- Buster Olney, Senior Writer, ESPN The Magazine
CLEVELAND -- The worst rationale is always, "That’s the way we’ve always done it," a phrase that could be the mud bog for man’s evolution.
Which brings us to the MVP, because it’s time for the Baseball Writers’ Association of America to move forward with this honor, to shift into the 21st century, when the value of players is more precisely defined than ever.
For years, the MVP has been assessed by voters through the prism of team success. With few exceptions, such as Andre Dawson in 1987 and Cal Ripken in 1991, most serious candidates have been the best players on the best teams.
Which, unfortunately, means that the best players are often overlooked, because of murky bonus points bestowed upon others because they happen to be surrounded by better teammates.
Recently, a general manager noted the case of Mike Trout, who is generally regarded as the best player in the sport -- not only by those who wear suits and can define WAR, but increasingly by players and coaches and managers. The Angels look as though they may struggle for a few more years, the GM mused, and it’s possible that Trout could be baseball’s best player, generally, for the first five years of his career and not win an MVP "because his teammates aren’t very good."
That doesn’t make a lot of sense. In what sane world -- in what 21st century world -- is the question of "most valuable" among players defined by the ineptitude, or the aptitude, of teammates?
Unquestionably, this is the precedent in the MVP voting, established very early in the BBWAA’s history, never more than in the AL in 1934.