How Valid Are Sports Awards Based Only on the Regular Season?

Throughout almost all of the 2014 major league baseball season, certainly after his return from the disabled list in May, there was little question that the most dominant pitcher in the game was the Dodgers’ Clayton Kershaw. His 21-3 won-lost record in only 27 starts, 1.77 ERA, and 0.86 WHIP were clear, documentary evidence of what players, fans and sportswriters were seeing each time he took the mound. A handful of other National League pitchers also had career year stats, such as Adam Wainwright (20-9, 2.38, 1.03) and Johnny Cueto (20-9, 2.25, 0.96). The Giants’ Madison Bumgarner had the best year of his young career (18-10, 2.98, 1.09), but his stats, though excellent, did not compare to the top three NL pitchers. But then came the post season.

Cueto's Reds didn't make the playoffs, and Wainwright had a rough time, going 0-1 with a 5.63 ERA in three starts. But, the big displacement was between Kershaw and Bumgarner. Kershaw, who yesterday became the NL's 14th unanimous recipient of the Cy Young Award and who today became the first National League pitcher in 46 years to also win the league's Most Valuable Player Award, was a dismal 0-2 with a 7.82 ERA, giving him a lifetime post season record of 1-5 and 5.12. But,
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it was Bumgarner, who garnered no first, second, or third place Cy Young votes, and who landed in a distant fourth place in the voting, who compiled a post season for the ages, clearly one of the best ever in MLB history, capped off by allowing one run and nine hits over 21 World Series innings, while winning two and saving the clincher.

Through much of the National League season, the Washington Nationals were considered the league’s best all-around team, and they proved it, sort of, by compiling the best regular season record in the league, 96-66. Nats’ manager Matt Williams was rewarded for his team’s season-long dominance by being voted the NL Manager of the Year. Williams received 18 of the 30 first place votes, with the Pirates Clint Hurdle receiving eight votes, the Giants’ Bruce Bochy getting three, and Mike Redmond of the Marlins the final first place vote. But, the Nats failed badly in the playoffs, losing in their Division Series match-up to Bochy’s Giants, three games to one. Third place vote-getter Bochy, conversely, went on to lead his team to their third World Championship in the last five years.

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It was just announced that the Angels' Mike Trout was unanimously voted the American League's Most Valuable Player. The 23-year-old Trout has had three remarkable seasons, and set career highs in 2014 for home runs and runs batted in. But, as baseball's best regular season team at 98-64, Trout and the Angels were more than disappointing in the post season. The Angels went three and out, losing the AL Division
Series without a single win, as Trout himself could manage only a single hit, a solo home run, in 12 post season at bats. American League Champion Kansas City could land no player higher than number 12 in the MVP voting, with Alex Gordon garnering that spot.

Great regular season stats get players adulation, product endorsements, mega-bucks, and awards, but the games’ most enduring stars (the same is true for all other major sports, not just baseball) the legendary names like Reggie Jackson, Sandy Koufax, and Willie Mays for example, plus many lessor players who had maybe just a single moment of glory, like Kirk Gibson, Don Larsen, Larry Sherry and Joe Carter, are remembered now and forever for their post season successes.

Is it the right thing to do to vote on such awards each year before the post season, with no consideration whatsoever to what happens thereafter, in the games that matter the most? Granted, the World Series has its own MVP award, but league MVPs seem to hold more significance throughout the world of baseball fandom, and there are no post season equivalents to the Cy Young or Manager of the

Year awards

I’m not saying that Kershaw, Trout, and Williams did not deserve their awards, but just maybe that the process should be a little bit different.

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