Just in case you somehow missed it, I do believe our Jayson Stark might really have something here:
- It's time for the Baseball Writers' Association of America to establish a new award for relief pitchers. And if it were up to us, we'd call it the Jerome Holtzman Award, in honor of the late, great Chicago baseball-writing legend who invented the modern save rule.
Just for disclosure's sake, you should know that we proposed this award at a BBWAA meeting at the winter meetings in December, to almost universally positive response. But we were told it was an idea that needed more discussion. So fine. Let's discuss it.
I missed the BBWAA meeting in December, and even if I'd been there I probably wouldn't have said anything. I'm no longer young but I'm still quite new, and I'll probably keep my big yap mostly shut for at least a few years and let the old(er) hands speak.
Writing is a different thing, though. Jayson tossed his proposal on the BBWAA's discussion board this morning. There haven't been many responses yet -- I'm guessing that most BBWAA members don't know how to use a discussion board ... or a computer (kidding!) -- but one youngish member is opposed on the grounds that relief pitchers are ... well, they're just not that important. That's why they rarely get serious Cy Young support. Also, most of them are failed starters.
Well, I agree with my young(ish) colleague (as I usually do, and I wish I could tell you who I'm talking about but that would get me banned, justifiably, from the message board and maybe kicked out of the BBWAA after just one year). About relief pitchers, anyway. I've been as vocal as anyone about the relative value of relievers, and I could make the argument that Hoyt Wilhelm (because of all the innings) and Mariano Rivera (because of all the Octobers) are the only relievers who belong in the Hall of Fame.
I just don't find that argument particularly germane to the question at hand.
Look (and this is basically what I posted to the BBWAA board), isn't this sort of like Rookies of the Year and MVPs?
Many years ago, the BBWAA created an award for a sub-class of great players, the great majority of whom simply weren't developed enough or valuable enough to merit serious MVP consideration. Nevertheless, there was a sentiment for these young fellows who seemed to be doing something special. We've been handing out Rookie of the Year Awards since 1947, and exactly two players in all those years won MVP Awards, too: Fred Lynn and Ichiro Suzuki.
Similarly, I think it's reasonable to reward these relief pitchers who, however less valuable than starters they might be, still are doing something quite special.
What I didn't include in the post (but should have) is one more virtue: We'll have something else to argue about every November!
Will the voters simply go for the pitchers with the most saves? Will they even consider a setup man having a great year? I don't know, and I suppose that some of you don't really care. But I'm fascinated by the process of award voting, so the prospect of another big award ... well, it actually makes me a little giddy. In a good way.