1. Of great importance, use, or service.
The Baseball Writers of America should retire en masse. We don't need them anymore.
Today, their select members decreed Albert Pujols of the St. Louis Cardinals the National League Most Valuable Player. In the voting Pujols comfortably defeated Philadelphia Phillie Ryan Howard, 369-308.
Pujols was so valuable he helped the Cardinals to . . . a blazing fourth place finish in the N.L. Central division. The Cardinals were never in serious contention for the wild card, either. Not even close.
Yet, Howard has a World Series ring being fitted for him right now. A glorious ring none of his teammates could wear for the rest of their lives without his 48 home runs, 146 RBI and .543 slugging percentage. He erupted in September with a team-record 32 RBI, every one of which the Phillies needed to barely sneak by my beloved New York Mets for the division crown.
No Ryan Howard, and no Phillies playoff berth, no Phillies National League championship, no Phillies World Series championship. It's that simple.
But with Albert Pujols, the Cardinals were on the golf course last month. What exactly was his precise value? That his team finished fourth, and not last?
What a joke.
As noted, valuable is defined as "great importance." In baseball, "great importance" means making the playoffs. Nothing else counts after the 162nd game is completed.
If your team sucks, and you're the best player in baseball, so what. It doesn't matter. It's not the Most Outstanding Player award or the Greatest Season award or the Best Statistics award.
Value is subjective, of course. And it has allowed the sabermetric propeller hats in the BBWA to pervert the meaning of an honor that forever covers players in excellence.
Or should cover players like Ryan Howard in excellence. He just got Jeffrey Maier-ed today.
If Pujols won the Triple Crown, he wouldn't deserve the MVP. If he became the first player to hit .400 since Ted Williams in 1941, he still wouldn't deserve the MVP.
The BBWA have placed me in the unenviable position of defending the Phillies,
Mets General Manager Omar Minaya must be amused by this vote. David Wright finished seventh and Carlos Delgado finished ninth. Without either player the Mets don't even win 75 games. Both were more valuable than Pujols.
When Pittsburgh Pirate Ralph Kiner finished his seventh consecutive season leading the National League in home runs in 1952, he asked General Manager Branch Rickey for a pay raise. "We finished last with you, we can finish last without you," Rickey famously told Kiner.
Pujols should demand a new contract immediately. And his General Manager John Mozeliak should inform him, "We finished fourth with you, we can finish fourth without you."