apply to only qualities that affect the team's ability to win games or win a playoff slot.

By the way, what a mess gramatically. Points 1-3 are phrases and points 4-5 are sentences.

Sep 26, 2012 15:02 PM
rating: 2
 
BurrRutledge

I don't think his DUI has any impact on this season's voting, nor should it. I read point 3 to be in the context of both a) this season, and b) team impact.

"General character, disposition, loyalty, and effort."

My take: If a player were involved in an off-field incident (whether it was a crime or simply another distraction), I would think to be relevant to the MVP Award, it would have to have a discernable effect on the team this season. Past mistakes having an impact today would be relevant, but past mistakes with no impact on this season's team / results would not.

More germane to item #3 for Miggy, as mentioned by others above, would be his willingness to switch to a tougher defensive position in the off-season, work at it without complaint (as far as I can know), and be a congenial fellow on the team (I have nothing but anecdotal evidence here).

Sep 26, 2012 16:25 PM
rating: 3
 
R.A.Wagman

As far as point #3 goes, I will definitely not be voting for Delmon Young for MVP.

Come to think of it, he fails on the first point as well.

Sep 26, 2012 16:46 PM
rating: 1
 
sandriola

You could also argue he falls under point # 2, as he's a DH primarily.

Sep 26, 2012 17:55 PM
rating: 0
 
toanstrom

This is totally disgusting. Given that by all accounts Cabrera has been a model teammate this year how is his story any different than Josh Hamilton's?
I don't come to this site for this kind of trash and this didn't reek of desperate trolling for page views I'd honestly consider canceling my subscription.
Y'all are better than this.

Sep 26, 2012 19:49 PM
rating: -3
 
Daddyboy

Pisses me off too, this is ridiculous.

Sep 28, 2012 15:33 PM
rating: -2
 
BP staff member Hudson Belinsky
BP staff

I respect the question.

I don't think it's right to discuss this with the assumption that DUIs equal low character. Addiction is a very real and serious thing and leads people to do terrible things. I don't know Cabrera personally or know what his issues are all about, but I do know that I'm not going to jump to the assumption that him getting in a car under the influence is a direct reflection of his character. I get that people will disagree with this point, but I'd ask those people to seek to understand what goes on in a person's brain that causes them to do certain things. Miguel Cabrera is a victim of a disease, just the way society was a victim of Miguel Cabrera. So we might turn this around in a completely different direction. Maybe Cabrera is a hero for battling his disease. Maybe his character is better now more than ever. The idea that we know anything about his character because of his history of alcohol abuse is silly.

I think we're left with personal interviews, tweets, teammates' perceptions, and displays of on-field character. Otherwise, it's irresponsible for us to make judgments based on snapshots of people's lives.

Sep 26, 2012 23:11 PM
 
krissbeth

A typical insight of AA is that while you are not to blame for your addiction, you remain responsible for it, which is why one of the steps involves asking for amends and making what restitution you can. It's perfectly valid to hold Cabrera responsible for his actions and to understand that he has a disease.

Sep 27, 2012 05:25 AM
rating: 3
 
Daddyboy

Plus, plus, plus....

Sep 28, 2012 15:40 PM
rating: 0
 
John Douglass

Cabrera got a DUI so he's out. Trout didn't play in enough games to be considered per #2. #4 says "Former winners are eligible" so since it doesn't address non-former-winners I assume they're ineligible--scratch Cano, Beltre, Jackson, Zobrist. No Hamilton, because crack/character. No A-Rod because cheater/character. No Mauer because only 141 games played so far. I'll vote...Pujols. Past winner, charitable guy, 100RBI. And I read somewhere that he's the best player on the Angels and Heyman is laughable for saying he isn't.

Sep 27, 2012 07:42 AM
rating: 3
 
lopkhan00

After looking at the article Colin linked above, I would say that there are a number of other items on the negative side of the ledger when it comes to Mr. Cabrera's character beyond the drinking/driving issue.

Unrelated to that though, I do wonder whether the people claiming that looking at possible character issues previous to this year's regular season is unfair would feel the same if the actions were even more egregious. If in 2010 it came out that he had molested children (but was not convicted due to a legal technicality) while also claiming an affinity for Hitler's actions, would people not consider these issues in their 2012 MVP consideration? Character is character regardless of when you display the actions that show your true character.

Sep 27, 2012 07:51 AM
rating: 1
 
BP staff member Paul Sporer
BP staff

Miggy is the Tigers nominee for the Roberto Clemente Award this year - http://hardballtalk.nbcsports.com/2012/09/18/baseball-announces-the-roberto-clemente-award-nominees/

Meanwhile, I can't see previous transgressions weighing into the 2012 MVP race. That'd be unfortunate.

Sep 27, 2012 07:52 AM
 
cdt719

Not only did he drive drunk, he was arrested for domestic violence with a BAC of 0.26 at 6 or 7am, when the Tigers had two games to go in the middle of a race with the Twins. With that rate of alcohol in his system, he was probably still drunk by game time.

Sep 27, 2012 14:45 PM
rating: 0
 
toanstrom

This is true. He also did this three years ago. Not sure what the connection to his contributions to the 2012 Tigers is?

Sep 27, 2012 17:48 PM
rating: 1
 
cdt719

In discussion of Melky Cabrera three years from now, you don't think people will include "he got caught juicing" in their assessments of his character even though it happened 3 years before?

I don't really put any extra stock in "he showed up drunk for a game during the pennant race" since it's already reflected in his performance, but character issues from years before are often mentioned, which is why I'm surprised so little has been mentioned of Cabrera's alcohol problems.

Sep 28, 2012 09:53 AM
rating: 1
 
Daddyboy
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As long as we throw the adulterers and homos out first.

Sep 28, 2012 15:41 PM
rating: -5
 
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