You might have missed the announcements of the MVP awards, as decided by the Baseball Reporters Association of America (BBRAA). No great loss if you did, as they made two poor selections, one defensible and one not. Joe Sheehan has a long and lovely rant about this behind the Baseball Prospectus paywall, and he homes in on the nature of the problem plus a way around it.
Donâ€™t consider the outcome. Consider the process. The process for determining the nominally “official” MVP vote is that it’s restricted to a subset of a subset of the people who cover the game for a living. There was a time when the BBRAA was representative of pretty much all of the people who covered baseball. That hasn’t been true for a long time, and it gets less true each and every year. There’s a strong argument that the BBRAA represents the dying wing of baseball coverage.
One of two things can improve this process. The first would be if the voting pool was expanded to include broadcasters and writers not currently welcome in the BBRAA. I’m not pushing for a vote here; the line of broadcasters who are essentially just as qualified as the writers for this task is extremely long, and the fact that one group gets the job and the other doesn’t is simply an artifact of history. It is likely that the broader the group involved in the process, the greater likelihood that the group will reach the correct conclusions. (The Internet Baseball Awards are an excellent example of this.) I also think this has as much chance of happening as I do of showing up on “Dancing With the Stars.”
The more likely path is that the BBRAA awards are replaced, in the minds of the people within the game and the fans that follow them, with something else. For my money, the IBAs would be a perfect replacement. If you compare the IBA results with BBRAA results for the history of the former, the IBAs hold up much better. The difference between the two is largely that the BBRAA awards have precedent on their side and the advantage of publicity. With each error-filled vote, though, the credibility of these awards erodes just a little, and eventually, itâ€™ll be whittled down to nothing.
If not the IBAs, then why not some other entity? MLB could empanel a hundred or so people, a cross-section of insiders, reporters, personnel and analysts to vote for the awards, rotating the group each year. The Harris Poll didn’t exist 18 months ago; now, it will help determine what team plays for the national championship in college football. Some non-MLB entity could decide to do the same thing, and each year, as each groupâ€™s awards were distributed, the public could choose which they thought had more validity. Over time, the better awards would come to be seen as official, and the others would become a footnote.
Right now, the process for selecting these awards is poor, and the outcomes it produces are poor. Why not see if thereâ€™s something better out there?
I agree completely. I’m not sure how one goes about campaigning to replace the BBRAA awards with, say, the Internet Baseball Awards, but whatever it is, I’ll do my itty-bitty part to make it happen. Who’s with me?