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Twittering the NL MVP…

September 25, 2011 Leave a comment Go to comments

On Friday night, as he’s prone to do, Keith Law got into a friendly discussion with some followers on Twitter over who the NL MVP is…

It started fairly innocuously,

MVP. RT @NCTPadres: Matt Kemp just tied the National League home run lead with his 37th. Gives #Dodgers a 2-0 lead.

And then a radio personality in Milwaukee, Mitch Nelles, responded with the surely unbiased option of Ryan Braun as the MVP, to which KLaw said,

I see him, down there, way below Kemp. RT @mitchnelles:@keithlaw see: Ryan Braun

And then they sort of traded tweets for a while,

@keithlaw my belief an MVP from losing team has to have significantly better numbers. Kemp’s are better, but not signif.

@mitchnelles So, you’re ignoring defense, position, and caliber of competition, just to protect your guy? That’s awesome.

@keithlaw I’m not ignoring those. I’ve always struggled with the concept of an MVP on a team 12 out of first

A dated line of thinking. Move beyond it. RT @mitchnelles: I’ve always struggled with the concept of an MVP on a team 12 out of first

@keithlaw but is the award “best” or “most value”? How is value relevant to a player on a mediocre team?

Here’s a hint: Same thing. RT @mitchnelles: but is the award “best” or “most value”? How is value relevant to a player on a mediocre team?

Anyhow, the discussion went on for a while and people all over the internet chimed in with their erudite opinions.  It was all very gallant and what not, but what I really loved about the whole discourse are two things*:

* Well, actually three: I love that KLaw even engages in these debates in the first place – and he’s continued all weekend retorting against particularly vapid Braun arguments.  Say what you want about him, but I can’t think of another major writer who actually reads through their own comments after posting an article and responds.  It’s both awesome and brave.  Were I in his position, facing the same vitriol from homer fans aghast that I didn’t support their player or team, I’m not sure I would be able to do the same.  I know I’d want to, but… people are insane, stupid, and mean on the internet (along with brilliant, eloquent, and funny), especially when it comes to politics or sports.  I find myself getting angry when I read the comments surrounding other (intelligent) authors’ pieces, let alone if it were my own piece.

First, is the idea that people think there’s some inherent difference between being the best, and having the most value.  These people always bring up “value” like it only matters if the team’s in contention, or like it encompasses things like clubhouse persona.  It doesn’t.  It really doesn’t.  The player who actually plays the best, provides his team with the most value.  Everything else is magic pixie dust.  I’m not saying it’s not cool and wont help you fly to Neverland, but over 162 games, give me the guy who produces the best, because he’s actually quantifiably produced the most value.  You can have the guy who was plucky.

In the case of Kemp, the debate relates to whether a player from a non-contending team deserves the award (obviously, on some level I’ve got a horse in this race, since Jose Bautista is engrossed in a similar dialogue).  Guess what?  The games the Dodgers’ play matter.  They matter to them, they matter to their fans, and they matter to their opponents.  The award doesn’t say “most valuable to a playoff team,” it says most valuable.  And while we’re at it, all 162 games matter, not just the ones in the second half; the games in September don’t matter any more than the games in April.  They all count the same, to pretend otherwise is simply to form a narrative to meet your needs.

Second, I love that Kemp was, at the time of the debate, .03 away from winning the triple crown.  Normally winning, or even almost winning, the triple crown would ensure that the public – and the lazy electorate that informs, or is swayed by, the public – would be frothing at the mouth in anticipation of awarding the man who managed to compile the highest batting average, RBI, and home runs with the award, but aparently, because Matt Kemp plays on a team owned by Frank McCourt, he actually hasn’t been that valuable.  Riiiiiight.

Yesterday morning, while Kemp was .03 away from the trip crown, Nelles actually tweeted that if Kemp won the triple crown, he’d be probably be the MVP.*  So, wait… let me get this straight, if the season had ended Friday night, Nelles would have had Braun first, because Kemp was .03 off of the Triple Crown?  Does he not see, or understand, how absurdly intellectually specious this is?  If one “out” of Kemp’s season had landed in for a hit – say one ball that a fielder made an exceptional play on, or a dribbler that he was a half step away from beating out, or even a play he was actually safe on that the ump called out – he would have been be tied for, or leading all of the triple crown categories.  And THAT would make him Nelle’s MVP?  Really?

*He’s since removed the tweet, I’d like to think it’s because he realized what a colossally stupid line of thinking that was, but it’s just as likely that he was bombarded by Brewer fans aghast that he’d abandon the cause of their great star.

Look, here’s the thing, if you’re a fan, you can think and believe anything you want.  If you want to believe that Derek Jeter was the best fielding shortstop of the last decade, have at her.  If you want to believe that because Ryan Howard has the most RBIs over the last six years he’s been the best hitter, then sure enjoy your bliss, but if you are paid to write or talk about sports then you have an obligation, to actually follow sports with some semblance of intelligence.  I’m not saying you need to use WAR, or wOBA, or UZR, or any other strange acronym, but for the love of all things holy and sacred, use that muscle in your head to form intelligent opinions.

But, maybe I ask too much?

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