Bock’s Score: Baseball Awards’ Snubs

Election season in America is over but it is about to begin in Major League Baseball.

Finalists for the annual postseason awards presented by the Baseball Writers Association were released this week and most were predictable based on outstanding seasons. One omission, however, stood out.

For American League Most Valuable Player, the nominees are Mookie Betts of the Boston Red Sox, Mike Trout of the Los Angeles Angels and Jose Ramirez of the Cleveland Indians. All are very worthy candidates for the award which will be presented on Nov. 15.

But what happened to J.D. Martinez?

The Red Sox’ charge to the World Series championship and 120 victories was constructed largely on the broad shoulders of Martinez, who led the league with 43 home runs and was second in runs batted in with 130 and batting average at .330. He also finished second in slugging percentage (.629), third in on base percentage (.402) and third in runs scored (111).

Not too shabby.

Martinez was on a serious Triple Crown watch for much of the year but when it came to MVP finalists, his numbers were viewed as not good enough.

Good enough, though, was Jose Ramirez, who had 39 homers, 105 RBIs and a .270 batting average, a solid season but with numbers all well south of the ones Martinez produced. So how come he’s a finalist and Martinez is not?

Well, in the wonderful world of New Age Baseball, Martinez’s WAR number came in 15th, too far down the chart for the nerds now populating the sport. So his other accomplishments were dismissed.

 Nowadays, WAR – wins above replacement — is a big deal in baseball. Bigger than the traditional numbers like batting average, home runs and RBIs that once measured a hitter’s season.

There is something seriously wrong with a system that dismisses Martinez’s terrific season but rewards Ramirez’s, based not on the productive numbers but an obscure formula dreamt up by those who think they know better.

They don’t.

Matt Chapman, Francisco Lindor, Lorenzo Cain, and Alex Bregman were other American League players with a better WAR number than Martinez. Ramirez was tied for eighth with Lindor. All of them are terrific players. None of them accumulated the kind of season Martinez did.

WAR is an attempt to summarize a player’s contribution to his team in a single statistic instead of basing it on those old fuddy, duddy numbers like home runs, batting average and RBIs.

Sorry but in this corner of the baseball world, those old fashioned numbers carry more weight than the fancy new world statistics.

Slowly but surely, the analytics crowd is making over the game and the price of the change is common sense. By any measure – except in nerdland – Martinez had an MVP caliber season yet it is dismissed, considered not good enough, not even among the top three being measured for the award.

Something is seriously wrong here. And if you don’t think so, just ask J.D. Martinez.


About the Author

Hal Bock

Hal Bock is a contributor with NY Sports Day. He has covered sports for 40 years at The Associated Press including 30 World Series, 30 Super Bowls and 11 Olympics. He is the author of 14 books including most recently The Last Chicago Cubs Dynasty and Banned Baseball's Blacklist of All-Stars and Also-Rans. He has written scores of magazine articles and served as Journalist In Residence at Long Island University's Brooklyn campus where he also served on the selection committee for the George Polk Awards.

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