Does Major League Baseball Know What Valuable Means?
Major League Baseball has a serious problem. They seem to get votes for awards from people who do not understand the English language. Don’t worry though, I’m here to help with information directly from Dictionary.com. Here’s the definition they seem to be struggling:
Valuable [ val-yoo-uh-buhl, -yuh-buhl ] adjective
- Having considerable monetary worth; costing or bringing a high price: a valuable painting; a valuable crop.
- Having qualities worthy of respect, admiration, or esteem: a valuable friend.
- Of considerable use, service, or importance: valuable information.
The Most Valuable Player award should be, literally, awarded to the player who is the most valuable to his team. That makes sense, right? That’s literally what the award is titled.
However, Mike Trout has won his third MVP award this year, edging runner-up Alex Bregman of the Houston Astros. World Series Champion Alex Bregman, the same guy who has helped lead his team to the World Series in two of the last three years, winning the whole thing in 2017, losing in the American League Championship Series to the eventual champion Boston Red Sox, and losing in seven games to the Washington Nationals in this year’s World Series. Alex Bregman of the 107-55 Houston Astros, which was, by the way, the best record in the Majors. The Astros finished THIRTY-FIVE GAMES ahead of Trout’s Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim (worst team name in sports, by the way) who were 24 games out of the final Wild Card spot.
So tell me again what makes Trout so valuable?
I’ve always held the belief that a player from a team that missed the playoffs cannot be MVP because the award should go to the player that, without him, his team wouldn’t be as good as it is with him. There is no doubt that without Bregman, the Astros would not be as good as they are. What would the Angles be without Trout? Still not making the playoffs? Who cares? As a matter of fact, Trout has led the Angels to exactly ONE playoff appearance and ZERO wins. Don’t remember when that was, you say? Well, it was five years ago, so you can’t be blamed for that. Here are the two teams’ records since 2014 to give you an idea of how the two have performed:
Year Astros Angels
2019 107-55 72-90
2018 103-59 80-82
2017 101-61 80-82
2016 84-78 74-88
2015 86-76 85-77
2014 70-92 98-64
Can anyone explain to me how Trout is more valuable than Bregman, or really any player on a winning team? Somehow, he has won three MVP awards (the seasons marked by asterisks – notice only on year did he actually deserve it for leading his team to a winning record) and finished second four times in 2012 (the Angles finished 89-73 and missed the playoffs), 2013 (the Angels finished 78-84 and missed the playoffs), 2015, and 2018 (see above chart for team record). He’s led his team to two winning seasons in eight years, yet he’s always either winning or finishing second in MVP voting.
Some folks like to make the argument that “Well, Trout is the best player in baseball, look at his WAR!”. Okay. This year his WAR was 8.4 to Bregman’s 8.3. Take away 8 wins from the Angels and they instead finish 43 games behind the Astros, not 35. Take away Bregman’s wins and what happens? They lose their home-field advantage in the playoffs, going from 107 wins to 99. They still win their division but to get to the World Series they have to win more games on the road instead of hosting any potential game sevens that might arise. Granted that didn’t matter against the Nationals, but neither team won a home game in that series, but my point remains valid. Without Bregman, the Astros are not the powerhouse team that has dominated the regular season and playoffs the last three years. Without Mike Trout, the Angels still wouldn’t win a single playoff game, let alone even come close to winning.
Or would they?
Take Mike Trout’s insanely high salary that has set the market for every big-name free agent in the next decade. He’ll be earning $35 million a year over the remaining years of his contract. Now, that might end up being a bargain, but by the time he reaches the end of it, folks might think otherwise. You need look only to his teammate Albert Pujols to see the effects and ramifications of a high-dollar, long-term deal and how an aging former superstar lives up to it, but that’s beside the point. The point is that if you took that money and invested it in several players who, while not being the best in baseball, might still be more valuable and give you more return on investment than Mike Trout has given the Angels.
You can argue all day about stats (although Trout’s stats have never been so much more impressive than either the player he beat or the player who beat him for the award, in fact, they’re usually negligible) but he is the only one who keeps getting all those votes for being on teams that are double-digit games out of first place and the playoff race. Here’s another chart going back to 2012 when he was runner-up:
Year MVP (team record) Runner-Up (team record)
2019 Mike Trout (72-90) Alex Bregman (107-55)
2018 Mookie Betts (108-54) Mike Trout (80-82)
2017 Jose Altuve (101-61) Mike Trout (80-82)
2016 Mike Trout (74-88) Mookie Betts (93-69)
2015 Josh Donaldson (93-69) Mike Trout (85-77)
2014 Mike Trout (98-64) Victor Martinez (85-77)
2013 Miguel Cabrera (93-69) Mike Trout (78-84)
2012 Miguel Cabrera (88-74) Mike Trout (89-73)
So as you can see, only once (maybe twice if you count 2015, which I don’t because the Angels didn’t make the playoffs) has Trout actually deserved to be considered for the MVP, let alone win the damn thing. You might be saying to yourself “Well look at 2012, his team actually had a better record than Cabrera’s!” which is true, but Cabrera won the Triple Crown that year, so he had that going for him. The closest Trout has come to having the same record is that 2012 season, other than that his teams have finished between 8 and 35 games behind either the winner or the runner-up. He’s never won a playoff game, his teams have finished below .500 in 5 of the 8 seasons he’s either won MVP or was runner-up. His team’s record is 656-640, while the records of the players on the other teams are 768-528.
Trout might be the best player in baseball, he’s certainly in the discussion and you’ll find few fans and even rival players who would disagree with that. But that’s not what this award is for. If that’s what folks want, then create that award. The NFL has an Offensive and Defensive Player of the Year in addition to MVP, the NHL has the Art Ross Trophy for the player who scores the most points (of which there can be no debate because it’s easily quantifiable) and the Maurice Richard Trophy for the player who scores the most goals (again, not up for debate because you look at the stats) in addition to the MVP award.
It is painfully obvious to me that Major League Baseball needs this as well. Every year since 2012 they somehow have determined that despite his team’s record is abysmal he is the most valuable player because they think he’s the best. Those two things are not always the same. Occasionally, yes – Michael Jordan, Wayne Gretzky – but even they didn’t win every year or end up as runner-up every year. MLB needs to put a stop to the madness. It’s long overdue.
My proposal is simple – offer another award for the best offensive player. I know there’s a Silver Slugger, but there are a bunch of those, for the best offensive player at each position. Come up with another award, the Babe Ruth award or something like that for the player who has the best overall stats. Let the MVP award go to the player that is the most important and vital to his team’s success, as intended.
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