Jim Salisbury Should Be Called Out for Submitting Ridiculous MVP Ballot (Updated)

Thursday, we complained about the Cincinnati writer who had Zack Wheeler 5th on his Cy Young ballot. It was the only 5th place vote Wheeler received, and reeked of an inexperienced, multi-sport journalist failing to justify his reach.

So if we’re being consistent in our opinion that voting should be taken seriously, then Jim Salisbury of NBC Sports Philadelphia should be receiving criticism this morning.

On his MVP ballot, he voted Bryce Harper first, but dropped Juan Soto to 7th, Fernando Tatis Jr. to 6th, and ranked Paul Goldschmidt 3rd:

For context here, Harper finished first, Soto was 2nd, Tatis Jr. was 3rd, and Brandon Crawford and Trea Turner finished 4th and 5th, respectively. Goldschmidt wasn’t in the top five.

Therefore, Salisbury’s ballot comes off as homer bullshit, meant to help Bryce win the award by diminishing his main competition by depriving them of votes.

I know Philly fans might laugh that off and say “that a boy Jim! he’s our guy!” But this is amateur hour from a veteran journalist who knows better. Putting Soto 7th is indefensible. Either vote seriously or don’t vote at all. If Salisbury is trying to make some point that being on a “winning team” matters, then Harper should have been dropped lower on his ballot. The Phils won 82 games, so let’s not act like they were some juggernaut this year. The Padres won 79. There’s not a ton of variation there.

The same goes for people like Susan Slusser, of the San Francisco Chronicle. She had Bryce Harper FIFTH and put Crawford first. Talk about a big joke. Trying to put the hometown guy over the top.

If we’ve learned anything this week, it’s that a large portion of voters shouldn’t be voting, or need to take their responsibility more seriously. Too many of these ballots are highly questionable, and it’s especially funky considering we’re talking about the sacred sport of baseball, which values the “integrity of the game” and all of that. All of the unwritten rules of how you’re supposed to behave and whatnot. We need an “unwritten rule” that homer ballots should be put in the trash can.

EDIT:

Salisbury wrote a story at NBCSP explaining his ballot. He’s still getting ripped on social media, but here’s some of what he said in the story:

The 2021 National League MVP ballot was the most difficult, in any category, that I’ve ever encountered. 

Agree 100%. There was no runaway favorite in the NL.

I love big production numbers as much as anyone and they are the first thing I put through the strainer when I consider a ballot. But that nebulous word valuable always gets me. For me, it’s loaded with nuance. I think about the core of pro sports and what they are about: Winning. I ponder the player’s performance numbers, frame them around the concept of winning and go from there. Did this player produce big numbers? Yes. Did he help lift his team into contention and keep it there?

Better yet, for me, at least, did he put a team on his back in the second half, raise it from the dead, keep it alive and in the playoff hunt right until the end? I value that stuff. That’s why I was one of 17 voters to give Harper a first-place nod. And, oh yeah, I know the NL East was a weak division and the Phillies, the team I cover, finished just two games over .500. But that weak division eventually produced the World Series champion and was there for the taking, by at least four of the clubs, at midseason.

I disagree with this line of thought. Teams go on great playoff runs. It doesn’t mean they were regular season juggernauts. The NL East was the worst division in baseball and the Phillies barely got themselves above .500. They were certainly in contention, but in any other division would have been eliminated a few weeks prior.

Compare the Phillies to the Padres for a minute. San Diego finished with 79 wins in baseball’s best division. They struggled mightily down the stretch. But Fernando Tatis Jr. slashed .282/.364/.611 and Jim put him in 6th place with Harper first. There’s not enough variation in total wins or broader stats there to justify placing Tatis 6th. Salisbury could have probably gotten away with a 4th or 5th place vote, but not Tatis Jr. and Juan Soto back-to-back at 6th and 7th.

Speaking of Soto, he posted Harper-esque numbers on a crap team in the same crap division. .313/.465/.534 was his line. If we’re making the argument that winning matters, then Shohei Ohtani likely would not have appeared #1 on a Salisbury-ordered American League bracket, because the Angels stunk and only won 77 games. I would have LOVED to see him rank the AL guys.

Goldschmidt got my third-place vote because of his work in pressure-filled games that picked up a sagging, seventeen-wins-in-a-row Cardinals team and delivered it to the postseason.

I was taken with the way Austin Riley stepped up and delivered for Atlanta all season but especially down the stretch. He helped the Braves build the momentum that propelled them to something special in October. I know this observation will not be objective enough for some, but I believe in it.

That’s fine, but the season is 162 games, it’s not 17 games. I personally adhere to the “body of work” argument, which places value on all 162, not just small portions of August/September/October.

Juan Soto who got my seventh-place vote. What a season. What a second half. What a hitter. Like Tatis, he started in the top 3 of the strainer but was passed by others when I just could not suppress my personal interpretation of the word value. The Nationals were a second-place team in a winnable NL East at the end of June but plummeted in the second half, not that it was Soto’s fault. He might have been in a different spot on a lot of ballots had the Nats not held a fire sale in July and traded Turner and Max Scherzer. 

That’s a weak argument, in my mind.

And nobody will argue that interpretations of the word “value” are going to be different. These awards are subjective in nature, and ambiguously defined, but when 29 other writers propel Soto to a 2nd place finish when Jim had him 7th, then he is the extreme outlier, and looks contrarian in that regard. Bottom line, if “winning” was uber-important, then Harper would have dropped below his 2nd/3rd/4th guys on that ballot, because the Phillies didn’t go to the postseason, Harper had 0 hits in that crucial Atlanta series, and 82-80 is hardly impressive.

Finally –

People think we hate Salisbury or we’re being “mean” or whatever. Rest assured, there’s a TON of respect for Jim Salisbury at Crossing Broad. He’s long been an excellent writer/journalist/baseball mind. But we evaluate occurrences in singular vacuums, and this ballot was pure, unfiltered bullshit. There is no explaining it away. It doesn’t mean Jim is a 30-year bullshitter, it just means he’s a one-day bullshiter.

Type “Jim Salisbury” into the Twitter search bar if you’re not convinced.

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