Credit where it's due: Brian Kenny, the MLB Network's Lord of Stats and resident Hawk Harrelson foil, got some legit #viral #social #media #synergy out of his #KillTheWin campaign. The point of it was that the win is a silly, outdated statistic with no real value, which, yeah.
The immediate impetus for #KillTheWin was that this silly, outdated statistic may compel the Baseball Writers Association of America to make AL wins leader Max Scherzer the AL Cy Young Award winner -- obviously an injustice so grave as to demand that we all tap our strategic reserves of faux rage. Or something. This is depressing.
It's depressing because the problem isn't the statistical measures being used to judge athletes playing a byzantine game of leisure, dreamt up (maybe) by syphilis-crazed Brit fops. Go ahead and #KillTheWin, and watch it do nothing about the pervasive self-imposed idiocy that saturates every debate there is in baseball. The problem with Mr. Kenny's campaign is that he didn't go far enough. When it comes to awards debates, it's time to #KillEverything.
Here's the actual problem. The BBWAA is so hilariously, transcendently bad at a major section of its job description that it makes Congress look like a bastion of public trust and goodwill -- and there isn't a sabermetric solution for that. We're pretty well beyond salvation when the Marty Nobles of the world disqualify everyone but Jack freakin' Morris, based on nothing but hearsay and hairy backs. The greater reality is that the great sabermetrics debate is dead and buried. Save for a few flat-Earth types, even the most old-school of old-schoolers at least have to acknowledge the legitimacy of sabermetrics -- even as they anxiety-puke when confronted with the illegitimacy of their own standards while still refusing to give them up.
This is the same group responsible for informally banning a generation of players from the Baseball Hall of Fame for reasons too stupid to belabor, which mostly boil down to ignoring baseball's long, proud and very rad history of cheating. There is no reason under the sun to invest any measure of legitimacy in their collective decision-making when it comes to who wins what award and which plaque.
This is what happens when a few outliers can bomb the system without consequence. The best you can do is point out those individual BBWAA members who are not contributing to the cluster of concern trolling -- of which there are still too few to get any number of Hall-of-Fame-caliber players into the Hall of Fame. An institution's worth is not fixed, and whatever worth the BBWAA had does not function as a line of credit against its present state.
Besides, who cares about any of this? We're talking about the BBWAA, an organization with only as much impact on our lives as we allow it to have.
Here's one weird trick for not getting sucked into this alternate reality where a bunch of people you don't know or care about have an impact on your enjoyment of a silly kid's game: Stop caring. Awards like the MVP and Cy Young will never go away, but there are any number of things you, Baseball Fan, do not care about, no matter how eternal they may be. Typically, you, Baseball Fan, care about your team and your players and watching some good baseball with some good friends and maybe having yourself a few brews along the way, it's been a long week. Keep doing that. The alternative is to sit there and seriously consider all the dumb award votes and even dumber Hall of Fame votes, and oh, dear God, why are we doing this to ourselves?
Still, temptation abounds. Perhaps the most tempting debate is the now two-season-long AL MVP contest, pitting Mike Trout against Miguel Cabrera. On the one hand, you have Trout, who is the best all-around baseball player there is and maybe the second coming of Mickey Mantle. On the other hand, you have Cabrera, who is the best hitter in the game by any standard and maybe the best fat baseball player since Babe Ruth.
On the magical third hand, however -- the one BBWAA doesn't want you to think about -- there is the pleasant state of not caring about any of these awards, but rather just enjoying two amazing players on their own terms, for however long we may have them to enjoy.
The one really great baseball dude looks like an SEC linebacker who stumbled across a baseball field one day and decided he'd give it a shot! The other really great baseball dude is the platonic ideal of a Venezuelan baseball God, in that he had to publicly swear off arepas! Both of them induce writers to use exclamation points far more often than Elmore Leonard would ever approve of! There is no way that wasting hours screeching about X metric and Y precedent is more satisfying than just watching these two really great baseball dudes be two really great baseball dudes.
This is the best way to be, because there's nothing to be done about the BBWAA. There's no system that could keep its members from trolling the concept of rational decision-making. So just accept it as a minor bit of institutional foolishness, a particularly baroque accent to a pretty damn baroque game. One that cannot draw you into its illogic, but one you can appreciate from a healthy distance on your own terms. In that sense, everything is exactly as it should be.
Or, we could just start tweeting about how it's time not just to #KillTheWin, but to #KillEverything. That works too. Plus, we'd get some pretty legit #social #media #synergy out of it.
Tomas Rios is a freelance NYC-based writer who has covered MMA for The Classical, Deadspin, The Pacific Standard and Slate. You can find him @TheTomasRios.