Cardinals first baseman Albert Pujols was awarded his third National League Most Valuable Player award on Tuesday. The honor put Pujols in select company, as only Barry Bonds has won more. Stan Musial, another Cardinal won three NL MVP's also (1943, 1946, 1948). Pujols was also just the sixth player to win the NL MVP by a unanimous vote.
Overall, there was no surprise in the announcement of Pujols as MVP. He led the Major Leagues in homers (47), runs (124) and slugging percentage (.658) and he did it while batting .327. Additionally, there were no surprises when Hanley Ramirez, Ryan Howard, Prince Fielder and Troy Tulowitzki finished sprinkled behind Pujols, as their offensive numbers were all deserving of top 5 status, but not quite worthy of the top honor, by comparison. There were, however, stunning aspects relating to the voting announcements...one standout inclusion and one note worthy omission.
Would anyone agree with Andrew Baggarly of the San Jose Mercury News that Giants reliever Jeremy Affeldt is deserving of an MVP vote...even if it's a 10th place vote? Surely, a 2-2 record and a 1.73 ERA in 74 pitching appearances is outstanding, but not worthy of such elite recognition. With no other pitcher on his ballot, Baggarly chose to give a nod to Jeremy Affeldt as the best hurler in the league. In a blog post, analyzing his own votes, Baggarly declared his Affeldt vote a "sore thumb" vote and admitted he could not make a case to legitimize his 10th place acknowledgment. Baggarly excused his Affeldt vote by declaring that since everyone knew Pujols would win the award, no one could make an impact with a 10th place vote. Baggarly, a Giants writer, also declared that it was his prerogative to not vote for any Dodgers, San Francisco's long time rival.
Two writers from each city, belonging to the Baseball Writers Association of America, are chosen to vote on the MVP award. Thus, 32 votes were cast. Summing up Phillies first baseman Ryan Howard's votes, he only obtained 31 votes. Howard finished third in the voting, but one writer didn't think he was among the top 10 players in the National League. There is no word on who left Howard off his/her ballot, but I'd love to see that writer attempt to justify why.
The Baseball Writers Association of America is an organization for professional journalists. The ability to vote on prestigious awards should not be taken as an opportunity to show of your fidelity to your city's team to its fans. It should not be seen as a manner by which to nominate a less than deserving player to give him a tip of your (pen?) cap. It shouldn't be a pass to omit a former MVP who led the Majors in RBI, hit 45 HR and scored 105 runs.
Comfort in one's position breeds overconfident foolishness. Decisions emerge as absurdity when they are managed by buffoons. Be respectful of your spot and slow your roll, cozy baseball scribes. A new generation of writers is surely right behind you, and if they are anything like me, they wouldn't soon take a distinction like voting for the sport's most celebrated awards for granted, and they surely would never defecate on the sport that they love by not properly performing a duty to honor its best performers.
According to Jayson Stark of ESPN.com, there were only two teams that didn't receive at least one vote for any of MLB's big awards (manager of the year, rookie of the year, Cy Young, MVP) this season. Those teams were the Orioles and the Mets.
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