The winner of the National League’s Most Valuable Player Award will be announced Monday, followed by the American League MVP on Tuesday. As a 21-year member of the Baseball Writers Association of America, it is my sincere hope that my brethren make the right decisions.
It has long been fashionable for fans to second-guess the BBWAA choices for the post-season awards. That is perfectly natural and acceptable, as no sport prompts second-guessing quite like baseball or has a more passionate and analytical fan base. However, the criticism has been ratcheted up in recent years thanks to the internet giving more fans and analysts a stronger voice.
I have always defended my fellow BBWAA members by saying that each one of them who fills out a ballot does so with sincerity. However, all voters’ credibility took a big hit this past week when results of the NL Rookie of the Year balloting was announced and it was revealed that Reds right-hander Edinson Volquez received three second-place votes.
Now, the BBWAA got it right by selecting Cubs catcher Geovany Soto as the NL’s top rookie with Reds first baseman Joey Votto placing second and Braves right-hander Jair Jurrjens finishing third. If I had a Rookie of the Year vote, that is how it would have looked. By right of full disclosure, I had an NL Cy Young Award vote and went with Tim Lincecum, Johan Santana, and Brandon Webb.
Volquez certainly had a fine year but there was one small problem: he wasn’t a rookie. The maximum number of innings a pitcher can log in his career and still be considered a rookie is 50, and Volquez had logged 80 with the Rangers from 2005-07.
The BBWAA stresses accountability and makes all votes public. Thus, it can be said that the three writers who voted for Volquez were the Newark Star-Ledger’s Jeremy Cothran, the Los Angeles Daily News’ John Kilma, and the North County Times’ Jay Paris.
Everyone makes mistakes, but the embarrassment of Volquez showing up on three Rookie of the Year ballots points out the changing face of the media and how it is beginning to have an impact on baseball’s major awards. Newspapers are losing circulation and advertising revenue at alarming rates, which has necessitated massive layoffs, the use of inexperienced journalists on major beats, and more reporters being forced to multi-task and cover a variety of sports rather than specialize in one.
The BBWAA, though, had allowed only those from daily newspapers, major wire services and the Sporting News, whose writers were grandfathered in from the BBWAA’s inception in 1908 when the publication was the bible of baseball rather than “All Things Football, and More Football on Top of That.”
This year, internets writers were admitted for the first time with the criteria being that they had to be employees of websites also credentialed by Major League Baseball for such major events as the All-Star Game and World Series. That list includes SI.com, ESPN.com, FoxSports.com, Yahoo.com, CBSSports.com, MSNBC.com, and MurrayChass.com.
The topic of whether the list of websites that should be considered for BBWAA membership should be expanded was a major topic of conversation during the organization’s World Series meeting in Philadelphia last month. Baseball Prospectus was a large part of the discussion, and the idea appeared to be well-received by many in attendance.
While I am already a BBWAA member by virtue of my ink-stained job as the baseball writer at the Beaver County Times in suburban Pittsburgh, time will tell if BP writers gain membership. However, when Edinson Volquez gets Rookie of the Year votes, it only strengthens the idea that BP writers should be admitted.