What does ‘Valuable’ mean?

Tariq Engineer

Major League Baseball just handed out its Most Valuable Player awards this past week. In the National League, Barry Bonds won a record fifth MVP, while Miguel Tejada beat out Alex Rodriguez for the American League MVP. In this writer’s head, the term “Most Valuable Player” begs the question: most valuable to whom? Is the Most Valuable Player someone who is most valuable to his team or is it someone most valuable to the fans? Alternatively, is the Most Valuable Player someone who is most valuable in terms of money?

For argument’s sake, let us assume the MVP is indeed someone who is most valuable to his team. In that case then, is there a difference between a winning team and a losing team? Is a contribution made toward a winning cause greater than a contribution made toward a losing cause?

Does a supremely talented individual who makes a greater contribution to a team because his teammates aren’t as talented have an edge over another supremely talented individual who just happens to play on a talented team?

The MVP is an individual award, and ultimately winning in a team sport is dependent on a team and not on any one individual (think Barry Bonds and the San Francisco Giants in the 2002 World Series). Therefore, to attempt to correlate an individual’s contribution to the overall team performance on the basis of team wins and losses would be erroneous. All an individual can do is perform to the best of his ability. Everything else is out of his hands.

At the same time, there is greater pressure to perform when more is at stake. The ability to produce in the clutch is what separates truly great players from very good ones.

I am not attempting to decry the achievements of an Alex Rodriguez, whose performance is exceptional no matter how you slice it. However, some advantage must be given to those who put up big numbers when their teams absolutely need them to perform.

All this makes the selection of an MVP a contentious one, except in those situations where players have out-of-this-world seasons like Barry Bonds has the last two years. It would be much simpler if the award were reconsidered along the lines of the Cy Young award. I say remove the word “valuable” and make the word have to do with who the best player in baseball is and be done with it.