Once the Baseball Writers Association of America announces its annual awards, we often hear voters explaining how they arrived at their choices. This year has been no exception. But what about the guidelines from the BBWAA? Does the organization give its members variables to use in voting for these annual awards?
When it comes time to talk about the results of the NL MVP on Monday and the AL’s on Tuesday, we can’t reasonably evaluate the job the voters did if we don’t know how they were told to measure the merits of the ballplayers.
The BBWAA has been voting on the MVP award since 1931. Jack O’Connell, secretary-treasurer for the BBWAA, said by email this week: “That award places ‘value’ on contributions to the team by a player. The only guidelines for the other awards is for voters to select the pitchers, players or managers they feel are most deserving of being honored. It’s as simple as that. These are elections, not coronations.
“The MVP Award fell into disarray in the late 1920s, and none was presented in 1930,” O’Connell wrote. “Commissioner Landis recommended that the BBWAA take them over. The organization has been conducting elections ever since, adding the Rookie of the Year Award in 1947 …. the Cy Young Award for pitchers in 1956 and the Manager of the Year Award in 1983. The BBWAA has also conducted the balloting for the Hall of Fame since the first year of 1936.”
BBWAA members assigned to the National League Most Valuable Player committee are told, “There is no clear-cut definition of what Most Valuable means. It is up to the individual voter to decide who was the Most Valuable Player in each league to his team. The MVP need not come from a division winner or other playoff qualifier.
“The rules of the voting remain the same as they were written on the first ballot in 1931: (1) actual value of a player to his team, that is, strength of offense and defense; (2) number of games played; (3) general character, disposition, loyalty and effort; (4) former winners are eligible; and (5) members of the committee may vote for more than one member of a team.”
The MVP committee members are also urged, “to give serious consideration to all your selections, from 1 to 10.” The voters understand that a 10th-place vote can influence the outcome of an election. They must fill in all 10 places on the ballot and they are to consider only regular-season performances. The writers must also, “Keep in mind that all players are eligible for MVP, including pitchers and designated hitters.”
We know that over time the writers generally do a pretty consistent job in handing out the awards to worthy recipients. But every year, the second-guessing of the winners begins when the MVP votes are announced. Does this concern the BBWAA?
“This association is not concerned about being second-guessed,” O’Connell said. “Critics are entitled to their opinions. I have served on many committees in which the player I voted for did not win. I have also voted for Presidential candidates who did not win. … Opinions are healthy for the game. We recognize that. We also recognize that the awards are voted on in a democratic process and that various means of assessing a candidate’s value, worth, contributions, etc., are taken into account.”
What can we expect from the writers who vote for the MVP? According to O’Connell, “The BBWAA prides itself on having an educated electorate of members who are at the ballpark regularly and take their task seriously.” From a small sample size of the game’s experts, the ones who make some very important evaluations on a ballplayer’s merit for receiving an award, that’s a very nice thing to know.