The true meaning of Most Valuable Player

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by Chris Embree

What makes a player the Most Valuable Player of their league? Los Angeles Angels centerfielder and MLB Phenom Mike Trout has just won his second MVP award edging out Boston Red Sox star Mookie Betts. This outcome has sparked controversy in the baseball world with columnists, analysts, and fans arguing what it means to be the Most VALUABLE Player.

The issue with Trout winning the MVP stems from him being on an Angels team that went only 74-88, placing 4th in their division. Many media members share the belief that best player on a winning team deserves the award. There has been 173 MVP Award winners in the history of the game. Only 8 (including Trout) have been on losing teams. There’s always been instances of great players on bad teams that either don’t get the recognition or the awards they deserve because they played on a bad team (poor Ted Williams only won 2 MVP’s).

When it comes to the MVP award, the MLB is very different compared to other leagues. For example, in the NBA one great player can carry his team to the playoffs. In the NFL, a great quarterback can carry his team to the playoffs. In the MLB it takes more than one great player to carry their team to the playoffs. By saying that an MVP must be on a winning team you’re either penalizing a player because of the poor play of his teammates or rewarding them if they and their teammates are good. The MVP ballot actually does say “the MVP need not come from a division winner or other playoff qualifier”. Why do voters hold their team against them? After all the MVP is an individual award.

It’s tough to truly determine a player’s value. The most common measures are offensive stats, mixed with defensive ability, and the number of games played. Voters want all-around players that play every day to win the award. That’s why pitchers seldom win and designated hitters never win the award. But there’s also the Oxford English definition of value, “the worth of something compared to the price paid or asked for it”. If you take this interpretation of value, then Mookie should have won the MVP in a landslide. He hit .318 with 31 homeruns, 113 RBI’s and stole 26 bases. Plus he won a Gold Glove Award. He had all of this production while only making $566,000. Even though it was a rookie contract, Mookie exceeded all expectations. In comparison, Mike Trout hit .315 with 29 HRs, 100 RBIs, and stole 30 bases while making $15,250,000. Trout’s contract reflects his ability to produce at a higher level than other players.

This being said, there’s no doubt that Kris Bryant rightfully earned his NL MVP award. He hit .292 with 39 homeruns, and 102 RBI’s, all while making $652,000. He also played 117 in the infield (split between 3B, 1B, and SS) and 69 games in the outfield (split between all three positions). He would often start a game at one position, and switch to another one when his team needed him to. Plus the Cubs had the best record in their league. Bryant gave the Cubs more production than anyone else, while playing six different positions and making peanuts compared to his peers. He epitomized “value” in every way.

There’s no perfect way to measure a player’s value to their team, especially in the MLB. Year after year Mike Trout has proven that he is the best player in the MLB. Does this means he was the most valuable even though Mookie arguably had a better year? Mike Trout won the award and there are people arguing on Mookie Betts’ behalf. Had Mookie won I’m sure there would have been those arguing on Trout’s behalf. It’s rare when there is a clear-cut MVP. With the way this year’s American League MVP race unfolded, it brings up the possibility of changing the name of the award. Perhaps it should be called the “Most Outstanding Player” award – given to the player who had the best season. This could potentially take out the subjectivity of the voting. Players would get their rightful recognition, regardless of their teammates play.

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