A glimpse into the BBWAA voting process for manager of year award

First, let me say I love the fact that people argue about Major League Baseball’s postseason awards.

You don’t get that very often in football or hockey or the NBA. But you get vitriol pretty much every year when the BBWAA season-ending awards are announced. And, to me, that speaks to the passion of the baseball fan.

There are a whole bunch of awards that come out after the season ends, and I’m sure it’s confusing for many baseball fans. The four that are considered the biggies (given out to winners in both the American League and National League) are Rookie of the Year, Manager of the Year, Cy Young and Most Valuable Player, which will be announced tonight and conclude the BBWAA awards for this year.

There are other ones to watch for sure, including Gold Glove, Silver Slugger, Rolaids Relief Man and the Sporting News awards.

The BBWAA awards – chosen by two members of the Baseball Writers' Association of America from each chapter in each league – are the only ones mentioned above that are decided exclusively by the media. And I believe that’s the best way to do it.

Before I go any further, a few necessary disclosures here: I am the current chairman of the Baltimore-Washington chapter of the BBWAA. In that capacity, I help choose who gets to vote each year and on which awards.

And some more disclosure: The Baltimore Sun does not allow its writers to vote for postseason awards; the paper does not want us to become part of the story. We’re not the only newspaper that takes that stance (The Washington Post, for instance, does as well).

It makes my job as vote dispenser a bit tricky since I can’t use anyone from the two main newspapers in the area. I choose a lot of national baseball writers who call Baltimore or Washington home. And I utilize several former Sun or former Washington newspaper writers who still have work at Camden Yards and Nationals Park, even if they are now honorary (or lifetime) members of the BBWAA.

At times, I have to double up, and one voter gets ballots for two different awards. There are some cities that have to borrow a national guy from another city to fill out their votes (we haven’t had to do that here, though). It’s not a perfect process, but it seems to work. And it works because the voters take their duties seriously. You may not always agree with them, but they have reasons for why they vote the way they do.

This year, the BBWAA web site immediately shows who voted for whom – so an unconventional voter will be discovered quickly, and, I’m sure, contacted by a disagreeing public swiftly. I’ve heard a lot of “writers are idiots” ranting in the last week, and I’m sure some of the specific voters got it a lot worse than me.

Regardless, let me say that the BBWAA voting is still the most credible in the sport’s postseason awards circuit. Silver Sluggers and Gold Gloves are determined by coaches and managers. A lot of times it is done based solely on reputation (these guys have more important jobs than evaluating opposing players). And don’t think representatives from some teams, who want their specific players to win (and aren’t allowed to vote for their own) will choose a competitor who they know won’t get it (a sketchy fielding third baseman for Gold Glove, for instance) in an effort to better their own players’ chances. Yes, it happens.

The Sporting News sends out ballots for their awards and hopes the teams play along. Not all do – hence a weird number like 57 coming back for executive of the year award (an award in which the Orioles’ Dan Duquette stunningly received no votes). That number implies that not every club turned in their ballots, or at least they all didn’t turn in the same number of ballots.

I bring all this up because a lot of our readers, and Orioles fans in general, were disappointed that Buck Showalter didn’t win the BBWAA AL Manager of the Year Award on Tuesday. I get that. What I don’t get is all those who emailed or tweeted me angrily, claiming that Showalter got robbed.

He didn’t. He did an amazing job turning around the Orioles. Oakland’s Bob Melvin also did an incredible job. They both deserved it and typically, only one wins. You can make a great argument for both, but you can’t say one got robbed. They were that even.

I have heard all kinds of theories as to why Melvin won. Bottom line is that all 28 voters had Melvin or Showalter 1 or 2; it’s just that four more voters had Melvin over Showalter. There was no ulterior motive or masked voter on the grassy infield.

I would expect you, the Orioles fan, to think Buck should have won it. Frankly, had I given myself one of the two Baltimore votes, I would have selected Showalter, and not necessarily because I think he had a discernible edge or because I’d be trying to appease Baltimore.

But because I saw Showalter manage on a daily basis and witnessed first-hand how much he impacted the team and its season; I saw Melvin just nine times. It would have been an imbalanced assignment for me. And that’s not a homer’s bias, just the reality of the situation.

That’s why each city gets two votes. It’s spread evenly throughout the leagues. No New York heavy or Chicago heavy contingent shifting the votes.

It’s not a perfect system. I think any system involving humans’ judgments would be somewhat flawed. But I still think the BBWAA voters do the best overall job (yes, I know, you would expect me to say that).

Ultimately, some baseball fans are going to disagree with nearly every award winner. And that’s OK, too. That’s what makes this sport so unique and great. We all have our opinions, and we should share them. I love that passion, even when you think we are idiots.

     

Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times
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