Yesterday, in the run-up to the announcement of the Most Valuable Player awards, my friend and I hope yours Wick Terrell rolled his eyes and discretely gave the whole thing a middle finger. I think we all kinda expected that our man Joey Votto wasn’t going to win the thing, which he didn’t, and so Wick was all whatever about it.
I was much more sanguine than him. And to be clear, I’m normally just as nonplussed about these things as he was yesterday. But after seeing perfectly decent human being and pretty good ballplayer Paul Goldschmidt once again beat out my man for both the Gold Glove and the Silver Slugger (as voted on by players and managers and not the BBWAA), I was tasting blood. I figured 50-foot monster Giancarlo Stanton would win it, but it sure seemed likely to me that Goldschmidt would finish a respectable second while my man would come in at a modest third.
Here’s the thing about Paul Goldschmidt: He is the Phish of baseball players. He’s okay, I guess. I mean, he doesn’t offend the senses. If you are a Paul Goldschmidt fan, good for you. Not really my thing, you see, because there is clearly an alternative that is objectively better in every conceivable way.
But there is the huge mass of people who apparently think Paul Goldschmidt is the best thing going. Like, for them, it’s easy to see that he is the coolest and best and it’s like you don’t even know man because he’s kinda underground and you gotta really search him out in order to see him and when you do it changes your life because he is just the best man. Four people voted him as the NL MVP this year. They aren’t an overwhelming majority of people, but there’s enough of them that I have to wonder what exactly the fuck is going on in your brain. Joey Votto is better than Paul Goldschmidt at everything that makes Paul Goldschmidt a good baseball player. And yet there are people out there who insist that isn’t true. I have nothing against Paul Goldschmidt himself, you see, but his fans are completely unrelatable.
But I don’t need to write all that. I’m not really upset by last night’s results. In fact, I’m actually pleasantly surprised. Joey Votto fell just two points short of Giancarlo Stanton’s total, and so Stanton is the MVP this year. Goldschmidt ran well behind the both of them.
And I think we all need to appreciate just how big of a deal this is. Take a look back at the 2004 AL MVP voting. That year, Vladimir Guerrero ran away with it, earning 21 first-place votes. He had a good year, as you might imagine, slugging 39 home runs and driving in 126. Of course, the Angels won the NL West that season. Down the list, you find sluggers on postseason clubs: Gary Sheffield, Manny Ramirez, and David Ortiz. Again, they all had good years. But it’s clear that the unifying theme here is “home runs and RBIs and contending teams.”
Down in seventh on the list is Ichiro. The Mariners were awful that year, losing 99 games. He had eight home runs and 60 RBIs. But he was second in the league in OBP and his incredible defense helped him compile 9.1 bWAR, pacing the league by a wide margin. Oh, and he set the record for hits in a season with 262.
Right behind him in eighth is Michael Young, who had just 1.8 bWAR. He was average. And to the MVP voters that year, he was pretty much the same as Ichiro. Imagine that.
And that’s how far we have come in that relatively short amount of time. Votto was not in the top five in either home runs or RBIs this season and the Reds were out of postseason contention by the middle of February. And that stuff just doesn’t matter like it used to. When determining the Most Valuable Player, the BBWAA voters are now much more concerned with stuff like OBP and WAR and wRC+ and, you know, the measures that actually reflect valuable stuff. That is a big deal.
And yeah, there are still guys like Bob Nightengale and that other guy who apparently docked Votto for playing for a crummy Reds’ team and listed him fifth, but let’s focus on the really incredible part of that: they were a distinct minority. Joey Votto came just two points shy of winning the dang thing when just 15 years ago he would have hardly cracked the top ten. This is the kind of thing that baseball nerds like me have been grumping about for years. But now, the Powers That Be are more-or-less in agreement with the grumpy baseball nerds. And that is objectively better in every conceivable way.