Just as sure as the sun will rise in the east, the baseball awards season will lead to people calling for baseball writers to get out of the business of voting on postseason awards.
Things were going swimmingly for the Baseball Writers Association of America as it handed out awards in dribbles this week. That is, until last evening when it announced that Rick Porcello of the Boston Red Sox had won the Cy Young Award.
Porcello seemed like a decent candidate. He’d gone 22-4 during the season. But this is now a sport dominated by statheads who can dig deep to tell you why Porcello’s 22-4 record isn’t anywhere near as impressive as Justin Verlander’s 16-9.
Or you can just take Verlander’s girlfriend Kate Upton’s word for it.
Baseball writers use a sliding vote-value system to calculate the winner and Verlander, whose team — unlike Porcello’s — didn’t make the playoffs, had more first-place votes than Porcello but still didn’t win the award.
ESPN’s Buster Olney says today that Upton is right and the writers should go back to covering the news instead of making it.
The rest of the writers are supposed to take solace in the fact that many of the clear voting mistakes have been made by a small minority of the Baseball Writers’ Association of America, but the reality is that these results impact the reputation of all writers, just as an ethics scandal of one congressman feeds into the negative image of all lawmakers.
The major baseball awards, like the MVP, are property of the BBWAA, and not Major League Baseball, so the BBWAA cannot distance itself from the Cy Young Award in the same way it could the Hall of Fame voting.
But it should, if it followed the simple principles taught in any credible Journalism 101 course. Reporters should not be creating news; they should aggressively steer away from any conflicts of interest, and voting for awards and honors is a clear conflict of interest.
Local writers who had votes were split on the award.
Mike Beradino, of the Pioneer Press, gave a first place vote to Verlander. La Velle Neal III, a former president of the BBWAA and a beat reporter for the Star Tribune, dropped Verlander to third, contributing to the award denial to Verlander and eliminating any possibility in the future that Neal has a shot with Kate Upton.
Neal, by the way, has been down this road before, earning scorn from other sportswriters in 1999 for leaving pitcher Pedro Martinez off his ballot for MVP, a defensible move if you believe, as he did, that pitchers have their own award and an MVP is for people who play every day.
Two writers, both of them in Tampa, however, are primarily responsible for this year’s “scandal.” Both gave first place votes to Porcello. Both left Verlander off their ballot entirely.
“I feel bad that people are upset about this; I did the best I could,” one of the two told the New York Daily News. “I went around the clubhouse, I asked guys. I agonized over this.”
Foolishly, the writer, Bill Chastain, sent his ballot in before the season was over. So he didn’t get to evaluate Verlander’s outstanding performance in the last week of the season, when he tried to pitch his team into the playoffs.
That fact alone should disqualify him from future voting.
The other writer, Fred Goodall of the Associated Press, hasn’t commented. He hasn’t tweeted on his account since 2010.
This afternoon, the writers will reveal their choice for Most Valuable Player in each league.