Cespedes Could’ve Been the MLB MVP
There has been a lot of discussion for Yoenis Cespedes as an NL MVP candidate. I understand the discussion even if I do not believe there is much merit to these discussions. The reason is Cespedes will have only played 36% of the season in the National League. Furthermore, with an NL MVP, you can only take his NL stats into consideration.
However, Cespedes is neck and neck with Josh Donaldson for the MLB MVP Award right now. The reason why Cespedes’ candidacy improves here is you can now look at the totality of his stats, which are impressive. He is hitting .296/.332/.558. This includes 35 homeruns and 103 RBIs (he’s Top 10 in both categories). His 6.9 WAR ranks fifth in MLB. He’s a viable candidate.
The only problem is the award doesn’t exist. While there were predecessors to the MVP award, the awards as we know them now started in 1931. At that time, there was a separate award given for the NL and the AL. This has continued until the present day despite the fact that Interleague Play started in 1997. With Bud Selig forcing the Astros into the AL, Interleague Play runs throughout the schedule, by necessity.
Right now, MLB is the only sport that doesn’t have one unified MVP. In the NFL, a team plays 25% of its schedule against the other conference. In the NBA, a team plays 34% of its games against the other conference. In the NHL, a team plays 34% of its games against the other league. In MLB, it’s only 12% of their games.
So yes, the other sports play a larger percentage of their games against the other league. However, that’s not the reason why there won’t be one unified MLB MVP. The reason mostly boils down to the fact that there are contract incentives tied to MVP vote results. There is no way the Player’s Association would ever permit fewer awards because that means less bonus money available to its players.
Honestly, I like the idea of baseball having two separate leagues with their own rules. I’m not a fan of the DH, but it does create a separation between the NL and AL. That separation is a key reason why I believe MLB can justify having two MVPs. Unfortunately, that means Cespedes won’t win an award he may very well could have earned.