Tuesday, November 22, 2011

An Open Letter to Bill Regarding MVP Voting

“Jim Ingraham was the lone voter to leave Verlander off his ballot yesterday, and I think he did it for totally the wrong reason (which will be the point of the rest of this post), but he certainly had the right to do so, and I'm kind of glad someone did.” -Bill, like, two hours ago

Dear Bill,

The Common Man was going to leave this as a comment, but he’s pretty sure he’s going to run long, so a post it shall be…

Seriously, man, TCM does not understand how you can believe that Ingraham has the right to blatantly ignore the voting rules for an organization he belongs to. His post was well certainly thoughtful and his willingness to fully explain himself is completely appreciated on this end, but man is he wrong.

You’re a lawyer; do you get to ignore the rules of evidence simply because you don’t like them? Do you get to call the press and tell them what a scumbag your client because you think attorney-client privilege is bunch of bunk that only protects the guilty? Do you have the right to disrupt a sentencing hearing because you find the death penalty abhorrent?

Of course not. You chose to be a lawyer, and to abide by specific rules in order to be one. Similarly, Jim Ingraham chose to become a sportswriter, and chose to vote in the BBWAA election. It is incumbent upon him, then to follow the rules of that organization. If he doesn’t like the rules, he can lobby the BBWAA to change them. There are a number of writers who would agree with him. But there is no excuse for a writer to impose his own rules on the process, particularly when his decision to do so has the ability to hurt Justin Verlander just like it hurt Pedro Martinez in 2000. It’s selfish, petty, and thoughtless.

If you break the rules that constrain your profession, there are consequences. You can be censured, or you can be held in contempt, or you can be disbarred. There needs to be a similar consequence for writers like Ingraham who openly flaunt the rules of the organization of which they are otherwise proud to say they’re a member. You don’t get to make up your own rules and impose them on the rest of us. And neither does Jim Ingraham.

Your friend and nemesis,
The Common Man


Bill said...

Dear Voter:

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.

5. Members of the committee may vote for more than one member of a team.

You are also urged to give serious consideration to all your selections, from 1 to 10. A 10th-place vote can influence the outcome of an election. You must fill in all 10 places on your ballot. Only regular-season performances are to be taken into consideration.

Keep in mind that all players are eligible for MVP, including pitchers and designated hitters.

If the Rules of Evidence, section 1(a), essentially said "there's no clear-cut definition of what admissible evidence is. It's up to the individual attorney to make up his own mind," then yeah, for the most part, I'd be free to ignore the rest of the rules as I see fit.

I mean, I don't think there's anything at all you can read into the letter attached to the ballot that qualify as "rules" at all. (I do think they eliminate an argument that the team's status as a contender as a consideration, but I'm also heavily biased about that.) If you read the rest of the ballot literally -- never recommended -- especially "strength of offense and defense" and "number of games played," then the "oh by the way pitchers are eligible" thrown in at the end becomes completely meaningless, because they can't ever actually win it.

Regardless of whether they're "rules" or not, though, if my definition of "most valuable player" is "best player who isn't already going to win the other one of the sport's two major awards," the opening sentence makes it crystal clear that I'm free to apply that definition.

The Common Man said...

Oh, your lawyerly smarts. Except that the "rules" explicitly says pitchers are eligible. Being a pitcher is officially excluded as exclusionary criteria. And Ingraham explicitly says he didn't vote for Verlander because he doesn't think pitchers should be eligible. Ergo...Jim Ingraham willfully violated the "rules," such as they are.

Bill said...

But they're NOT rules, and if they are, they directly contradict each other. I can't be in trouble for failing to disobey one rule if two of the others make application of that rule impossible, and another explicitly says "do whatever the hell you want."

The Common Man said...

You can if the rules are, you can do anything you want except for this one thing: You can't not consider pitchers. It's like the apple in the Garden.

Going back to the letter to the voters: Considering games played doesn't implicitly exclude pitchers anymore than being acquired midseason excludes position players.

Also, the initial statement you cite as a "do whatever you want clause" actually says nothing about eligibility. It's talking about value. While Ingraham talks about the value of just playing 35 games (a point that is oversimplified and wrong, as you adeptly pointed out in your original post), his ultimate point has nothing to do with their value. It has to do with their eligibility. And as the letter explicitly says, pitchers are eligible.

christopher.b said...

Jim Ingraham made a not so silent protest against pitcher eligibility. He was given guidelines and chose not to follow them. If he specifically said I felt based on games played that he was not as valuable as the rest then there wouldn't be much of an argument, but to thumb his nose at pitchers and their candidacy is outlandish. He was awarded with the opportunity to vote on the MVP award, he should've abided by the guidelines. Instead he chose to impose his personal views on the process. It was his responsibility to vote under the guideliness that the BBWAA provide, but it seems Jim Ingraham is too good for guidelines. Cue Sinatra's "My Way".

David said...

TCM here is making a pretty clear logical error. "All players are eligible for MVP, including pitchers and designated hitters," does not mean, "you must vote for pitchers and designated hitters." It means that, if you don't think the pitchers deserve to win, you don't have to vote for them. In fact, look at criterion number 2 - "Number of games played." Well, actually, that's a pretty damn good reason, using the rules to the letter of the law, to exclude pitchers. I don't agree with it, but Jim Ingraham is well within his rights as a voter to NOT vote for pitchers, every bit as much as the 13 people who listed Verlander first have to the right to do so.

The Common Man said...

David, you're completely wrong. Jim Ingraham is not required to vote for a pitcher. But he is required to consider them. He cannot to use "being a pitcher" as exclusionary criteria, which he expressly does in his article when he says, This was my reasoning: The short version is I don't believe pitchers should be eligible for the MVP Award."

Bill said...

David's right there and TCM is wrong, the end.

But another thing that rules have that this little letter thing doesn't is consequences. The BBWAA is an organization with rarely-attained, yet not-at-all-rigorous, entrance standards, and once in, every active member is given a vote and no one's vote is questioned. I'd argue that everyone who listed Granderson ahead of Ellsbury violated their mandate to simply consider things, at all (as did Evan Grant, obviously). Anyone who puts any emphasis at all on team success -- which is almost all of them -- violates both the letter of the rule (since "actual value" is defined as "strength of offense and defense") and the whole spirit of the award. I find it funny that otherwise intelligent people such as Craig and yourself would get all huffy about what they perceive as a violation of a guideline here to do something (exclude pitchers) that actually makes perfect sense -- even if his own reasoning sucked -- when there are more egregious violations of the letter and/or spirit of the "rules" all the time, and there's no punishment or consequences for any of it at all.

The Baseball Idiot said...

In a Federal election, you are "supposed" to vote for a Presidential candidate and a Vice-Presidential candidate.

However, you are actually free to leave either off of you ballot without repercussion. All of this based on the concept of the secret ballot.

If its acceptable for the highest office in the country, I would think it would work for the MVP vote also.

Also, I don't get why anyone is worked up over this. Verlander won. Does it really matter if he was left off of a ballot?

This isn't like when Keith Law intentionally left some pitchers off of his ballot to ensure his candidate won.

Bill said...

"This isn't like when Keith Law intentionally left some pitchers off of his ballot to ensure his candidate won."
Know what else isn't like that? When Keith Law did it. Because that's not at all what he did.
TCM did a good job with that one: http://www.platoonadvantage.com/2009/11/keith-law-is-smarter-than-youget-over.html

Sam M. said...

Jury nullification has a long, proud tradition in this country. Or at least a long tradition. It might be ashamed of itself.