I’ve come to the conclusion that a big part of being a member of the baseball media is just justifying your existence. Which is why they spend most of the time turning stuff into a debate that isn’t really a debate. Nothing is worse than individual awards, where distilling what “valuable” means has become a personal interpretation on the same level as getting vaccinated, apparently (topical!).
The Phillies-Braves series is one of the few meaningful ones in September, as it means something for both teams. The Phillies needed a sweep, they won’t get it now, but at least both teams had something on the line. And yet what the FS1 crew was focusing on just as much, if not more, was making every Bryce Harper AB a referendum on his MVP candidacy. “Oh, he’s had to lead off an inning three times, that might hurt him!” What?
It also didn’t help that they were trying to pump Charlie Morton’s Cy Young candidacy, as if Corbin Burnes, Zack Wheeler, or Max Scherzer were Thanos-snapped off the Earth.
This whole debate on what the award is really about, or at least it should be, and yet so many can’t bring themselves to admit it. Baseball has allowed us to quantify value for every player. It’s right in the name: Most VALUABLE Player. Which player brought the most value to their team. It’s not up to that player whether or not every other player brought enough value to make that team any good. This is the nature of baseball. It’s an individual sport masquerading as a team sport. You don’t have to decipher.
You want an NL MVP? Juan Soto leads in WAR according to both FanGraphs and BaseballReference.com. He has provided the most value of any player in the National League. He was worth the most. It doesn’t matter that no one else on his team was worth a shit or they traded away anyone else who was. He can’t do anything about it. He had the best season. Everybody shut up now.
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But no. Far too many scribes have to interpret what it means to them, with rules that they made up, because they were basically passed down to them from some cigar-chomping fart with suspenders with great stories about shitting himself during a 14-inning game at Municipal Stadium. Baseball can let go of some of its history. It’ll be fine, it won’t die. It’s doing a good enough job of killing itself now anyway.
We’ve moved beyond this. We can enumerate it. It doesn’t have to be this way.