As I'm sure you've all heard by now, the American League MVP award winner was announced on Thursday night as Miguel Cabrera, who picked up 22 of 28 first place votes. Cabrera beat out Mike Trout of the Angels, who received the other six first place votes, 21 second place votes, and one third place vote. Cabrera was the choice of many old school fans and analysts, who believed his winning of the Triple Crown and the Tigers playoff appearance trumped Trout's superior baserunning, defense, and more well-rounded overall game.
Of course, this caused a massive firestorm. Many fans and analysts believed that Trout should have won the award, and in fact, he earned 3/4 of the MVP votes from ESPN's panel of writers. Everyone seemed resigned to the fact that Cabrera would indeed win, and in his column after the award was announced, Dave Schoenfield said what all of the Trout fans are thinking: Cabrera won based on his narrative of "Triple Crown + playoffs". Keith Law was much more blunt with his choice of Trout, and turned in an epic radio interview on WEEI out of Boston after the award was announced. Law went on a rampage (as he's bound to do), wondering what exactly the people who voted for Cabrera were thinking. Law also brought up a very solid point about how insular and guarded the members of the BBWAA are, a thought reinforced when Evan Grant of the Dallas Morning News tweeted out the ultra smarmy "these are OUR awards." Rob Parker also put on his trolling pants once again, and is doing a fantastic job as continuing to come across as a poor man's Skip Bayless (which says something really bad about him) with the short-sighted hashtag of #wattimeisurshow.
Then there is best selling author Mitch Albom, who went on a backwards tirade attacking "stat geeks" in the Detroit Free Press:
"Statistics geeks insisted Cabrera was less worthy than Angels rookie centerfielder Mike Trout. Not because Trout's traditional baseball numbers were better. They weren't. Cabrera had more home runs (44), more runs batted in (139) and a better batting average (.330) than Trout and everyone else in the American League. It gave him the sport's first Triple Crown in 45 years.
But Trout excelled in the kind of numbers that a few years ago weren't even considered, mostly because A) They were impossible to measure, and B) Nobody gave a hoot."
There was a time in our history where nobody gave a hoot about the wheel either. If Mitch Albom were around back then, we'd likely all still be living in caves as hunter-gatherers. Mitch Albom also would have criticized Edison for inventing the light bulb because candles worked just fine.
There is most definitely a growing divide among the BBWAA and the plethora of talented writers online who either are not members of the BBWAA or members that get drowned out by their older cohorts in the association, like Law and Rob Neyer (among others). Looking at the actual balloting for the award, Trout's sole third place vote (an act of sheer lunacy) came from Sheldon Ocker of the Akron Beacon-Journal. Not surprising, his Twitter account is nothing but an RSS feed, and a very quick glance of his columns about the Indians reveals that he doesn't even use OPS, let alone WAR or any sabermetric stat.
Ocker's vote aside, there is a definite divide among the new school baseball writers and the old school baseball writers who mainly make up the BBWAA. In any industry, you need to change your methods of evaluation as new methods are created. If someone sat each of these writers down and explained why RBI was a context-dependent stat, and why fielding percentage is a god-awful way to determine a player's prowess defensively, maybe they would see the light and actually reconsider how they evaluate players. Instead, you have this mindset of "well, that's the way it was while I was growing up" that refuses to let anyone actually look at things from a different angle.
The results of Thursday's voting wasn't some sort of win for the old school. It was a missed opportunity to advance the old school way of thinking. The future of baseball writing isn't in people like Sheldon Ocker who think that batting average, home runs, and RBI tell the whole story about a hitter, or that strikeouts and wins seal the deal for a pticher. Potentially the worst part about this is that these people still also have Hall of Fame votes, and every winter, they'll scream until they're blue in the face about how Jack Morris was a gamer, and a winner, and the best pitcher of the 1980s while not actually backing that up with anything substantial.
If the future of baseball writing is well-thought out, rational pieces that use stats to augment an argument, we're not there yet. We're still in an era where the story drives the article, no matter how much the facts behind the story sabotage it.
And here I was thinking we were past this when Felix won the Cy Young a couple years ago with so few wins.
Alas, baseball continues to perpetuate its own demise. It's most devoted fans ARE the bloggers and the readers of those blogs. These dinosaurs voting based on batting average and RBI and other useless stats are only furthering the weakening of baseball as nationally relevant.