Thearon W. Henderson
Hey, how come every year we don't see a big announcement about the most valuable player in the entire postseason? Therein lies a (short) tale ...
For a long time, there was just one postseason series: the World Series. In 1955, the Sport Magazine Award was created to honor the most valuable player in the World Series. Later, the award was coöpted by Major League Baseball, and MLB also introduced awards for the most valuable players in the League Championship Series. Oddly, there is not an award for the best-of-five Division Series, even though the League Championship Series awards were handed out when those were played in the best-of-five format.
There's something else missing, though. With the addition of the Wild Card Games this season, a player might now play in as many as twenty postseason games. He might essentially play postseason baseball for, roughly speaking, an entire month; the Wild Card Games this year were played on the 5th of October, and if there's a seventh World Series game next week, it will be played on the 1st of November.
So, let us review ... Major League Baseball presents World Series awards, League Championship Series awards and, during the regular season, Player of the Month awards. But not Division Series awards. Which seems like an omission, to be sure.
There's a larger omission, though. Why should you get an award for performing brilliantly in October over the course of four games (as Delmon Young did, last week) or five, or six? Or even seven (as Marco Scutaro did, this week)? While nobody gets an award for performing brilliantly over the course of the whole month, covering as many as 20 games?
My answer: You shouldn't. If Delmon Young can win an award for playing well over the course of four games, there should be an award for the guy who plays that well for most of October.
This season, your top two candidates are Pablo Sandoval (.320-3-9) and Justin Verlander (3-0, 0.74 ERA), but another contender or two might show himself in the coming Serious.
What should we call it, though? Well, the obvious answer is The Mr. October Award ... I really like that, because it sounds good and also because it's a reference to the Mr. October: Reggie Jackson, who probably got the nickname in 1977, when he hit three home runs in Game 6 of the 1977 World Series. Jackson was named MVP of that Series, and had also won the award in 1973; he remains one of only two players, along with Sandy Koufax, to win more the award more than once.
There's just one problem ... Reggie Jackson wasn't actually among the greatest October players. While his World Series numbers are outstanding, his LCS numbers are not. His career postseason batting line is .278/.358/.527, which is obviously excellent but not much better than his career regular-season numbers.
Which makes me think we should consider other options. You know who's got the most impressive postseason numbers of all time? Babe Ruth. Shouldn't The Babe have an award named after him? Is it really possible that he doesn't?
Damn you, Wikipedia:
The Babe Ruth Award is given annually to the Major League Baseball (MLB) player with the best performance in the postseason. The award, created by the New York chapter of the Baseball Writers Association of America (BBWAA) in honor of Babe Ruth, was first awarded in 1949 to the MVP of the World Series, one year after Ruth's death. The award continued to be awarded exclusively for performances in the World Series until 2007, when the New York chapter of the BBWAA changed the award to cover the entire postseason. Though it precedes the World Series Most Valuable Player Award, which was not created until 1955, the Babe Ruth Award is considered less prestigious, as it is not sanctioned by MLB and is awarded several weeks after the World Series.
So there you have it, friends: Rob Neyer's brilliantly original idea hasn't been original, let alone brilliant, since at least 2007, when the BBWAA's New York chapter came up with not only the perfect award, but also the perfect name.
That doesn't mean it's not a good idea, whoever had it first. The problem is that nobody knows about it. It seems to me that the New York chapter should, with all possible magnanimity and haste, pass the award to someone who can really make it big and beautiful. Maybe that's the BBWAA as a whole, or maybe it's Major League Baseball.
But this is a big idea whose time should have come at least 15 years ago, and still has not. Let's make it happen, friends.