With the Astros joining the American League next season and interleague play entering its post-novelty phase, the only difference remaining between the leagues is the Designated Hitter rule. Really, the National League and the American League can hardly be called "leagues" anymore -- they're conferences in Major League Baseball, like football's NFC and AFC. We still call them leagues because thousands of years ago, the N.L. and A.L. competed with each other for talent and for the hearts (and dollars) of America's baseball fans. But over time, little by little, the two leagues cooperated, conspired, and consolidated until the last vestiges of the old league system were swept away.
Given this, does it still make sense to dole out separate MVP and Cy Young awards? After all, the NFL doesn't ...
Whoa, whoa, whoa. What the hell am I saying? We don't need fewer awards; we need more! Awards are fun! I mean, eventually all awards turn into an instrument for browbeating your ideological enemies -- but in the beginning they're really fun!
Why not steal a page from the thriving NHL -- which hands out more trophies than one of those gradeless, structureless, new age feel-gooderies* -- and have awards for EVERY DIVISION? Who was the MVP of the A.L. Central? Who was the Cy Young of the N.L. West? We'll call them the Divisionies.
Even better, why not name the awards after great historical players from each division? The N.L. West MVP could win the Willie Mays Award. No, the Willie Mays Trophy! Let's do them all:
N.L. East MVP: The Hank Aaron Trophy. I know there's already a Hank Aaron Award, but 1) no one pays any attention to it, whereas the Divisionies are going to be HUGE and b) this is the Hank Aaron Trophy. Trophies are better than awards. The prize chain of command goes Trophy > Medal > Award > Ribbon > Grammy.
N.L. East Pitcher of the Year: We can't name this one after Greg Maddux or Warren Spahn, because we've already got a Brave. That's a rule I just made up: One trophy per team. So, the Tom Seaver Trophy it is.
N.L. Central MVP: My first choice was Stan Musial, but since we're probably going to name the pitcher trophy after another Cardinal, we'll go with Honus Wagner. Honus Wagner was awesome.
N.L. Central Pitcher of the Year: The Bob Gibson Trophy. It was either Gibby or Mordecai "Three Finger" Brown, but after spending an afternoon crunching the numbers, I decided Gibson had a big advantage in number of fingers. Incidentally, making tough calls like this is why SB Nation pays me $500,000 per year.*
* I rounded up and added forty zeroes.
NL West MVP: The Willie Mays Trophy.
N.L. West Pitcher of the Year: The Sandy Koufax trophy, obviously.
A.L. East MVP: Has to be Babe Ruth. Three different A.L. East cities claim Ruth as a favorite son.
A.L. East Pitcher of the Year: Cy Young is out, for obvious reasons. Lefty Grove had most of his best seasons in Philadelphia, not Boston. Maybe it should be the Roger Clemens Trophy. After all, he won Cy Young awards with three different A.L. East teams, so that seems appropriate, much like his relationship with Mindy McCready.
On further reflection, I'm going with Walter Johnson. I know he didn't play for a team in the current A.L. East, but he might have been the greatest pitcher ever, was widely admired, and he played in the American League his whole career. Plus, I can just imagine some hot-headed hurler winning the Clemens Trophy years from now and immediately setting it on fire, à la Charlie Rich at the Country Music Awards. Believe me, naming this award after a controversial figure like Roger Clemens is the last thing we need.
A.L. Central MVP: So everybody's cool with Ty Cobb, right?
A.L. Central Pitcher of the Year: The Bob Feller Trophy, of course.
A.L. West MVP:
Jimmie Foxx. (Update: Ken Griffey Jr.!) True story. I was eating lunch at one of those places with a lot of garbage/kitschy memorabilia on the walls, including this photo:
At the next table, two middle-aged guys, clad in the apparel of baseball's best, most knowledgeable fans, were studying the picture, trying to determine the identity of the mystery man with the big capital 'A' on his chest.
Best fan #1: Who's that guy in the middle?
Best fan #2: I don't know, maybe he was the coach or something.
Me: That's Jimmie Foxx.
Best fan #1: It might be the ball boy.
Me: It's Jimmie Foxx.
Best fan #2: Nah, that's the coach.
Me: No, it's definitely Jimmie Foxx. He played first base for the A's and Red Sox in the '20s and '30s.
Best fan #2: Agree to disagree.
You know how Sling Blade was really strong? That's how these guys were, only with confidence.
A.L. West Pitcher of the Year: Nolan Ryan pitched for three AL West teams (including Houston), and pitchers worship him as you and I worship the king. Done and done.
Now, who should vote for these sure-to-be-popular honors that we all won't forget about several minutes from now? Well, it doesn't seem likely that MLB will adopt twelve new official awards, even though the NHL hands out 19 trophies to individual players every year. THEY HAVE THREE DIFFERENT AWARDS JUST FOR GOALIES.
So I nominate you, Baseball Nation reader, to vote in the first annual* Divisionies.
* Someone's probably going to have to remind me about this next year. Assuming I don't get fired before then or go on a multi-state killing spree when the 2nd-Wild Card Cardinals win the World Series.
In the coming days, I'll post a series of polls in the Hot Corner, and I hope you'll vote in them. And I hope you'll take your vote more seriously than the two Chicago beat writers who voted for Sammy Sosa for MVP in 2001 over Barry Bonds.
Just to make sure we're all on the same page, I'll append the "Rules for Voting" that the BBWAA sends to its members at the end of every season, but with a couple tweaks. And by tweaks, I mean "wholesale changes that will hopefully prevent any kind of self-indulgent parsing of the word 'valuable.'"
There is no clear-cut definition of what Most Valuable means. It is up to the individual voter to ha ha ha ha! Just kidding. Vote for the best player. It's not about you, you egomaniac.
The rules of the voting remain the same as they were written on the first ballot in
1. Actual value of a player to his team, that is, strength of offense and defense. In other words, pick the best player.
2. Vote for the best player.
5. Vote for him.
6. Don't NOT vote for the LEAST bad player. (wink wink)
Remember to keep an eye on the Hot Corner for upcoming elections. I'll add links below when the voting starts.
The Hank Aaron Trophy: Vote here.
The Tom Seaver Trophy: Vote here.
The Honus Wagner Trophy: Vote here.
The Bob Gibson Trophy: Vote here.
The Willie Mays Trophy: Vote here.
The Sandy Koufax Trophy: Vote here.
The Babe Ruth Trophy: Vote here.
The Walter Johnson Trophy: Vote here.
The Ty Cobb Trophy: Vote here.
The Bob Feller Trophy: Vote here.
The Ken Griffey Jr. Trophy: Vote here.
The Nolan Ryan Trophy: Vote here.