Baseball has a long history of unlikely heroes emerging at the right time in the postseason which can turn a forgettable player into something of a legend. It's almost a staple of the game's suspense -- who will be the next Bill Mazeroski or Aaron Boone to save his team from elimination?
With their ALCS, and NLCS performances over the past weeks, Delmon Young and Marco Scutaro appear to be headed toward the same fate. But in this year when more teams have been added to the playoffs, it seems like the right time to also stop and reconsider how Major League Baseball doles out its postseason awards to individuals.
Players may hit their strides at opportune times. Performing well in a short series, as Young did against the Yankees, is noteworthy, but I'm not convinced that it's deserving of a special honor. Since 1955, when the World Series MVP was first given out, only six times has a player won both a Championship Series MVP followed by a World Series MVP. Last year, the Cardinals' David Freese did it, and he was showered with praise for his contributions. So much so that Freese remained a central talking point of this year's playoffs.
The Championship Series MVP dates back to a time when the pennant mattered more. Today, ten teams make the postseason, a different format from the traditional four-team playoffs of yore. When it was a more prestigious club, players who stood out were worth awarding. However, that time has passed, and more players are getting to see postseason play than ever before.
Because of the nature of the game, baseball is more likely to have unexpected stars emerge during the playoffs. It only adds to the drama. But maybe it's time to reassess the meaning of the MVP. After all, Mazeroski didn't even win one for his huge home run in Game 7 of the '60 series. (The honor went to the Yankees' Bobby Richardson, in a losing effort.)
If we want to reward the guy who delivered the most for his team to help earn them a championship, we should pick out the person who did the most throughout the playoffs. This is one way that the NHL gets it right with its Conn Smythe Trophy. In its history, only five players have won the award multiple times. This separates the league from the NFL and NBA where typically the players at certain positions or with the most recognition receive MVPs.
Baseball already relies on a similar thought process when assessing the best player for the World Series MVP award. Yet having other MVPs earlier in the postseason undercuts that goal. If Detroit wins, will it be Young again who delivers for them? And will anyone remember Scutaro's achievements? For a game so transfixed on records and tradition, Major League Baseball gives out some annual awards that are insignificant to a majority of players and fans.