With a Major League-best 49 home runs and 137 RBIs, Cubs outfielder Andre Dawson took home the National League Most Valuable Player Award in 1987. The numbers were impressive. The team was not. Chicago finished in last place in the NL East.
An MVP from a last-place club ?
Sure. There's nothing in the rules that prohibits voters from casting their ballot for a player on a losing team. But on top of his gaudy power numbers, Dawson may have earned some votes because of his unique contract situation and individual story. And what a story it was. The previous winter, MLB owners worked together to avoid signing free agents at competitive rates. In colluding in that manner, dozens of players who should have received lucrative offers from numerous teams did not. Dawson was one of those players. Still in his prime and wanting out of Montreal, he gave the Cubs a blank contract and told them to assign him a salary. They did: $500,000. Great story. Great competitor. And in 1987, probably the best player who played the entire season.
The very next year, the voters proved that there was no real method to the voting madness. With Mets outfielders Darryl Strawberry and Kevin McReynolds outhomering and outslugging Kirk Gibson, it was the Dodgers' outfielder who won the NL Most Valuable Player Award. Los Angeles won the NL West that season, so those who believe the MVP should come from a postseason team couldn't argue with that aspect of the outcome. Intangibles, many said, were a deciding factor in the voting. I get that, but the Mets also won their division that season. The voting result still generates conversation today.
That two-year sample is a perfect example of how subjective MVP voting was, is and will continue to be.
AL MVP: Miguel Cabrera
This season, for a second straight year, American League voters will likely again decide between the reigning MVP, Miguel Cabrera, and last year's runner-up, Mike Trout.
Incredibly, both players outperformed their remarkable 2012 seasons. Cabrera posted better numbers in 13 fewer games than he played in his Triple Crown season. Trout proved he is the most complete offensive player in the game and on track for the Hall of Fame. But because the definition of MVP is crystal clear as mud, the determining factor for me is reaching the playoffs. I get it. Cabrera didn't single-handedly lead his club to the playoffs, just as Trout didn't cost his club a playoff berth. If pressed, I would choose the guy who led his club into the postseason. Like it or not, teammates can help determine individual honors.
NL MVP: Andrew McCutchen
The NL situation is similar. Arizona's Paul Goldschmidt had the best season of any player in his league. Leading the league in homers, RBIs, slugging percentage and OPS. But because the playoffs is the ultimate goal, that's not enough. Just as voters proved in 1988, its not always the best player who wins, it can be a player who happens to be surrounded by a better cast. A player who, based on timing and luck, is the star in an intruiging baseball drama. I'm buying into the Pirates' playoff run. Their MVP, Andrew McCutchen, is the NL MVP.
AL Cy Young: Max Scherzer
AL Cy Young Award: This is clear to me. It's Max Scherzer. A starting pitcher's job is to win the game, and Scherzer won a Major League-best 21 games. Although the Cy Young is often discussed as an individual award, that's not completely true. Scherzer did benefit from fantastic run support, but that should in no way diminish his accomplishments. If he did it with smoke and mirrors, I would understand the case to be made for others. He didn't. The righty had a 2.90 ERA and a 0.97 WHIP.
NL Cy Young: Clayton Kershaw
This shouldn't even require a formal vote. Clayton Kershaw's 1.83 ERA is the lowest in the NL since Greg Maddux posted a 1.63 in 1995. That's just one statistic that illustrates Kershaw as the best pitcher in the world right now. There are many worthwhile verbal battles to fight in relation to awards. This is not one of them.
NL Rookie of the Year: Jose Fernandez
AL Rookie of the Year: Chris Archer
NL Manager of the Year: Clint Hurdle
AL Manager of the Year: John Farrell
Matt Yallof is the co-host of The Rundown on MLB Network from 2-4 p.m. ET. Follow him on twitter @mattyallofmlb. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.