Awards voting

Matt Kemp Still a Winner in Mattingly’s Book

Your 1985 AL MVP.

Don Mattingly talked Codes in Los Angelesthis week, suggesting to ESPN that Dodger outfielder Matt Kemp did not win the NL MVP Award at least in part due to an unwritten rule mandating that such players come from winning teams.

It’s certainly not a written rule. As Anna McDonald reported at the Hardball Times, “The rules of the voting remain the same as they were written on the first ballot in 1931: (1) actual value of a player to his team, that is, strength of offense and defense; (2) number of games played; (3) general character, disposition, loyalty and effort; (4) former winners are eligible; and (5) members of the committee may vote for more than one member of a team.”

The Code to which Mattingly referred has been truly flaunted only once, in 1987, when Andre Dawson took the honor, despite playing for the last-place Cubs. (In 1997, Larry Walker’s Rockies were a third-place team, and in 1989 the Brewers and Robin Yount finished in fourth. Neither, however, was a losing club, although Milwaukee finished at an even.500.)

In the wake of Ryan Braun’s PED investigation, Mattingly said he thinks Kemp should’ve won the award in the first place.

“You guys (the media) always ask me about unwritten rules, about catchers and stuff like that,” he said. “Then we have the unwritten rules about voting, because (Kemp) wasn’t on a winning team. You guys gotta get your unwritten rules together.”

The argument here is obvious: How valuable can a player on a last-place team actually be? This conversation occurs every winter—not only as it pertains to the validity of star players on losing squads, but pitchers’ eligibility for the MVP as well. It’s why some advocate for a “Most Outstanding Player Award,” and why some say that none of it matters—it’s all just a popularity contest, anyway. How else could Ted Williams bat .406, lead the league in home runs … and finish second to Joe DiMaggio? Or winning the triple crown twice—and losing the MVP both times, first to Joe Gordon, then again to DiMaggio.

For what it’s worth, all three of those Williams-led Red Sox teams finished with winning records, in either second or third place in an eight-team league.

Must have been the Code that handed those awards to members of the pennant-winning Yankees. Don Mattingly would not have approved.

– Jason

7 thoughts on “Matt Kemp Still a Winner in Mattingly’s Book

  1. I didn’t research it but I think Dale Murphy won back to back on lousy Braves teams. If it was “Most Outstanding Player”, the most deserving player could actually win.

  2. The Braves won 89 and 88 games, finishing 1st and 2nd, in 1982 and 1983, the two years Dale Murphy was named MVP.

    1. Hey, well, thanks for looking that up. Those Braves teams weren’t great, but they were as good as anybody in a kinda crummy NL West. Murphy and Bob Horner and Phil Niekro and a young Pascual Perez made for a pretty decent core. Plus Glenn Hubbard. Don’t ever mess with Glenn Hubbard.

    1. Without offering an opinion on what exactly was in Braun’s system — because, well, I just don’t know — I’ll take hearty issue with the notion that PEDs don’t help home runs. (This from a guy who covered the Giants as Barry Bonds’ power numbers were going nutso.) They won’t do much to help a guy hit a curveball, but if that guy already knew how to hit a curveball, they help him hit it a lot farther.

      I’m content to write off Bonds/Clemens/etc. as products of their generation — especially the guys who proved to be Hall of Fame-worthy before juicing — but to deny that it helped them (or that it helped Braun, if that’s what he did) doesn’t hold much water.

      Love the To-keep-or-not-to-keep discussion about Braun’s trophy, though. I think I’m in your camp about him keeping it, and love the fact that he showed up to accept it. (Would have been nice had he referenced the situation, but nobody’s perfect.)

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