I’m pleased to present the latest guest post from Doug Bird, a Sunday contributor here.
Traditionally, the winners of baseball’s major post season awards are those who have played on winning teams. The voting for best position player, (MVP) and best pitcher, (CY Young), has usually been heavily influenced by the success, or failure, of the team for which an individual plays The logic being that a particular team might not have enjoyed the success it did had it not been for the play of this individual. Conversely, no matter how important a player might be to a team with a losing record, that team would have had an unsuccessful season with or without him. Any player could have filled his role or so goes the argument. Both opinions are certainly valid.
The 2010 awards once again followed this trend-with one exception, an exception which bodes well for the future. Certainly, no one can really argue with the choices of Roy Halladay, Joey Votto, (well maybe Albert Pujols), and Josh Hamilton. All had excellent seasons and played for winning teams, all were key contributors to their teams’ success. All were team leaders and winning might have been very difficult if not impossible without them.
Roy Halladay gave the Phillies a tried and trusted staff ace, capable of a complete game victory every time he took the mound. He had accomplished this season after season with the Toronto Blue Jays but the Blue Jays continued in their frustrating lack of post season appearances. He was the best pitcher in the league and perhaps all of baseball stuck on a team which was not going to make the playoffs no matter how many games he won or how well he pitched. He was awarded the AL CY Young award in 2003 and the NL CY Young award in 2010. In 2003, the voters decided that he was the best pitcher in the league regardless of the lack of success his steam enjoyed that season, and in 2010, the voters were able to combine personal success and team success in giving him the award. His stats were simply too good to ignore using either criteria and he received all 32 first place votes.
Josh Hamilton was healthier than he had been in years previous, (he still missed almost a month of the season), and still had numbers which could not be ignored by the voting press. All facets of his game were well above average and the Texas Rangers rode on his back all the way to the playoffs. Yet, one could certainly argue, without the bat of Vlad Guerrero behind him, would Hamilton have enjoyed the offensive numbers he did in 2010? But, MVPs shouldn’t be judged on hitting stats alone and the tremendous contributions made by Hamilton on defense and with his speed on the base paths made him certainly the best all around player in the league. Let’s not forget the swagger or presence a player such as Hamilton brings to the game either, one of those intangibles which don’t show up on the score card but make everyone else on the team that much better.
Joey Votto certainly had the stats to qualify for MVP in the NL but I suspect it was what he meant to the Cincinnati Reds who were a surprise NL central division winner. Their obvious weaknesses were clear in their being swept aside in round one of the NL playoffs. The baseball writers were taken by surprise all season long by the Reds and felt obligated to come up with a reason. A healthy and fierce competitor such as Scott Rolen and the experience of Orlando Cabrera certainly made a difference in 2010 but the player the press settled on was the one who got Cincinnati over the top and gave the Reds the marquee player to get them over the top and into the playoffs. The only real slump the reds went through was the times Votto missed due to injuries. When Votto returned, the collective sigh of relief from players and fans was audible. Sometimes, writers tire of giving the MVP award to the same player year after year. Albert Pujols is that best player in the NL year in and year out. Votto won his MVP award by being the best offensive player in the NL in 2010 from a strictly numbers consideration and having his best season when his team had its best in several seasons.
Felix Hernandez of the Seattle Mariners was awarded the 2010 AL CY Young award because without him, Seattle would have been even more of an American League doormat than with him. Writers voted him this award because they couldn’t believe any other pitcher could have enjoyed the success of Hernandez with a team as bad as the 2010 Mariners. The writers awarded Hernandez for his season long effort and perseverance. Any hope of any in season success for the Mariners rested solely on his shoulders. No other starter gave the team much of an opportunity to win games and Hernandez had to win games for his team without much support from his fellow players. He had to be perfect and then some. Other AL CY Young candidates at least had the luxury of playing for teams which could win even when they themselves were not sharp that start. Their teams could win games without them. Seattle could not.
The 2010 baseball award winners proved that awards can be given out using different criteria for different players. But, that’s what can make them fun isn’t it.
Email Doug Bird at firstname.lastname@example.org