Yes, I'm the person who gave Raul Ibanez a 10th place vote for SB Nation NL MVP

No, I'm not his mother or father. As far as I am aware, we share no recent ancestors. I've been reading the reaction to this admittedly peculiar choice, and I feel like I owe an explanation.

Next week, the BBWAA will reveal the winner of the 2011 NL MVP. If SB Nation's own voting for the award is any indication, Matt Kemp should win by a comfortable margin.

Rank Name 1st 2nd 3rd 4th 5th 6th 7th 8th 9th 10th Total
1 Matt Kemp 21 5 1 1 353
2 Ryan Braun 7 19 2 285
3 Joey Votto 8 7 6 3 4 176
4 Justin Upton 1 7 3 3 5 1 3 1 140
5 Prince Fielder 2 3 4 2 1 5 1 4 1 119
6 Troy Tulowitzki 3 1 3 5 7 3 2 91
7 Jose Reyes 1 2 5 7 3 1 3 86
8 Roy Halladay 1 5 3 1 1 1 1 85
9 Clayton Kershaw 2 2 2 1 1 1 1 56
10 Albert Pujols 1 3 2 2 1 1 3 51
11 Lance Berkman 1 2 2 3 2 2 44
12 Shane Victorino 1 1 1 3 1 3 2 41
13 Cliff Lee 3 1 1 3 33
14 Andrew McCutchen 1 1 3 2 3 26
15 Pablo Sandoval 2 1 1 19
16 Brandon Phillips 2 1 1 2 17
17 Matt Holliday 2 1 12
18 Michael Morse 1 2 5
19 Carlos Beltran 1 4
19 Mike Stanton 1 2 4
21 Ryan Roberts 2 2
22 Ian Kennedy 1 1
22 Hunter Pence 1 1
22 Raul Ibanez 1 1

Kemp was awesome this year, and it's hard to dispute that he deserved the award. Kemp had plenty to offer both traditionalists--he took two of the three triple crown categories with 39 homers and 126 RBI (with a not too shabby .324 BA and 40 stolen bases to boot)--and the saber-inclined, with a .419 wOBA and 8.7 fWAR. Indeed, I would argue that outside of a top three of Kemp, Halladay (8.2 fWAR), and Ryan Braun (7.8 fWAR), a good case could be made for any arrangement of players for the next seven spots. 

Here is my full ballot: 

1. Kemp 2. Halladay 3. Braun 4. Votto 5. Victorino 6. Upton 7. Kershaw 8. Tulowitzki 9. Stanton 10. Ibanez

Unless you are firmly against the idea of pitchers winning the MVP, I'd say that you'd have a hard time taking issue with any of my first eight picks. If you look at FanGraphs' NL WAR leaderboard* you will see that after Kemp, Halladay, and Braun, there are eight players who fell between 6.9 and 5.9. Beyond that, there are another 10 or so players for whom you could make a reasonable argument in support of their worthiness of downballot consideration. 

*And I fully acknowledge the limitations of WAR, but it is useful for getting at least a general sense of how good a player was in relation to his peers. 

This reveals what I believe is the central problem with MVP voting. The very notion of voting for the "most valuable player" seems fundamentally contradictory. Voting is an inherently subjective act, while "value" is something we should strive to know with as much objective certainty as possible. If we are going to vote on something called the "Most Valuable Player Award," it would only make sense that every voter was using the same rubric. But then, if we are using the same rubric, what would be the point of voting at all? The "value" of one player relative another shouldn't be put up to a vote any more than the value of nickel relative to a dime should be put up to a vote. You could take the best metric of value we currently have at our disposal and make the leader the MVP winner. However, this would ostensibly sit well with neither saber-oriented voters who would dispute just which value metric is the most useful, nor traditionalist voters who reject the very concept of value metrics for fear that WAR, VORP, and WARP will render them irrelevant. 

So, the BBWAA must acknowledge once and for all the irreconcilability of the voting process with the concept of value by renaming the MVP award to reflect that it is ultimately a subjective honor. Call it the Most Awesome Player award. Or, the Player Who Had a Really Good Year (Like a Bunch of Other Players) Who This Voter Really Liked For Whatever Reason Award. If we dispensed with all of the illusions about just what the award represented, it would spare us from these annual pedantic debates whenever someone makes a weird vote. I think most people already recognize that the MVP vote rarely gives an accurate accounting of who the most valuable players are. The fact that it is called the MVP, though, nevertheless results in confusion. 

Of course, I still believe we should be working to improve the accuracy of our value metrics and the best one should eventually form the basis of a "True MVP Award." In the meantime, if the name of the MVP award actually reflected what it represents, it would save us a lot of outrage when an undeserving player places too high and a deserving player places too low.

Now, all of this is only tenuously connected to my decision to give Ibanez a vote, I admit. When I threw Raul Ibanez that 10th place vote, I did so primarily as a joke. I am fully aware that Ibanez was really, really bad this year--one of the worst players in the National League, as a matter of fact. I thought it would be a funny way to acknowledge how awful he was by giving him a last place vote so he would appear at the bottom of the results. I also knew that one joke of a 10th place vote wouldn't have any appreciable impact on the outcome, so I figured it would be worth the LULz. If the rest of the ballot is defensible, I don't think a single troll vote is that big of a deal. But in addition, I think that the vote underscores the contradiction between what the name of the award implies and the process through which it is awarded by taking subjectivity to the most absurd lengths.

Now I realize that giving Ibanez a vote has also allowed me to clarify my thoughts on the MVP award and pin down precisely what it is about the award that has bugged me for so long. I hope it's allowed you to do the same.

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