Lifetime Achievement MVPs?

It's no secret that I am annoyed by what is at times an unreasonable enamorment with Derek Jeter from the media. I have still never seen it taken to this level. The Wall Street Journal ran an article yesterday with the basic premise that they know full well that Jeter is not the most valuable player in the league this year, but that they should give him the award anyway.

The article is set up with the idea that Academy Awards are often given as lifetime achievement awards to recipients who don't necessarily deserve it for the film they are being honored for, but who have earned it for past works that were not recognized. This, they claim (without any justification), is no different from how MVPs are awarded in baseball. The article goes on to list the typical immeasurable reasons Jeter defies everything we know about baseball analysis, but the crux of it is that he has never won one before, so why shouldn't he, following in baseball's long-established tradition, win one for the hell of it as a last hurrah?

Because that's BS, that's why. The concept that MVP awards in baseball are awarded to players who have been rebuffed throughout a great career and put up one last good, if not MVP-worthy, season as a last shot to win one has no basis in reality. It should probably have been a clue when they had no problem listing examples of Academy Awards given in this manner, but then, after saying baseball was no different with MVPs, failed to produce a single example (if they are going to present evidence of only one, shouldn't it be the relevant one and not of the completely unrelated analogy?).

In baseball history, there have been 10 MVPs age 35 (Jeter's age this season) or older:

-Four of them were Barry Bonds. These were clearly not making up for a great player never having won, as: A)he deserved them all; B)he had won 3 of them already anyway, and it's not like they were going to keep giving him lifetime achievement MVPs year after year; and, I guess C)no one liked him enough to do that anyway.

-One was Dennis Eckersly in 1992. If voters were going to give a lifetime achievement MVP to someone who they think should have one but doesn't, it wouldn't be a relief pitcher, a position they aren't to eager to honour in the first place. Eckersly was legitimately studly that year and wracked up some glamour stats as a closer that attracted the voters when no position players jumped out.

-One was Mike Schmidt in 1986. Like Bonds, he had already won multiple MVPs and thus had no need for a lifetime achievement nod. He also won 2 legs of the Triple Crown (HR and RBI).

-One was Willie Stargell in 1979, when he tied with Keith Hernandez for the award. This is probably the closest to a lifetime achievement, since Stargell probably didn't deserve the award, but the voters' choice likely had much more to do with recognizing Willie for leading the family in Pittsburgh to an NL best 98 wins.

-One was Hank Sauer in 1952, hardly a player anyone would give a lifetime achievement MVP. Sauer wasn't even a regular player until he was in his 30s.

-One was Spud Chandler in 1943. Chandler falls in the same boat as both Sauer and Eckersly. Like Sauer, he won the award for his performance that year (his 20-4 record and 1.64 ERA led the league), not for his career 131 starts to that point. He climbs aboard with Eckersly for winning as a pitcher in a year that lacked offensive standouts (Chandler had only one fewer HR than runner up Luke Appling).

-The final (or first, since I'm going backwards in time) was Walter Johnson in 1924. Like Bonds and Schmidt, Johnson had already won an MVP. It's also worth noting that Johnson's MVPs (as well as Spud Chandler's, for that matter) were won when there was no Cy Young award, so voters couldn't say that pitchers had their own award as they do now. As for whether Johnson deserved the award, he led the league in pretty much everything (wins, W%, ERA, strikeouts, games started, shutouts, H/9, SO/BB, SO/9) and hit .283 to boot.

No one else has won an MVP at Jeter's age or older.

Simply put, MVPs are not awarded as lifetime achievement Oscars. I have no idea why anyone would say that. I don't generally read the Wall Street Journal, so I don't know what kind of quality to expect from their sports page, but they also seemed to think that it would be a good idea to calculate how many words per minute each TV pbp guy says per minute to determine which broadcasters talk the most solely by watching one total inning of work for each broadcast team with a clicker in one hand and a stopwatch in the other (if it weren't such a pointless study in the first place, one would be inclined to take them to task for publishing such poorly executed results). So maybe we shouldn't hold the standard too high.


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