Every sports league goes through the same process every year: figuring out the Most Valuable Player award. It’s an imperfect process, to say the least, and that’s fine. However, the process of selecting an MVP, regardless of the sport, is unnecessarily convoluted because of the way the award is phrased, and it’s time for the major sports leagues to rectify the problem.
The issue is with the word valuable. The word means different things to different people, and therein lies the problem with the MVP award. Should it go to the player who brings the most value to his team? Should it go to the player who brings the most value to the league? Should it go to the player who provides the best bang for the buck based on the player’s salary? How do you determine value? Different people have different views on how to define that word.
The award, for all intents and purposes, is designed to go to the best player in the league in that particular year. However, the way it’s phrased as the “most valuable” player adds a gray area. Thus, voters are free to come up with their own definition of what “valuable” means. This makes it impossible to find any consistency among the voters, which is not right.
All the fuss about who is deserving and who isn’t and what makes for an MVP and what doesn’t is akin to debating what length of skirt turns a girl from sexy to a slut. No one ever has defined it and no one ever will. You eyeball the evidence and decide based on your personal tastes.
Often times, MVP awards end up going to the best player on the best team. But the best player on the best team isn’t always the best player in the league. He may not even be the most “valuable,” as the best team in the league often a multitude of impact players. Meanwhile, lesser teams may have one stand out player who warrants consideration for the top individual award. But can you give an MVP award to a player whose team has struggled and could have been equally as bad without him?
Alex Rodriguez is a great example of this, as he won American League MVP in 2003 while playing for a last-place team in Texas. It’s hard to argue against A-Rod being the game’s best (steroid-aided) player that year, but he didn’t add much value to the Rangers, who could have just as easily finished last without A-Rod and his massive contract.
This year’s MVP race in the NBA is another great example. It’s hard not to marvel at Russell Westbrook averaging a triple-double over the course of a full season, a truly outstanding accomplishment. But how does that translate to “value” compared to LeBron James, Kawhi Leonard, and James Harden? Use of the word “value” makes the process overly complicated.
The solution is for major sports leagues to change the MVP award to the Most Outstanding Player award. Oddly enough, the NCAA is the organization that has it right, as they give out a Most Outstanding Player Award following the Final Four. Changing from MVP to MOP will simplify the award, adding some clarity so it goes to the best overall player, not the one who was the most “valuable.”
If you’re afraid of the change, you can relax; there will still be arguments over what player deserves the award. Even with clarity on what the award should be, reasonable people will still be able to disagree on what player had the best season. There will always be debates about what player deserves the award; that special part of sports will never cease. The difference will be that everyone will be judging from the same set of rules instead of trying to interpret the word valuable.
You may find yourself asking, “what does it matter?” It matters. In the grand scheme of things, it matters. The legacy of players is tied, at least in part, to the awards they have won. Both the history and the integrity of a sport are tied to awards being given to those who are most deserving. For those reasons, it’s time to change the Most Valuable Players award to the Most Outstanding Player award.