19 November 2008


The Baseball Writers Association of America, henceforth known as BBWAA, votes an MVP award annually in each league. Now these fellows a) are writers and b) write about baseball. That's it. I'm a writer. I write about baseball. I'm not a pro. I have neither a journalist's education nor a journalist's professional experience. These BBWAA guys are pros. They make their living writing about baseball.

If you write crime fiction, does that make you a criminal? Better question: does that make you an expert on crime?

If you write vampire stories, are you an expert on vampires? How would anyone know?

My answer? Bollocks.

Here's John le Carré (one of the best) on fiction:

A good writer is an expert on nothing except himself. And on that subject, if he is wise, he holds his tongue. Some of you may wonder why I am reluctant to submit to interviews on television and radio and in the press. The answer is that nothing that I write is authentic. It is the stuff of dreams, not reality. Yet I am treated by the media as though I wrote espionage handbooks.

And to a point I am flattered that my fabulations are taken so seriously. Yet I also despise myself in the fake role of guru, since it bears no relation to who I am or what I do. Artists, in my experience, have very little centre. They fake. They are not the real thing. They are spies. I am no exception.


Which brings me back to the BBWAA and their MVP. This year, a young lad from one of the richest and most media-saturated markets and franchises--the Boston Red Sox--was awarded the MVP for the American League. Dustin Pedroia is a very fine ballplayer. Outstanding, in fact. But by any intelligent metric, he is nowhere near the "most valuable." He wasn't even the best player on his team, for example. (I think you have to give that to Kevin Youkilis.) Pedroia, like (NL-BBWAA-MVP-2007) Jimmy Rollins, is likeable and a crowd-pleaser. He does lots of things well, and exudes a bubbly high-school "grit-and-hustle" persona. This is all fine, of course, but has little to do with a cold, rational assessment of value by skilled observers. After all, BBWAA guys see more baseball than anyone who doesn't work for a team. They are supposed to be experts. Here's the problem--they're not. They're writers. They're as hopelessly biased as fans, and as hopelessly in love with their own prose as any amateur hack. So they vote an award that winds up saying more about who THEY are than who the "most valuable" player is.

And that's not how it is supposed to be.

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