OKLAHOMA CITY, OK – Feeling a bit Lewis Black-ish curmudgeonly, I have to ask: Holy crap, do we really need 38-win teams getting into the playoffs just so minor league, yokel towns like Charlotte can host a real live NBA playoff game or two? Why? Who wins? And then in the midst of this faux playoff nonsense, someone had the bright idea to give out the year’s hardware on an off-day between the first and second rounds of these interminable playoffs. The NBA should get their season and postseason over around April 1st. Where is that spy Chuck Barris? Get down so the big boys can take center stage!
Ah… Now I feel better.
Kevin Durant is the NBA’s Most Valuable Player for the 2013-2014 Season. [Yawn]. Durant scored a whole bunch of points during the season. [Yawn more]. He did this while his “running mate” Russell Westbrook ( a more talented player), was out with an injury for a month and change. And Durrant, not to be confused with Jimmy Durante, gives the Networks a reason to televise games played in Oklahoma City, for crissakes. Oklahoma is known for 3 things: Its NBA team, OU football and mobile crystal meth labs – the most per capita in the US. Now they can throw the stat-happy Durant on that pile… who, by the way, was enormously gracious and heartfelt when accepting the award this week. But was Durant actually deserving of this award? And what really constitutes an MVP? The debate has raged for decades in Major League Baseball, but other sports are not immune from this discourse.
Durant scored points in volume and the Thunder won a lot of regular season games. Is he really the most valuable, though? Is he really the best player in the NBA? I think we’d all agree that LeBron James is easily the best player on the planet, and like Michael Jordan a generation ago, giving the award to anyone other than him was folly.
It was the late, great Ralph Kiner who told the wonderful story of hitting 47 Home Runs during the 1950 baseball season. He drove in 127 runs that year too, a typically eye popping offensive output from him. At the season’s conclusion, Kiner was summoned to then Pirates GM Branch Rickey’s office to discuss a contract for the following season. Kiner went in and asked for a 10% raise based on the great season he had just finished. Rickey asked Kiner where the Pirates had finished in the standing in 1950, to which Ralph quickly replied, “8th place.” Rickey then told Kiner that they could just as easily have finished in 8th place without Kiner too! Kiner’s request was denied by Rickey and he was given a one year contract for the 1951 season for the exact amount he had earned in 1950. $65,000.
Using the Rickey modelreally does separate the MVP from the league’s “most outstanding player” or stats leader. In 1987, Andre Dawson was the National League MVP after hitting 49 HRs and knocking in 137 runs. Incredible numbers for sure. But his Cubs team that season won just 75 games and finished in dead last in the NL East. Was he really the “most valuable?” The very next season saw Kirk Gibson win the MVP award in the NL, but that year, the Baseball writers got it right. Gibson’s final totals were somewhat ordinary for an MVP winner. A .290 Batting Average. 25 Homers and 76 RBIs. Those numbers were dwarfed by the Mets’ dynamic duo of stone faced Kevin McReynolds and just plain stoned Darryl Strawberry that year. The Mets are still looking for their first MVP… Gibson though, even with his modest numbers, was truly the “Most Valuable player in the National League that season. Yet today, he walks without moving his arms -see below. That was Courageous Kirk’s first season with LA and along with Orel Hershiser, carried his team to a 21-win improvement, changed the culture of the team and literally carried the Dodgers to a World Series title… upsetting the Mets and the Sandy Alderson-architected Oakland A’s along the way.
NOTE: Alex Rodriguez went 47 and 118 to win the AL MVP in 2003 for a Texas Rangers team that won only 71 games…
Also, I find it troubling that one of these days, another Colorado Rockies player will win the award (Larry Walker won in 1987 for Colorado) and screw things up forever. As great a player as Troy Tulowitski is, he has shown to be much closer to mortal on the road. His teammates have even greater disparities in their home/road splits statistically. Playing baseball in an altitude a Mile High is simply not baseball. I give gaudy stats accumulated in Denver no credibility at all…
Last but not least…
The great Derek Jeter has never won an MVP. The award should be named for him! 5 World Series titles, 7 total WS appearances – it screams for it. Jeets was and is only about value to his team.
The NFL probably gets it right more often than not in handing out the hardware. They typically give the MVP to either Peyton Manning or Tom Brady, and hope for the best. Of course, they also employ Mike Mayock... so you know, nobody’s perfect.
Cookies Corner and that elusive MTM Radio Podcast tomorrow?