clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Mike Trout is the MVP because there isn’t a definition of ‘most valuable’ that excludes him

Mike Trout won the second MVP he’s deserved for years, which should give you hope for the future of the award.

MLB: Texas Rangers at Los Angeles Angels
Richard Mackson-USA TODAY Sports

1. The current format for Most Valuable Player already suggests that a team’s overall success isn’t everything. It’s baked right into the voting. If team wins were so incredibly important to ferreting out just how valuable an individual player can be, the voting would be held after the postseason.

Was there any player more valuable than Andrew Miller in 2016? Probably, but you can at least see how the argument would have shifted two weeks ago. We’ve already accepted that line of thinking as absurd in an MVP debate. Why should Miller have benefited from the extra exposure, the extra time to build his case?

Why should Miller have benefited from being on one of the teams that performed best in the postseason?

Giving credit to Miller for the extra month would have been indirectly crediting Miller for being teammates with Corey Kluber, which would go against the idea of Most Valuable Player, singular. If we’re sussing out an individual contribution, we have to ignore the teams that succeed in the postseason, and we do, and we’ve done it for years. No one wants voting held after the World Series.

It would weight team success far too much, which would distort the idea of giving an individual award for individual accomplishments.

Which is what we’ve been yelling about all along, you goobers. Now we have validation, and it took one of the best players in history to get it.

2. Oh, how the people who invented this silly award messed up. Never underestimate the ability of people to insert ambiguity where none exists. The Cy Young award goes to the best pitcher. Best. No ambiguity. And every year, while voters still manage to mess certain things up, there’s no argle bargle about which pitcher was worth more because he was on a contending team. There’s just honest disagreement about which baseball players chuck baseballs the best. It’s refreshing.

Someone just had to put the word into the MVP, though. Valuable. Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa reigniting interest in baseball was more valuable to the Dodgers than Clayton Kershaw ever could be. The comforting warmth of your childhood pet when you were home with the chicken pox is more valuable than all the money that Mike Trout will ever make. This single glass of Four Roses that is actively making me forget about the world right now is worth more than a $20 bill that you promise to give me in two weeks.

Is all of that true? Dunno. But if you give me another glass of that there brown stuff, I’ll stay on the internet and argue about it with you.

I’m not sure when someone decided that only contending teams could have valuable players, and I’m not sure how the virus spread. But it was a silly parsing of a word that didn’t need to be in there. We should be arguing about the BPP (Best Position Player) award.

3. That would keep away the pitchers-don’t-count weirdos, too.

4. It’s not just contending teams that have valuable players, and that idea is disrespectful to a majority of baseball fans every year. It’s absurd, this idea that the players you watch for three hours every night, the ones who keep you watching, aren’t valuable unless the bozos around them are valuable too.

Mike Trout would be more valuable if Adrian Beltre and Yu Darvish were on his team.

Mike Trout would be more valuable if the Angels had a $300 million payroll.

Mike Trout would be more valuable if the Angels had a better draft in 2012 and 2013.

Say the sentences out loud for full effect. They’re all non-sequiturs, idea fragments from a notebook that Lewis Carroll threw away. How does the value change? What sort of point are you trying to prove?

5. Trout won the MVP, and I promise you that none of this was pre-written. I’m not trying to salvage something I write out of outrage. It’s just that this feels like the last time I’ll get to point all this out. It’s the Death of the “Valuable” Debate, and we’re all here to witness it. What an important time.

6. Ha ha, just kidding. It’s not important. And I’m also kidding about it being the end of the debate. It took someone as good as Mike Trout to spin the conventional wisdom around. All we need, then, is someone as good as him every year.

Yep. It’s just that simple.

7. Except there is no one as good as Mike Trout, and I’m not sure if there will be for another 50 years.

If seems like this is something we take for granted, that’s because it is. Let’s just check in with the top 20 players in Angels history according to

There he is, second from the top left, grinning like he knows the secret to baseball, which he does. Chuck Finley played 14 years for the Angels, making five All-Star Games, starting 379 games, and throwing 2,675 innings.

“Just two of those innings were in the postseason, though, so he couldn’t have been too valuable,” is something you didn’t think just now. But we’re off track.

Trout has almost caught up to him.

Trout turned 25 in August.

Tyler Naquin, who finished third in Rookie of the Year voting, turned 25 in April. Gary Sanchez will turn 25 next December.

If Trout won Rookie of the Year this season, no one would have remarked how old he was for the award. He would have fit in just fine. Because he could pass for a rookie just fine.

Instead, he’s already accumulated more career value than Jim Rice and Lou Brock if WAR is to be believed.

8. There’s that word again. Value. Well, now, let me see. You know, I don't have any idea what that means.

PERSON IN DOCKERS, LISTENING TO “THE RIVER”: Well, it means that a player is ...

I know what you think it means, buddy. To me, it's just a made-up word. A writer’s word, so that older fellas like yourself can pound a keyboard and wear Dockers and have a job. What do you really want to know? Is Mike Trout good at what he does? There’s not a day goes by where ...

9. Right now, there’s a kid swinging a bat in his Anaheim backyard, even though the November cold front has arrived and it’s 70 degrees, but that’s OK, he or she can bundle up. That kid is swinging a bat because of Mike Trout. Maybe there’s no way to directly prove it, no way to make a one-to-one correlation possible, but take it from me, a kid whose parents had season tickets to the 1984 and 1985 Giants, you notice when the other teams have the best players. I ended up loving the sport anyway, but I’ll wonder how many other kids my age would have been baseball nerds if Dwight Gooden were on the Giants.

I can’t fathom how capturing the imagination of everyone who watches him isn’t just as valuable in people’s minds as a team chasing the second wild card.

It’s not just the kid in his or her backyard, either. It’s the grown ups who makes the conscious decision with how to spend their free time. Three hours out of 24 is a huge chunk out of an adult’s life, and there’s absolutely a difference between spending it with a losing team filled with a bunch of losers and spending it with a losing team that just happens to have one of the greatest baseball players to walk the planet.

You might even say a player who can make a team more watchable, even in the bad years, is providing that team with substantial value.

Or you could just note that Trout helps his team win more baseball games than any other player helps his team win baseball games, and he did it again in 2016. That’s another way to define it. It’s also true.

10. Trout is the most valuable player in the American League, just as he’s been every year since he played his first full season in 2012. There isn’t a logical definition of “most valuable” that excludes him, and the voters are finally realizing it. Perhaps the most impressive part is that the vote wasn’t that close. It wasn’t a landslide, but 19 voters out of 30 agreed that he was the most valuable. That’s progress.

Just two voters thought he wasn’t one of the two most valuable players in the AL. Mookie Betts really was close this year, you know, so I can almost see using the part about contending teams as a tiebreaker. It becomes less of a non-sequitur, at least. That’s also progress.

What we know is that there wasn’t an odd parsing of the word “valuable” this year, and the award is better for it. The point of baseball is to win games. Winning correlates with entertainment, being entertained correlates with being more willing to part with your money, teams who receive more money correlate with teams spending more money, teams spending more money correlate with teams that win. This is all sort of abstract, but bear with me.

Or you could just restate the obvious, one last time: Mike Trout helped his team win more than any other player helped his team win. Therefore, he was the most valuable player. Also, he was the Most Valuable Player. Even if this should have been for the fifth time, we’ll settle for progress and a job well done. It was a lot of fun to watch, as it always is.