Funny story. I went to baseball-reference.com this morning, as I do nearly every morning, and searched for Justin Verlander. His player profile was available, as it always is, because the Detroit Tigers right-hander is a baseball player.
Well, this fact must come as a surprise to many of the voters for the Most Valuable Player award. There is a long-standing resistance to naming a pitcher the league's MVP, an award with the explicit purpose of recognizing the outstanding baseball player in each league.
This year, that player in the American League is Blue Jays right fielder Jose Bautista. If there's any resistance to granting Verlander an MVP vote, it should be because Bautista (as well as Red Sox center fielder Jacoby Ellsbury) is more deserving, not because Verlander is a pitcher.
Tangent time: Imagine that you're in the marketing department of a huge company. Every year the company gives out a prestigious award to its best employee. Workers in accounting, technical support, reception, custodial services and your marketing department are all eligible. The award is given out for years with great fanfare.
Then, one year, the company decides to add a separate, lesser award to the best marketing department employee. It's all fine and dandy, and it's extra motivation for those years when Bill in accounting is absolutely killing it and everyone in marketing knows they have no shot at the big prize.
After a few decades, it's decided that because of the marketing-only award, the hard-working folks in marketing will no longer win the company-wide award. This was never an official decision, just an informal agreement by the bigwigs in the corner offices that, on second thought, marketing is different from the other departments and doesn't deserve the more prestigious award.
This is what happened with baseball. There was the MVP, which started in 1911. Forty-one years later, on a whim, along came the Cy Young Award. Fifty-five years after that, we have smart folks like the estimable Bob Ryan of The Boston Globe asserting that pitchers should not even be eligible for MVP.
Only in baseball, with its outdated concepts of just about everything, would this argument ever hold water. Would a football fan ever argue that the MVP trophy is extraneous because of the existence of offensive and defensive player of the year awards? For that matter, why do baseball position players need the MVP award, either, since they already get the cute Silver Slugger* designation and those shiny metal bats?
*"Silver Slugger" has such a Little League ring to it, doesn't it? "Greenfield Little League named Stevie Walcott a Silver Slugger! Go get 'em, you little Silver Slugger, you!"
In 1999, no baseball player was more outstanding than Pedro Martinez. In 1972, to use Ryan's example, no baseball player had a better season than Steve Carlton. In 1968, no baseball player had a greater influence on that legendary season than Bob Gibson.
Did those pitchers win MVP? No, no and yes.
A pitcher should not receive MVP consideration every year. In most cases, a player who appears every fifth day, often for no more than seven innings at a time, will not have the same impact as a player who starts five or six times a week.
In rare seasons, though, about once every 10 or 12 or 20 years, a pitcher has a season in which he is so tremendous that he is the undisputed best player in baseball. And the MVP.
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