Now, the best argument for Ballou’s viewpoint comes from the middle of that clause with the phrase “to his team.” The argument goes like so: There’s no practical difference between winning 60 games and winning 70 games, since your team is out of contention either way. Therefore, a player on a non-contending team doesn’t truly have value, at least not on the same level as a player for a contender.
I’d buy that argument to a certain extent, but the rules also include this sentence, word-for-word:
The MVP need not come from a division winner or other playoff qualifier.
That’s the only mention of team success anywhere in the voting rules, and it certainly doesn’t support Ballou’s argument. It should be said that it doesn’t technically contradict his viewpoint either; his argument is that the MVP must come from a postseason contender, not necessarily a playoff team.
What Ballou is suggesting, then, is an amendment to the rules that would say: “The MVP need not come from a division winner or other playoff qualifier, but he must come from a team that legitimately contends for the postseason.”
Now, that’s a perfectly valid viewpoint, albeit one that I disagree with strongly. The most valuable player, to my way of thinking, is the best player, regardless of his team’s performance. That’s the definition of value as presented in the rules: strength of offense and defense. However, if Bill Ballou and writers like him want to take team record into account, that’s fine, because the voting rules also include these sentences:
There is no clear-cut definition of what Most Valuable means. It is up to the individual voter to decide who was the Most Valuable Player in each league to his team.
What Ballou should not do is claim to be a strict constructionist in terms of defining value. His logic quite clearly takes the definition presented in the voting rules and adds something to it, which is the very opposite of strict constructionism. This isn’t just a semantic point, either; when he claims to be a strict constructionist, he’s saying that the letter of the law is on his side. That’s simply not the case.
If anything, the wording of the rules more strongly supports the viewpoint that the MVP is simply the best player in the league.