David WrightTomorrow, MLB will announce the winner of the National League MVP Award. Candidates include Chipper Jones, Jimmy Rollins, David Wright, Prince Fielder and Matt Holliday.

A while back Paul and I debated who should win the award and he ultimately convinced me that David Wright is the clear choice.

I emailed that post to Philadelphia Daily News baseball writer Paul Hagen, who is the former head of the Baseball Writers Association of America, and asked him what he thought of Wright’s candidacy. Here’s what he had to say:

Umpbump: Like most Phillies fans I’m hoping Jimmy Rollins will win the NL MVP, while I fully expect Matt Holliday will win. It wasn’t until recently, however, that I was convinced that David Wright should win. What do you think of David Wright for NL MVP?

PH: I think an argument can be made for David Wright. However, I have to say that in the years I vote, I put a lot of emphasis on the word “Valuable.” To me, that connotes intangibles. I think that’s what differentiates the MVP from, say, a “Player of the Year” award. And it would be hard for me to find that much value in a player who was part of one of the most epic collapses in baseball history.

Umpbump: See, that’s funny. We’ve been having a long debate about the value of intangibles in the comments section of our site this week. Sarah, who is a columnist for the Boston Metro, thinks intangibles are extremely important. Paul and Nick, who are sabermetrics guys, think intangibles can’t be measured and therefore we shouldn’t worry about them.

Here’s what Nick had to say about intangibles:

This is different from saying that “leadership” as a skill doesn’t exist. I think we all have some idea that these intangibles *do* exist and *are* worth something. But I suspect that what they are worth is far far less than what the media types who KNOW because they’ve BEEN IN THE LOCKER ROOM say it is. It’s probably like clutch hitting – maybe it makes like a 1 or 2 percent contribution to winning or something, the rest of which is comprised of actually getting it done on the actual field.

Because, look, if “team chemistry” is as valuable as you columnists all say it is, then how do we account for all the teams that won World Series but totally hated each other? How do we account for all the teams that loved each other and loved their manager, but never won? How do we account for the fact that, even in the middle of the hottest hot streak, or the coldest cold streak, a player’s chance of getting a hit in his next at bat is pretty much *exactly* equal to his career batting average?

You can read the rest of Sarah and Nick’s thoughts in the comments section of this post.

As for Wright and his team’s collapse, I used to feel the same way. In fact, I wrote:

Believe me, if the MLB had an award for sabermetric achievement, I would support David Wright’s candidacy wholeheartedly. But how valuable can you be when you’re team implodes spectacularly when the games matter most?

But, as Umpbump Paul points out, you can’t blame Wright for the Mets’ failures. He was dominant down the stretch:

You simply can’t hold it against David Wright that the Mets fell apart. Did you know that he had a .360 AVG, .429 OBP, .602 SLG, 1.034 OPS in the month of September even though the team’s season was going down the tubes? Didn’t he perform “when it counted”?

I gotta say, I think Umpbump Paul is correct. As much as I’d like to see Rollins win, if I’m being honest I vote for Wright.

PH: That’s what makes it such a great debate. I still kind of hold to the idea that you can’t be that valuable, no matter what your individual contributions, if your team is falling apart around you. But I certainly understand the other argument.

Umpbump: I’m not sure that a total lack of consensus about the meaning of “valuable” makes it a great debate. I think we can have a great debate about the value of the save, or the merits of “small ball”. But arguing about who is the most valuable when nobody can agree what “valuable” means reminds me of when I used to talk to a friend of mine who was color blind. We’d be talking about the same thing, but seeing it differently.

I’d be happy to see MLB get rid of the MVP award and give out a Player of the Year Award, instead.

PH: When I was president of the Baseball Writers Association, I proposed that we add a Player of the Year Award. My thought was that it wouldbe the position player’s equivalent of the Cy Young, could honor a player who has a great year for a bad team and would also open up the MVP more for pitchers. It got no support.

As for doing away with the MVP, I disagree. I also think that if you can enjoy a debate about the value of a save or the value of small ball, you can certainly debate who was the most valuable player. But that’s just me.

Umpbump: Fair enough. We’ll agree to disagree. One last question: do you read blogs? And if so, which ones?

PH: As for blogs, I frankly don’t make a point of finding them. If I run across one or somebody brings one to my attention, of course I’ll read it.


Umpbump: Jimmy Rollins won the NL MVP. Who did you vote for?

PH: My top four, as I recall, were Rollins, Holliday, Fielder, Chipper Jones.

Umpbump: No David Wright?

PH: David Wright was not in the upper half. If it had been the Player of the Year Award, he wold have been.

6 Responses to “Q&A with the Philly Daily News’ Paul Hagen”

  1. And I had been spreading the misinformation that the team was called the Ham Fighters. Now you tell me.

  2. Sarah Green says:

    I always thought it odd to fight ham. Ham is meant to be eaten, not battled.

  3. Very late, I know, but I think that beat writers and MLB columnists DO have a feel for the intangibles. They are around the team constantly and speak to players and coaches on a confidential basis. That is what makes them uniquely equipped to judge intangibles. Stats are great, but there are cracks in every statistical equation. I think the writers can fill some of those holes when it comes to judging an MVP.

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