Skip to content

Quote of the Day: Buster Olney and the MVP Award

Sep 30, 2011, 11:35 AM EDT

Milwaukee Brewers v Chicago Cubs Getty Images

Here’s Buster Olney in his column today, in which he picked Ryan Braun and Justin Verlander as his MVP choices. First, on Braun:

For his work, and for his importance to the Brewers’ success, Braun should be the NL MVP; Matt Kemp had a spectacular season for the Dodgers, but Los Angeles — hampered by ownership issues and the team’s inability to spend on needed improvements last offseason — never contended this year.

Then on Verlander:

Some folks think that team success should have no bearing on the MVP Award, but the precedent has long been established: This award has historically been judged through the prism of the standings. To ignore that would be to ignore what the award was designed to be.

And here are the actual instructions printed on the MVP ballot:

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.

That first sentence means that Olney’s choice to go with Braun or Verlander on the basis of team strength is entirely acceptable.  That second sentence, however, makes it quite clear that team strength is no part of “what the award was designed to be.”  Nowhere on the ballot does it say that past MVP vote criteria are binding authority on future votes, blowing Olney’s notion of “precedent” out of the water. This is not the Anglo-American legal system. Stare Decisis is not in play here.  It’s baseball.

Buster can choose who he wants, and his two choices are entirely reasonable ones.  I just wish that voters who think like Buster does about such things owned up to the fact that it is their choice — their own subjective preference — to only vote for guys on winning teams and that no one is forcing them to do that.

  1. proudlycanadian - Sep 30, 2011 at 11:40 AM

    Does this dunce have a vote? Furthermore, the MVP on the Tigers is Cabrera. Cabrera was the second best hitter in the AL last season. Obviously he would not vote for anyone on the Red Sox.

  2. Chris Fiorentino - Sep 30, 2011 at 11:42 AM

    As long as the MVP, Cy Young, and Hall of Fame votes continue to be submitted by human beings, then there can never be a right or wrong because it is all too subjective.

  3. bigleagues - Sep 30, 2011 at 11:45 AM

    Bluster Phoney at his best worst.

  4. lanflfan - Sep 30, 2011 at 11:47 AM

    This clown’s flawed reasoning is further proof writers need to be removed from the voting process entirely for awards and the HOF. Let players and coaches vote for them, I would trust their opinions far more than any writer.

    • paperlions - Sep 30, 2011 at 11:49 AM

      Exactly. It isn’t his choices that are the problem, it is his stated reasons for those choices

    • Nick C - Sep 30, 2011 at 11:57 AM

      The players and coaches are even bigger idiots because they are so singularly focused on their own team. Witness the Gold Gloves and some of the All Star selections that are made by them. I prefer the writers. I just think that someone who does this (blatantly ignoring the instructions) should have their vote taken away.

      • lanflfan - Sep 30, 2011 at 11:59 AM

        Then remove the option for players to vote for their own teammates (which I think is more than fair). Writers are gomers too, and far worse and set in their ways, than more players.

        But I could also live with the option of removing a writers vote for being a repeated moron when it comes to voting.

      • drmonkeyarmy - Sep 30, 2011 at 12:00 PM

        He isn’t blatantly ignoring the instructions. He is assigning a different definition of “value” as to you. It is neither right or wrong…just different.

      • Nick C - Sep 30, 2011 at 12:04 PM

        They cannot vote for teammates as it stands. The players and managers are not good at looking at the big picture. They generally fall back on reputation. There are many more writers as well which means that homerism is dissipated. I think the players/managers are much more set in their ways than the writers. Look at the “analysts” like Joe Morgan, John Kruk, Harold Reynolds, etc. They repeat and parrot the same analysis over and over and are openly hostile towards sabremetrics.

      • Nick C - Sep 30, 2011 at 12:07 PM

        drmonkeyarmy – Reading comprehension is hard isn’t it? Please read Olney’s comment about “what the award was designed to be” and then read the instructions telling the voters what the award was designed to be. See the problem yet?

      • drmonkeyarmy - Sep 30, 2011 at 12:14 PM

        He is placing his vote in a historical context using that to preempt what the original stated mission of the award was to be. It is like the application of case law in setting legal precdent. Furthermore, the design of the award leaves the interpretation followed by Buster Olney as not incorrect. It does not say that team performance should not be a factor in deciding ones vote. It is saying that the definition of valuable is left up to the discretion of the individual and that team performance isn’t an excluding factor but also isn’t an including factor. Finally, no need to be a snarky asshole about things. You want to have a conversation/debate cool….don’t be a dick.

      • Nick C - Sep 30, 2011 at 12:47 PM

        drmonkeyarmy – Sorry for my tone. You are right I was over the line in the way I presented it. Precedent is for the law not for awards votes. What Buster is doing is making team performance a prerequisite for the award when the instructions clearly say not to do so.

      • drmonkeyarmy - Sep 30, 2011 at 1:02 PM

        No problem…sorry for my tone as well. Sometimes I speak (and write) without thinking. I understand what you are saying. I think it is just how one interprets that statement as well. Does that statement “need not come from a playoff team or division winner” really preclude somebody from excluding a player based upon team play? I see it more as giving the voter the ability to include a player who plays on a poor team. I think there is a subtle but important difference between those two things. A statement such as “a teams position in the standings will have no bearing upon voting,” is a statement that cannot be debated. No room for interpretation. I believe the statement mentioned above leaves plenty of room. Now, I don’t think Olney knew this at the time of his rambling but I don’t think his reasoning is out of line with the criterion of the award as well.

      • seattlej - Sep 30, 2011 at 1:05 PM

        Nick, I think that you’re misinterpreting the plain language here. You’re correct in that it doesn’t say that team performance is a prerequisite. However, it also doesn’t say that it is improper to make team performance a factor if the voter should so choose. The only thing that the directions are really doing is removing the idea that the MVP must come from a contender and allowing a voter to vote for a player from a lesser team if they so choose. “Choose” being the key word here.

        As for me, I think Buster’s line of reasoning is asinine and that the award should go to the player that displayed the most total value (offense, defense, baserunning, position) over the season. Team be damned. For what it’s worth, Keith Law seems to be one of the few national writers out there that also have this opinion.

      • seattlej - Sep 30, 2011 at 1:07 PM

        I should add that by national writer, I meant national writer with a vote (though, his is for NL Cy Young this year).

    • drmonkeyarmy - Sep 30, 2011 at 12:19 PM

      It is the Baseball Writer’s Association of America MVP award….removing baseball writers from the voting process is impossible by the very definition of the award.

    • thefalcon123 - Sep 30, 2011 at 12:42 PM

      Hey, remember that time that the coaches gave Rafael Palmeiro a gold glove at first base when he played 28 games there (the rest were at DH) and preemptively undermined your argument?

      Silly question, clearly not or you not have made this suggestion.

    • seattlej - Sep 30, 2011 at 12:57 PM

      Why would you expect anything different from the players/coaches? These are not people that are known for their analytical thought process and superior decision making skills. They’re athletes, and I don’t think that that qualifies them in any way to be able to accurately measure value. If you want someone in the game to vote on the awards, look to the front office types — scouts, executives and such.

  5. Richard In Big D - Sep 30, 2011 at 11:48 AM

    Does not a public statement like that that is contrary to the stated intent of the award not justify revocation of this idiot’s voting rights? That being said, what the hell are people thinking when they overlook Michael Young?

    • alfreddigs - Sep 30, 2011 at 11:57 AM

      They’re probably thinking that he had a good season, but was nowhere near the best player in the league?

    • drmonkeyarmy - Sep 30, 2011 at 11:59 AM

      How is his opinion against the stated intention of the award? It all hinges on what one defines as valuable…it is very subjective.

      • Francisco (FC) - Sep 30, 2011 at 12:12 PM

        How is his opinion against the stated intention of the award?

        Not all Dr, a piece of it. I think Craig is saying that when Buster says this: “This award has historically been judged through the prism of the standings. To ignore that would be to ignore what the award was designed to be.”

        When the instructions say this: “The MVP need not come from a division winner or other playoff qualifier.”

        Means Buster’s sentence above is Pure Weapons Grade Balonium.

      • drmonkeyarmy - Sep 30, 2011 at 12:16 PM

        The way I read it is that team performance is not an including or excluding factor. It is up to the individual to decide. In the historical context of the award, is he not generally correct?

      • Francisco (FC) - Sep 30, 2011 at 12:25 PM

        But Dr. He’s saying that it should be an excluding factor when he says: “To ignore that would be to ignore what the award was designed to be.” In that, he is dead wrong.

        He is basically arguing that writers should exclude candidates from non-contending teams. He cites history for it, and as Craig points out, precedent doesn’t apply in baseball, and then goes off to left field beyond the ball girl when he says the award was designed to be this way when the instructions clearly indicate that this isn’t so.

      • drmonkeyarmy - Sep 30, 2011 at 12:32 PM

        I took that to mean designed to be in the historical context. Also, just because Craig says historical precedent doesn’t apply here doesn’t make it so. I believe it should. Furthermore, somewhere in the criterion of what the award should be based upon it states things like: loyalty and disposition….does anybody really take that into consideration? So, why can one ignore those traits and not ignore a statement that is meant as non-exclusionary?

      • Francisco (FC) - Sep 30, 2011 at 12:43 PM

        This isn’t about what Buster thinks makes a player more valuable. No one is busting him for that (which is what you seem to think the criticism is about; you continuously point out how what he thinks constitutes “value” is subjective, so that’s where I’m coming from here).

        The criticism is about what he thinks doesn’t constitute value. If he cites historical precedent to support his choice to give the award to a player from a contending team that’s fine. To cite historical precedent to say others shouldn’t give the award to a player from a non-contending team is nonsense from my POV (it’s not because Craig says so, to me it’s just common sense).

        No one is criticizing his choice of Braun for NL MVP nor his reasons for doing so. People are criticizing his exclusion of Matt Kemp because he is basically saying that the MVP was never designed to be awarded to guys like Matt Kemp, THAT is WRONG. I cannot make it any clearer than that.

      • drmonkeyarmy - Sep 30, 2011 at 12:55 PM

        I understand what the criticisms of Olney are. It is essentially the comment “To ignore that would be to ignore what the award was designed to be.” I don’t take that as to him telling others how to vote or slamming others for their opinions. It is merely explaining his decision making process and the way he interprets the criterion. Nowhere does he state that if you don’t agree with him then you are wrong. I see nothing wrong with his perspective. The whole spiel about criterion is very, very subjective. It leaves it open for the writer to exclude based upon standings and that is the way Olney is interpreting it in this situation. How one defines and perceives value absolutely plays into every facet of this conversation. It is the primary including/excluding factor in ones determination.

      • natstowngreg - Sep 30, 2011 at 1:01 PM

        Voters can choose whomever they want, for any reasons they want. Buster’s comments, and Craig’s response, just confuse things. Sorry, but the discussion has a certain quality of lawyers arguing fine points of law, or politicians spinning. Either of which makes my head hurt.

        If the voters choose to reward Jose Bautista or Matt Kemp or Clayton Kershaw despite his team’s record, so be it. If the voters side with Olney, so be it. Reasonable people (and baseball fans) can, and will, disagree.

      • paperlions - Sep 30, 2011 at 1:04 PM

        To some degree, value is subjective….but some estimates of values or bases for the determination of value are clearly better than others….and how good the rest of your team is doesn’t fall anywhere near the top of the list.

      • Chris Fiorentino - Sep 30, 2011 at 1:08 PM

        FC and dr…even IF the award criterion stated “This award goes to the player that you think had the best year” it would STILL be OK to vote for Braun and Verlander if that’s what the voter thought. The only difference would be that Olney’s method for voting would be completely wrong(instead of at least 50% wrong) But the choices would still be valid because whenever there is a vote, it will always be what they think.

        Baseball needs their MVP, CY and ROY voting to have a system like the Rolaids Relief Man of the Year where they picked stats upfront, measured guys on those stats, then there was a winner. No subjectivity on the winner…just on the stats. I say I would rather have subjectivity on the stats used than on the resulting winner. It would completely eliminate the whole “contender” subjectivity. Pick stats and their weights and then we can eliminate this yearly nonsense.

      • Francisco (FC) - Sep 30, 2011 at 1:23 PM

        Dr. Buster Olney further elaborates.

        @AntsinIN Anthony R

        “Matt Kemp had a spectacular season for the Dodgers, but Los Angeles never contended this year.” So, so dumb @Buster_ESPN

        @Buster_ESPN Buster Olney

        @AntsinIN It’s not dumb; it’s in keeping with the history of the award, and what it was designed to reward.

        And tell me it’s not Buster saying the Award wasn’t designed to be given to guys like Matt Kemp.

        furthermore:

        I don’t take that as to him telling others how to vote or slamming others for their opinions. It is merely explaining his decision making process and the way he interprets the criterion. Nowhere does he state that if you don’t agree with him then you are wrong. I see nothing wrong with his perspective

        He is implying that to choose Kemp is wrong because he’s saying the award isn’t designed to be given to guys like him.

        Let me put it this way: If he says: “It’s not dumb. I just happen to give a higher value to a player that helps his team reach the postseason more than a star on a non-contending team”. That’s perfectly ok in my book. But when he flat out says the award was designed to be given to guys on contenders he’s implying that voting otherwise is wrong. That’s what design is all about. Design is about how things are supposed to be done. Now maybe it was a poor choice of words on his part, but that’s how his statement reads and as it stands his statement is completely wrong. If he chooses to amend that statement into what you interpret then it’s a new ballgame.

      • drmonkeyarmy - Sep 30, 2011 at 1:34 PM

        I don’t know. If he is saying that people are wrong to vote a certain way then that isn’t cool because like I said the wording in the voting instructions makes it subjective. If he is saying that he has the right not to include a player because of team performance then that is fine in my book. I think that is a perfectly legit criteria. I’m also fine with those who don’t choose to use that as a criteria. I don’t think either was is right or wrong and I don’t think Olney should be saying that either way is right or wrong…if that is indeed what he was/is saying.

    • Nick C - Sep 30, 2011 at 11:59 AM

      They are probably thinking that Michael Young is a terrible defender at multiple positions, doesn’t hit for much power outside his home (launching pad) ballpark and doesn’t take enough walks to be a truly elite hitter.

  6. ippoic - Sep 30, 2011 at 11:57 AM

    Someone should tell Olney that a prism distorts your view. It’s probably not the metaphor he was looking for.

    • paperlions - Sep 30, 2011 at 1:02 PM

      …but more appropriate than any other metaphor he could have chosen

  7. screaminzab - Sep 30, 2011 at 12:09 PM

    Where’s the Clayton Kershaw love? His numbers are pretty damn close to Verlander’s and his team had less talent than the Tigers. He’s more valuable then right?

  8. randall351 - Sep 30, 2011 at 12:10 PM

    The more I hear/read from Buster Olney and Tom Verducci the worse opinion I have about both of them. Are there any good baseball writers left? Present company excluded of course. Also I do enjoy some of Joe Posnanski’s columns, but that’s probably b/c of my Royals bias.

    Perhaps Craig could do a post of which baseball writers he respects the most and seem to not talk out of there @$$ most of the time?

    • mkd - Sep 30, 2011 at 12:20 PM

      Your Royals bias has nothing to do with enjoying Posnanski, it’s probably just your bias toward excellent writing…

    • Nick C - Sep 30, 2011 at 12:53 PM

      Posnanski is the best sportswriter. End of story.

      • drmonkeyarmy - Sep 30, 2011 at 1:07 PM

        We can agree on that.

      • Alex K - Sep 30, 2011 at 1:07 PM

        Cosign.

  9. marshmallowsnake - Sep 30, 2011 at 12:13 PM

    Pitchers have their own award…the MVP should be the hitters award.

    • drmonkeyarmy - Sep 30, 2011 at 1:05 PM

      I think the Hank Aaron award is the exclusively hitters award.

  10. sandpiperair - Sep 30, 2011 at 1:02 PM

    “That second sentence, however, makes it quite clear that team strength is no part of ‘what the award was designed to be.'”

    It does not make it quite clear to me. By saying “The MVP need not come from a division winner or other playoff qualifier” only means that the team doesn’t actually have to WIN. Individual “value” could still be related to team finish. If, for example, a team comes in second, and a voter determines that one guy’s outstanding play is the reason they weren’t last, he could very well consider that player to be MVP.

    • drmonkeyarmy - Sep 30, 2011 at 1:06 PM

      Exactly. Plenty of room for interpretation in that statement. Pretty much what I was trying to say above.

  11. Walk - Sep 30, 2011 at 1:15 PM

    I am fine with verlander for mvp, i would have liked jose bautista to get it, but i wonder who he also considered for the cy young? Adam Dunn perhaps?

    • thefrenchyconnection - Sep 30, 2011 at 1:59 PM

      Well when Verlander wins the Cy Young award he should at least acknowledge Dunn (2 for 13 w/ 9Ks) and Gordon (0 for 10 w/ 5Ks) for their contributions

Leave Comment

You must be logged in to leave a comment. Not a member? Register now!

Featured video

Ace-killer Giants do it again
Top 10 MLB Player Searches
  1. M. Bumgarner (3168)
  2. J. Shields (2772)
  3. T. Ishikawa (2677)
  4. T. Lincecum (2067)
  5. M. Morse (1971)
  1. Y. Cespedes (1933)
  2. L. Cain (1851)
  3. B. Posey (1716)
  4. B. Roberts (1547)
  5. A. Wainwright (1519)