Whenever someone floats the idea that baseball brodcasters should vote in Hall of Fame elections, a BBWAA member will counter that announcers can't be trusted to be independent.
"Broadcasters work for the clubs, which is a major conflict." - Bill Madden
"Broadcasters employed by teams should NOT vote. Objectivity an issue." - Ken Rosenthal
Last week's National League MVP vote was another reminder that working for an independent entity, like a newspaper, is no guarantee of objectivity. Andrew McCutchen received 28 of 30 first-place votes; the remaining two were cast for Yadier Molina by Derrick Goold and Rick Hummel of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. Hummel's second pick was for St. Louis' Matt Carpenter.
I don't mean to pick on Goold or Hummel (well, Goold, anyway), because this kind of thing happens all the time. Alex Rodriguez won all but two first-place votes for AL MVP in 2007. The two dissenters were Jim Hawkins and Tom Gage, who covered the Tigers beat and voted for Magglio Ordóñez.
Last year Ryan Braun received three first-place MVP votes, two of which came from Tom Haudricourt and Todd Rosiak of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.
Barry Bonds was not the unanimous MVP in 2001, the year he hit 73 home runs. Teddy Greenstein of the Chicago Tribune and Mike Kiley of the Chicago Sun-Times voted for Sammy Sosa.
Usually the dissenters rationalize their votes with some version of, "I saw Magglio play every day," a sort of appeal to their own authority. But I suspect the real reason is, "I have to deal with the guy next year." That's almost certainly what motivated two Seattle writers to vote for Ken Griffey Jr. instead of Alex Rodriguez for AL MVP in 1996, handing the award to Juan Gonzalez. Covering a beat requires access and some level of comity between the reporter and the people he covers, which is what made Nick Piecoro's vote for Andrew McCutchen -- and not Paul Goldschmidt -- so noteworthy. It was a vote for truth, as he sees it, against his own professional interests.
I propose a simple tweak to MVP voting that will put an end to the most glaring, provincial MVP ballots. Simply prohibit writers from voting for players on the team they cover, just as managers and coaches are prohibited from voting for their own players for Gold Glove awards. The BBWAA would no doubt object that the relationship between a manager and his players is different than that of a reporter and his subjects. And surely it is. But covering the same people, month after month, even year after year, is not a recipe for disinterestedness.