Come here. Sit down. Let’s have a talk. I’m not angry, just disappointed.
Last night, Major League Baseball announced the recipients of the 2021 MVP Awards. Philadelphia’s Bryce Harper won the National League Award for the second time in his career, while the American League MVP Award went to Los Angeles’s Shohei Ohtani, becoming the 11th player to win the award unanimously and first since Mike Trout in 2014 to do so.
I have no problems with either of the winners. The problem lies in the full voting breakdown.
The Baseball Writers’ Association of America (BBWAA) released two separate articles declaring the winners, and in each it was revealed how many votes each player had. Here’s the American League breakdown:
Nothing too odd. I appreciate that Kyle Tucker got a vote. The only person I could see not worth having a vote is Austin Meadows, but he did record over 100 RBIs for the team with the best record in the American League, so I can understand the logic behind placing him there.
Now, on to the National League:
Hmmm, I’m surprised how far Freddie Freeman fell considering he was one of the favorites for the award near the middle of August. I like how well Bryan Reynolds was represented. Oh, isn’t it interesting that Corbin Burnes won the Cy Young Award but finished with fewer MVP points? That’s interesting, right? All in all though, I don’t have much of a probl — FLOPPING FLOUNDERS! WHAT’S THAT?!
LaMonte Wade Jr.? He got an MVP vote? How? How? How?!
I don’t have anything against Wade. He was a great player for the San Francisco Giants this year, but at the same time, he was a rotational piece for the Giants — just one of myriad players they rotated into and out of their outfield depending on who they were facing. He played in only 109 games this year. He recorded an rWAR of 1.2. To put that in context, an rWAR of 2.0 is considered to be a player capable of being a starter. If he’d played every game of the season, maybe he would’ve reached 2.0… maybe. He didn’t even record enough plate appearances to qualify in FanGraphs’ hitter leaderboards for 2021, so to insinuate that he was one of the 10 best players in the National League is questionable to say the least.
At the bottom of each of the aforementioned articles, there’s an option that reads “View individual ballots on separate page.” To understand how Wade managed to get a vote, you’re gonna want to click on that. After carefully surveying each name listed on each ballot, or by pressing “Ctrl+F,” you’ll eventually find Wade’s name at the bottom of one Andrew Baggarly’s ballot.
Baggarly is a writer for The Athletic and covers the Giants. With that in mind, it makes sense that Baggarly would lean in favor of the team he spends so much time around. That’s normal. Giants’ shortstop Brandon Crawford received four first-place votes and two of them came from the pair of Giants’ writers (Baggarly and Susan Slusser). We expect to see this kind of favoritism, whether it be for a player — like Baggarly with Crawford — or against a player — like me with Harper. That’s why I should never be given an MVP ballot as long as I live.
The most egregious instance of this would be when a writer for the NY Post, George King, left Red Sox pitcher Pedro Martinez off his MVP ballot entirely in 1999. Martinez led the league with a 2.07 ERA that year. He had 23 wins — also league-leading. To top that all off, he also led the American League with 313 strikeouts becoming just the ninth pitcher in MLB history to record multiple 300-K seasons. None of that was enough to convince King of Martinez’s MVP candidacy. Martinez wound up finishing second-place in the 1999 AL MVP race, behind Texas’s Ivan Rodriguez. Martinez actually finished with more first-place votes than Rodriguez, so who knows how the cards would’ve unfolded if King’s bias hadn’t played a role in how he filled out his MVP ballot.
All that said, I understand Baggarly’s decision to put Crawford as his top option for MVP. He even offers up a nice explanation as to why he put Crawford at the top, basically detailing that he values defense more than most writers. I get it, but that still doesn’t explain his decision to put Wade in at 10.
Wade wasn’t a great defender this season. He posted a 2.0 UZR/150 in the outfield this season — ranking 44th in MLB among players who spent at least 500 innings in the outfield. Wade’s mark also ranks third among Giants’ outfielders alone, behind both Austin Slater and Steven Duggar. Wade was not a defensive bright spot on the team.
If Baggarly really wanted to show love to his Giants, why not give that final vote to Buster Posey, who not only posted better offensive numbers than Wade did in more games than Wade played at a tougher position that requires regular days off in order to sustain that players’ effectiveness for the entire season, but also posted the sixth-highest defensive value among catchers with at least 800 innings played, per FanGraphs. Posey may not have been as great behind the dish as Jacob Stallings or J.T. Realmuto, but he was still very solid. Why not him?
No matter how you try to spin it, Wade’s inclusion on any MVP ballot is hard to defend. You’re telling me that Wade was more valuable to the Giants than Nolan Arenado was to the Cardinals (didn’t receive a single MVP vote by the way)? More valuable than Nick Castellanos was to the Reds? More valuable than Freddie Freeman was to the Braves? I don’t buy it. Wade was good this year. As a Giants fan, I hope he stays with the team for a long time. He’s a solid bat and versatile defender that any team would love to have, but he was not a top-10 player in the league this year… not even close.