I was tempted to blog about the alarming implications of having the two top finishers for the American League Most Valuable Player Award this year being named Dustin and Justin, but decided instead that more weighty observations from this odd voting should be pursued.
Potential themes abound, with perhaps the most obvious being the almost spooky link between Dustin Pedroia and a controversial MVP selection from 66 years ago. For purposes of discussion, the Red Sox youngster posted stats essentially indistinguishable from Joe Gordon’s in 1942.
The added interest comes from the fact that Gordon is getting another Hall-of-Fame look by the newly reconfigured Veterans Committee. Because there has been so much (largely welcomed) tinkering with the voting procedures for long-retired players, it’s tough to speculate about whether Gordon will get a thumb’s up on Dec. 8 when the voting is announced. Forced to hazard a guess, I would say no.
The Pedroia MVP nod revives the annual debate that asks the age-old question: “What the hell are the criteria for voting for MVP?” I enjoy the Hot Stove League element that the vote affords every year, since the sportswriters seem to each have their own key elements to consider when they vote.
As it is with so many things, I suspect that one’s view of the debate probably dates to a first encounter with a favorite player getting hosed by the curious helter-skelter system. I wouldn’t claim the Joe Gordon MVP/Ted Williams Triple Crown season in 1942 as my own defining moment, but as I began studying baseball history as a teenager, I was jarred by the realization that Gordon’s fine season (for a second baseman) that year would win out over one of Teddy’s two Triple Crown campaigns. Seems the scribes didn’t have quite the reverence for that particular occurrence back then; it’s hard not to indulge the suspicion that the fourth estate was punishing the petulant youngster for displaying such a seeming lack of reverence for their own profession.
Or maybe the significance of the Triple Crown is appreciated a bit more now, since it hasn’t happened in the American League in 41 years, and it’s been 71 years since it was engineered in the Senior Circuit.
My initial MVP voting beef came in 1959 when the scribes gave a second consecutive MVP to Ernie Banks, who had an admittedly wonderful season for the hapless fifth-place Cubs. My contention was that the Award should have gone to Henry Aaron, who won the batting title with his career best .355 and also rolled up 400 total bases in a season where the Braves tied the Dodgers for the pennant at the end of the regular season.
I can’t quite remember what happened in the ensuing playoff, but the image of Felix Mantilla keeps popping into my head.